Into The Speckless Sky

Amelia’s View As She Soared Over The Cornwall Coast

With “A Most Wondrous Place” finally published, this is another item I’ve been eager to draw and write.

As you may know, chickens can fly, just not particularly well. When Amelia was in her first year, she could fly 6 to 8 feet above the ground and for a distance of about 30 feet. But I have always wanted to give her “a grand adventure flight.” I imagine this as a sequence of full page illustrations from around the world with fast-paced captions.

My hope is that if you can believe, even if only for a moment, that Amelia can fly like this, then you will believe you can accomplish the remarkable as well.

Our morning sky had been speckless, just as speckless as the day Amelia set off on her grand adventure. In truth, she did not feel it was a grand adventure at all. It was simply something she had to do. She had no choice.

While the others played and scratched and pecked, Amelia came and sat at my feet. She had always been more like a person than a chicken.

“Did you see the speckless sky this morning, Amelia?”

“I study the sky each morning. It tells me what to expect for the day.”

“I remember another spring morning with a speckless sky like we had today. It was the morning you flew away to see if you could be lost and not afraid.”

We both looked up and examined the few wispy clouds that had moved in since morning, just as Amelia knew they would.

“Tell me again about the speckless sky, Amelia. I want to feel like I am flying with you. I want to see it the way you did.”

I closed my eyes, and she began the same way she always did.

“The sky was as speckless as an empty sheet of paper. An empty, crystalline, pure blue sheet of paper. But it was still an empty sheet, waiting to be drawn or written upon.

“Only that sheet was endless, and it belonged to me. I could do whatever I wanted with it or nothing at all. And then the lines of the longitudes and latitudes began calling me to see what I could see.”

“But you could not fly the way you had hoped to fly that day, could you?”

“No, not that day. Not until you taught Emily to draw. She did not understand things like how she could see the moon from our garden but someone on the moon could not see the flowers blooming here.

“But she believed what you had told her. She believed drawing lets you do things you could never do any other way. For us, believing is better than understanding, especially when you want to fly.”

“Tell me about flying with your Map Of The World,” I said.

Even though I did not open my eyes to check and see, I knew she had closed her eyes as well. And so, she began to tell me as she had done many times before.

“I soared along the dotted lines and plunged down on the double lines.

“I banked into the solid lines and climbed upward to the dashy lines,

“Then way up high beyond the earth to where there simply were no lines at all.”

She said all this with a rhythm that moved and pressed onward just as she must have.

“And then what, Amelia?”

“I rushed past the global winds and cried out for all the world to hear, ‘This is happiness!’

“Oyster boats and fishing piers, peanut fields and cotton fields, then fields and fields and fields with corn as far as any eyes could see,

“Along the rugged, ragged coast, up to the Arctic tundra bare, to where the snowy owls hunt, traveling on and on and on.

“I felt that love was carrying me to trace the rivers to the sea, to plunge into the fiords deep, to make a mark for all to see there on that sheet of speckless blue.

“Then onward to the islands broad, above their mountains topped with snow, and down below the only speck, an eagle wishing he was me.”

“And what else, Amelia?”

“I may have wing-flapped once or twice, but that was only just to steer.

“And finally at last I found the places that no one else had been.”

“And your Map Of The World?”

“I flew beyond my treasured map, the special map that I had made, beyond its borders, off the page, no longer sure of where I was.

“Beyond the line and markings there, I soared without a single care, and felt at last that I was lost, as simply lost as lost could be.”

“But you weren’t afraid, were you?”

”Fear had no place within my heart,” she said, and I felt our journey gliding back to earth.

”And tell me why, Amelia.”

“It does not matter where or how far away I go, as long as I am loved, I am never truly lost,” she said. “As long as I am loved, I will always know where I am. I will be in your heart and in Emily’s heart, just as we, all of us, are in the heart of Forever.”

We both sat silently until, at last, her memories and my imaginings landed together.

“Thank you, Amelia.”

Almost two years ago, I wrote and illustrated a set of four posts titled “Emily’s Summer Drawing Camp” in which we discover Emily has a remarkable gift. Because she has so much love in her heart for Amelia and because she truly believes “Drawing lets you do things you would never be able to do any other way,” remarkable things happen when Emily draws. More next time!

Awkward Apologies

With “A Most Wondrous Place” finally published, I have been eager to draw and write new material. I have wanted to expand the stories to include more about Lefty. I think he can add balance to an “all-hen” group of characters and help these stories appeal to more readers. Today’s post also hints at more mysteries that are part of the secret lives of chickens. I think I may be on the right track here, but let me know what you think, okay?

Lefty was learning to crow. His first attempts were weak and even embarrassing, but he was persistent. He practiced until he got it right. My neighbors did not appreciate his desire for perfection.

