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!)

Remembering Blanche And All That Really Needs To Be Said

Dedication Page

Today, April 21st, is our day to remember Blanche who told us “Farewell” in her own way on this day last year when it was Easter Sunday. This post is mostly at Pearl’s request, and it features the illustration from the dedication page of our next book which is about Blanche and Pearl and The Bottle Cap Lady. The book is dedicated to Blanche, who will always be Pearl’s best friend ever.

The illustration style is one that Pearl likes best. It uses drawings made on pieces of torn scraps of paper she collected over time. This is not the easiest for me to do, but it is Pearl’s story, and so she gets the final approval whenever possible. I do like the idea of rescuing things thrown away like this scrap of paper and then turning them into something beautiful. That is what happens in this story to more than just the things blown out of the trash truck each Tuesday and then collected by Pearl.

She has also been considering a change in the title to The Bottle Cap Lady with the subtitle Or How To Explain Christmas To Chickens. But there is still plenty of time to decide.

Here is an excerpt Pearl asked me to share with you today as we remember Blanche together.

The only words I ever recall Blanche telling me directly were “Thank you.”

She said this to me on one of her last nights with us when I took her in for a warm bath and was drying her off. There was no one else around to hear her, only me. She nodded after she said those words, and I held her closer still. She had not been able to get up to the coop by herself that Good Friday night.

She would talk to me when the others were talking to me, all in a group. But we never really had a heart to heart conversation.

I’m unsure why that was. Perhaps she felt it was helping to protect Pearl in some way. Not that she was afraid I would hurt her or Pearl, just that it was safer if the others always thought they were my favorites rather than the two of them.

I suppose sometimes “Thank you” is really all that needs to be said. But we really need to listen carefully when someone tells us “Thank you.” Sometimes what they really may be saying is “Farewell.”

from “How To Explain Christmas To Chickens”

We appreciate you for remembering Blanche with us and look forward to sharing this full story with you soon.

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

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

Blanche And Pearl…“They Only Ever Had Each Other”

Blanche And Pearl...”They Only Ever Had Each Other”

Today seemed to be a good day to share one of the illustrations which I’ve been working on while my chickens helped some with a few pictures for “My Life With Gracie.” This illustration work really is work!

This is one of four large illustrations for How To Explain Christmas To Chickens. It is for the first section titled “Blanche And Pearl.” Each section will begin with a large illustration and then each chapter will have a smaller panoramic banner illustration. (Imagine just the bottom third of this drawing.)

It is a drawing challenge for me to work with only black lines and gray tones because I definitely miss being able to use color which adds so much life and emotion to a drawing. But with the cost of color printing, it is the only affordable alternative for a book of this length. Having grown up with only a black and white television, I am comfortable seeing the world without color, and I think perhaps the drawing style may somewhat recall a previous time period.

Some things are the same as the drawings which I’ve done from the beginning such as the low horizon line which gives a “chicken’s eye” or “child’s eye” view of the world. Also the illustrations which include people, such as The Bottle Cap Lady, will only show no more than the lower body, not the face. (Not because I can’t draw faces, but because the chickens are the main characters. It’s also important to the story’s message for The Bottle Cap Lady to be anyone anywhere, and facial details or a regular given name would interfere with that.)

You may notice a bit more realism in this drawing. Much of this is because the novel explores Pearl’s real genuine emotions about not being accepted by the other chickens and then later losing Blanche and needing to face life alone. Those themes don’t seem suited to a lighthearted cartoon style of drawing. There are also many straight lines and angular shapes, and only the chickens and the German iris use curved lines and rounded shapes. I think this contrast helps bring attention to the smaller elements in the drawing like the chickens. (Often Pearl feels small and insignificant, though she never gives up hope.)

My goal is for this illustration to capture the relationship between Blanche and Pearl and the feelings expressed by this key sentence from the story’s first part: “They only ever had each other.”

You may be thinking this doesn’t look like a typical Christmas illustration or sound like a typical Christmas story. You are quite right. But then Pearl is not a typical chicken and The Bottle Cap Lady is not a typical neighbor either!

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

How does this drawing look to you? Can you tell which chicken is Pearl? And is this Pearl as you might imagine her in a world of black and white? I live with these chickens and with these illustrations, so it’s often a challenge to see things with different, and perhaps more critical, eyes. Your perspective, even if not-so-favorable, is truly appreciated.

My Life With Gracie…A Tea Party With Splat And Tumble

A Tea Party For Splat And Tumble

This is a continuation of last Saturday’s story and illustrations. You can read it here if you’d like.

