Entries in Susan Fox Rogers (80)


Why I Love a Storm

At six thirty in the evening my young friends Sasha and Liza knock on my door. I have a headlamp attached to my forehead to guide me in making dinner, something exciting like rice and beans. “We’re collecting food that might go bad and making dinner at the bar,” Sasha explains. The bar has gas burners so they can still cook. Many have electric powered stoves so they are out of luck. We are not supposed to have power for the next two to three days so things will no doubt start to turn in the fridge. It’s a great idea. But I have almost nothing in my fridge. So I take them out to my garden and give them tomatoes and chard, some basil. Who knows what they will cook up, but I love that what they want to do is feed everyone after a long day of wind and rain.

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Estampes, part five

Sunday morning. It rained in the night, so it’s cool in the morning when I head out south on the main road, intending to drop down one of the narrow roads that take farmers to their fields. Corn and sunflower fields give over to empty fields, filled with birds lively in the cooler air: the great tit, swallows decorating the power lines that seem to run everywhere I look, tree sparrows.  I flush a pair of woodcocks, who sail off in a flurry of wings. Then I cross a small bridge, and on the other side am in a new department, the Haute Pyrenees. When I was a child, we often walked to the bridge after dinner, hopping from one side to the other, saying, “now I am in the Gers, now in the Haute Pyrenees.” There was no difference, the line entirely political. But we loved it, as we loved those evening walks.

 I look down a narrow passageway, between two corn fields, and spy two fox trotting toward me. They don’t see me right away, so I watch them through my binoculars, their long legs taking light, wary steps. And then they turn sharply and vanish into the corn.

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Bicycling the Gers

The road that leaves the D 146 and climbs west, uphill, is narrow and steep. It is there that Olivier and Becky are waiting for me, resting against their bicycles. “You missed seeing a Hen Harrier,” I tell them. They look less than interested as they stand in the shade of a farmhouse, a bit red from exertion and the sun. “The thing is,” I say, by way of trying to get them to care about my excitement, “is that my life is better for seeing this bird.” I’m joking and they laugh, but the truth is I kind of believe what I’ve just said.

I saw the Harrier hovering over a wide field. It looked like it was suspended from the sky itself, staying miraculous in place as it targeted the ground. There was a glint of red, and a fanned tail. Then it dropped, like a ball dropping from the sky and vanished into the grass. I figured it would take a while for it to conduct its killing business so I bicycled on, not wanting to keep my sister and brother-in-law waiting too long. 


We all shift into low gears as we prepare for the steep uphill ride that will take us up and over into the neighboring valley. The road is narrow, one-lane, gravelly, and winding. As we bike—slowly—I admire the pink and white cosmos in bloom by the side of the road, the queen anne’s lace that spreads across fields, and the acacia trees with their wispy red flowers. To our left, in the distance, we see the outline of the Pyrenees, especially the dramatic rise of the Pic du Midi. The houses of Antin thin and we’re soon surrounded by woods. There is a false summit, with a miniature valley positioned high in the hills. A few houses sprinkle the landscape, so isolated from the rest of the world. “It’s these inter-valley communities that interest me,” Becky says. And me too. The people who live here speak their own patois, live with little contact with their neighbors. It’s amazing to think of the isolation in such a busy country. Every small farm house that we pass has its own odor depending on what they are raising: Geese and ducks, an odor that is sharp in the back of the nose; beef cows, a flatter smell that mixes with the earth; milk cows, all sweetness.

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Fox and Chickens

Francis Morlass arrives in the morning to check the trap he has set for the fox, which has killed a few of Odette’s chickens. The plan is to catch it in a have a heart trap and then shoot it. I’m on the side of the fox, of course. Not that I want it to take Odette’s chickens, but I want it to live, to thrive. So to rid me of my wild animal love Odette tells me stories of how destructive the fox can be. There was the time she came into the chicken coop and found all nineteen of her chickens dead. “A massacre,” she explains. I get it that tending to chickens every day would make me want to protect them, but more—they are worth something, as a meal for Odette.

Almost every morning on my walk I see fox. They work the freshly cut fields of hay. I stood and watched one stalk and pounce, all four feet lifting off before it landed on its prey. But so far the chicken-stealing fox is not trappable. He’s sprung the trap twice but has not yet been taken. I’ll continue to quietly side with the fox and publicly hope that Odette’s chickens are safe. Both of these things can be true.

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Into the Woods, Estampes

Before I head left, uphill and into the woods I stop at the small graveyard. It’s walled in, with a metal gate. There’s a watering can that I fill from the spigot, to water the diplandenia, which my sister bought when she visited in April. The flowers are still in vibrant pink bloom in front of the blocky grey tomb that is the last one on the northern side of the cemetery. In addition to the flowers, there are two hideous ceramic flowers—somewhat required decorations—that rest on top of the flat, wide tomb. Most of the granite tombs are stacked with tokens of love like these ugly flowers, from friends, and relatives showing their grief through these objects. Mixed in with those brimming with love, are those graves that are seemingly abandoned, weeds sprouting nearby, or vines crawling over the tomb. Every year I vow to come and tend to those that are starting to crumble, as if the entire village might be my family.

I sit in front of our family tomb and read the names of those inside: Montegut, Ragner, Rogers. Montegut is my great grandfather. Ragner is my grandmother (though not my grandfather, who was buried near Pittsburgh) who grew up in Estampes, then married a Swede born in the States. Rogers is my mother and father, whom we buried in 2005, then 2007. I remember when we added the granite plaque with the name Rogers, the shock of seeing my own name, of realizing this is a place I will rest as well.

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