March Winds

Part II

The Doctor Visit

Meanwhile, Morris had arisen early. He didn’t feel like eating much but had a little porridge with milk because Bartholomew had remarked that he looked pale. After breakfast he got dressed and began the walk to Dr. Brigit’s cottage.

As Grenby had predicted, it was cool, pleasant day. Crocuses were scattered on both sides of the path. Their delicate white flowers soaked in the morning sun. The trees and bushes were still at rest but juices were flowing through their branches and twigs in preparation for a fine blooming spring. The pond’s clear, blue water reflected the sky. A gentle breeze moved through the pines. Small groups of sparrows chattered and played in the treetops. Yes, it was a fine day for a walk. Unfortunately, Morris noticed none of this.

He was preoccupied with the doctor visit. He had always avoided going to see Dr. Bridget. The main reason he was going today was because Bartholomew had asked him to, and he didn’t want to disappoint his old friend. It took about twenty minutes to get there, and he was tired when he arrived. He was also worried about what she might say.

Dr. Brigit Badger took care of the animal residents in Ballymore. She was an herbal specialist and kept a large garden of medicinal plants. Her patients always said she was very understanding and kind. They thought very highly of her. Besides Bartholomew, she was the only other animal in Ballymore who could read and write.

Her cottage was typical for the community. It had stone walls and a chimney, heavy wooden doors and windows, and a thatched roof. Inside were a parlour, kitchen, and bedroom. Because the cottage also served as her medical office, it had two additional rooms. There was an examining room and a room in which a patient could stay overnight if needed. That room was rarely used. Animals who didn’t feel well would much rather stay in their own homes. The animals felt the same as people about that.

Dr. Brigit greeted Morris at the door. Morris didn’t know her well, and he felt a bit uncomfortable. Besides, she was a doctor.

He told her that his energy level had been down for about a month and that Bartholomew had suggested he pay her a visit. Dr. Brigit kindly invited him into her office. She closed the door, and they sat down. She was middle-aged and slim for a badger. Dr. Brigit didn’t look like a doctor because she wasn’t wearing the long white coat that people doctors like to wear. Instead, she had on a pair of bluejeans and a green shirt. She probably had been working in her garden.

She sensed Morris was nervous and tried to put him at ease by asking him questions about his furniture making. He was happy to talk about that for a while and began to feel more comfortable.

“Now, let’s see how I can help you,” she said and began by asking him a bunch of questions such as:

How are you sleeping?

Does anything hurt?

Have you been losing any fur recently?

Has your taste for food changed?

How is your eyesight?

He answered “Ok”, “No”, “No”, “No”, and “Ok” to the questions. He repeated that he just felt tired all of the time.

Then, she did a brief physical exam. She looked in his eyes and ears. She looked in his mouth. She listened to his heart. She looked at his claws. She tapped on his tummy.

After all the looking, listening, and tapping, she said, “Morris, I believe your metabolism is slowing down as you are getting older. This means that you would have less energy. I also suspect that you are not getting the proper exercise or nutrition for a muskrat your age. Come, let’s take a walk out to my greenhouse.”

Since it was early March, only a few plants were growing in the garden behind the cottage. He noticed some fresh rows of dirt, indicating that planting season had begun. They walked to the back of the garden where a medium-sized greenhouse was full of green and brown and yellow plants of many shapes and sizes.

In the greenhouse, she approached a group of tall green plants with yellow flowers.

“All of the plants in here are my babies. I give them water, light, minerals, and love. With each day they miraculously grow into these beautiful plants and provide their wonderful gifts to us. The leaves from this plant will increase your metabolism. You should regain your energy, but it could take a couple of months before you notice an effect.”

She picked several leaves from the plants and tore them into small pieces. After putting the pieces in an envelope, she gave it to Morris.

“Now, soak one piece of leaf in a cup of hot tea every evening. Make sure you eat fruits and vegetables everyday. Porridge is also very good. Try to walk for half an hour each day if you can. I’m sure you’ll begin to feel better within a couple of months, but I would still like to see you again then.”

She paused. “Do you have any questions, or can I offer you a cup of tea now?” she asked.

“No, thank you. I must be getting home,” he answered. “Thank you very much for your help and advice. I’ll do my best to follow it.”

“You’re welcome,” said Dr. Brigit kindly.

She took his paw in hers. “I hope that you feel better, and I believe you will. Sometimes I feel poorly also, but I can’t avoid seeing a doctor as easily as you can. Each morning I have to look in the mirror.”

Morris laughed.

“Remember that I can help and that I want to help. Please don’t hesitate to visit.”

“Yes, Dr. Brigit. Thank you, again,” he said.

The doctor’s visit had gone very well, he thought, but it would be best to leave now. That way, nothing bad had a chance of happening. He thought she was a nice doctor and was glad he had come. More than likely, he would return in two months as she had asked. As he walked home, he noticed how beautiful the pond looked. Little had changed but his perspective, and that made all the difference. He was feeling better already.

As Morris was walking home, Bartholomew flew back across the pond to the muskrat’s cottage and landed on his weatherbeaten dock. Morris wasn’t there. He correctly assumed that he was still visiting the doctor.

He looked out over the pond and noticed that the wind had shifted to the south and was becoming stronger. He also saw that some clouds were beginning to build in the western sky. Obviously, some unpleasantness was coming. The weather changes frequently in Ballymore, and it was March. A strong storm would not be unusual.

Bartholomew was used to flying in wind and rain, although, he much preferred to observe them from the warmth of his cottage. Stormy weather created the perfect time to settle into his favorite chair by the fire with a good book. Currently, he was reading a book on sailing ships and found them fascinating. This evening he would continue with it. Just then, Morris came ambling through the trees and interrupted his sailing thoughts. Bartholomew noticed that Morris had a little spring in his step. The owl was pleased and amused at the same time.

