When my dog Petey was still alive I used to bring him to the Blessing of the Animals at the Basilica. One year, a woman with a small clear plastic box sat at the end of the pew next to Petey and me. She was anxious, agitated, and when the priests began walking up and down the aisle swinging incense and shaking holy water on the animals, she held the box up in the air.
“Please, more,” she said to the priest, weeping, and he shook more holy water on the plastic box. She turned to me.
“They’re my hermit crabs,” she said. “See?”
She opened the lid of the box and showed them to me – two tiny crabs, patiently perched on small colored rocks, a plastic castle next to them. It was clear how much the sobbing woman loved her hermit crabs. It was clear also that life had not been easy for her. Had she been lonely forever? Had she walked the Darwinian halls of middle school hugging the lockers, head down? Had a human being ever loved her with the same kind of love she now, in middle age, lavished on her two silent, tiny creatures? Much love to her, and much kindness to everyone, in these troubled times.
The Bittersweet Echo
The junkyard kitten has the need
For the love-starved boy to bring it feed
On his way back home from school—
To correspond, to break the cool.
And rhymes are lullabies to mourning
And pretty the pain of human longing.
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