“See! from the brake the whirring pheasant springs, And mounts exulting on triumphant wings”
Alexander Pope Quotes , Source: Windsor Forest (l. 111)
I cannot say for certain when I first made his acquaintance or tell you the exact day he stole my heart. We had just moved to a small town in Connecticut from New York City following the 9/11 tragedy. Our new home’s family room sported an enormous glass window which overlooked the back yard, a spectacular bucolic setting of manicured jade green grass, magnolia trees and a pond, all bordering a 200 acre nature preserve. I was growing accustomed to the ubiquitous deer and red fox sightings but had never before encountered a pheasant and was not prepared for the effect his physical appearance bestowed, both in brilliance and beauty.
His presence, generally either early morning or late afternoon, was always announced by a loud and strange-sounding squawk, echoing eerily through the landscape. I grew to love this sound. Emerging from the tall hedges of the nature preserve he would strut and bob in all his splendor, slowly cruising the yard, pecking and flapping his great wings in a display of cockiness and valor.
I often pondered from where this lovely creature came. Was he an exotic pet from some grand estate who had fled to explore new pastures? Or perhaps a restless migrant in search of a mate? I researched the presence of pheasants in Fairfield County Connecticut and discovered that these fascinating birds were indeed not native to this area and rarely seen. My research further allowed that wild pheasants only live approximately five years in the wild unlike raised pheasants which can live up to twelve years in captivity. Our pheasant was chasing the years.
Sadly, the pheasant never did find a partner but instead took up with a group of wild turkeys who too frequented our property. I would often see him among the pack, his brilliance a gem among the other gray birds. The turkeys were a friendly lot and took him in with little fanfare. I loved them for that. I was pleased he had found companions though daydreamed about finding him a soul mate of his own, perhaps from some pheasant farm if that sort of thing existed. I imagined visiting, picking out a female pheasant and bringing it home. And like in a fairy tale they would live happily ever after and create for our town a whole new flock of pheasants for all to enjoy.
I longed to see him daily but as if sensing his importance he arrived only once or twice a week. In an attempt to lure him closer, I bought a bag of wild bird seed and scattered them in a line, starting at the opening of the preserve from which he emerged and ending just inches from my bedroom window. The very next morning, I heard him, louder than usual and realized with glee that the seed trail had worked. He stood majestically, so close to my window that I could reach out and touch him and in that brief moment snapped his photograph which still hangs on my refrigerator and atop this story.
There was something about the beauty of the pheasant and his calm demeanor that somehow made everything so right even on those days that were not. He became a fixture in the neighborhood and neighbors became proprietary. They began referring to him as “our pheasant” if he spent any amount of time on their property. He became somewhat of a celebrity in our small town.
When he went missing for sometimes weeks at a time, he became a topic of concern. I would see a friend in the local market and ask “Have you seen the pheasant.”? I imagined putting posters on trees in the area with his photo and the simple word “Missing.” No explanation necessary.
The pheasant enchanted us with his presence for over seven years, surviving hurricanes, snow storms and numerous predators. After one particularly fierce winter storm I fancied making up a tee-shirt for him stating “I survived the blizzard of 2010” and sending his photo to our local newspaper to feature in their wildlife section.
Then one day as magically as he had appeared, the pheasant returned no more. It has been over a year now. We no longer ask each other “Have you seen him?” There is an unsaid understanding among us. Nothing gold can stay.
Yet I still stare hard when I see the wild turkeys trotting by my window, hoping, praying for that glint of brilliant color amid the backdrop of the woods.
“There must be quite a few things that a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them.”
I am a slave to hot water. It began in my childhood, at what age I cannot say for certain. I can envision myself and my two sisters bobbing around in our bathtub, a simple no frills fixture unlike the whirlpool spas of today. My mother, who instilled this love of baths in us, laid peacefully center. It was those calming waters which somehow righted every wrong and made life at the end of the day oh so much more delightful. “Can you start the tub?” we would call to my mother nightly and upon hearing the rumble of the water racing through the faucet, would immediately feel comforted.
As I grew into older childhood my nightly baths and love of, continued. I remember bringing into the tub different props for amusement. My fondest memory involve the Barbie dolls which I would plunge into the water, their perfect bodies and pointed toes gracefully leaping from the soap holder which I would use as a makeshift diving board.
When I left for college I realized with some dismay, that my nightly baths ritual would become a thing no more. Bathing in a dorm bathroom shared by who knows how many others was something I did not find appealing – not to mention the cleanliness factor. Yes sadly, my nightly baths ceased upon entering freshman year in college and were promptly replaced by a shower.
