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.

“The Scoop From The Coop!” For November 2019

The Scoop From The Coop!

The last few weeks have been very busy ones for my chickens and for me as well. (This has been our busiest season at work.) It has been difficult to complete any new stories or drawings to share with you, but we have still tried to stay up with our reading here on WordPress. Here is what has been happening lately. It’s what you might call “The Scoop From The Coop!”

Bessie has been eager to get back into the kitchen. Partly because with the colder temperatures it is the perfect season for baking. She hopes to have some recipes to share with everyone very soon. It has been wet and dreary here for quite a few days, and that is not the best for her when it comes to making the illustrations for her recipes.

Straw bales have been purchased and placed around the run area to serve as wind blocks. Everyone enjoys getting on top of them and surveying from this higher perspective or making a nice dustbath in a protected corner. They are convinced there are millions of bugs hiding inside the bales of straw too! So Gracie and the others have something new to provide protection from the cold and amusement as well. As for me, I think they are perfect for sitting.

Our search for an old and inexpensive manual typewriter continues. Emily and Amelia have been very patient, though they are just as eager as ever to be writers. For now, Amelia’s words are kept safely in her heart, a perfect place for them.

“How To Explain Christmas To Chickens” is going well. It just may not be available through Barnes and Noble for this year’s Christmas season. There is much more work involved with a novel than I had imagined. Right now my extra time is spent editing and illustrating. My goal now is to at least be able to share a free draft copy with our regular readers here sometime in December. It may likely not have illustrations at that time. This is not such a bad thing because the story truly should be able to stand on its own, and I believe it does. More to follow soon.

Pomegranate season is here! One of our local grocery stores has some very large pomegranates at a very good price, and so I’ve stocked up for the holiday season. My chickens love these special treats, and they even have worked their way into playing a key role in one chapter of “How To Explain Christmas To Chickens.” I will be sitting on one of those straw bales I told you about earlier and hand-feeding pomegranate pips to my chickens beginning next week on Thanksgiving Day. The hard part will be making them last!

Most important of all: We have a continued appreciation for YOU, our readers! Thank you so much for reading and being a part of this creative journey with us. You make the gray dreary days and the cold windy nights much brighter and warmer for us!

Your friends,

John, Gracie, Bessie, Pearl, Emily, and Amelia

 

 

My Life With Gracie…Time For Vacation!

Time For Vacation!

In the last year, we have posted 150 times! And 100 of those have been story posts! (The others have been just general information and special posts like our “Family Photo Friday” and “Gracie’s Summer Reading List.”) That is a lot of posts!

The girls and I will be taking a short vacation for a week or two. It will be their first vacation ever, and they are all particularly excited. We may end up at the beach, but then again, we may just stay home and play in a backyard wading pool! You seriously will not believe how difficult it is to find inflatable beach toys small enough for chickens! Flip flops are easy. Pool toys, not so easy. Then there is the whole issue of swimsuits for the beach! (That backyard plastic pool is looking a lot easier!)

We will be back from time to time, particularly with “Gracie’s Summer Reading List” posts. Poolside reading while dipping our feet and toes in the water sounds like a perfect kind of vacation.

I will also be working on our next book which I hope will be ready by late fall. It’s an expanded version of “How To Explain Christmas To Chickens.” The time away on vacation will give me an opportunity to really work on the story and the illustrations.

You may remember how one of the key characters, The Bottle Cap Lady, has a yard full of Christmas decorations which she has collected over the years. We are talking about a lot of Christmas decorations, and that will be a lot of drawing! I really do enjoy drawing Pearl. She lets me use bright and outrageous colors and props and costumes. While she may often be silly, she truly has a heart of gold.

If you’ve started following “My Life With Gracie” after those posts were shared last December, you can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here. Pearl will still be the main character along with The Bottle Cap Lady, and you can be sure Pearl will still be her own unique self as she has always been.

Those two posts were two of the most read and most liked from all of last year. At the time, several people had told me, “John, you need to turn this into a book.” It wasn’t until Pearl died in the spring of this year, that things began to come together for this book. Because Pearl felt such great heartbreak, I knew that she would be the only one who would be able to reach The Bottle Cap Lady and help others who have had to deal with tragedy and loss.

Not to give to much of the plot away though, but here is a brief summary of this book which I’m hoping will be an inspiration to many people.

“How To Explain Christmas To Chickens”

Pearl loves being a chicken, and she loves being a comedian. Her natural curiosity leads her to explore her neighborhood. When she secretly visits The Bottle Cap Lady, she learns about Christmas in a most unusual and unforgettable way. Pearl discovers there is a Christmas gift that only she can give, but will she?

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