True Iridescence

True Iridescence

“Why do you always draw me small? Like I’m still a just-hatched chick?” asked Emily as she peered over my sketch pad.

I thought about this for a moment because I wasn’t completely sure how to answer.

“I draw everyone as a just-hatched chick sometimes, even Gracie.”

“Yes, I know, but you’ve never drawn me as a grown-up hen with my comb and wattles and everything.”

“That’s true.”

“So?”

Emily is seldom persistent like this. She only gets this way when it’s something really important like when everyone else isn’t giving her space to eat breakfast salad or mealworms. It is not always easy for her because she is the smallest.

“Maybe part of the reason is I never really saw you growing up every day like the others. I used to visit you and Amelia when you were little. You probably don’t remember because the world was so new to you then, but I did.

“There were twenty-four of you in that huge brooder box and playpen. There was so much going on all of the time. It was tough to keep track of who was who, except for Amelia. She liked to fly up to the top of the play pen and walk around.”

“Yes, I remember. There were a lot of us. But I didn’t stand out from the others did I? Not the way Amelia did?”

Her heart would have loved for me to say I had picked her out right from the beginning as a very special baby chick, but I had to be truthful.

“What matters is how you stand out now. Even with people, it’s not easy to see who is special in a crowd. It takes time and time together.”

“So it’s not because I’m smaller than all of the others?”

“No, not at all.”

“Is there anything else?”

“Well, when I draw you so young, it helps me imagine you as if you had always lived here with me from your very first day. Sometimes I wish you and Amelia had been here with me from the beginning.

“But if you had been here with me from the beginning, I would not have been able to choose you. I like how I was able to choose you because of who you are rather than who you might become after you got here.”

She seemed pleased with all of this and turned to look for sunflower kernels.

“And Emily, to be totally honest, I’m not sure I can draw your grown-up hen feathers as beautifully as they truly need to be drawn. I don’t know how to draw iridescence, and everything about you is iridescent.”

She stood a little taller and poked out her breast a little farther. “You always know exactly what to say.”

“I just speak from my heart, Emily, and my heart adores everything about you.”

My Life With Gracie (and especially Emily) taught me the biggest hearts are often covered with iridescent feathers.

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

Life Questions

Life Questions

I have heard people say, “I hate my life.” Perhaps many of us have felt this way at some time. But what does this mean?

In the evening when I secure my chickens in their coop for the night to keep them safe from predators, we say our evening prayers. We pray to sleep well and warm, to be healthy and whole, and to be free from harm.

On some tough days, I may add, “Help us to love the life we have been given.”

This time last year, I had taken in Emily and Amelia, two refugee chickens. Every day they were accustomed to having time to run and fly free out in the country with a large double lot backyard.

I wondered if they were thinking “My life is miserable now.”

At first, I built a small temporary coop and run for just Emily and Amelia, then I worked on a large one to hold all six chickens. It was rather confining for the two of them, and not large enough for me to get inside and become better acquainted with them.

They were just a few feet away from the coop and run for Gracie, Bessie, Blanche, and Pearl. So they did have a chance to get used to seeing each other and talking with each other. They all began to sound more alike as “country chicken” and “city chicken” dialects blended.

When the large new coop and run were completed, it was finally time to join everyone together into one flock in their new home.

Emily moved in first. She seemed to panic a bit because she was separated from Amelia for the first time ever, but that was only for a few minutes. Her curiosity took over and she began exploring.

Amelia moved in next. When I picked her up she felt much lighter than I had expected. Later I realized she likes to fluff out her feathers for extra warmth and also to look bigger and braver than she really might be.

When I placed her down inside her new home, she didn’t run off to see what Emily was doing. Instead, she looked up at me and hopped straight up into the air. She hopped no more than six inches off of the ground which was all her plump little body would allow without any extra wing-flapping.

This was her way of saying, “Please pick me up and hold me.” In a single moment, she had captured my heart forever.

Having Emily and Amelia join our backyard flock helped me see how “my life” means several different things.

There is “my life which others have made for me.” This is based on the choices others have made. Some have had our best interests at heart, but others have not. This was Emily and Amelia moving from the country to the city.

There is “my life which I have made.” This is based on the choices we have made, the things we have done and left undone. This was Emily and Amelia being friends for each other and eventually Gracie and the others.

Finally there is “my life which I have been given.” This is based on who we are deep inside. It is made of those things which will always be there regardless of the choices others make for us or we make for ourselves. This was Emily and Amelia before they even hatched.

“My life which I have been given” is a wellspring of hope when we tap into it. This is who we are at our core whether we are free or confined, rich or poor, sick or healthy. It is who we are before people and circumstances begin to shape us or before we even begin to shape ourselves. This was what made Amelia need to be picked up and held. This was what made me need to pick her up and hold her too.

Perhaps we are most content when “the life others have made for us” and “the life we have made for ourselves” work in harmony with “the life we have been given.” But that isn’t always possible. Nevertheless, we can help and encourage each other along the way.

My Life With Gracie (and Emily and Amelia) helped me to think more deeply about the life I have been given.

Making new illustrations which will work better in print is taking some time. Hopefully you can see a difference in this Illustration and the one from last Saturday. Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!