Then many things transpired. Kids bent over, or jockeyed for viewing position. Some looked up and around, trying to find more feathers. Some tried to stick their mittens in the bloody snow. Others just stood right on top of the evidence inspiring irritation in their fellows. One hiker shrugged and returned to the deer scat, bent over and decided to sample one jelly bean-sized poo. Commanding the adventurous forager to spit out the scat distracted us for a moment, but interest in the feathers and blood continued. While each child had a different response to the carnage, every child knew blood for what it is. I suspect this is because they have intimate, first-hand knowledge of their own blood. And most of the children remained interested for some time. A child shows her interest through gesture, gaze and language. Here are some of the things we heard: "It got dead." "Something ate it." "I'm hungry." "Animals get dead." "Feathers." "A turkey!" "The deer ate it!" "The deer ate a turkey again." "No, a coyote." "Grey feathers." "Pigeons are grey underneath." ""Other birds have sharp beaks." "It attacked." "A coyote killed it." "It's dead." "Where is it?" "It takes it." "Ate it." "The bird is gone."
Eels. Really. Grandma was like an eel, I thought. No, she didn't look like an eel. But the mystery of her life, the elusiveness of her interior self, that was what got me on to eels.
"Ruthie's right there."
Perhaps a certain part of my brain was willfully ignoring the plain square bronze box that sat amid the letters and snapshots. Something of my grandmother was physically right there all along, standing amid all those tokens of memory and history. But of course she had changed. The box was small, but so heavy. The weight was solid and still, so different than the weight of a child in your arms, or a bird in your hand. I think I began to understand the nature of my grandmother's death in another way in that physical moment. My grandmother, Ruth, looked forward to a reunion with my grandfather, George, who preceded her in death. We cannot underestimate the power of nature to teach us about ourselves.