This is a continuation of the previous post, and you may want to read it first if you haven’t already. Today’s illustration is based on one of Gracie’s bad dreams.
Perhaps Gracie had said this because she wanted to know who she is and what she means to me. It felt like the kind of statement made by someone who is hesitant to say exactly what is on their heart.
“Who told you that you were just a farm animal?” I asked.
“The crows,” she said as she stood up.
Neither my chickens nor I like the crows that occasionally come into our yard. They are loud, oily-looking, and they only seem to want to upset everything.
“What did the crows tell you about being a farm animal?”
“Crows are like you. They can have as much corn as they want. Chickens aren’t like you. Chickens are farm animals. We only get the corn you give us. If crows don’t like the corn in one field, they can fly to another field. We can’t.”
“Gracie, do you believe you are just a farm animal?”
She thought this over very carefully. She didn’t want to expose the bruises the crows had put on her heart.
She had seen their freedom and had heard what they said their life outside our garden was like.
“Gracie, it doesn’t matter what anyone says about what you are. When I look at you, I see a friend who I absolutely adore in every way. But even what I say doesn’t matter. What matters is what you believe about yourself.”
In her deepest heart, she knew all this was true, but what the crows had been telling her made her doubt both herself and me. Those crows will peck until they find a vulnerable spot, and then they are merciless.
“I can’t fly like the others. I can’t fly away, even if I wanted to, though I don’t want to, honestly I don’t want to. Even though the crows say it’s better to be like them and like you.
“I can’t even fly up to the perch here in our run like everyone else can. But I try not to let anyone know.
“I don’t have any choices. Not like Amelia. Not like the others.”
Her voice faded off. It was as if she had nothing more to say and even if she could say more, she felt her words and her actions couldn’t change anything.
“Gracie, I know how you feel. I may never be more than what I am right now.”
She looked up at me in surprise.
“Some people say I’m just a crazy old man who has chickens in his backyard.”
Suddenly she knew she was not as alone as how she had been feeling.
“Making a home for you and taking care of you is just about the only thing I’ve ever done right, or as close to right as I can do it.
“Sometimes I wonder about whether even that is true or not. But I really have tried.
“I don’t have the kind of life most people would think of as successful. But I wouldn’t exchange my life here with you for anyone else’s life.”
Gracie realized life was not exactly like what the crows had told her.
“People have their own kind of crows. You may not have known that. But we do.
“So I have to remind myself there aren’t many people with chickens in their backyards who dance ballet like you do.”
Gracie sat back down and rested her head on my leg to comfort me.
“I guess we are just stuck with each other. Aren’t we?” she asked softly.
“I guess we are, Gracie.”
I rested the palm of my hand on her back to comfort her, and we smiled together.
“You know,” she said, “I wonder if those crows had anything to do with Amelia leaving when she did.”
“Sometimes they give me bad dreams where they won’t leave me alone and I can’t get away from them. They want to take every good thing in my life from me.
“Did you know she left before her feathers were completely back in after molting? She left almost as soon as they had grown back enough for her to fly.”
“I didn’t realize that.”
“It’s really something only another chicken would notice.”
Gracie hopped up into my lap so we could look at the clouds together as they were beginning to be tinted with sunset colors.
“I hate those crows,” she said.
“I do too, Gracie. I do too.”
Somewhere out there was Amelia. We both silently hoped she was safe and free from the crows in her life.
“Crows make horrible ballet dancers.”
We clucked and chuckled together as we imagined how ballet-dancing crows would look. Soon the sun had set. Then I helped her up into the coop for the night.
“Sweet dreams, Gracie.”
My Life With Gracie helped me see we may never be more than what we are right now to the world, but there is no limit to what we can be to each other when there is love.
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