St. Francis Fed The Animals

Susan Demarest

Creative Non-Fiction

Take Me To Church

One time I read a story about a man who, trying to make more sense of his life, moved to a California forest community called—I’m not kidding—“Last Chance,” built a rudimentary shack with no indoor plumbing, and then renounced money, sex and all material possessions except for the 800 pounds of seed he drove into town to buy each month in order to feed the woodland animals. That was nice. St. Francis also fed the animals. But one August, lightning started a wildfire that consumed the entire community in addition to another another 40,000 acres as well, and instead of leaving, this man drove 800 pounds of seed back into the forest, got trapped inside and died, “doing what he loved,” his step-niece said, but I don’t think it was for love. I mean, even the woodland beasts had fled.

Plaisir D’Amour

There is no accounting for love, but, strictly speaking, it is expensive.

The Serpentin Vase

When I first saw the image of a Serpentin Vase in 1997 on a website for Transjo Hytta, a small studio in the “glass kingdom of Sweden,” it was so beautiful, I was suddenly sad. Don’t kid yourself. Art and love do exactly the same thing. They remind you that there is an alternate reality, an “other” beauty that you can’t access cognitively. You have to experience it, “take it on faith” as it were. Moreover, as Paul Cezanne (1839 -1906) said, the first time that he saw a Jean-Baptiste Chardin (1699 -1799) still-life,“Objects enter into each other. They never stop living, you understand. Imperceptibly, they extend beyond themselves through reflections, as we do. . . they speak to us; we speak to them.”And at the time, buried as I was in an abusive marriage, holding out for an adoption that maybe would or would not come through, the “Serpentin,” a purple glass “bottle vase” of almost otherworldly hue, I can’t explain what it was, but it promised relief. But it was too expensive, that is: $700 plus shipping from the middle of a primeval forest. Back in 1997, that was one magic vase. But then a diamond ring would have cost more and what, in the scheme of things, was that worth in my life? Then, unexpectedly, three things happened: The adoption came through. I got immediately divorced. And I decided to keep searching for the Serpentin vase. And twenty years later, in 2017:  Ecce Serpentin!  I found a used one on Ebay for $470, or, even better, “best offer.” I offered $340, and now I say “morning light, Serpentin” every morning of my life.

The Victory Tour

And I do love my exceptional daughter, but even she knows that I love my Tana Lee more. She’s a Brittany Spaniel, and I think, “is this how it will end?” Half of her a wild child, the other half a tired old lady? I see she’s sleeping more these days as she probably should; she’s fourteen years, and it’s almost time. Her legs are starting to collapse; I end up carrying her home. Sometimes when she picks up a dead bird, I want to smack it out of her mouth, but I just can’t. I pull the body from her teeth and say “bad dog!” but it’s all for show. We’re on the Victory Tour; if she should go, I want to know I was the kindest, gentlest mama ever, not just for her but more for me. I want to know that I can live with how she died and that it ended as it should. It’s not a vow of poverty, and I’m not feeding the woodland beasts, but it’s the least that I can give, that is, that she can take with her.

Susan Demarest’s poems and creative non-fiction have appeared in Tar River Poetry, Hawaii Review, Antiques and Collectibles, Ibbetson Street, Medical Literary Messenger: VCU, Tell, Molecule:Tiny Lit, Hole in the Head Review, Panoplyzine, Bookends Review, and Red Skies Anthology, among other publications. She is an educator who lives on the North Shore of Boston. Her website is trouvè

Photo credit: Kent Rebman, Unsplash

3 responses to “St. Francis Fed The Animals”

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