“So which one of the snowchicks we made for you was your favorite?” asked Gracie.

We were enjoying a warmer and more comfortable afternoon in the winter sun.

“They were all special in their own way.”

“Yes, but that’s not what I asked.”

“Well, it’s hard to say. Especially if each of you girls made a different one. You know I don’t like to pick favorites between you.”

“How about this then. Which two were your favorites? Imagine we were having an afternoon tea party. Which two would you invite? Bessie and I have always wanted to have a tea party anyway.”

“Gracie, you know you shouldn’t have a tea party for snowchicks. They would melt.”

“You are evading my question again.”

“To be honest, picking two is much easier. It would be the two I named Splat and Tumble.”

“I knew you would pick them!” she said, looking pleased at how well she knew me. “But tell me why.”

“Splat reminded me of when you were all little baby chicks and would play until you would ‘splat’ yourselves. At least that’s what I called it.”

“At first you thought we were weak and sick when really we were just exhausted from trying to explore everything in the world all at once.”

“Yes, all of you, and especially Bessie, would run and run until you couldn’t run any more and had to take a nap. Sometimes you would go ‘splat’ while you were still running to discover something that had caught your attention. The first time, I thought you were all having sun strokes or something.”

My face flushed slightly as I remembered not knowing hardly anything about raising chickens back then.

“Oh, don’t be embarrassed,” she said. “You didn’t know any more about baby chicks than we knew about the world we had hatched into. We all learned it together.”

I had to chuckle at my own lack of knowledge. “Yes, I thought there was something wrong with all of you and I wanted to take you back for a refund!”

“I am so glad you didn’t.”

“Me too, Gracie. Me too.”

“And what about the one you named Tumble?”

“That one reminded me of all the times Bessie tried to coach you to fly up to the next higher roosting spot.”

“And I took a tumble time and time again.”

“Yes, but that never stopped you from trying, did it? And that never stopped Bessie from helping you either. She never gave up on you, and you never gave up on yourself.”

Gracie looked over at Bessie who was scratching and digging in a corner with earthworm potential. I watched Gracie’s body relax as she thought back to those long ago days.

Gracie had been the most timid of all the chicks. She had that lump on her side almost from the time she hatched, and she shielded it and herself from the others for safety. She only trusted Bessie. I remember how I had promised them both I would keep them together no matter what. I have broken many promises in my life, but my promise to them is one I must never break.

Gracie turned back and looked into my eyes.

“I know you have had your own splats and tumbles. Even though you have never told me about them, I know you have had them. I have seen them on your face.”

I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t. I just listened.

Gracie looked more deeply into my eyes, never blinking.

“But I have also seen how you have a piece of Forever in your heart.”

Gracie turned, leaving me to think about what she had said. Sometimes the simplest words hold the deepest meaning.

She went over to where Bessie was resting after her digging adventure. She lay down beside her and then nudged her head under Bessie’s. In a moment, Bessie was resting her head on the soft comfort of Gracie’s neck and back. It was just like how they had done so often as little chicks when their lives were filled with countless splats and tumbles.

Surely they have a piece of Forever in their hearts as well.

And perhaps, when it snows again, Gracie and Bessie can have their tea party with Splat and Tumble, only we will make it an iced tea party instead.

My Life With Gracie taught me sometimes life gives us splats and tumbles. Both simply mean we are alive and growing with a precious piece of Forever in our hearts.

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated! May you find a piece of Forever in your own heart.

My Life With Gracie…Snowhens And Snowchicks

Snowhen and Snowchicks

Near the end of the day, I heard soft whispers.

“You ask him.”

“No, you ask him.”

“It was your idea.”

Finally, Bessie spoke up. “When you make our morning breakfast salad…tomorrow morning, that is…would you be able to include grated carrots?”

“I think so. Sure. Why do you ask?”

“Oh, no reason in particular. It’s just we didn’t get any this morning or the morning before. We thought you might be out of them.”

“Oops. Sorry about that!”

“No worries,” she said. Then there was an almost uncomfortable pause. “And before you grate them, can you snap off the tip ends and put them in without grating them?”

“Yes, I guess so.” I was beginning to wonder why there were suddenly so many special requests. Usually my chickens are happy with whatever I give them. “Any reason why?”

There was a soft chorus of delighted chicken giggles.

“Do you think it would be okay if we have a little free range time before going up to roost for the night?” asked Gracie. “I will keep watch over everyone so you don’t have to. You can go in and start making your dinner if you’d like.”