Yet one night, the old urge struck. Returning from a night out and perhaps one Tequila Sunrise too many, I made my way to the dorm bathroom. Perfect! At 3AM on a weekday there was not a soul in sight. I undressed and proceeded to the sink, my towel tightly wrapped around me. As I began to brush my teeth I felt the towel slipping. As it fell to the floor I was faced with two choices: pick it up immediately or finish brushing and then retrieve the towel. Given the late hour and the desolateness of the dorm, I opted for the latter – my fatal mistake. As if in a dream I watched the bathroom door swing open to reveal a tall sleepy male, no doubt someone’s boyfriend as my dorm was all women. His eyes, which only moments before were half slits were now golf balls as he gaped at me standing before him, stark nude, tooth-brush still in hand. I shrieked, tore past him and jumped on my roommate’s bed. Babbling and breathless I attempted to explain to her what still rates as one of the most embarrassing moments of my life. Oh bath, how could you have forsaken me?
When I became engaged and began staying overnight at my fiance’s apartment I learned the meaning of true love. Craving my bath one night, I mentioned that his tub did not seem well, completely clean. I asked where I could find his cleaning supplies. “Do you have to have a bath every night?” he asked with some annoyance as he disappeared into the kitchen. Returning with a can of Comet and scrub brush he for the next 15 minutes, painstakingly cleaned the tub for me. And with that gesture, I knew I was marrying the right man.
I have two sons who have inherited their mother and grandmother’s love of baths. I can hear the water running nightly and I have caught them filling up the tub to play their own Barbie doll type of diving game but instead they use pencils. They catapult the pencils off the side of the tub in their own game of acrobatics. At any hour, morning or night, at the slightest hint of a stomach ache or joint discomfort from sports, a tub is running. Aqua therapy of sort. I realize this is a luxury in our society and lecture them on the number and length of time spent in the bath. But it often falls on deaf ears as my son races in from school, drops his back pack in the corner and heads up to the bathroom to turn on the bath. He too understands the healing of the waters.
My adult bath ritual has changed only slightly since childhood. I still take one every single night, but instead of the Barbies I bring one guilty pleasure which I lay on the side of the tub; four Hershey Chocolate kisses. My second favorite comfort in life.
I first saw him in the elevator of my office building, tall, cute and impeccably dressed. We exchanged nothing more than a few fleeting glances/smiles over the next couple of months and then one afternoon, somewhere between the 9th and 12th floor, he uttered the words I had dreamed of…would I like to meet for a drink that night? Ecstatic I floated back to my office, furiously contemplating where I could find a more enticing outfit than the frumpy gray suit I was wearing, ideal had I been operating the elevator. I needed something special… cute, flirty, fun. But where to find in 3 hours? And then a light bulb. The $19.99 and under dress store which sat in the lobby of my building. I had never entered the store but passed it daily on my way to the elevator bank always pondering the type of dress you might find for $20 bucks. But desperate times call for desperate measures I reasoned. Did I dare?
The bar was packed as we stood making small talk that evening. I had never felt more attractive and carefree as I sipped my Tequila Sunrise, in that cobalt blue, stretch cotton mini dress (yes, dear reader, score for the $19.99 and under dress store!) I admit it may have been a tad tight and perhaps the material a bit thin, but for the price, what could one expect. It was how it made me FEEL that was important. Plus the fact, real or imagined, that my date could not take his eyes off me! The conversation flowed and the bar, Ryan McFadden’s, a popular neighborhood watering hole, pulsated with energy and possibility. The music was phenomenal! After my 2nd cocktail, I boldly asked him to join me on the dance floor, something out of the norm for me but the dress fueled my confidence. As we jumped in time with the crowd to the strains of “SHOUT” I suddenly felt myself losing my footing. The floor, ladled with beer from overzealous imbibers was awash. The next thing I knew, I was horizontal. Brushing myself off and struggling to maintain my dignity, I slowly rose to my feet. Several people behind me were laughing. “Your dress,” one sympathetic woman whispered, “it’s totally ripped up the back…” My last memory was the disappointed look in elevator guy’s eyes as he wrapped his rain coat around me and hailed a cab. And with that gesture, the night was officially over.
For the next 6 weeks I took the stairs up to my office, all 12 flights. For that reason or others unknown, I never ran into the elevator guy again. The $19.99 and under dress store closed shortly thereafter as well and ironically, a tailor moved into its space.