Heads, You Lose

Published 7:09 pm Thursday, February 21, 2019

It doesn’t bode well, I’m thinking, that our dogs knocked over my beloved small statue of St Francis in the front garden, situated where he can gaze protectively over the fields, resulting in his head being smashed against a rock and breaking off. 


And surely worse is that his head, about the size of a yeast roll, was absconded by one of them and is more than likely lying somewhere in the woods or manure pile. 

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It’s taken me 20 years to watch the mossy patina naturally develop over St Francis. It’s been particularly sweet to witness a bird perched upon his head and squirrels scampering around his base, looking for acorns from the trees that shelter him overhead. And while I do plan to try to reattach his head, should I find it, in the meantime I’ve dutifully stood him again upright, but he remains looking as though desecrated by the Taliban. 


“It’s kind of creepy,” I said to Paul, inspecting the headless saint. “I mean, it’s the first thing you see on the way to the house.” 


“Well, throw it out and get another one,” he replied with the pragmatism of a man who doesn’t understand the emotional attachment to broken pieces of garden decor. 


“But he’s been here for over 20 years,” I countered. “And he has such a nice patina now. Surely he deserves a bit more respect.” 


“It’s a mass produced piece of cement.” Paul said, flipping though the day’s mail. “It’s not the Pieta.” 


Men just don’t get it.  


I’ve found some small rocks around the property that I’ve placed upon Francis’ neck, with the thought that maybe I could draw on a face and beard and mortar in place, but they end up just looking like rocks that someone attacked with a Sharpie.  


I need his head. I need to find his head. 


“Then you need to say the St Anthony prayer to find it,” suggested a Catholic friend. “Dear St Anthony, please come around, Francis’ head is lost and cannot be found. You keep saying it till you find it.” 


“Do I actively look for it or does it just show up?” I asked. 


“I don’t know.” she replied unhelpfully. 


“Does it actually work?” I pressed. 


“I don’t know,” she said. 


In the end I didn’t appeal to St Anthony because I’ve had no previous relationship with him. It seemed sort of presumptuous to just start chanting and expect him to help. I mean, I wouldn’t like it if someone I’d never met asked me to drop everything and help them out, repeating, “Dear Pam, help me save a buck, I’m moving and need to use your truck.” 


Get your own damn truck. And Anthony’s probably saying the same thing about Francis’s head.  


In the meantime, I’ve continued to search for the head, kicking through pine straw and trying to guess where an 8 month old pup might deposit it. I’m just hoping there’s no spiritual hard feelings for what they’ve done. And so it seemed only fitting to say: ‘Good St Francis, you loved all of God’s creatures. To you they were your brothers and sisters. Help us follow your example of treating every living thing with kindness. St Francis, Patron Saint of animals, watch over our dogs, our bad, bad dogs, and keep them safe and healthy.”