My Life With Gracie…Happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day

You may have noticed for the past few weeks Emily and Bessie have been doing the artwork for our posts. This has given me extra time to work on the illustrations for our next book.

Emily shared this drawing with me as soon as I got home from work on the evening before Valentine’s Day. While her beak and comb looked calm, I could tell by her twitchy tail feathers she was eager to give me her latest drawing. Who would have ever imagined that a slightly faded sheet of red construction paper could end up being so beautiful?

“Emily, that’s very pretty, and I like it tremendously. Do you need help adding some words like maybe ‘Happy Valentine’s Day’? I can spell the words for you.”

She shrugged her shoulders as if she was unsure what more needed to be said.

“It’s not really about Valentine’s Day,” Emily confessed. “I know you wanted a picture to share with everyone for Valentine’s Day. I’m sorry for letting you down. I don’t have a Valentine’s Day drawing for you.”

“What do you mean? There are valentine hearts all over it.”

“I know. But they are what you would call an artistic afterthought. They just fill the empty spaces between the chickens.”

“I see.”

“The drawing really isn’t about all of those valentine hearts. The most important part is all of the chickens who are dancing ballet. That’s what the picture is really about. I was hoping you would like that part the best and not worry about Valentine’s Day.”

“Why is that?”

“Because you’ve told us how you often think about us dancing ballet at night when you are trying to go to sleep.”

“That’s true. I always seem to sleep better when I imagine dancing ballerina chickens.”

“So this picture is really to wish you sweet dreams and a happy tomorrow. And it’s not for just one day, it’s for all days.”

“I think it’s the most wonderful picture you have ever made, and it’s much better than a picture for only Valentine’s Day.”

We smiled together.

“I am so lucky to have you in my life, Emily. This drawing has you all over it.”

“I don’t understand. None of those dancing chickens are me. They are all Gracie. She is the best dancer.”

“When I look at this picture you’ve drawn just for me, I can’t help but see you. But I don’t see you on the paper. I see you in my heart.”

Her comb blushed a bit redder and she hurried off to put away her art supplies for another day.

I thought about placing her drawing by the lamp near my bed. It would be the last thing I would see before turning out the light and the first thing I would see in the morning. But for that Valentine’s Day Eve, I just sat and enjoyed the pure beauty of who Emily is.

My Life With Gracie (and especially Emily) taught me love, real love, isn’t just for one day. It is for all days, and for sweet dreams, and for a happy tomorrow.

We have also included a sheet of “Art By Emily” Valentine’s Day cards you can download, print, and share. There are no words on the front or inside. When you print, cut, and fold them, you can add your own words if you’d like. I think they might also look nice framed…maybe on a bedside table?

Here’s wishing you, our readers, sweet dreams and a happy tomorrow!

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

My Life With Gracie…A Chicken’s Life Is Not So Bad!

A Chicken’s Life

This post is the conclusion to a short series which began last week. You can begin at the beginning by reading here if you’d like.

“So what do you think about all of the treats you collected?” I asked. “You almost filled your bag, and it was a big bag too.”

They looked at each other, unsure of what to say and who should say it. I waited.

At last, Gracie spoke up and said, “Honestly, we felt really sad, especially for the other kids.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, we got corn. But it was hard. Not like what we get at home. And when we tried the little pieces of it, they tasted terrible.”

“Emily had to spit hers out,” added Bessie.

“I see. Was that all?”

“The worms,” said Gracie. “We got plenty of worms, but they were covered with white sand. They were hard and rubbery too. And sour. We don’t like sour worms.”

“They wiggled like real worms when we shook them, but they weren’t real worms,” said Amelia. “They must have been some kind of trick worms for trick-or-treating.”

“We got tricked,” said Bessie. “And that was no fun.”

They all nodded in agreement.

“I would have been disappointed too if I was you. Is there anything else?”

“There was one more thing,” said Amelia. “We didn’t like being called ‘the funny kids with the homemade costumes’ by the other trick-or-treaters.”

