My Life With Gracie…Immersed In The Joys Of Life

Immersed In The Joys Of Life

“Gracie, what do chickens think about death?” I asked. It had been a few days since we had our “We Are Not Sparrows” conversation, and I had been thinking over what she had told me as well as what she had not told me.

“What do you mean?”

“What do chickens believe happens to them when they die?”

Gracie looked up at the sky above us. There was a beautiful patch of blue beginning to show where the rain clouds had parted.

Maybe she wanted to find the right words to express something she felt needed no words. Maybe she simply lived out whatever the words were rather than trying to make her life fit what the words meant.

“It’s not something we worry and fret over, if that is what you mean.”

“Is there anything else?” I asked, not wanting to give up so easily.

“Those words are hard to find. Chickens don’t think about death the way most people do,” she said and then added, “But I have questions for you too.”

I smiled. (What else could I do?)

“Why ponder what death is about when we are right in the middle of all this life? It is everywhere around us. We are swimming in an ocean of life. Isn’t it much more important to understand what life is about?”

I thought back to all of the times I had seen Gracie and Bessie when they were young and exploring the world, completely immersed in the joys of life. Although she is older and more mature now, she has still held onto something which I had lost or given up long ago as a child.

“Surely a good understanding of life will hold the key to understanding death,” she said.

“So what do chickens think about life?”

“Those words are easy to find. Life is a gift. You cannot give it to yourself. It is given to you. Where there is a gift, there is always a giver. Life is a gift with a purpose, and that purpose is to make more gifts.”

She said all of this with great confidence, as if all baby chicks come into the world knowing these simple truths. Perhaps they do. Perhaps children do too.

“Life is a gift we were given so we can be a gift to our part of the world. If we busy ourselves in life with being a gift rather than receiving a gift, we have no time to think about what will happen in death.”

“So if everyone is busy being a gift and giving a gift…” I began.

“…Eventually the world will be filled with gifts from the goodness of life. There will be no room for anything else. Not even death,” she concluded.

“Gracie, that is a beautiful way of looking at life.”

“It is the chicken way of looking at life.”

Then, probably so I wouldn’t feel so bad for not being a chicken (or a child anymore), she added, “But it can also be a never-too-late way of looking at life.”

So when I receive this season’s gifts of crayon-scribbled cards and misshapen cookies made by little hands, I will enjoy them differently. They will also be gifts from Life seeking to fill the world with goodness until there is no room for anything else…except maybe just one more still-warm, ooey, gooey, chocolate chip cookie!

My Life With Gracie gave me hope that one day the world will be completely filled with the infinite goodness of Light and Life and Love.

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

If the background looks familiar, you’re right. It is adapted from Vincent Van Gogh’s painting titled “Starry Night” which he painted in 1889. This and many of his other works always make me feel as if I am swimming in the joys of life because they are filled with the goodness of Light and Life and Love.

For me, Van Gogh’s art is an example of what this post is about. I wonder, did he perhaps have a chicken or two?!?

My Life With Gracie…“We Are Not Sparrows”

We Are Not Sparrows

It was an unexpectedly warm November afternoon. In response, the trees were filled with bird activity, and the air was filled with their songs of delight.

“The birds sure are enjoying the weather today,” I commented.

“Yes, we are,” replied Gracie.

There was something in her tone which I did not quite understand. Had I said something wrong and offensive to chickens?

“We are ‘the birds’ too,” she said.

“I’m sorry, Gracie. I didn’t mean to leave you out. It’s just…I know you so well, I don’t think of you as birds.”

“What do you think of us as being?” she asked. There was no hurt or indignation in her voice. She just wanted to see herself through my eyes.

“More than anything else, you are my friends.”

She stood looking into my eyes the way only she can as I tried to put my thoughts and feelings into words.

“But you are also birds,” I added because I did not know what else to say.

“I understand,” she said, as if to coach me along. “We are birds. But we are not sparrows. Or wrens or songbirds either.”

“That’s right. Those birds will always be in this neighborhood and in this yard. The ones I see this year may not be the ones I saw last year or the year before. But they will always be here, a constant presence. They are not individuals like you. They are not friends like you.”

I knew what I wanted to say next, but the words hung in my throat.

“You will not always be here,” I finally said.

I wondered if this was what was on her mind too.

She brushed her beak clean on my shoes and playfully pulled at my shoestrings, the ones that look like worms. Then she let me pretend to chase and catch her so I could hold her close.

Sparrows and wrens and songbirds do not do things like this. Gracie only does things like this because of the time we have invested in each other. We are friends, even though I am not a chicken, or even a bird.

There was a time when she was such a little ball of fluffy feathers. She was afraid to give her heart to anything or anyone, except maybe Bessie, but even then only timidly so.

All lives and all hearts cry out to be valued, but too often those cries are silent and desperate. It seems impossible someone would give their all and more to the un-perfect, the un-desired, the un-beautiful. For someone to expect nothing in return seems even more impossible. But it is what real love requires.

You and I, we are not sparrows either. We are worth far more. But do we realize it?

My Life With Gracie taught me all lives and hearts have the value which is invested in them.

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

At church recently, someone asked me what I will do with my stories and illustrations when Gracie dies. This post is a reflection on that. It is also a response to this past Sunday which was the first Sunday of Advent, a season of remembering the great gift and investment made in all lives and hearts.

Family Photo Friday!

Family Photo Friday

Today’s photograph is of Emily after she and the others had finished their Thanksgiving Day feast of baked sweet potatoes and pomegranate poms. In the background, Gracie is taking care of an itch.

We started with dessert, the pomegranate, because since it was a holiday, “dessert first” was fine. Emily is more ladylike with this treat, and so I usually hand feed this to them. She doesn’t like to get the juice from the poms on her face. The others just shake it off, and so they are more likely to grab too hard and splatter juice in all directions. Emily, above all, is a proper lady.

I had not expected Emily to let me take her photos and especially this closely. She is normally shy, but I think their Thanksgiving Day menu put her in a good mood, or at least good enough to not be so shy with the camera.

Emily had a very rough late fall molt and lost all of her neck and head feathers except for a few that hung down in back like a pony tail. (Can you really call it a “pony tail” if it is on a chicken?) But her feathers have come back enough to keep her neck warm, though they still have a bit more to go before they are at their fullest and most iridescent.

I appreciate that she allowed me to use her photo for today’s post even though she is still not at her “feathery best.” You can see the tiny cream-colored feathers covering her ears. It looks as if she may be waiting to hear me say, “I almost forgot. I have one more Thanksgiving Day treat for you!” Chickens are always hopeful.

In the photo below you can see how shy Emily really is while Amelia’s boldness is undeniable. This photo was taken several weeks before Emily’s late fall molt began.

We are truly thankful for all we have and for you, our readers. We hope that all of your days, holidays or not, are filled with many wonderful things, including the small things in life like sweet potatoes and pomegranates or anything else that you particularly enjoy.

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated. Some strange mix-up happened with this post earlier today. Hopefully it is okay now. Thanks!