RURAL AMERICA — A couple of times a day my crazy tortoiseshell cat Luna leaps from my lap, heading toward a windowsill, yellow-orange eyes wide and bright. There are interlopers just outside a window; catbirds, yes catbirds nesting in a tall shrub, driving her crazy. Because I know her history, born in Memphis, adopted in Dubuque, I know she has no idea what a catbird is, but it’s OK.

She also heads for the windowsill when newborn baby fawns trot behind their mothers across the front yard, and this year there have been a good number of them. There is nothing more adorable than dappled fawns following their mothers, fawns not much larger than a cat. It’s that time of year. Come on out, set up a chair in my lane, and see for yourself.

Speaking of my lane, last week I pulled into the lane, startling a woodchuck. She took off running, not into the tall grass as one might expect, but down the lane ahead of me. Not sure what parts we were playing in this little drama but it was amusing for me. It’s not every day that I very slowly follow a furry, wild creature down a 700-foot lane.

It’s beautiful here now, and busy. Clouds overhead look to have been painted by Belgian surrealist Rene Magritte, layer upon soft layer. Birds are everywhere. Baltimore orioles have returned to my woods and just to the east hundreds of American white pelicans are heading north along the big river flyway. A lone turkey pecks her way through a field in front of my house and there is Luna on the sill again, curious.

The first cutting of hay has begun in earnest and the air smells sweet. Hillsides are blanketed in deep green, as corn and green bean plants emerge from the earth.

On a more personal note, two weeks ago I had a medical appointment at a hospital in a mid-sized city about an hour or so from my place and afterwards I rode an elevator with a woman, maybe my age, perhaps a little older, and we talked as we descended to street level. Walking toward the parking garage I mentioned that my wife had died on Christmas Eve. Not sure how that came to be the subject, but there you are, me likely looking for some sympathy.

She offered her condolences and then offered, “My husband died nine years ago.” I, too, offered my condolences, then she said, “It was the best day of my life. He was abusive.” Here’s where lightning arcs across a dark sky, thunder rumbles in the distance, then suddenly the skies clear when she says, “Every day now is a good day.” I turned to her and she was smiling.

Oh my gosh. For months I’ve been wandering in a fog feeling sorry for my dead wife, and for myself, not really acknowledging the incredible pain others have carried with them during their lives, pain I cannot begin to fathom. What a fool I am. Who am I to think my pain and grief are unique? On that warm afternoon when the sun was hot, the air humid, two people met, walked across a parking lot together, and likely revealed more than they should have. It was a beautiful thing, and I’ve not been the same since.

Ullrich is a free-lance writer who resides in rural Jackson County, Iowa. His book, “The Iowa State Fair,” is available from the University of Iowa Press.

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