“Good morning. How was your appointment?”

“Hello, Bart. Despite my worries, the visit went very well. Dr. Brigit said she thinks I have a low metabolism and gave me some herbs for it. She said it might take about two months to notice improvement. She’s a nice doctor. I like her.”

Morris smiled.

“Now that’s news I like to hear. I’m happy for you,” responded Bartholomew. “Yes, I agree, Dr. Brigit is very nice.”

“Thank you. I feel better already.”

Morris laughed and then looked over at the western sky. He also noticed the clouds.

“It looks like a storm coming.”

“Yes, Grenby’s forecast for tomorrow is black-black. It could last one or two days,” said Bartholomew. “We will see.”

“I was thinking about another issue I would like to discuss with you,” he continued. “You are an excellent furniture maker and have a lot of valuable knowledge. I’m sure there is someone in Ballymore who would love to learn furniture making from you. Have you ever considered taking on an apprentice?”

“Yes, I have, but I’ve been too busy to follow up on it. Now, kite season is here, and there will be even more work,” said Morris. “Everybody loves to play with a kite.”

“Yes, and the kite contest will also be here soon. However, kites are a lot easier to build than most furniture. This would be a perfect time to bring on an apprentice,” suggested Bartholomew.

“Yes, it would. I sure could use the help,” answered Morris. “But I don’t know anyone who might be interested.”

“Let me ask around.”

“Would you? Thank you very much. I appreciate that,” said Morris.

Morris was very happy that Bartholomew would look for an apprentice for him. He was shy and uncomfortable about asking himself.

Suddenly, Branna Bluebird landed between them on the dock. The Bluebird family provided the main communication system in Ballymore. They delivered verbal messages during the day as long as the weather was acceptable for flying.

When she was working, Branna maintained a very formal attitude. Before speaking, she smoothed her feathers and stood straight up. She was very professional. Some might say that she took her responsibilities and herself too seriously. In any event, she did an excellent job as did the other bluebirds.

She began, “I have a public message for Bartholomew Owl from Grenby Groundhog. The weather forecast for tomorrow remains the same. Rain is likely to begin sometime in the morning. End of message. Does Bartholomew Owl wish to respond?”

“Thank you, Branna. There will be no response,” answered Bartholomew. “Now that you have completed your message delivery, how are you and the family?”

“We are all fine. Thank you. I’m sorry, Bartholomew, but I can’t stay and chat because I have another message to deliver.”

“All right, then. Take care,” said Bartholomew smiling.

“Goodbye, Branna,” said Morris.

She left immediately and was soon out of sight.

“I also need to be leaving,” said Bartholomew. “I wish you a good day and night, and don’t forget to drink your tea.”

“Take care and thank you again,” said Morris laughing.

It was quite considerate and somewhat surprising that Grenby sent a weather update to Bartholomew. Grenby was really a good fellow if you got to know him. Unfortunately, few knew him well because he kept to himself.

Bartholomew had an idea that someone in the Beaver family might be interested in an apprenticeship under Morris. He flew to the beavers’ home, which was just southeast of Morris’s place.

The Beaver family included Burton and Beatrice and their children Birch, Belva, and Birk. They had a nice stone cottage, which was very well kept. They were very industrious and had built the stone and wooden parts of many of the cottages in Ballymore. Their own cottage was of the standard design except that it had a second entrance, underwater from the pond. That entrance was probably used more than the above ground one.

The beavers were all at home and received him cordially. They invited him to sit at their dining table, and soon a pot of hot tea was set down by Beatrice.

Bartholomew spoke to Burton, “I came to let you know that Morris Muskrat is seeking an apprentice to learn furniture building. Because your family works with wood, I thought I would mention the opportunity to you first.”

Without hesitation, Birk, the youngest of the three children, jumped up and pleaded, “Can I, Papa? I would love to learn furniture building, and it would go well with the work we already do. Can I, Papa?”

Burton Beaver was a cautious animal, and not surprisingly, he responded, “The opportunity does sound interesting, but let’s talk it over as a family.”

“Thank you for letting us know about this, Bart, and we’ll make a decision soon,” he continued.

Bartholomew said, “If you decide to apply for the position. Please go and talk with Morris. I know he would like to choose someone soon.”

Bartholomew was pleased that Birk was interested in the apprenticeship. Birk was a conscientious young beaver, and he had always liked him. He stayed a bit longer to talk and finish his tea. Then, he said goodbye and began the flight home.

The sky had turned grey with ominous clouds, and the wind was stronger now. Trees began to sway and whitecaps formed on the pond. Luckily, the wind was mostly at his back, so he had no difficulty flying.

When he got home, he was a little tired and thought a warm lunch was in order. Then, perhaps some reading or a nap would be nice. In the past when a storm was coming, he usually needed to put in extra time making sure everyone was prepared and safe. He thought that he had better rest now, while he had the opportunity. After lunch he retired to his comfortable rocking chair. Gazing into the flames from the fireplace, he found himself reflecting on the past.

He was born in Ballymore over twenty years ago. His parents had passed away several years ago. He never married. That was, probably, because he had come in contact with so few owls in his lifetime. Now, he felt he was too set in his ways to be married. Maybe! Maybe not!

Bartholomew was more of an introvert than an extrovert, but he did enjoy helping the residents. His extensive library ensured he could find solutions to many kinds of problems if he didn’t already know the answer. This life suited him well. As a result of his counseling, he was much respected and had many friends. His best friends were Dr. Brigit, Stoddard & Sean Swan, and Morris.

He knew he was getting older and would need to find an apprentice eventually but not yet. Everything in its own time. No need to rush. No need to rush.

Bartholomew spent most of the afternoon reading and eventually nodded off to sleep.