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June 18 • 11:59 PM
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January 09, 2019
I zip up my jacket and pull on my boots. The patio slate and grass are slick with ice-the sky black as pitch. Even Mars and my flashlight can't penetrate the frigid, thick atmosphere. When will I see the Big Dipper and Orion again?

Watch your step, I coach myself. Home alone, I take no risks as my eyes adjust to consuming darkness. I know the lay of the land, every dip and rise. Still, walking downhill to the henhouse is dodgy, more so than uphill.

Midway, I pause and gaze into heaven's vault with a sense of awe. I am tempted to fear the unknown, feel miniscule in the whelming silence. The only sound is my breath.

How many billions of people inhabit this blessed Earth, breathing in oxygen, exhaling carbon dioxide? What malevolent and merciful creatures occupy God's firmament?

shadow
shadow
shadow
Unfathomable.

Here I stand, yards away from our humble henhouse and four girls who depend upon me for their food, water, and shelter. If I were to fall, struck down in the night, no one would know. What help is a cell phone if you can't pull it from your pocket?

A loving presence comforts me with a kiss of wind upon my face. "You are never alone."

I know that voice.

Since my retired husband usually opens and closes the chicken chute, I had forgotten this divine visitation in winter's deep cold.

I look our hens in the eye and tell them about God's kiss. They don't seem interested, squawking and cocking their heads this way and that. "Where's Mel?" they ask.

A storyteller should better know her audience.

When Mel calls from the road after seven, I relay my experience.

"Oh yeah," he says, "there's something about walking alone in a winter night that makes you tremble. Did you take your cell phone with you?"

"Yes. Don't worry. A winter night is different from summer, don't you think?"

"Hmmm," Mel replies.

I don't press. He's probably tired from driving.

"Come to think of it, yes."

"What is it?" I ask.

"I don't know. It's just more… profound."

"That's the word."

"I'll call same time tomorrow," he says.

He's scouting northern Michigan and the U.P. for summer vacation destinations, glad for coffee breaks and every minute of his independence.

He calls again as promised.

"You've got see Harbor Springs and the drive to Marquette. It's beautiful. I've never seen anything like it."

"That's what I've heard. Are you going up to Keweenaw tomorrow?"

"Oh yes. I want to see the Monastery in Eagle Harbor. I hope the weather holds out. It was 42 degrees today. They're in a thaw up here."

"We reached 50 degrees. I couldn't believe all the stars out tonight."

Mel asks about the kittens and hens.

"They want to know when you're coming home."

"Tuesday as planned."

Dear Reader, I'm relieved. That's three more days and nights alone to write and do as I please.

Well, no one's ever all alone. But you know what I mean.

Email Iris at irisleeu@sbcglobal.net.

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Castle Creek
06 - 18 - 19
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