Our chickens are all dead. Taken by a mink, or a vulture, feathers in the berry patch the only sign of their struggle. The hen house now stands as a memorial to the five little breakfast protein providers.

When they were all here I didn’t think much of it. I’d be greeted noisily on my early morning rounds. Their bawking back and forth with each other seemed like gossip, them making commentary about the quality of vegetable scraps I tossed in their coop. They laid on their own schedule, providing two or three blue and brown eggs a day.   Then, gone.

In some ways, absence feels more tangible than presence. I tend to take it for granted that things won’t change, friends, family, livestock, they will always be around. It’s only when something isn’t there that I experience the full weight of who they were.

We just got back from a weeklong hiking trip. It was with thirty people I hadn’t met before. Over the seven days we learned an awful lot about each other, spent many hours on the trail or in conversation over meals and warm beer. Once home I felt like I did as a kid getting back from summer camp. My heart aches. I am genuinely sad for the friends I’ve left behind.

I heard from another friend yesterday that her dad had died. A lovely man.  I’ve been writing or saying “I’m sorry for your loss” a lot lately.

Ache and longing are good things, right? Evidence that those who are not around meant a great deal, were important, and made up a part of who we are. We aren’t whole anymore – at least for a time.

I’ll take my cup of coffee up to the garden this morning, but it won’t be the same. It will be quiet, too quiet.