“That was not right or fair,” added Bessie.

“Yes, I heard that too. But you were right not to say anything back to them. That might have only made things worse. Their costumes did look like they came from a store. But the stores don’t sell chicken-sized costumes.”

“Why not?” asked Bessie. “Chickens have rights too.”

“I think it might have something to do with the fire code.”

“Oh,” they all said, and nodded knowingly. Chickens do not like fire even though they don’t know what a fire code is. (This answer has helped me out of a good number of tough conversations. Hopefully they will never ask what a fire code is.)

“Why would they make fun of us like that?” asked Emily. Her feelings seem to have been hurt the most. “They were loving all of their treats. They thought everything was really tasty. They were getting exactly what they wanted, but we weren’t. And then they had to make fun of us too.”

“But you did enjoy making your costumes and wearing them. Didn’t you? And you did enjoy doing all of this together. Didn’t you?”

“Yes.”

I leaned in and lowered my voice as if I was about to tell them the biggest secret in the entire universe. “Can I tell you something?”

“Okay,” they whispered back to me.

“In a few years, those kids, even The Big Boy At The End Of The Street, will have forgotten all about their store-bought costumes. They will have forgotten about how tasty all of those treats were for them. But you will still remember how much fun you had making your costumes together and all the times like this that you spent together.”

They thought this over carefully. Chickens do have very good memories.

“What’s more…You have real friends all over the world, and if you had shown up on any one of their front doorsteps, your real friends would have given you the best chicken-loving kind of corn and the best chicken-loving kind of worms you could ever imagine. Even without the scary Halloween costumes. Just because you are you.”

“Really!?!”

“You are my little flock. And that will never change. Even when you go out looking for better treats than what we have right here in our own backyard, you will always have this place and each other. This will always be your home, and this will always be your family.”

They looked around their back yard and at each other. Their eyes brightened.

“What if I take these treats and give them to some kids who might not have been able to go trick-or-treating?” I asked.

“Then we can do a little work together in the yard and garden. I need to do some raking, and I’ll bet there are crickets hiding in the leaves. What do you say?”

“We say we are your flock of chickens, and we would like that very much.”

“So you aren’t ‘the other kids’ any more?”

“We are what we are,” they said with one voice. “And we are very happy with what we are.”

“And next year,” Gracie added, “Maybe our costumes will even let us flap our wings and dance ballet.”

Then because she could not hold it in any longer, Pearl put her foot up in the air and sang out, “Trick Or Treat! Smell My Feet!”

And all was right once again in the world of our little backyard garden.

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

Poll Results for “Scariest Halloween Costume Contest!”

👻 BOTH!!! 👻……33%

👻 “Finger Lickin’ Ghoul” 👻……33%

👻 “Eat More Chikin” 👻……22%

Other……13% “The chicken in the pumpkin” and “Both! AND Pearl in the Pumpkin too! Peek-a-Booo!”

 

My Life With Gracie…More Than What We Are Right Now

More Than What We Are Right Now

Recently someone asked me, “Is Gracie your chicken or your wife?”

I replied, “Gracie is one of my absolutely amazing chickens. She is a beautiful Buff Orpington with a very gracious heart which is why she is named Gracie.”

My own heart enjoyed this question, though I am not completely sure why. I hoped this had been asked because the questioner found a special love in my words and illustrations.

I remember once, a little more than twenty-four years ago, when someone had told me, “We can never be anything more than what we are right now.”

Those words come back to me today, almost as clearly as when they were spoken on that front porch swing. It was a summer night, warm with only a light breeze. A golden retriever lay nearby, listening and trying to figure out what those words meant.

The most fragile realities seem to be the ones which depend the most on other people.

And so I wonder if that has anything to do with why I love Gracie so much. She gives me the dream of having someone to come home to, and I give her the dream of being someone to come home to…and of dancing ballet.

As long as there are stories and drawings, Gracie and I will surely be more than what we are right now…L’artiste et son beau poulet dansant…The artist and his beautiful dancing chicken.