My heart had hoped that somehow he might learn to be quiet. He had been My Best Little Buddy from the moment he started watching everything I did. He had studied all the construction of their new home just as if he was going to do everything he saw me doing. Likewise, he had been my best gardening companion while we prepared the spring beds. Whatever I was interested in, he was interested in too.

But he had to be what he was hatched to be, and that was not a calm and quiet bird who followed me around everywhere.

“There is more to a rooster’s life than you realize,” he told me. “Do you know why roosters crow, even young roosters?”

“Is it to show everyone that you are the boss?”

He laughed. “That is what I thought at first when I was learning. But it is more than being loud and bossy. It is to tell all the other birds what is happening. We take in all that we see and hear and then send news, warnings, and sometimes even commands.”

“And what do they do with what you tell them?”

“They pass those messages on to others, and then those pass it on to others.”

“But they don’t speak Chicken.”

“There is a voice, a language, in all bird tongues. It is under the layers of species and kind. It is The Ancient Language. It was the language born when the first birds leapt into the air and flew. They called out in amazement to all the world about what they could do.

“It is the common language we birds hear all around us. It is a language that encircles the world at the speed of flight and the speed of sound.

“Then above The Ancient Language is Old Chicken, the language of the first chickens. It is only for chickens. No other bird can understand it.

“Above that is Chicken, the language we speak with other chickens and the people who love us. We build language upon language and then language upon language again and again.

“To your ear, when a bird speaks or calls or sings, it may sound like a single language, a single sound, but it is not. This is why someone must listen with their heart to understand what we are truly saying.”

I had never read anything like this in an encyclopedia. But I believed every bit of it.

“Lefty, you are not a little chick any longer, are you? These are not things a little chick would say. You really are a rooster now.”

He nodded proudly.

“You’ve grown up, and I hardly noticed until now. I think I wanted you to stay My Little Best Buddy forever. But that’s not possible, is it?”

He shook his head sadly. He sensed an even bigger change was coming for him. The other birds, the ones who flew from place to place carrying messages, had told him change was coming.

It was in their calls of news from the outside world. He had heard what they said about roosters out in the country and around the world. Some of it was good. Some of it was not so good.

There would be hundreds and even thousands of hen voices for every rooster voice. Roosters did not matter as much to people as hens.

By then, it was late evening, and we watched the crows moving from treetop to treetop. They were sharing secrets I would never know. But Lefty knew. He was already learning of life out in the country from the messages they brought to him.

“I am sorry I could not be the kind of chicken you wanted me to be,” he said.

“Don’t apologize, Lefty. I was wrong and selfish to want you to be something you could never be. I wanted you to be My Best Little Buddy who followed me everywhere. I wanted us to do things together. Just the two of us. Forever.”

“We did have some good times together, didn’t we?”

“Yes, we sure did. But you grew up, and I stayed the same. I should never have tried to silence you or hold you back. Love always has hope, but love is not love when it will not let another be who they are meant to be.

“I don’t know what else to say except I hope you will forgive me, Lefty.”

“It is rare for a person to ask forgiveness of any animal, particularly of a chicken. Our lives depend on you.”

“But that doesn’t mean we can treat you any way we want. Even when we are treating you well, if it is not what is best for you, then it is wrong. It is something I worry about, Lefty.”

“Perhaps you have not stayed the same as much as you think,” he said.

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

By the way, I purchased the Apple eBook to make sure it looks good, and I’m very pleased! It is in “fixed” format rather than “flowing” format. Pages turn just like with a print book. Resolution and color on the illustrations is just as good as when they were drawn on my iPad.

Family Photo Friday…After The Snow Day

Today’s photo was taken as I was leaving for work today. It’s a little dark, but it is early morning, and to make it lighter, I would have to move closer. If I moved closer, they would also move. And it’s really the pose that tells the story today.

It was cold (below freezing) and windy this morning. Even though there are bales of hay beside the door to their main run and coop to act as windbreaks, they choose to be by the door to see outside. They choose to huddle together.

They are still in awe of the snow that has lingered. It has been three years since we have had no more than a light dusting of snow.

I’d like to think that this is their way of saying, “Have a nice day. We will be waiting for you to get back home.” That’s because I’ve told them, as I always do before I leave, “Take good care of each other.” And that is what they do.

There is Gracie sitting at the front, shielding the others from the wind gusts. Amelia is standing to the left and keeping guard, just as I knew she would and just as I wrote about last week. That is my Amelia, always a leader whether others realize it or not.

Behind them is Bessie, and at the very back, with her head stretched out at far as possible to see over everyone, is Emily. You’d never know she is the shortest from this photograph, would you?

(By the way, Pearl is “off camera” snacking on sunflower kernels. Always different. Always my precious little Pearl!)

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