Five-Acre Almanac: Hard News

Week 40

My visit to Atlanta was wonderful, but the week since I’ve been back hasn’t been the best.

The day after I got home a bear climbed into our chicken coop and killed three of our chickens, including my new hen and rooster. Dean was home when the bear broke into the coop and he managed to scare it away with some noise and light bird shot.

After the unfortunate bear encounter we sat down with a cup of tea to decompress, and that’s when we saw the news that a man has been arrested for the murder of Duffy Murnane. On an afternoon in October 2019 Duffy left her home to walk to an appointment across town and she was never seen again. For two and a half years we’ve suspected and assumed that she was abducted and murdered, but now we have information that confirms our worst fears.

The suspect worked in the assisted living apartments where Duffy lived and he was a member of our community for a few years. Duffy knew him and trusted him enough to get into a car with him.

There is some relief in knowing that a violent killer is off the streets but right now the relief is overshadowed by sadness, anger and shock over the news. And the senselessness of it all. Duffy was a kind and gentle person, quiet and observant. She was loved. Her undeserving family has been through hell. And now as new details come to light, there is a different kind of hell that many people will have to contend with.

While our town has been shaken by her disappearance, this new information brings with it a sense of betrayal. I did not know the man who was arrested, but many people I know did. He made his way into our community. He found employment. He included himself in our town’s traditions. He made friends. On the surface he came across as a decent person, but he was not.

And so here we are in the spring of the year. Finally the crocus on the west side of our house are blooming and things are greening up. The migratory birds and the seasonal workers are returning. We’re hardening off our garden plants and making plans for summer camping trips. In the midst of it all we’re trying to come to terms with this horrible thing that happened in our town. We’re holding onto the people whose lives have been randomly and unfairly impacted by a man whose inner demons defy understanding. We’re mourning the loss of our friend. We’re devastated by the pain that’s been inflicted upon so many good people.

Sometime on Friday morning the bear came back and killed five more of our chickens. And in the evening when we were trying to figure out what to do about this problem bear, it came again and nabbed one more of our birds. We yelled at it and it ran away but we knew that as long as there were chickens to be had it would keep at it. We gathered up our six remaining chickens, all of which were at least three years old and past the point of being good egg layers, and put them in cages and brought them into the house for the night. Once they were out of harm’s way we were faced with a tough decision.

I’ll leave out the details, but our twenty year run of keeping chickens ended on Saturday afternoon. We’ve lost a few hens here and there to dogs and hawks and eagles. We even had bears break into the coop to get to the chicken feed a time or two, but this bear had a taste for blood and it wasn’t going to stop. We had to make sure it wasn’t rewarded.

The bear will likely come again, but now if it does it will find an empty coop. Hopefully that will be enough to make it lose interest in our place and head back into the forest.

Losing our flock of chickens was hard, but compared to the hardships other people have to endure it was a small thing. There are bad days and then there are life altering tragedies. We’ve had a few bad days and I’m sad about the chickens, but I’ll be okay.

This morning we sat on our deck and sipped coffee under blankets and the yard seemed especially quiet without the rooster and the chicken chatter we’ve grown accustomed to hearing. This afternoon I spent a couple of hours harvesting nettle down in the elderberry grove below our house and the act of foraging felt healing, like the earth was offering me something in exchange for my loss. Now it’s the middle of the night and I’m sitting looking out my window at the full moon over the bay. Since the trees are down I can see the moon’s reflection on the water and it’s as beautiful as anything I’ve ever seen.

I’m up late because I’ve written a hundred endings to this blog post and I’ve deleted them all. I’ve been thinking about Duffy and her family and nothing I can think of to say feels remotely adequate. I guess I’ve been trying to think of a way to say that even though the weight of all that’s bad in this world feels awfully heavy right now, I hope we can keep each other tethered to the beautiful things, like the full moon over the bay, like a mother’s love for her child, like small acts of kindness, like the snuggles of a beloved pet, like the way new lovers look at each other, like a blueberry bush loaded with plump berries, like a field of fireweed in full bloom. I hope we can notice all the beauty, and name it, and tip the scales.

11 thoughts on “Five-Acre Almanac: Hard News”

  1. Holding your tender heart through all this cruelty, dear one. Thank you for naming the hard stuff — as well as the beautiful things that do, I hope, tips the scales. xo

  2. Thank you for sharing all of this, Teresa. I love thinking of you foraging in the elderberries for solace… ❤

    1. Words are completely inadequate and yet I keep trying. I hope you feel surrounded by love and beauty.
      You’re always in my thoughts.
      Teresa

  3. Sometimes words are inadequate .. and at those times we reach higher, through art, poetry and music to find purpose ..“Lara walked along the tracks following a path worn by pilgrims and then turned into the fields. Here she stopped and, closing her eyes, took a deep breath of the flower-scented air of the broad expanse around her. It was dearer to her than her kin, better than a lover, wiser than a book. For a moment she rediscovered the purpose of her life. She was here on earth to grasp the meaning of its wild enchantment and to call each thing by its right name, or, if this were not within her power, to give birth out of love for life to successors who would do it in her place.”~ Boris Pasternak
    Your blogs always give meaning .. and purpose. Thank you, Teresa, for sharing.

  4. Teresa,
    Thanks for your beautiful words and your reminder to hold on to the beauty. You are helping others heal in a difficult time.

  5. nice words Theresa, i’ve lost loved ones to the senseless act of murder and it truly is as if a bomb has gone off in the midst of a family gathering – at first i wondered how, even doubted if myself and our family would ever survive the losses so staggering it is, yet we did by perseverance one moment at a time, one hour, one day, one week. There is never closure just small reliefs the loss is forever and most people stop relating to you because it’s just too grim, but life goes on and you see who truly cares and who can’t and you forgive those who can’t. It’s a quiet lonely burden and when someone comes along with genuine compassion you feel it and it provides a sense you are not alone. Homer is beautiful in that way. Like yourself and Dean a lot of people here care. and that caring does help. One of the great fears is losing the memory of the person lost and yet nothing is further from the Truth you guard it, you guard it with your life, you fight to keep that memory, you fight for your sanity and you valiantly fight to still Love and if God graces you you fight to forgive . . . My brother once said to me “The Devil took our Daughter and the Devil feeds on hate. I will never hate again”. May Duffy’s family find the strength to endure.

    1. Charlie,
      I’m so sorry to hear this about your family. What a terrible thing to endure and yet you describe what it’s like so eloquently-the loneliness and the non-closure, the fighting to keep the memory of a loved one alive. Thank you for your insight and for sharing your experience. Sending you peace and love.
      Teresa

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