Because a life unexamined is lived without intention.
Monday, March 12, 2012
Wanting To Be Wanted
I rescue things. From the time I was small, I knew this. When I was seven, I discovered a stray egg beside the edge of our hayloft. This was not uncommon as we had Guinea fowl amongst our flock of chickens and these fly quite well, thus roaming the ranch stealing grain from the goats and teasing the dogs. Most evenings they would return to the hen yard, but every once in a while, we'd find an egg somewhere else.
This particular time, I simply tossed the egg into a compost pile and kept heaving bales up onto the wheelbarrow to be taken to the horses. Hours later, a casual glance caught movement in the pile. Further inspection revealed the trembling egg had cracked....a tiny beak had forced it's way through. Knowing that for an egg to hatch, it must be incubated by a dedicated mother for nearly a month and this rarely happens for a single egg; I found myself on my belly worming my way up beneath the hay barn, scraping my cheek on the gravel as I felt around in the dark for the nest. My fingers brushed smooth shell and I wrapped my hand around the warm egg.
And then jerked back with a yelp when my finger was bitten.
We had huge black carpenter ants in Colorado, an inch long with jaws large enough to draw blood should they catch ahold of you. (I used to pick them up with my fingers, one by one, and let them clamp onto a piece of paper--so tightly that when I pulled them away it would pop their little heads off....imagine a piece of stationary with a whole row of ant heads along the top. Slightly warped? Me?) After retrieving a pair of gloves and a flashlight from the house, I once again wiggled my way up to the nest and collected seven more eggs in various stages of hatching. They were filled will hungry black ants tearing at the damp feathers and flesh of the hatchlings.
I remember my mother's sigh as I burst into the kitchen, her eyes softening as she saw my distress. She set aside her baking and we spent the next half an hour huddled over the eggs with tweezers, pulling the inky carnivorous insects from the fledgling peeps. I nestled the still partially shelled eggs in a towel lined pie tin and my mother set the oven at 85*. I knelt there on the floor for the next two hours, peering through the cracked door anxiously waiting for the chicks to emerge. I have no idea why their mother abandoned them to such a terrible fate, but now, I wanted them to live like I never had before.
Six survived. I named them all. My favorite was Martha who followed me around like a puppy....well, until a distinctly passionate sermon about baptism. (My mother wondered why the chickens ceased laying for a few weeks until I confessed I had made use of the horse trough in my desire to ensure heaven's acceptance of my feathered friends...ah, but that is another tale)
Now I have decades behind me of rescuing. Sometimes kittens, sometimes people. Furniture and coat racks and long forgotten paintings left in dark webby corners of old attics. I almost feel they have voices, crying out to be wanted....by anyone.
At times I fear this has been just my own projection...as I have felt the same so often. I think most of us are created with this need to love...and be loved. It's an ache that lies beneath the very foundation of our soul. It causes us to be reckless, to dash headlong into madness flinging our reservations away as we pursue it. And somehow, despite the catastrophes of the heart these ardent passions create.....after the anguish, we seek to be desired once more.
Did the antique desk with the book shelf attached call my name as we passed it lonely on the sidewalk, its legs cracked and broken? Perhaps. Perhaps I just saw myself in it. Last summer in the August heat, I bent over it, sawdust sticking to my arms and back as I smoothed out the edges with sandpaper, removing the bubbled finish. I rubbed walnut warmth back into the old panels, stain tinging my my fingers. Carefully I cleaned the tarnish from the hinges and returned them to their divots. My husband glued the legs back together and crouched in the grass, I covered the glue with pigment, masking the defects from all but the closest of inspections.
It now rests in the corner of our attic library. A decanter of whiskey, several bottles of wine, and a selection of glasses fill its shelves. Guests have marveled at it, amazed such a grand piece could be left out for rubbish. In the same room is the poker table I made from the neighbor's weathered discard; the end console I resealed holds the chess set smuggled home from Guatemala wrapped in my suitcase clothing. As I sit in the quiet, surrounded by hundreds of old books I've amassed, the room seems almost to breathe....the serenity tangible.