About once a year my daughter Claire asks me to lop a few inches off her long hair. We stand on the back porch where I brush it, always telling her that it glows gold and bronze in the sun. I inexpertly trim away the length she requests. Then, without a moment’s ceremony, we toss the locks over the porch rail onto the grass.
There they are scattered by the wind and washed by the rain. Some strands may end up woven into bird nests or fluffed around baby bunnies. Some surely return their carbon, nitrogen, and other constituents back into nature’s elaborate cycles. With the little I know about science I think of the sugar snap peas that Claire picked off the vine to eat, thereby contributing nutrients to the hair we just cut off, now tossed back onto that same land.
Claire has been, all the years we’ve had animals, the main person who made our little homestead work. She went out back several times a day no matter what the conditions: blizzard, extreme heat, driving rain, floods. She did this whether she was sick or studying for college exams or volunteering all day. She fed and tended livestock. She cleaned barns, spread manure, hauled feed, and led our steers on their final long walk. She paid close attention to the flora and fauna around her with her the aliveness she brings to everything. (For a glimpse, here are some of her pictures.) Perhaps those thousands of hours outdoors were part of what inspired her to major in biology.
Claire vowed to stay here until the end of her beloved cow Isabelle’s life. A woman of her word, she did. This week she has moved into her own lovely place with room for her many aspirations. We’re completely thrilled for her.
Her dad and I are now the ones heading out back several times a day in a pale imitation of Claire’s steadfast determination. Each time I walk past the last few strands of her hair on the grass I pause to see it glow gold and bronze in the sun.