There it was in the middle of the breakfast salad, a single just-laid egg.
Now this is unusual. Chickens may do many things in “just any old place,” but laying an egg is not one of them. That is done in the dark privacy of the nesting box. They are safe there. Their egg is safe there too.
So you see, this was definitely an unusual event. But I didn’t have time to ask “Who?” or “Why?” before heading off to work. There was only time to ask, “Is everybody okay?” No one said anything, and so I assumed all were well.
It had been a busy Wednesday morning. While I put down their breakfast salad and welcomed everyone to their new day, I mentioned next Wednesday we would have the whole day together because I wouldn’t be going to work. Then I gave them the weather report so they would know what to expect, though I had a feeling they already knew it was going to be an unusually warm day.
But that was all there was time for. No leisurely second cup of coffee. No discussions of what would be blooming next in the garden like the Japanese iris.
There was just enough time to get ready for work and to tell everyone what I always tell them. “Take good care of each other. Remember I love you more than anything here.”
I did wonder about the egg though. Since Gracie’s foot mishap, I have tried to be extra vigilant. What if something was wrong? What if they were too scared to say anything?
At least those questions kept me from wondering about other questions, bill-paying questions. The reason I would be home the next Wednesday and many more Wednesday’s afterwards was simple. With the economy the way it is now, I am moving to part-time. That means an extra day at home each week, but also twenty percent less pay.
But chickens don’t understand people economics. Nor would I want them to. They only understand chicken economics. We are the richest family on our entire street because we have more worms than anyone. Now we have more time to be a family together. Life is good!
Somehow all will work out fine.
That night as I went out at dusk to tuck everyone in for the evening, I heard the lightest two chicken feet land on the coop floor after hopping down from the nighttime perch.
It was Emily, of course. I know her sounds as well as I know her eggs by their shape and color. In the dimness, she made her way down the chicken ladder and hurried to me.
I scooped her up into my arms.
“That was me,” she said. “I laid the egg in the middle of the breakfast salad.”
“I know, Sweetie. Don’t worry. Sometimes things happen. But you are okay, aren’t you?”
“I am fine. I am just a little embarrassed. It was a very unseemly thing to do. I had to tell you or I would not be able to sleep at all tonight.”
More than any of the others, Emily is a proper lady with impeccable manners. Egg laying must, absolutely must, be done in the privacy of the nesting box and in the most ladylike manner possible and with hardly a peep.
“It’s just that I was so excited for you.”
“What do you mean?”
“You get an extra day to enjoy us even more!”
I held her close and kissed the top of her head.
“You are so sweet, Emily. Yes, I do get even more time to enjoy you.”
She wasn’t excited about having more treat time or more backyard free range time. She wasn’t even excited about being able to walk through the garden more often. Emily was excited about being able to see the pleasure on my face from being with my chickens. She didn’t even realize that she herself was a huge part of why I look forward to spending time with them.
This is the heart of innocence.
“I just do not understand why you enjoy us so much. We are just little chickens, and I am the littlest of us all. Why do you even bother with us? You already have everything we see here. You are so big. When you stand close, I cannot even see all of you.”
I was unsure what to say.
“Why do you enjoy us so much?” she asked.
Again I was unsure what to say, but I knew this was an important question deserving an answer.
“You know, Emily, that is a question people have asked as well, just in a different way about themselves. Not about chickens, but about themselves.”
“What do you mean?”
I carried her over to where we could look up into the evening sky. The first stars were beginning to shine.
“Many thousands of years ago, someone wondered something like what you are wondering right now and even wrote it down.”
“What did they write?”
“They wrote, ‘What is man that you are mindful of him?’”
She thought about these words carefully.
“Did that person ever get an answer to the question?”
“If they did, they didn’t write down that part. But sometimes a question is best left unanswered. Sometimes a question is just meant to make us wonder with eyes as big and as wide-open as yours, Emily. Sometimes we have to find the answers to those kinds of questions for ourselves. No one can tell us the answers, and if they do, we are unlikely to really hear them. Some answers are best found in our own hearts.”
She seemed satisfied with this.
“Sometimes it’s best not to know all the answers,” I added because that seemed like an awfully long speech.
“Nobody likes a know-it-all, right?”
“Or a tell-it-all.” We smiled together. “But I am happy you told me about your egg and even happier you understand how much joy you give me just by being you.”
I placed her back in her favorite roosting spot, back in a corner next to Gracie. Her life and her heart were now secure for the night.
Perhaps this is a part of how the universe is intended to work. I cannot imagine a world where Light and Life and Love would not be looking forward to enjoying each person. Equally. Delightfully.
And if Light and Light and Love can do that so intensely with each one of us, can’t we do that too, even just a little, with each other? Even when we are different?
Yes, every egg tells a story.
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