“Sure Things” And “Possibilities”

A Free Heart

This is part of a series I’ve shared from time to time about Amelia and how she wants to be the first chicken to fly to the moon and back. Here is the most recent posting if you are a new reader or just want a refresher before reading today’s story.

There are times when Amelia totally steals my heart away, as if she is the only chicken I have ever had or ever will have. She is both “sure things” and “possibilities” all wrapped up in one delightful feathery package.

While I am away at work, my chickens are secure inside their large covered run and coop. They have plenty of room to play, take dust baths, and simply sit and watch the world go by. But their favorite time is when I come home and open their expanded fenced-in backyard playground.

They can hardly keep their feet still long enough for me to undo the safety latch. Everyone is focused on my hand and the latch. The most important question in that moment is “Will it still open this time?” Once they hear the scraping metal sound they have been waiting for, they all charge out in different directions and into a world full of possibilities.

Most evenings, even when they don’t get to visit their backyard playground, I give them some corn kernels. It is my way of making sure no one goes to bed hungry or wanting.

One evening, I gave them their corn just before opening up the gate to their playground. Everyone quickly forgot about the corn.

They ignored what was a sure thing and went after what was a possibility. They trusted the corn would still be there after they explored in their playground. They pursued the chance, just the slight possibility, of finding an earthworm or a bug.

But then Amelia did what Amelia does best. She broke “the rules” of what you would expect in the most adorable way. While everyone else was scratching around for what might be found in the backyard, she slipped back into the coop to get some corn.

She gave me that look of, “You know what I’m doing, but you won’t tell anyone, will you?”

I winked at her to let her know her secret was safe. While everyone else was hunting for a possibility, she was taking advantage of a sure thing.

She went back and forth between hunting in their playground and getting corn from their run area. After she had enjoyed enough of both, she settled down into a cozy spot at my feet, quite content.

“Amelia, what made you different from the others this evening?”

“Different?”

“Yes, it was more than just cleverness. What made you do both things back and forth like that? You know, hunting for bugs and gathering up corn.”

Amelia thought about it for a while. “Cleverness” would have been a simple answer, but we both knew there was more to it than just being clever.

“It’s because my heart is free.” She said this as if testing out how it would sound for the first time.

“What makes your heart free?”

It felt like we were exploring new territory, just like being in a new backyard, just like scratching around to discover something wildly exciting.

“Being thankful, I think. Yes, if anything does it, it would be thankfulness. Not being thankful for someone or something puts your own heart in a cage.”

Amelia seemed to have surprised even herself with this answer because it meant she was the only one who could keep her world small.

We both sat there, thinking this over. Usually it is someone else taking our freedom from us that makes our world small, but this idea was different.

Eventually Amelia spoke again.

“When you are thankful for everything, it’s like there really isn’t a difference between the corn and the bugs. It’s all the same.”

“All the same?”

“We know you give us the corn. It’s a gift. Sometimes we think we are getting the bugs for ourselves, but we aren’t, not really. We forget you give us the opportunity to hunt for bugs. That’s a gift too.”

“And realizing that is what makes your heart free?” I asked.

“Yes, I think so. Just being thankful. Then it’s all the same. No matter what you have or don’t have. No matter where you are or aren’t.”

As the light became dimmer, the others came to get some of the remaining corn kernels before heading up to their coop for the night. No one seemed to notice there was less corn than earlier when they had gone out to their playground to explore and hunt.

Amelia was the last to go up as usual.

“Even you are a gift, aren’t you, Amelia? You are a gift to me.”

“Just as you are a gift to me.”

With that, she flew up into the coop to join the others for the night.

It was one of the last deep conversations we would have before she would go off to find out if she could be lost and not afraid. Maybe she was getting both of us ready for that day.

My Life With Gracie (and especially Amelia) made me aware of the power of thankfulness.

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

A Travel Bag For Amelia

A Travel Bag For Amelia

This is part of a series I’ve shared from time to time about Amelia and how she wants to be the first chicken to fly to the moon and back. Here is the most recent posting if you are a new reader or just want a refresher before reading today’s story.

“Amelia, I’ve made a bag of sunflower kernels for you, just in case you decide it’s time to travel far away when I’m not here.”

Amelia studied it carefully.

“There’s a sturdy loop of red yarn you can put your head through. It will be easier for you to carry around your neck, and you won’t lose it by accident.”

She looked at me the way she so often does, trying to figure out what it all meant.

