Happy 2nd Anniversary, “My Life With Gracie!”

Today, August 1, marks the 2nd Anniversary of “My Life With Gracie,” and so I thought it might be good to do a little reflection. (I have even switched back to our original online theme.) Below is our very first post ever. It started with an illustration. (Because who would want to read a story if it didn’t have an illustration?) It had exactly 121 words. (Because who would want to read much more than than that?) It ended with an illustration. (Because who would want to read all of the way to the end otherwise?)

I was as unsure and uncertain as you see Gracie in the illustration. She was drawn as just one little newly hatched chick in a huge world, and I had no idea we would find friends all over this huge world.

It’s funny how things can change in two years. We have now just published a pair novels (see yesterday’s post), each with 40,000 words, one with illustrations and one without. Imagine that! 40,000 words and not an illustration in sight except for on the cover!

More importantly, we have met so many wonderful readers these past two years who have shared our joys and our sorrows with us. Our readers have shaped “My Life With Gracie” in more ways than I will probably ever know, and so I have a huge amount of gratitude in my heart as a result.

This original post also reminds me of how short life can be for chickens and for people. And I still have a few more books to write before I will feel as if I’ve really said all that needs to be said.

Blanche and Pearl have been at the center of the book pair “The Bottle Cap Lady” and “How To Explain Christmas To Chickens.” I do like the idea of having a pair of books, one illustrated and the other not, and so I am likely to continue the pattern unless I find one version is extremely more popular than the other.

I think the next novel will be about Emily and Amelia and how Amelia was the first chicken ever to fly to the moon and back. (And she was. Emily painted a sign and we posted it in the front yard so everyone would know. Amelia would have never been able to make the trip there and back if it hadn’t been for Emily.)

The third and perhaps final novel will be about Gracie and Bessie and the ballet titled “The Rose Garden Princess.” As I have told Gracie many times, it will be the best book ever and it will be for just the two of us. It is likely to be our last novel because I can’t make up stories. I can’t imagine things that haven’t happened. It’s like now that Blanche has left us, I can’t write an imaginary story that begins “One day Blanche and Pearl…” I just can’t make up stories. So I write what I know and love, but sometimes I do let my imagination get the best of me when filling in the small details.

Although I jokingly write about how the world is clamoring for another great chicken novel, I know we are a very small exceptionality in a huge world. It’s likely most of our huge world is looking for something other than stories about an old man and his backyard chickens, even phenomenally talented chickens who dance ballet and dream the biggest of dreams. But the world is also filled with grace if only you look for it.

An Introduction

People say to be a good writer you should write about what you know and love. For me, that has to be my chickens, and most particularly my Gracie.

She and my other chickens have taught me more about life and about myself than I will ever have time to write. Still I want to put some of it down and share what I can while I still remember most of it.

No story is complete without pictures, and so I will draw those as well. The style is rather simple with a childlike innocence, but hopefully the message will not be.

My Life With Gracie taught me how life itself is filled with grace if you only look for it.

My Life With Gracie...An Introduction

My Little Girl Pearl, The Light-bearer

Thursday was my midweek day off with my new part-time status at work. I spent the morning drawing book illustrations like this one which is still a work in progress.

It was good to have an extra day at home with the chickens. One of the things I have at home but not at work is someone to jump up in the air and flap like crazy when they see me. But that’s what Pearl does almost every time I open the back door. She is the only one of my chickens who still does this.

But that is Pearl, my silly and ridiculously lovable Pearl.

Mid afternoon, I went out and sat under the camellias and read the newspaper. It began to rain about the time I turned to the comics page. The girls were plenty dry in their sheltered run, and I was only getting a few drops under the thick canopy of decades-old camellias. So we all settled in to wait it out. But Pearl seemed to be waiting for something special.

And then it happened, something totally unexpected for me but something I sensed my chickens knew would happen. They had seen it before on rainy late afternoons like this when I was away at work.

As the sky darkened from denser clouds, the fireflies began to come out. There were only a few at first, flashing on and off, dodging the raindrops. Any other day, they would not have appeared until late evening, three or four hours later. But there they were, more and more of them, dancing around us, bringing unexpected joy as the world grew darker if only because of a passing shower.

Now I understand much better why Pearl enjoys them, these little light-bearers, so much. She is a light-bearer too whenever she jumps up in the air and flaps her wings. I have to smile when I see her, no matter how cloudy my day may have been. She brings me joy.

Without a doubt, Pearl is one of my best egg-layers. But to me it’s not her most important job. Her best job is being a light-bearer. It’s what she was made to do, I think, and perhaps it is what we are all meant to do.

She looked into my eyes, hoping what I said was the truth, hoping to find her most needed answer there.

“I am out of jokes and silly hats and silly anything. How can you still love me?”

“I love you all the more, Pearl, when you have nothing to share except your heart.”

from “How To Explain Christmas To Chickens”

Often we are the only light some people have. So jump up in the air. Flap your wings.

Dance with your own unique light.

Share your heart.

Lately I have not been as good about reading posts here on WordPress as I would like to be. I worry about missing some really great posts. (I think I am about two weeks behind. Ouch!)

So if you have something that you’ve posted recently you are particularly fond of and shares your own unique light, why not give me a link or two in the comments below? That way I will be sure not to miss it, and others who read here can find you better! (And it might just send some “likes” and “follows” your way from new readers!)

My Life With Gracie…Every Egg Tells A Story

Every Egg Tells A Story

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.

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