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Saturday, March 2, 2019
What Is Little? What Is Big?
Our winter life in Cochise County, Arizona, is not all adventures through mountains on primitive roads, as recent posts may seem to suggest. Many days are more quietly spent — at the library, doing laundry, or staying home reading. We still enjoy mountain views (the familiar ones here in the ghost town) but in relaxed, domestic surroundings, maybe fortified by a freshly baked apricot muffin or two. And as much as I thrill to the exciting times, I find contentment in the quiet hours, too.
Some of the little things that give me pleasure are so small it’s almost embarrassing to mention them at all. For instance, there are my brightly colored plastic measuring cups from the dollar store, a necessary addition to the winter kitchen. Their happy colors please me, as does the aroma of muffins just coming out of the oven, the first cup of morning coffee, and the moment the sun breaks over the mountain horizon and floods the little ghost town with light. Making yogurt with fresh whole milk from Jersey cows or apricot muffins with fresh duck eggs — none of it feels ordinary or boring.
Following Tuesday’s very thrilling drive as far into the Dragoon Mountains as the frequently flood road that day permitted, our expedition on the following day was more modest in nature. A drive over to Benson took us once more to the peaceful monastery south of St. David, for a picnic beside the bird sanctuary pond and a visit to the little thrift shop. We have seen the peacocks on the grounds before, but Wednesday was the first day we saw a peacock fly up into a tree — and then, using its enormous, prehistoric, dinosaur-like feet the way a monkey would use its hands, climb up higher and higher into the branches. Quite the sight!
A different peacock (I’ve mentioned before that these are not shy birds) approached, clearly begging, and as we happened to have the last few nuts and scraps of our trail mix left, the Artist boldly overcame his aviphobia to feed a peacock! Historic moment! Not small at all!
I found two little things in the thrift shop that day that added to my happiness. The first was a small but not tiny clay pot. It seems easy to find tiny clay pots or enormous clay pots, but intermediate sizes are more elusive, so I was pleased. And the other little thing was even more surprising and delightful.
Here it is. It’s a Catholic missal in French, a sweet little leatherbound volume printed in Paris, and inscribed in French by the giver, someone’s Uncle Bernard (or at least someone who was known to the recipient as Tonton Bernard), in memory of Bernard’s visit to a couple ("vous deus," but unnamed) in Arizona in 2011. Bernard himself originally received the missal for holy communion in 1953, and a small sticker inside the back cover tells us that it came from the bookstore of the widow of Charles Morin in Sarrebourg.
Little clues. Tantalizing scraps of a story. Is or was Bernard himself a monk? Did he visit the monastery? Did his Arizona host couple pass away since 2011? If the answer to these questions is no, how did the missal come to be in the monastery thrift shop where I found it?
Cows, now, are not little animals. They are quite large. And yet, their presence does not loom as large on the excitement scale as does that of horses (for me) or a mountain lion (excitement I don’t need in the yard). Still, I like coming home to cows … hearing their voices nearby in the morning … meeting them on the road on my way to the mailbox. It’s a little thing, an encounter with neighborhood cows, but it always makes me smile.
Sunny morning. Cow down the driveway. Silver cardinal on the television antenna. Even laundry day begins with reasons to smile.