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The July story as read at Silver Horse, Cooperstown New York

This is a story I wrote for the people who come to hear me tell stories.

And, if I am right, it shall have the names of animals in it because people who read these stories love to hear their names, and it shall have some animals in it because people who read these stories also like to hear about animals. And it shall have me in it because I am the one, both looking at it as it happens as well as living it.

And so it shall, therefore, start with a tree. I have often been tempted to cut down a tree here and there around the yard or in the pastures. But cutting down a tree is a permanent thing. Except in the instance of chokecherries or thorn apples. Then it becomes a semi-permanent thing. As in the case of the chokecherry tree growing out between the stone steps and my back porch. I've cut it down once or twice, before the porch was rebuilt, a wooden frame covering the concrete steps leading to the mudroom and the summer kitchen. It grew back. The last time it grew back, it became an enchantment of white blossom in spring, and dark chokecherries in fall. But even more lovely was the way light fell on it from the kitchen windows at night. In the rare time I've sat in the dining room, evenings, which is at right angles to the porch, the light and motion of the leaves has had its own beauty. The year before last the tree died, or began to. And I, full of objections to the erratic lines its barren branches made against the night sky, cut it down. It saddened me to see it gone. Opening the door to go outside became being outside, too suddenly. I didn't like it without that tree. Too abrupt a transition from one place to another. It now grows back. Lush leaves looking like a pretty little bush rather than the tree it will become. There is another cherry tree, a non-bearing one or two in my perennial border. I've often thought to cut them down, and have cut down the runners they send across the garden only to shoot up among the flowers and in the lawn. But summers, I've noticed from my summer bedroom, it forms a triangle, light and bright green against the dark green of the pines across the road. It forms a perfect triangle and creates its reverse a nighttime darkness, dotted beautifully with a sprinkling of stars and planets and flashing lights from an airplane. I count, sometimes, how long a sliver of moon takes to make its way from on pane of glass to the next. I've laid sick in bed, on occasion, watching the lights play across the leaves of the tree, wishing I could hold each moment for just a little bit longer so I could remember it. But I can't. Too many leaves. Too quick the passing moments. There is a lamb who loves to sit in my lap, I've most recently discovered. She has followed me everywhere she could since she was a few days old. A very pretty thing. Tiny. Delicate. A classic Finn-Landrace ewe ling, were I to still have Finns. Because she's driven me to the edge of my patience when I repeatedly find her in the house, in my room, under my feet, always unexpectedly, I had not named her until yesterday. It has taken all of her life, which encompasses an intense four months, to realize that what she wants is to sit in my lap. And so, it was not a surprise to me that yesterday, one of the most beautiful mornings I have ever seen here, she escaped through a breach in the pasture fences that only she knows of, and made a direct dash across the lawn to where I stood looking at still another tree I had most recently decided to cut down, and was glad now I hadn't. I sat down on the lawn and she ran up to me. The moment I put my hand out to her, my dog Samantha ran up to me as well. The lamb climbed into my lap. She put her head on the crook of my elbow as she pretended to fall asleep. Her name became Cordelia O'Shaughnessey at that moment. The lay of the land from that vantage point was pleasing to my eye. The mock orange in front of that side of the house halfway between them was an impressive and sturdy stand of sweet cicely, now in seed, its lovely and delicate white flowers gone. Slightly beyond it stands an ash, a young ash, only about twenty-five years old. Round on top with a straight trunk. It has been shaped by both sheep and goats, over time. It is the last tree to leaf out on this farm, looking stark and dead, right through lilac and honeysuckle time. It now boasts of pale bright willow green leaves, still small and delicate. Lace against the deeper richer greens of the surrounding hills. It is the latest tree I've thought to cut down, determined to rid my eye of all that is or seems to be scraggly and dead. I didn't. A lamb died a day or two ago. And one lived. I bought the medicine to try treat them, but it came too late for one and just in time for the other. I held out hopes for the one who died and had a heart full of despair for the one who lived. I still have a hard time believing that a small amount of yellow liquid from a bottle can make a difference in a life. And yet my mind knows it can and does. I brought them both into the house that rainy night. I didn't want them to get wet and die alone in the chill of a June night in the mountains. I bottled them my special mixture, including the yellow that came in a very large, very expensive , very impressive bottle. In the morning one was dead. It was the smaller of the two, my favorite ram lamb, one who shall stay forever as a breeder, who recovered. And wanted his morning bottle eagerly for the first time in days. How I have loved to see him run to me across the pasture as I open the gate. Calling to him. Up the porch steps he races, following me, to get his two and a half bottles of milk replacement. And them, off he runs tail wagging with equal enthusiasm, back to the gate to return to the pasture. His name is not as yet been chosen. In the mean time I call him little boy. Come here, little boy, where is my little boy. And I tried to hold that one moment when he lifts his face and looks at me and begins to run across the field, tail making circles in the air in my minds eye forever.

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