I could tell there was still something troubling her. “What else do you want to know, Gracie?”

“In the ballet book, can you draw a picture of me dancing with you in the streets of Paris? I don’t think we will ever really get to dance there together.”

“Of course, Gracie. Drawing lets you do things you would never be able to do any other way.”

From “Seasons Of Friendship”

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated! Today is my 62nd birthday, and today just seemed to be the best day to share this story and illustration.

The Evil King Of Darkest Night

The Evil King Of Darkest Night

This is the next in a series about Gracie’s dream of one day being a ballerina. It follows this portion of the story which introduces the field mice and this portion of the story which introduced The Evil King and Air Shadows without showing how they look.

A gray rainy and overcast day seemed perfect to continue working out the story of our ballet about The Rose Garden Princess. I began by reassuring timid little Emily if there happened to be a real-life Evil King, we would be able to smell him before he got anywhere near us. Nothing smells worse than a wet rat or opossum or raccoon or any other type of predator you can imagine!

(Everyone raised their beaks into the air as high as they could and sniffed.)

All seemed safe and so we entered Gracie’s dream again.

“I smell chickens!” bellowed the Evil King Of Darkest Night. “Smelly filthy nasty dirty chickens!”

He sniffed and wiggled his nose in all directions to pick up the smell of The Garden Princesses.

(Gracie and all of the others hunkered down with barely their beaks peaking out from their feathery pile.)

“Do we really smell that bad?” asked Emily who is always concerned about being as perfect a lady as possible.

“No, absolutely not. You smell wonderfully sweet,” I reassured her. “But sometimes evil characters say things to make you doubt yourself so they can take advantage of you.”

(Everyone nodded in agreement.)

“I will find you miserable chickens!” he screeched. “And when I do I will carry you away with me. You will lay eggs for me until you can’t lay any more eggs, and then I’m going to eat you! I will eat every last one of you! The last sound the last of you will ever hear will be the crunching of the bones of the others who have been gobbled up first!”

(Everyone muttered, “That awful beast! Chicken thief! Murderer!” But no one said it very loudly. After all, there really might be an Evil King Of Darkest Night.)

As he slowly moved through the Great Garden, all of the flowers that the Garden Princesses loved began to wither and turn to ashes. The Air Shadows swirled around The Evil King Of Darkness faster and faster as each carefully tended collection of beauty was destroyed.

(All of my chickens were silent. They did not know what to say.)

Finally Amelia spoke up. “You’re going to tell us he made it to the center of The Great Garden, aren’t you?”

“Yes.”

“And that he captured The Garden Princesses,” added Emily.

“Yes.”

“Will The Rose Garden Princess and the other Princesses dance in this part of the ballet?” asked Gracie. I could tell she was working out the choreography and costuming in her creative mind.

“I’m not sure. What do you think?”

“I think for this part the audience needs to stop and really think about what the world would be like if there was no beauty and no joy,” she said.

The others began to imagine it too, and I could tell they were more afraid of that kind of existence than they were of The Evil King Of Darkest Night.

Gracie continued, “Even if we had The Garden Princesses dancing as prisoners in this part, there would still be something pretty on the stage. We need the audience to think and think again of a world where there is no hope and no love.”

I considered what she was saying and then realized how right she was. “I understand exactly what you mean, Gracie. Beauty will always be beautiful even if held prisoner, even if sick and dying, even if crippled and unable to dance.

”There is something beautiful in the light of life itself.

“We really could have a world with no beauty or joy, with no hope or love. But if we don’t stop to think about how a world like that can creep up on us bit by bit, then it will be too late.”

“Air Shadows!” they all exclaimed at once.

“Yes!” I said in surprise. “It’s the things we can’t see which can take away beauty, joy, hope, and love that are truly scary. When those are gone and only shadows and memories remain, that is even scarier.”

I looked at each of them one by one and then said, “I can’t imagine my little backyard garden without the six of you and the beauty you bring into my life. Sleep well, my little princesses.”