So I explained, “This doesn’t mean I want you to go. It just means if you do go, I want you to be able to make your journey safely.”

She nodded to show she understood.

“And Amelia, there is just one more thing I put in there. It’s a little book for you with some drawings I made when I was just in the first grade.”

“What is first grade?” she asked.

“First grade is sort of like when you are just starting to learn what you need to learn in life. It’s like the first time you ever went outside to play on your own and to discover the world.”

I paused.

“Or sort of like what you might be doing now.”

“It sounds important. Don’t you want to keep it for yourself?”

“No. I’d rather you have it. I folded it up small so it won’t get in your way when you are flying. And I think it might help you if you want to come back home, but can’t.”

“Thank you.”

“I just want you to promise me you will read it only if you find that you are lost and want to get back home but can’t. It won’t mean much of anything to you otherwise.

“I know you’re worried about that. I don’t want your worrying to keep you from doing something you need to do.

“It’s not like any of the other stories I tell you and the others because it is to help you find your way home, but only if you want to come home and can’t.”

Amelia looked at the bag with its sturdy red yard and then back at me.

“Yes. I promise. I’m not sure I will be able to read any of the words.”

“It’s okay if you don’t know the words. I wrote it when I didn’t know very many words at all myself. So the pictures will tell the story for you…if you find you need them.”

“Does your story have a name?”

“Not really. But if you think it needs one after you read it, if you need to read it, you can give it one. Then you can tell me what it is.”

“Sometimes, like right now, I don’t understand you.”

“It’s fine when you do. It is fine when you don’t. I love you whether you understand me or not.”

“It’s like you know I will come back to tell you the names of the story…if I leave, I mean.”

“Maybe you aren’t the only one who wants to know if you can travel far away and not be afraid. Maybe I do too.”

Amelia looked surprised, but didn’t say anything.

“Maybe you aren’t the only one who wants to make sure you can get back home if your heart desires but can’t without help.“

“You must love me very much.”

“I do, Amelia. Indeed I do.”

“Would you teach me to read and write words. I might like to write a book about my travels one day. And it would help me read your book better if I ever needed it.”

“Yes, I will. We can get started right away. I have a feeling there is a great deal already in you that is worth writing down.”

I hung her homemade travel bag with its loop of red yarn where she could get to it. All she would need to do would be to fly up and out of the top of the doorway. The loose loop would fit over her head as she flew out and away. It would carry the only gifts I could give her for her journey. There were sunflower kernels for her body and a book for her heart.

And so Amelia began to learn to read and write. I didn’t need to teach her how to draw. She had watched me enough and had a natural talent for making marks, as all chickens do.

She learned a dozen words, the words I thought might be most important for her to know. Then there was no more time.

My Life With Gracie (and especially Amelia) taught me sometimes there is more to a gift than what is seen.

It looks like this may be my next writing project tentatively titled “Conversations With Amelia.” In my mind, it is shaping up to be more like a novel than a collection of stories like “Seasons Of Friendship.” This would mean, I think, fewer illustrations and no “chicken wisdom” at the end of each chapter.

If you’re thinking the small folded-up book in Amelia’s travel bag will be important, you just may be right! And if you are guessing the small folded-up book is based on something I actually made in first grade and still have, you just may be right again!

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

Family Photo Friday!

Recently I’ve been getting over a bad cold. Chickens are great medicine for a cold. In the evening, I’ve been letting them play in a new section of the backyard. While I call it “play,” for them it is serious business. They are on the hunt for anything that is moving and edible!

So as you can see, they really don’t have time to pose for any photos, and so I mostly to take a closeup of their beautifully patterned feathers! That’s Amelia, my Barred Rock, on the right and Emily, my Golden Laced Wyandotte, on the left.

This reminds me of one of my favorite posts from earlier this year. These are definitely “curious tail feathers,” wouldn’t you say?

I can’t resist sharing one more photo because it really was a toss-up between which of these to share today. That’s Emily, my Golden Laced Wyandotte (again), on the left and Gracie, one of my two Buff Orpingtons, on the right.

Hmm…Emily must have been feeling particularly photogenic to be in both! Perhaps you can understand why Gracie says her fluff feathers are like a ballet tutu if you use your imagination just a little?

Anyway, I do hope my chickens are like medicine for you too and particularly for those of you who are just not feeling your “wing-flapping best” right now. Sitting with a little flock of chickens is just about the best “take your mind off your troubles” low-tech entertainment there is, and I hope we always have room for visitors in our backyard, even if only visiting through our stories and photos.