My Life With Gracie…Sunday Surprises!

Sunday Surprises

This would normally be a “Saturday Surprises!” post, but yesterday was another great day to work out in the yard and garden, so nothing got posted. Instead, we have yet another “Sunday Surprises!” 

Yes, this is a picture of worms and dirt and soggy old hay. Not particularly the kind of photo that would get thousands of “likes” here or anywhere else. But to a chicken, it’s one beautiful mouthwatering photo!

The inspiration for this particular post came when I overheard Emily telling the others, “Our Daddy is the best worm hunter ever!” Who doesn’t want to be admired like that?

Over the years of taking care of my chickens, I have learned the best places and conditions for finding worms. Underneath bricks, pavers, and old logs are all prime spots. Wet days after a period of rain like we had this past week are always good. But even I had not anticipated the number of worms I would find under the straw bales I had put around their coop and run areas to act as a windbreak.

That was late fall. Now it was late spring, practically summer. The hay bales had gotten repeatedly wet over the months and had begun to break down. The worms from the yard had found a nice home.

There’s more than one kind of worm in my yard. Some worms are sluggish and fat. The chickens enjoy those for their gourmet appeal. Other worms are a bit leaner, longer, and livelier. The chickens enjoy those for the thrill of the hunt! They start thrashing around as soon as they are uncovered, and seeing them sends all of my girls into a frenzy.

After their breakfast feast, we sat and I told everyone about my Uncle Eddie who owned a worm farm. They were fascinated, completely entranced. I told them about how there were rows and rows of raised beds almost like tables. They were filled with soil and different kinds of worms. I told them about how he could just walk right in and fill up a bucket of worms in no time.

They were all ready to head for Uncle Eddie’s Worm Farm until I told them about the alligator he kept in his backyard. It had made its way up from Florida to the North Carolina coast after a hurricane, and Uncle Eddie had found it and given it a home. Having an alligator for people to look at helped his worm business. Who wouldn’t want to look at a live alligator while getting some worms for fishing?

My chickens were glad to hear that the alligator had his own little pond and drainage tile that made a cavelike shelter. They were not glad to hear that Uncle Eddie fed his alligator chicken legs.

No one wanted to visit Uncle Eddie’s Worm Farm after they heard that, no matter how many worms there were or how easy they were to find.

I suppose this just proves the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence. But I think it also shows that sometimes what we are looking for just may have already been provided for us, right in our own back yard, right where we live. We just may need to do a little exploring.

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

My Life With Gracie…Sunday Surprises!

This would normally be a “Saturday Surprises!” post, but yesterday was a great day to work out in the yard and garden, so nothing got posted. Instead, we have “Sunday Surprises!” From looking at this photograph, you may think I needed to do some serious weeding!

My house was built in 1920 and will be celebrating its one hundred year anniversary in December. Over the years, many different vegetables and flowers have been grown in my yard. Every now and then, my own turning over of the soil brings old seeds closer to the surface, close enough to sprout and grow. This spring, these delightful little flowers sprang up and bloomed.

Yes, something new for my chickens to look at and enjoy, but not taste. At least not this year. Perhaps next year after this spot has been protected and allowed to reseed itself.

Whenever I’m working in the yard, my mind wanders. As I studied these yesterday, I was reminded of Mrs. Brown, our elementary school lunch lady. Her husband’s name was “Chicken Brown.” At the time I wondered why anyone would name their child “Chicken,” and finally I just assumed giving people nicknames like this was one of the odd things grownups did which would never really make sense to me. He was a mechanic and wore overalls with his name on them. My grandfather was a mechanic too, and that made him okay by me even though he had a strange name.

Most people never give much thought to lunch ladies, not even ones married to someone named “Chicken Brown,” but I think perhaps lunch ladies have one of the most important jobs in any school. It’s not just in the preparation of the food (which back then was all prepared “from scratch” like the very best homemade meals). It’s something else entirely different. Lunch ladies have a rare opportunity to see children as they are outside of the classroom when they don’t need to impress any adults with how smart and good they are.

Several years ago after surveying the damage from a hurricane that had come close, but not too close, I spoke with Mrs. Brown briefly. I found that she was a very prayerful woman, and she prayed for the children that went through her lunch line. I think she saw things in our faces that no one else saw. She knew who was troubled. She knew who felt lost. Her prayers were like those old seeds in my garden soil. They didn’t sprout and blossom right away. But she planted them anyway with her kind words and smiles, trusting that one day all would be well.