And so I went back inside and drew a picture of a world without chickens to illustrate this part of their ballet about The Rose Garden Princess. It was not easy to draw. I wanted to include at least a hint of tail-feathers rushing away and off of the stage. But, no.

It made me sad to imagine a world with no beauty anywhere, not even the memory of beauty and love. There is something beautiful even in just their remembrances which are held like a treasure and locked away in our minds.

Without even those memories, what kind of existence would that be? It would be like falling into an endless black hole of fear and hopelessness. That is the scariest of all.

My Life With Gracie made me aware of how the world is not always a loving place.

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

Air Shadows

Air Shadows

This is the next in a series about Gracie’s dream of one day being a ballerina. It follows this portion of the story which introduces the field mice.

The cold and the rain were beginning to feel as if they would never leave us. Even though the chickens were all dry under their covered run and coop, moisture seemed to permeate everything.

Under our shelter we all looked out at the morning sky. It was gray and dreary. I had two jackets on for extra warmth. My chickens all had their feathers fluffed up to trap insulating air. They gathered close to me, their favorite windbreak.

The daffodils were sagging from the overnight rain, but I felt so thankful for their bright burst of intense yellow, a promise of spring’s eventual arrival.

“So the Daffodil Princesses were practicing their newest and grandest leaps one day, when the field mice arrived with news,” I began.

Suddenly we were all transported into Gracie’s ballet dream.

They were late in arriving for practice, and this was quite unlike them. Holding up flowers for the pageantry of the ballet was something they eagerly anticipated.

They scurried back and forth through the leaping legs of the Daffodil Princesses while trying to get their attention. The Princesses were completely swept up in the beauty of their dance, leaping and flapping higher and higher.

When their dance was finished with a graceful bow and a folding of their wings over their heads, the Daffodil Princesses finally listened to the alarming news brought by the field mice.

(Everyone huddled closer around my chair.)

The Evil King Of Darkest Night had discovered The Great Garden.

(Everyone took a deep breath and held it.)

The Evil King Of Darkest Night didn’t dance, and he didn’t leap. He would just slowly drag his big hulking body slowly and awkwardly while devouring everything in his path. A gray and dreary Air Shadow surrounded him wherever he went.

(Six pairs of eyes stared unblinkingly at me, waiting for whatever might come next.)

“What is an Air Shadow?” asked Emily. “If I’m going to be afraid, I need to know what I’m afraid of so I can watch out for it.”

“No one really knows,” I said in my most mysterious voice. “Only when it passes by, the leaves wither and turn brown and the flowers crumble into ashes.”

(Everyone seemed satisfied with this answer even though it didn’t make any of them less fearful.)

The field mice were bringing news of how The Evil King Of Darkest Night was making his way to the very center of the garden where all of The Garden Princesses live…including The Rose Garden Princess.

(Immediately six pairs of eyes shut tightly.)

“Tell me when it’s over!” whispered Emily.

“Where is the Great Farmer in all of this?” demanded Amelia. “Why doesn’t he stop all of this from happening?”

The others clucked in agreement.

“Why doesn’t he rush in with a rake like you do when there are predators right here in our own backyard?” asked Bessie, who has always been a brave defender of the flock when I’m away.

“Or with a hoe like you did with the snake that time?” added Gracie.

“I’ll bet there isn’t even a Great Farmer in this ballet,” mumbled Emily. “They are all doomed, and us with them.”

“Hey! You’re trying to make the Great Farmer into the bad guy instead of the real bad guy, The Evil King Of Darkest Night!” protested Pearl who usually doesn’t take things like this seriously at all. She did make a good point. It there was a Great Garden, there had to be a Great Farmer.

It was interesting to see how their murmurings made them less fearful. They weren’t gathered tightly together around my feet any longer. Instead they were walking around and flapping their wings and stretching out their necks to discuss whether or not they even needed a Great Farmer to rush in and rescue the Garden Princesses.

