Emily’s Summer Drawing Camp (Part 4)

Emily’s Summer Drawing Camp

Summer Drawing Camp has definitely been good for Emily. Her artwork has helped her to be more self-confident as the goodness in her heart is expressed on paper right before her eyes. Her creation today fills in many details not found in the words as all good illustrations do.

It had been another week of evening thunderstorms with rain into the night. In the mornings, none of the chickens were particularly eager to do much of anything.

They wanted me to open the coop and let them out so they could check the weather and see what was for breakfast. But after their initial curiosity was satisfied, they were unsure just what to do. They might nibble a little here and there, but that was about it. Aimlessness is never good.

I missed those days when they could not wait to get down the ladder from their coop in order to greet their new day. Just seeing them hurrying down to examine everything in detail always makes me feel that anything is possible.

And that is how chickens look at the world most days.

“Today may be the day I will find the biggest earthworm in the entire world! It may take all of my strength to wrestle it out of the ground, but I will do it!”

But it wasn’t like that now.

A damp and humid melancholy seemed to cover us all. We longed for a spring-time breeze to freshen the air, perhaps one filled with the fragrance of daffodils and lilac blossoms.

If only the sweet osmanthus would bloom, it would quickly turn everything around with the clean and invigorating smell of its many tiny blossoms. It’s planted there by the path to our backdoor because I want to smell it to know for sure that I am home, the only home my chickens and I will ever share together.

“Emily, will you make a picture of our house and garden? Would you do that for me?”

“I would be glad to.”

“It has to be a special picture, please. Can you make it so that all of the flowers all over the yard are blooming all at the same time? Even though they don’t really?”

“I will need to do a lot of remembering for that.”

“Yes, that’s the point, I think. I want to remember and imagine and see it all at once. Even though life doesn’t work that way.”

“I will do my best.”

“I know you will. You always do.”

I thought back to how Emily had asked me if we could plant enough flowers in our garden so Amelia could look down from the moon and know which house was ours. Maybe I wanted to see all of the flowers blooming all at the same time because I missed Amelia so much.

Somehow Emily knew this. “She misses us too, and especially you.”

“How do you know?”

“Because we are practically like sisters even though we are different kinds of chickens. And I know I would miss you. We need a flag.”

“What do you mean?”

“A flag. A bright red flag to hang from a pole on the chimney. You can make it from the same red yarn that you used to secure Amelia’s travel bag. We need a flag.”

“I’m not sure I understand.”

“She will be able to see the flag from the moon. She will recognize the color. She will remember it from her travel bag. Even if no flowers are blooming, she will be able to tell which house is ours. Then maybe she will realize she misses us too and come home. We need a flag.”

“Now I see what you mean.”

“This is her home whether she realizes it or not.”

“That isn’t just wishful thinking, is it? Are you sure you aren’t trying to push what your heart wants onto her heart?”

“I don’t know how I know, but I know.”

“If I make a flag from the red yarn, I will have to learn how to knit.”

“If I can learn to draw and paint, you can learn to knit. We need a flag.”

“You can be quite persistent, Emily. You don’t give up, do you?”

“I know. But I am also persistent about who I love too. Love never gives up.”

So Emily and I both started our projects. Hers was to remember the past and imagine. Mine was to look towards the future and imagine. Both would represent home and the persistence of love.

My Life With Gracie (and especially Emily) taught me love is persistent. Love never gives up. Love always has a “Plan B.”

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

A Travel Bag For Amelia

A Travel Bag For Amelia

This is part of a series I’ve shared from time to time about Amelia and how she wants to be the first chicken to fly to the moon and back. Here is the most recent posting if you are a new reader or just want a refresher before reading today’s story.

“Amelia, I’ve made a bag of sunflower kernels for you, just in case you decide it’s time to travel far away when I’m not here.”

Amelia studied it carefully.

“There’s a sturdy loop of red yarn you can put your head through. It will be easier for you to carry around your neck, and you won’t lose it by accident.”

She looked at me the way she so often does, trying to figure out what it all meant.

So I explained, “This doesn’t mean I want you to go. It just means if you do go, I want you to be able to make your journey safely.”

She nodded to show she understood.

“And Amelia, there is just one more thing I put in there. It’s a little book for you with some drawings I made when I was just in the first grade.”

“What is first grade?” she asked.

“First grade is sort of like when you are just starting to learn what you need to learn in life. It’s like the first time you ever went outside to play on your own and to discover the world.”

I paused.

“Or sort of like what you might be doing now.”

“It sounds important. Don’t you want to keep it for yourself?”

“No. I’d rather you have it. I folded it up small so it won’t get in your way when you are flying. And I think it might help you if you want to come back home, but can’t.”

“Thank you.”

“I just want you to promise me you will read it only if you find that you are lost and want to get back home but can’t. It won’t mean much of anything to you otherwise.

“I know you’re worried about that. I don’t want your worrying to keep you from doing something you need to do.

“It’s not like any of the other stories I tell you and the others because it is to help you find your way home, but only if you want to come home and can’t.”

Amelia looked at the bag with its sturdy red yard and then back at me.

