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I was so distracted by what she had said that the rest of her words swirled together and floated in an elusive ring through the air, mingling with the incense before fading to a place where there are no words, only the deep sense that something indiscernible has happened.

What she said must have been true, or I might have remained a captive audience. As my attention turned elsewhere, my thoughts rotated with the fervor of a metal merry-go-round, the splendor of its carnival colored paint chipping into oblivion with each passing circle as words trailed into the distance.

I think this is how my children must feel. Bags and boxes placed at the will of another on a mechanical conveyor belt, moving along at someone else’s speed, headed for someone else’s plan, and perhaps a bad one at that.

I could only hear part of what you were saying.

It’s not my turn to talk. It usually isn’t. But when it is, and I do, the words begin to fall out to the story, and then there is before me a restlessness followed by first soft and then unbridled voices. No one is looking at me anymore, and I can no longer even hear my own voice.

But you said…

No, that’s not what I said.

I am quick with my chicken chores now, especially on days when I don’t have to refill the waterers. As I ventured behind the coop to get one of the compost buckets, I was startled to find a possum curled up in the leftover pine shavings in a nearly empty pail.

Never before have I seen a possum in close proximity. Its narrow, black and shiny eyes were open. I could see sharp, foreboding teeth as it curled back its lips to hiss at me. I shuddered.

I didn’t have to say anything. That possum knew it had me wrapped tightly in fear. My chickens suddenly seemed so vulnerable. Wendell could crow, but would his flock be safe from this angry possum?

Will you ever really, truly feel safe with me?

I could think of ways to trick the possum and to make him go away. I could turn the bucket upside down to trap him. I took a little extra time with the chicken chores, and as I picked up chicken poop and tossed some herbs into the nest boxes, I wondered if anyone had ever given thought to the well being of the possum, and if anyone loved him best.

At dusk, I counted nine hens and Wendell, perched safely in their spots on the roost. The possum was gone from the bucket, and I checked the corners of the coop just to be sure he wasn’t hiding behind a feed container. Until the morning, at least, my chickens are locked up tightly.

I couldn’t think of anything else to say, which is good, because you couldn’t listen anymore anyway. The burdens of what brought you here have filled you up, at least for now.

We won’t be needing any words, just a safe place to land when we are weary. And we are.

Then the sun rises, the rooster crows, the aroma of the morning’s coffee mixes with the lively conversation, and we are here to listen, to hear every word.

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