All were debating except for Emily who stayed close to me.

“Emily, why do you think there won’t be a Great Farmer of the Great Garden in this ballet?”

She seemed a little stunned by this question, and I could see she was thinking it through. Being the smallest and most timid, she would have the most to lose if there ever was an Evil King Of Darkest Night who found our own little backyard garden.

“Maybe it’s because…” she began.

The others stopped their wing-flapping and neck-stretching and looked at Emily.

“I’m not sure, but I think maybe…maybe it’s because even though he really is there and he will rescue them if necessary…”

I looked right into Emily’s insecure little eyes and said softly, “Go on. I think you just might be onto something there.”

Emily stood a little taller. “But he knows they have to realize for themselves whether or not they will be able to stand up to The Evil King Of Darkest Night first. Maybe it’s so the Garden Princesses can find out what they are like on the inside and when they truly do need help.”

It was quiet for the longest moment, and then Emily realized she may have said something quite profound.

“So it sounds like you’re saying The Great Farmer isn’t going to be much like me, your old Chicken Daddy, because I get crazy with a rake or a hoe every time anything even looks like it’s going to threaten you. Right?”

Everyone began to laugh, even me. I know I have looked absolutely ridiculous so many times. You would never be able to count the times I have rushed in to be their rescuer, swinging a rake or a hoe over my head to chase animals out of our yard. The neighbors must have been laughing hysterically behind their curtains every time too!

And so we would continue on another day, grateful for that day being a bit less dreary because we had each other.

My Life With Gracie taught me life is full of opportunities to find out what we are made of on the inside and when we need help.

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

“Flap. Clop.”

Flap, Clop

“Flap. Clop. Flap. Clop. Flap. Clop.” This is the sound made when a ballet slippers is coming off the foot of a chicken who is not really made to wear a tutu and ballet slippers. At least, it is what I heard the first time Blanche was dressed for ballet.

All chickens enjoy dancing, just not necessarily ballet dancing. It is Gracie’s dream to be a ballerina, and so we all support making her dream come true. She is quite beautiful in the ballet outfit I made for her.

Blanche can seem big and boisterous, and yet from the very beginning, she was gentle and forgiving with her hatchling mate, Pearl. No matter how noisy or annoying Pearl would get, Blanche was always kind to her and put up with all of Pearl’s silly and pestering ways.

As patient and long-suffering as Blanche has been with Pearl, she was not that way with herself the first time she put on her tutu and ballet slippers. For Pearl, it just came naturally because she loves the stage and performing.

If Pearl ends up looking silly, so much the better. She will just use it as an opportunity for a few laughs. But not Blanche. She may look like Pearl on the outside, but she is an entirely different chicken on the inside.

Blanche does not want to look silly. She is taller than any of the others, and that is really all of the attention she wants. She doesn’t even want that much attention…unless it means reaching up for treats before anyone else!

Her first time in a tutu and ballet slippers turned out to be an attention-getting disaster. She wanted so much to look and do like the others, to simply blend in with the rest, but it didn’t happen.

She just couldn’t move the way the ballet slippers wanted her to move, and the tutu got in the way so she couldn’t see what her feet were doing.

“Flap. Clop. Flap. Clop. Flap. Clop.”

At first she tried to ignore it and keep dancing. Then she tried to fix it with her beak while hop-dancing on one foot. It just kept getting worse, and all of the others had noticed.

This was more than Blanche could bear. She wanted so much to be like the others, but it just wasn’t happening for her. Although I was tempted to tell her “Get back in those ballet slippers and keep trying,” I knew in my heart it was not going to work.

“Hold it, Sweeties! Your Daddy needs to say something.”

Everyone stopped and looked at me, because we almost never stop in the middle of a dance. Blanche hung her head as if she was in for the worst reprimand ever…and no treats for the rest of her life.

“Blanche, Honey. This is all my fault. I should have realized your dancing talents are only hindered by ballet slippers. You are meant to be a free spirit, a natural dancer, or as the French say, ‘une danseuse aux pieds nus’ and we must honor that.”