“Yes. I promise. I’m not sure I will be able to read any of the words.”

“It’s okay if you don’t know the words. I wrote it when I didn’t know very many words at all myself. So the pictures will tell the story for you…if you find you need them.”

“Does your story have a name?”

“Not really. But if you think it needs one after you read it, if you need to read it, you can give it one. Then you can tell me what it is.”

“Sometimes, like right now, I don’t understand you.”

“It’s fine when you do. It is fine when you don’t. I love you whether you understand me or not.”

“It’s like you know I will come back to tell you the names of the story…if I leave, I mean.”

“Maybe you aren’t the only one who wants to know if you can travel far away and not be afraid. Maybe I do too.”

Amelia looked surprised, but didn’t say anything.

“Maybe you aren’t the only one who wants to make sure you can get back home if your heart desires but can’t without help.“

“You must love me very much.”

“I do, Amelia. Indeed I do.”

“Would you teach me to read and write words. I might like to write a book about my travels one day. And it would help me read your book better if I ever needed it.”

“Yes, I will. We can get started right away. I have a feeling there is a great deal already in you that is worth writing down.”

I hung her homemade travel bag with its loop of red yarn where she could get to it. All she would need to do would be to fly up and out of the top of the doorway. The loose loop would fit over her head as she flew out and away. It would carry the only gifts I could give her for her journey. There were sunflower kernels for her body and a book for her heart.

And so Amelia began to learn to read and write. I didn’t need to teach her how to draw. She had watched me enough and had a natural talent for making marks, as all chickens do.

She learned a dozen words, the words I thought might be most important for her to know. Then there was no more time.

My Life With Gracie (and especially Amelia) taught me sometimes there is more to a gift than what is seen.

It looks like this may be my next writing project tentatively titled “Conversations With Amelia.” In my mind, it is shaping up to be more like a novel than a collection of stories like “Seasons Of Friendship.” This would mean, I think, fewer illustrations and no “chicken wisdom” at the end of each chapter.

If you’re thinking the small folded-up book in Amelia’s travel bag will be important, you just may be right! And if you are guessing the small folded-up book is based on something I actually made in first grade and still have, you just may be right again!

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

Life Questions

Life Questions

I have heard people say, “I hate my life.” Perhaps many of us have felt this way at some time. But what does this mean?

In the evening when I secure my chickens in their coop for the night to keep them safe from predators, we say our evening prayers. We pray to sleep well and warm, to be healthy and whole, and to be free from harm.

On some tough days, I may add, “Help us to love the life we have been given.”

This time last year, I had taken in Emily and Amelia, two refugee chickens. Every day they were accustomed to having time to run and fly free out in the country with a large double lot backyard.

I wondered if they were thinking “My life is miserable now.”

At first, I built a small temporary coop and run for just Emily and Amelia, then I worked on a large one to hold all six chickens. It was rather confining for the two of them, and not large enough for me to get inside and become better acquainted with them.

They were just a few feet away from the coop and run for Gracie, Bessie, Blanche, and Pearl. So they did have a chance to get used to seeing each other and talking with each other. They all began to sound more alike as “country chicken” and “city chicken” dialects blended.

When the large new coop and run were completed, it was finally time to join everyone together into one flock in their new home.

Emily moved in first. She seemed to panic a bit because she was separated from Amelia for the first time ever, but that was only for a few minutes. Her curiosity took over and she began exploring.

Amelia moved in next. When I picked her up she felt much lighter than I had expected. Later I realized she likes to fluff out her feathers for extra warmth and also to look bigger and braver than she really might be.

When I placed her down inside her new home, she didn’t run off to see what Emily was doing. Instead, she looked up at me and hopped straight up into the air. She hopped no more than six inches off of the ground which was all her plump little body would allow without any extra wing-flapping.

This was her way of saying, “Please pick me up and hold me.” In a single moment, she had captured my heart forever.

Having Emily and Amelia join our backyard flock helped me see how “my life” means several different things.

There is “my life which others have made for me.” This is based on the choices others have made. Some have had our best interests at heart, but others have not. This was Emily and Amelia moving from the country to the city.

There is “my life which I have made.” This is based on the choices we have made, the things we have done and left undone. This was Emily and Amelia being friends for each other and eventually Gracie and the others.

Finally there is “my life which I have been given.” This is based on who we are deep inside. It is made of those things which will always be there regardless of the choices others make for us or we make for ourselves. This was Emily and Amelia before they even hatched.

“My life which I have been given” is a wellspring of hope when we tap into it. This is who we are at our core whether we are free or confined, rich or poor, sick or healthy. It is who we are before people and circumstances begin to shape us or before we even begin to shape ourselves. This was what made Amelia need to be picked up and held. This was what made me need to pick her up and hold her too.

Perhaps we are most content when “the life others have made for us” and “the life we have made for ourselves” work in harmony with “the life we have been given.” But that isn’t always possible. Nevertheless, we can help and encourage each other along the way.

My Life With Gracie (and Emily and Amelia) helped me to think more deeply about the life I have been given.

Making new illustrations which will work better in print is taking some time. Hopefully you can see a difference in this Illustration and the one from last Saturday. Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!