Somewhere in your life, there has likely been someone like Mrs. Brown. They may not have been an elementary school lunch lady, but they wanted good things for you and for your life to turn out well.

Today may be your day to turn over some soil and see what happens. Or plant some seeds of your own into the life of someone who needs them. You may not see what happens, but love, kindness, prayers, little flowers, and an extra helping of real mashed potatoes are never wasted.

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

A Chicken’s Life Can Be That Way

A Chicken’s Life Can Be That Way“So what is that you’ve done there?” I asked Pearl as she was rearranging some sticks and pebbles and leaves in a cleared out area in the chicken run.

I had brought some of my unfinished drawings outside with hopes of getting inspiration. Some of them were just not coming together.

“Oh, nothing really,” she said.

“Whatever you do is never nothing.”

Pearl seemed glad to have sparked my curiosity. “I thought I might help you with the book.”

“How do you mean?”

“Look more closely.”

And so I did.

“I only see some twigs and pebbles and leaves and a few little feathers.”

Pearl added one more twig to the collection she had gathered, and suddenly an image formed.

It was a chicken, a happy chicken! I couldn’t really call it a drawing, and I couldn’t really call it a sculpture.

“Pearl, it’s beautiful, it’s perfect, and it’s so much like something you would do!”

She just smiled up at me.

“I’ve always known you were a collector, but I never knew you could do anything like this!”

“I thought you might need some help with the illustrations.”

She moved a few of the twigs and pebbles, and there was suddenly a completely different chicken pose. Then she added an azalea blossom, and suddenly there was a dancing chicken wearing a tutu made from the flower.

So I sat and just watched as she kept moving and rearranging and creating new images.

“I started making these last summer. When you were teaching Emily to draw.”

“I had no idea.”

“I taught myself how to do this, how to draw like this,” she said. I could not tell whether she had felt left out last summer, but it was likely she did. “I guess I have always gone my own way.”

“That was when you were getting over Blanche leaving us, wasn’t it?”

“May I show you something else?”

Pearl had not answered my question or waited for me to answer hers.

She went up to the darkest corner of her nesting box where I would have never thought to look. One by one, she brought out bits of torn paper and gift wrap she had collected when the trash truck came by on Tuesdays.

Each held a drawing made with the simplest of tools. These were her real drawings, ones on scraps of paper. She had used feathers shaped into pens, soft twigs frayed and turned into brushes, inks made from charred wood and milkweed sap, smudges of mud, and even what looked like the last of some bottles of white correction fluid and fingernail polish.

“Pearl, I had no idea.”

I sat next to her to examine them more closely.

“May I touch them? I will be careful. I want to spread them out so I can see them better.”

“Yes, that would be fine.”

“I don’t want to damage them.”

“You won’t. I trust you.”

I picked each one up as carefully as I had picked up Pearl when she was just a baby chick. As I spread them out in front of us, Pearl hopped up into my lap and whispered so only I would hear, “They are the story of my life.”

There was her life. Had I ever been so introspective? It takes a great deal of courage to look at one’s entire life laid out like cards, tiny snapshots of who we are. But Pearl had done it, and each of these was an expressive masterpiece.

“Most of these are full of light and hope,” I said.

“A chicken’s life can be that way.”

“But some of them are very dark and scary.”

“A chicken’s life can be that way too,” she said as only one who has known dark and scary can say.

We sat there looking at her artwork together. There were times I wanted to ask a question, but chose to stay quiet. I felt the drawings would speak for themselves, and if there was something they did not say, then maybe it was not important to know after all.

I placed one of my own unfinished drawings under one of hers.

“May I use some of these for our book, your book? Some of the chapters have things that only you experienced. Like this one with the opossum. I haven’t known how to draw those things because I wasn’t there.”

“I was there.”

“I know you were. And you lived to tell about it.”

“And draw it too.”

“You did.”

Life must create and create anew. With whatever it can find. Even useless throwaways. Pearl may have once thought about her own life that way. But no longer. Perhaps Life specializes in turning what others reject into priceless beautiful things, if not on the outside, then certainly on the inside.

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!