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Don Before We Met

February 26, 2012

Don died of illness, dark and painful, but he made sure that our love grows, surrounding me with light–whimsical and amazing. Even in death, he encourages me to stretch my imagination to feel and see the light in my heart and high in the sky and to ride on the clouds–moving around, looking for him. Above all, he tells me to go deep in my heart where wrenching sobs are captivated by bursts of enthusiasm for love that never left us. The love that existed before, during and after our life together.

These days I am getting to know Don before I met him. I went to his writings about growing up in Iowa and found the following.

Not everything on the farm was a chore to me. Starting from about age twelve, I pursued hunting and trapping assiduously. My trapping started with ground squirrels (moles), which dug extensive underground tunnels, piling the dirt in the middle of the hayfield. The county offered a bounty: 10 cents a squirrel. All you had to do was deliver the severed front feet to the proper office. Then moved on to muskrats, the hides of which would fetch a whole dollar. The wily devils build their homes under water on creek banks, gather their food from the corn fields, and then slide back down the bank to their abode. The trick is to place the trap under water, right in front of the burrow. I got pretty good at it.

We had a creek called Keg which ran through our farm. Around six a.m., after I had milked the cows, I would check the traps, clubbing those I had caught and resetting the trap. I would place the corpses in a little-used shed and change clothes for school. That evening, after milking the cows, I would skin the critters and stretch their hides on a flat piece of wood I had fashioned. It did have a distinctive unpleasant odor. After a few days of drying and stretching, I would take them to the county seat.

One morning I found a trap that contained only one muskrat foot; the desperate creature had chewed off its own foot in order to escape. That day I gave up trapping.

Far away in Seoul, Korea, I loved the boy who gave up trapping at the sight of “only one muskrat foot.” And now I am crying, missing that boy.

P.S. This and other stories appear in our joint memoir, Shoulder Friends, which I hope to publish in 2013. For this year, Looking for Don: A Meditation will be available for you to order soon.

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