A square of metal wainscoting. Thin, pliable steel mesh that used to cover the open eaves at the top of the barn, only serving to shelter the starlings’ nests instead of keeping them out. Hardware; bolts, screws and washers. The stout tree stump we used to chop firewood on. Gouged and marked by the ax and maul but, somehow, unburnt- now resting 60 feet from where it should’ve been.
The rim of the old tire we used to anchor the bucks’ water bucket in during the winter. Bubbled, warped and devoid of a single scrap of rubber. Repurposed and reused. Called into service again and again, but finally useless. A survivor of time now destined for the landfill. Finally allowed to rest.
Things I’d taken from my husband’s toolbox in order to fix a kidding pen gate less than 36hrs before the flames. I’d tucked them back into the butt pocket of my overalls with all the best intentions of putting them right back where they belonged but, as usual, I forgot. One fell out of my pocket and ended up stamped into the ground to the side of where the barn’s west wall had been. A brief survivor still destined to join its brothers in the landfill. I don’t think I did it any favors.
The slide from the doe pen door. I used to curse it as I slammed my shoulder into the wood frame in order to open it around the packed straw our does were always kicking in the bottom track. Staring at me like two round eyes, accusatory. Reminding me that I’d never have to battle with it again.
The old rubber horse mats that had been on the ground when we signed the purchase papers. Tripped over and despised, but ridiculously heavy. Tolerated, always just for now, until we could get more hands to help us move them.
The massive support beams and weight-bearing posts that held the structure in place for so long. Treated, to withstand the elements and the weight of their burdens, turned to charcoal by the 1200 degree inferno that consumed the lesser pieces completely. My reflection stared back at me in some places. Useless grass that insisted on growing, stubbornly, where it really wasn’t wanted.
A tangled mess that almost resembles goat hair, and stops my heart for a second. Just fiberglass, brave inspection assures. A piece of something I can’t place that will go to its grave without a name.
Shards of bone, unrecognizable and unclaimed. Found in a place where none of the animals had been, probably carried there in the treads of the bobcat. I picked them up, five in total, and carried them to the resting place in the pasture. Inadequate, shallow, but the best burial I could offer. Wishes for peace, for sleep, for wide green pastures in the sky.
The wooden cable spools in the doe pasture, close enough to the tree to bring the low hanging branches (and their delicious leaves) within reach. The most coveted place to claim for the littles and yearlings, now covered in a sticky layer of fine ash. A beautiful day that would’ve seen all the babies fighting for a place to lay in the sunshine; instead they’re buried just behind it.
The frame of the doe pasture door. Twisted but shining, seated more comfortably in the mud, ash and blackened earth than it ever was in its intended place. I waved goodbye a full three days before its departure, eager to forget it ever existed. My shoulder, however, will always know.
Fiona’s collar. The eldest of her stunning blue-eyed triplets, Gael, liked to climb on his patient mama’s back and launch himself into the deep straw. I was so worried that he’d catch his leg on the way up that I took it off. It had been sitting on one of our chest freezers the night of the fire, and somehow ended up out beyond the western wall too. It managed to survive. It’s owner, and her beautiful babies, did not.
I don’t know why I needed pictures of it; this mess, this open pit of mud and sadness. It still hurt so much to even glance at through the window. Maybe it was because it would all be gone in a few days. Maybe because I needed to chronicle the last little pieces of what had ended before something new could begin. I don’t know. I just needed to see it. To lance the boil and let all those festering screams out while I still could. To take a deep breath and tear off the bandaid while I still could. It doesn’t really matter- it’s all gone now anyway. But now I have a way to remember. A stark reminder of how little the universe really cares about destruction, about mercy. An epitaph on the grave of what was eaten by fate when I least expected it. In tiny letters beneath it says ‘Move on now, we’ll allow it. But don’t you ever, ever forget.’