The older girls all repeated back and pondered these new words, “Une danseuse aux pieds nus!”

“How wonderful!” Everyone exclaimed. “Totally brilliant! So very French! Oh là là!”

Blanche looked relieved, particularly because everyone was paying attention to me rather than the mangled ballet slipper just barely hanging from her foot.

“Sweetheart, if you don’t mind…and I know this is a terrible sacrifice to ask of you…but would you mind not dancing with ballet slippers until we can figure out how best to use your natural talents? We may need to order special ballet slippers for you and matching ones for the others…all of the way from Paris, France.”

Everyone was beyond excited. “Paris!”

They all looked ready to faint, especially little Emily. “France!”

“Why that is the absolute ballet capital of the whole world!” exclaimed Gracie who knew exactly what I was doing but didn’t let on. She just gave me a knowing wink.

So we all helped Blanche take her off her outfit and then we all danced barefoot, ‘aux pieds nus’ just like Blanche was made to dance. Though to tell the truth, I mostly just stood with my shoes off and watched while dancing in my heart.

Are there special ballet slippers made only in Paris, France which are designed specially for chickens? I don’t know. But I do know Love covers our inadequacies, all of the things we will never be able to do on our own. We are made to dance with Love.

My Life With Gracie taught me not everyone is made for a tutu and ballet slippers, but everyone is made to dance, even if only in their hearts.

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

A Leap Of Faith

The Villain King

It was easy to tell Gracie was worried and trying to hide it, so I scattered around some sunflower kernels. While everyone else was enjoying their treat, I called Gracie to me to see what was concerning her.

“There’s been a monster creeping around here when it starts to get dark and before you come home,” she said all at once.

I could tell she felt a bit better just by saying something about it. So I asked her to tell me what it looked like, and she did.

“With a long narrow snout and all of those sharp pointed teeth, that sounds like an opossum,” I said. “Did it have a naked pink tail?”

“Yes,” she said, relieved I believed her and knew what she was talking about. It hurt me to see her trying to be brave while carrying such a heavy responsibility all alone.

“Gracie, Sweetie, you were right to be alarmed. Remember though, it’s an opossum, not a monster. It only becomes a monster if you let it become one in your mind. Understand?”

She nodded.

“But tell me, why didn’t you say something before now? Is it because you didn’t want to make the others scared?”

She nodded again and then added in her softest voice, “I didn’t want you to think I wasn’t a good leader. I don’t know how to protect anyone, not even myself, from something so mean looking.”

She waited to see if I was going to say I was disappointed in her. When I didn’t, she continued, “And he hisses the most evil things at us! So I just stood there, looking him in the eyes and not moving. But I didn’t do anything.”

She lowered her head, waiting for me to say something, even if it was something she didn’t want to hear.

“You are a better leader than you realize, Gracie. Are you afraid right now?”

“No. But that’s because you’re here.” She looked up and saw I wasn’t angry or disappointed.

“And when I’m not here…Have I made things safe for you even when I’m not here? You girls are more important to me than anything. I would never leave you without making sure you are protected. You do believe that, don’t you?”

Gracie took a while to think that over. She looked at the strong fencing I had used to build their home. She looked at how everything they needed was safe and secure, just like they were. She nodded.

“And what do I tell you every morning before I go away to work?”

“You say to be good to each other and take care of each other. Then you say to never forget you love us more than anything here.”

I smiled my biggest smile and said, “Exactly right, Gracie! Take care of each other. You don’t have to do it all. Just be someone the others look up to because you put them first.”

She looked at the others and then back at me.

“Most important of all, remember how much I love you. I would give up anything you see here to keep you with me. Are you afraid when you think about how much I love you?”

“No!” she said with so much amazement she actually surprised herself. “No! I’m not afraid then!” She fluffed out all of her feathers like she was a whole new girl ready for a fresh start. “I’m not afraid then!”

