The Kind of Person Who Goes through Unlocked Gates in Public Spaces

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I hope everyone has had a lovely Thanksgiving. Mine has been quite nice: quiet and restorative, which is what I wanted--nothing like the exciting trip to Paris and Brussels I took last year over my Thanksgiving break. I had dinner Thursday with friends but other than that I've mostly just worked. I'm still struggling to dig myself out from under the mountain of grading and school-related business that fell on me two weeks ago, but I think, by the time classes start again next week, I will have succeeded.

Anyway, here is something I wrote in my journal two years ago about an event that happened the Saturday after Thanksgiving in 2004.

***

I got bored with the business I was doing on campus and decided to go for a walk in an area I'd never explored. I discovered this very old, very tiny cemetery, from the early 19th century. There's this "meditation garden" outside it with no place to sit but it does feature a kind of cool cairn built of fragments from broken headstones. The cemetery itself is enclosed in a waist-high chain-link fence, and there was a gate in it, and I thought, if the gate is unlocked, I'll go in it, because I have always been the kind of person who goes through unlocked gates in public spaces--they seem to demand it; they seem to say "go through me" the way that bottle in Alice in Wonderland said "drink me."

And I went in and there was this poor turkey, pressing itself against the fence in an effort to melt through it. The poor turkey was very unhappy, because it was a windy day and we've had rotten weather lately, and chain-link fences offer little protection from the elements--and neither do narrow old headstones and a few old trees. I was struck by how pretty it was--though when I thought about all those turkeys we colored with brown and orange and red crayons in grade school, their tails all fanned out like some autumnal-colored peacock, it didn't seem so weird that it would be quite a lovely bird, except for its head, which was of course scaly and red and rather gross. For all the beauty of its feathers, you could see that the turkey had injured its side from pressing against the fence. It occurred to me that someone was keeping it there, but if someone was, s/he was doing a bad job of it because the turkey had no shelter and no food.

So I did what seemed best: opened the gate and walked behind the turkey slowly enough to keep it moving but not so fast that it freaked out and started running all over the yard. It walked right past the open gate once, so I opened it further and this time it saw the opening and ran out. But then it didn't go far: just on the other side of the fence, the side that kept things out rather than in, was a big pile of scrap wood, branches and sticks and such, and the poor turkey huddled up under that and seemed relieved to be there rather than in the yard, so I left it alone and continued my walk. I went back about 20 minutes later and it was still there. I might check tomorrow and see if it's around--probably someone will shoot it before too long, but at least it won't be quite so cold and wet during its last days on earth. Or maybe turkeys have ways of weathering winter: build big nests or something; who knows? I'm not a turkey expert.

But it did seem rather appropriate in a weird way to rescue a turkey from a graveyard during the Thanksgiving weekend.

3 Comments

What a lovely, evocative piece. I don't know much about turkeys, either. I love the comparison with the peacock, though, and I can imagine a proud, large-chested turkey spreading its tailfeathers in exactly the crayon-colors you describe.

Is it true that Ben Franklin wanted the turkey to be the national bird, rather than the bald eagle?

That's awesome. You rescued a TURKEY, of all things...

Holly, you continue to be brilliant in all ways even in 2004!

Glad you had a nice Thanksgiving! It's been busy lately with work and things but wanted to check in. Dale

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This page contains a single entry by Holly published on November 25, 2006 11:31 AM.

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