Funny isn’t it, that when we are very young it’s gigantic beasts – the tyrannosaurs – that fascinate us? As we grow up, though, we begin to notice and appreciate the tiny ones – the worms, the shrimps, the bees and butterflies and birds – creatures who swarm, and sing, squirm and swim within the various pools of life. Running across the rocks this morning – our own ancient Dry Salvages which are bejewelled with fossilized worms – we saw within a splash of brackish water right up at the foot of the dunes- a long way from the sea – a life force barely half an inch long, darting and busying himself with his morning tasks. Some kind of pool dweller, some insignificant crustacean perhaps, thrown up by the last tide, or fallen to earth from a shower of rain; getting on with his life, his routines, as do we.
This morning, like yesterday, there was one less routine to perform: ministering to Hammy Jo. Some time after the tide turned at 23.22 on Friday 4 March and before 3.45 on the 5th, his life force left him and he passed through moonlight’s shimmering vagueness – it was a night amazing with stars – and left us to it. Now the growlery he called his home is stripped of his spirit, and feels as frigid as an empty box. His obsequies on Saturday morning were followed by a thorough cleaning of his labyrinthine cages and tubes; every nook, cranny and joint of his home of the last two years was taken apart, washed and replaced. Reassembled, with fresh shavings on the floors, it sits ready to receive a new member of the family, when the time is right. For now, though, it is his absence which is palpable.
Here he is, in the lovely little box Jeoffry donated for his burial beside Uncle Johnny, lined with shavings and kapok, a selection of his favourite nibbles to get him to the underworld, some rosemary for remembrance and a tiny fresh rosebud found blooming alone in the front garden. He had spent Friday night gasping for breath, cradled in warmth beside Kemo Sabe; in the background was playing Morten Lauridsen’s incomparable ‘O magnum mysterium’, that homage to the worthiness of wordless creatures. Let cynics fly and remember these words from St Matthew: ‘Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.’
Hammy, little one, how we miss you. Now you can dream, as someone famous once said, in the green of your time.