“Sweetheart, you just taught me a very valuable lesson. Thank you!”

Gracie looked stunned. “Me? What could I ever teach you?”

“Oh, you know what I mean, Gracie! You are so modest, and you teach me things all the time. But look. Let’s turn the opossum into part of our ballet about The Rose Garden Princess. We need an evil character to make the story more interesting. We can call him The Evil King Of Darkest Night. What do you say? Can you only pretend to be afraid? For the ballet? For your ballet!”

“Yes!” she clucked again and again, overflowing with more joy than I’ve seen in the longest time.

Gracie hurried back to the others to get a few sunflower kernels before they were all gone. She even did a few ballet leaps along the way, or certainly what might pass for ballet leaps…at least in my eyes if no one else’s.

She is so beautiful, my beloved little Gracie, and one day we will dance together, just as our hearts already do. It will just take a leap of faith.

My Life With Gracie gave me a chance to see fear only has power when we forget how much we are loved.

You can read more about our production of “The Rose Garden Princess” if you’d like. Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

My Life With Gracie…Gleaning Wisdom

Gleaning Wisdom

This illustration is based on my fourth “My Life With Gracie” drawing. It is still one of my favorites because it is the first one of Gracie dancing. You can see this illustration has a lot more happening!

Pomegranate seeds are a treat my chickens enjoy in autumn. These are never passed up, and that is what made me wonder if there was something wrong.

For a few weeks, I’ve noticed leftover corn kernels or fruit pieces in their run at the end of the day when I went to secure them in their coop for the night. I had just assumed they were given too much, more than they could eat. But the leftovers were gone in the morning.

This was a bit of a mystery, but I really didn’t give it much thought until the leftovers included some of their prized pomegranate seeds. What was going on?

So as I was making sure everyone was snugly in their coop for the night, I questioned Gracie about this. At first she seemed a bit embarrassed as they all looked at each other, unsure what to say.

Finally Gracie explained it had been her idea for them to leave food behind for the field mice who visit them at night. With all of the rain we have had, it was more difficult for them to gather food for themselves and their little ones.

So I quickly told them not to worry because they had been doing a wonderful kindness.

All looked quite relieved, and moved a bit closer to me when I said, “You know, that sounds like something The Rose Garden Princess would do.”

And just like that, we were all wrapped up in Gracie’s dream.

(For those of you who are new readers, Gracie wants to be a ballerina more than just about anything, and “The Rose Garden Princess” is a ballet project we are creating for her.)

Yes, kindness to strangers and wanderers is an ancient tradition of the Princesses who live in The Great Garden. (Feather’s rustled happily because they all could be princesses for the ballet.)

“Remember when you had no home of your own” is ancient chicken wisdom once heard long ago and passed down from momma hens to chicks. (Suddenly there were disappointed expressions on every face. But why? Then I realized they remembered never having a momma hen to teach them anything.)

I paused the story to let them know how proud I was of them for knowing this on their own without the guidance of a momma hen. They were all truly wise chickens indeed. (Everyone smiled and sat a bit taller. They were definitely feeling their parts in the ballet.)

And so one autumn evening the hungry field mice scampered into The Great Garden and began to jump and run about, grabbing scraps of food that the Princesses had not eaten. The Princesses were startled and became frantic because their peaceful garden home was being overrun by mice. (Together they pretended to be surprised in the most adorable way.)

Although much smaller, the field mice moved much faster and could hide in the tiniest and most unexpected places. More than either of those things, they were scary because they were different. They didn’t have beaks and wings. Instead they had sharp teeth and grabbing hands! (Serious shivers spread from one chicken to another, and Emily hid her head under her wing. Pearl hid her head under Blanche’s wing.)

But do you know what The Rose Garden Princess did? (Everyone leaned forward to hear better. Gracie moved closest of all, even though she started to feel a draft where her fluff feathers had molted.)

