When we moved our family from Detroit’s streetlights to a country road in February 1989, we learned the phrase, “We’ll keep a light on for you.”

Under a new moon, we couldn’t find our way to our neighbor’s house on the corner without their lights to guide us. Beyond the beam of our porch lamps, we couldn’t see our hands before our face.

Come springtime, our little women, ages 19, 14, and 12, sat on their bedroom floor in the evening, looking into the black void beyond an open window. A heinous scream shivered through me.

Terrified eyes turned to me. “Mom, what’s that awful sound?” they asked.

“I don’t know. I’ve never heard it before.”

A neighbor down the road later said, “Oh, that’s a rabbit cryin’ out ’cause a coyote’s after it.”

“Coyotes?” I asked, appalled at the severe code of the food chain.

He laughed. “Welcome to the country!”

Within two growing seasons of rabbit-nibbled perennials and tree saplings, I better understood God’s wisdom and began keeping tomcats. First P.J., then Mo, short for Mozart, a musical, fierce feline. Mo hunted and consumed my number one garden pest with impunity.

I’ve learned to protect the perimeter of our vegetable garden with an eight foot deer-proof fence and chicken wire at the base to deter hopping critters. Still, I mend that fence annually, gnawed by another generation of Peter Rabbit.

The other night when I took our grand-dog Lily out on her leash, a cottontail skittered into the road’s windrow. Thankfully, Lily didn’t see or scent the creature.

Rather, she stood facing west under a black, starlit sky, her Labrador nose the only muscle moving on her sleek body.


We couldn’t see them on the other side of the valley, but Lily didn’t budge. She growled low and long. I gripped her leash and turned her toward the perennial island.

Above the garden’s crabapple tree, the Big Dipper hung upside down, poised on the end star of the ladle! The bowl poured northward. I gazed skyward in the silent, cold atmosphere, amazed to see the seven stars in this position as Earth rotated within the heavens.

After a good night’s rest under the Big Dipper, Lily and I returned to the same place outside our front door the following morning. Dim rays of dawn glistened on the frost-covered lawn and leaves.

Lily sniffed while one by one, stems of heart-shaped redbud leaves detached from branches and fell upon a cushion of papery leaves with a soft sound of finality. Leaf after leaf, they offered up their last breath.

In the lifetime of this lovely tree, I’d never witnessed this sacred farewell. I have Lily to thank for her perfect potty timing.

Dear Reader, if I lived a thousand years, I think it a fraction of time to adequately partake in a small portion of the changing seasons.

Of one thing I am confident. My loving God will always keep a light on in the darkness.

Contact Iris at irisfarmletters@gmail.com.