"A book of verses, underneath the bough,
A jug of wine, a loaf of bread -- and thou
Beside me singing in the wilderness --
Ah, wilderness were paradise enow!"

-- Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, as translated by Edward Fitzgerald

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Ignoring the Oracle

When I sought the bones
years later, they had melded
back into the earth.

We have a small pasture; at the time we had a horse, a pony, and a donkey.  In the morning, I would walk out into the pasture and bring the equines back to the barn to feed them some grain.  I had done this early one morning and was carrying a bale of hay back to the hay rack in the middle of the pasture when I realized the rack had a skeletal leg neatly arranged in it.

My first thought -- well, really, all thoughts left me.  When I did have a thought, it was -- in the way that something utterly unexpected makes one utterly illogical -- "Hunh.  I didn't notice any of the animals missing a leg when they walked into the barn."  It took me a minute to register why I would have noticed that sooner, and also that the bones before me had the hoof of a cow and not a horse.

My next thought was that this was an elaborate practical joke.  As I cogitated, I realized it would have been extremely difficult for people to climb over the fence, in the dark, carrying the complete bones of a cow leg, and then reassemble them with anatomical precision in the hay rack.

What must have happened is this: some years past, a cow died in a field, where it decomposed.  After the grass grew up around the it, the farmer cut the grass for hay, not noticing the skeleton from the height of his tractor.  The baler packed the hay into a bale at a perfect angle to incorporate the bones into the center of the bale, where they couldn't be seen.  I bought the hay, stacked it into the barn, and months later put it out for the equines.  They ate away all the grass, leaving the bones for me to find.

I calmed down as I thought this through, but I wasn't thinking about bone folders, or whatever oracles the bones might tell.  I was upset by the intrusion and threw the bones away over the fence, down the slope into the woods.

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