The Rose Garden Princess made promises with the field mice. They could come each evening to collect food left for them. In return the field mice would use their teeth to cut flowers from the garden and hold them as banners when The Rose Garden Princess and the other Princesses danced in the moonlight. (Joyful wings applauded along the perch at this delightful turn of events!)

Although it took a great deal of practice, what a grand and amazing dance it was! Some of the smallest field mice entered first, scampering and leaping in unison. They were joined by more field mice who carried flowers like banners. Then the Princesses began to dance onto the stage.

It all made for a great and dramatic spectacle, unfolding in The Great Garden as more and more mice and more and more Princesses joined in the procession. Mice carrying daisies, and then the Daisy Princesses. Mice carrying daffodils, and then the Daffodil Princesses. On and on it went, and each seemed more beautiful than the last.

Finally when everyone was certain there was no way for the dance to be any more breathtaking, The Rose Garden Princess appeared! (My chickens could not hold back their enthusiasm any longer. The sounds of their delight filled my little backyard garden.)

We all said “good night,” and they huddled closer together for warmth. It was going to be a chilly night, but not in our hearts.

There were a few still-excited whispers about who would dance as Daisy Princesses and who would dance as Daffodil Princesses and so on. Everyone was unanimous only Gracie could be The Rose Garden Princess as she had already led them in showing unselfish kindness towards others.

My Life With Gracie taught me always to have a generous and welcoming heart.

I will do my best to post each Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated! Right now I am revisiting some of my earlier cartoon illustrations and giving them a different twist.

Gleaning Wisdom

My Life With Gracie…The Gift Of Dreams

The Gift Of Dreams

Lately my chickens haven’t been laying as many eggs as usual. This is their molting season, starting with Gracie and Bessie and now Amelia. It’s just a part of another one of those cycles making up the pattern of chicken life.

But I think Gracie has been feeling a little embarrassed. Though I tell each one how they will always be beautiful to me in ways they would never understand, Gracie has been more to herself, sitting away from me rather than at my feet as usual.

To be honest, I haven’t been feeling too much like a “spring chicken” either. So when I’ve gotten home from work lately, after some fresh fruit, we talk together and dream together. I do this for Gracie, yet I wonder if I don’t do it a little for myself too. We talk about her secret love and desire to be a ballerina.

At first we discuss mostly how no one will notice her missing fluff feathers while she is wearing her new ballet tutu I will make for her. She has always been so extremely proud of her fluff feathers, even more than when she got her first wing feathers. (Quite honestly, Gracie was the one who pointed out to me how fluff feathers look very much like a tutu if you use your imagination.)

Of course I will need to learn how to sew one, and of course I can’t start sewing until we know what color fabrics to use for it and for her matching ballet slippers. And it only makes sense before choosing a color palette and fabric, we need a theme and a mood and what we want to express through the art of dance. Those things are totally up to Gracie and the others. It is not always easy to get a unanimous decision from a flock of chickens.

Currently we are leaning towards doing an entirely new and original ballet production, perhaps named “The Rose Garden Princess.” You see, all of my chickens were stunned to learn there was an entire ballet called “Swan Lake” but nothing, absolutely nothing, featuring chickens. But we can change that, and indeed we will change that because we share a dream. We do have a unanimous decision on that!

“Maybe The Rose Garden Princess is captured by The Evil King and taken away to his Kingdom of Darkness where she is forced to lay six eggs every night,” I suggest. (Frightful expressions all around the coop!) “Maybe even in her captivity she is able to dance, and unbeknownst to The Evil King while dancing she creates a plan of escape for herself and the other captured princesses.” (Delightful expressions all around the coop!)

Before long, the light begins to fade and it’s time for everyone to go up to bed. I tuck them all in for the night so they will be safe from predators like The Evil King, and we all drift off to sleep dreaming our beautiful ballet dreams.

We press on through our awkward and troubled-filled times because we have a dream of something grand and glorious and altogether wonderful. And today may be the day!

My Life With Gracie gave me the gift of dreams.

I will do my best to post each Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

The Gift Of Dreams