At this point, I knew something was up because they were trying so hard to be nonchalant. “Thanks, Gracie. I think I will. You aren’t trying to get rid of me, are you?”

Gracie just smiled.

From the back window I watched. They were definitely collecting things from under the holly tree and shrubs. But they were being very secretive about it. Gracie and Bessie were trying to block my view, just in case I might be watching from the back window. (They know me very well, don’t they?)

Later, as I made sure they were in their coop securely for the night, Emily asked, “I was just wondering about this. So will there still be snow all night long the way you told us when we woke up this morning?”

“Yes, that’s right. Same forecast as this morning. You did have plenty to eat today, didn’t you? So you can stay extra warm tonight?”

“Oh, yes. I did.”

“Good. You’re the smallest, and I worry about you staying plenty warm, particularly on a cold and snowy night.”

“I will be fine,” she said.

There was another soft chorus of delighted chicken giggles.

“You girls snuggle up closer, and fluff out your feathers for more insulation.”

The next morning started like any other morning except it was colder and there was a blanket of snow in our yard and in part of the chicken run. When I returned home from work, I discovered what all of the secrecy had been about. They had prepared a surprise for me and had a great time doing it.

Much of this had been Bessie’s idea, I guessed, because she is the one I most expect would have said, “If there can be snowmen, why can’t there be ‘snowhens’ and ‘snowchicks’?” She is always concerned about fairness.

Still, it didn’t matter whose idea it was. It didn’t even matter how they had done it. What truly mattered was how they had simply enjoyed the anticipation and the doing. My joy in receiving their surprise was nothing compared to the joy they held in their hearts while preparing it.

I am at a time in my life when I don’t go searching for the delightful or for the extraordinary. Those joyful things come to me like freshly fallen snow. I anticipate them. I keep my eyes open. I look for ways to share them as my own surprises for others.

Even when there are no more chickens in my backyard to build snowhens and snowchicks in February, I know there will somehow be delightful surprises for me right outside my own backdoor. And I also know my chances of discovering those delightful surprises will be greatly increased by my willingness to give delightful surprises to others. This is probably one of the greatest secrets Bessie and my other chickens have shared with me. They give simply for the joy of giving. Love provides them with gifts to give.

My Life With Gracie taught me to look for and to create delightful (if only temporary) surprises.

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…“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.

Conversations With Amelia…The Downtown Lights

The Downtown Lights

I was up on the roof looking for the spot under the back porch eaves where I suspected squirrels were getting into the attic. That was when I heard the sweetest of sweet sounds.

“Hello, Amelia,” I said without turning around.

“How did you know it was me?”

“From the strong wing flappings I heard and the light sound of your feet as you landed on this old metal roof. You are the most excellent flyer of all.”

“Did you know you left the top run door open even though the bottom one is closed?”

“Yes.”

“It sounds like you did that on purpose.”

“Maybe.”

“So why would you do that?”

“Because I wanted to have some time just with you, away from the others.”

“What if something had gotten in?”

“Gracie wouldn’t let that happen. And you know Emily is always first to sound the alarm. I listen. Even up here on the roof where they can’t see me, I listen.”

“It’s very nice up here.”

“Yes, I know. The world looks very different up here, doesn’t it?”

“It does. And I like having the nice view without the steady wing flapping to stay up this high.”

“Tell me something, Amelia.”

“Yes?”

“Would you stay up here with me until the sun goes down and the city lights come on? I’d like to look at the downtown lights and the stars from up here with you.”

“We can do that. I think I would like that. I won’t be able to fly down safely in the dark.”

“I will carry you. I brought up my tool bucket.”

“The one with the rope?”

“Yes, the one I use to bring up my tools and lower them down again.”

“You think of everything.”

“Not really, but I’m glad you think so.”

She helped me find the hole under the eaves. Then after she was quite sure there were no squirrels in the attic, she watched as I nailed a board over the hole.

While she surveyed all that could be seen up and down the street and around the neighborhood, I lay down on my back and looked up at the clouds as they passed overhead. With the angle of the roof, it was a perfect view.

I suddenly felt sad for Amelia and the others because chickens can’t lay on their backs like this. Even though we were in the same place and Amelia was right beside me, we couldn’t see the same way.

But Amelia flew up higher and perched on top of the kitchen chimney, as high up on the house as there was to perch, and that was something I couldn’t do.

I think she may have felt sad for me not being able to have the same view she had because she said, “I wish you could see the way I see.”

“I do too, Amelia. Your eyes are pure and innocent, and I love you for that.”

Then we stayed up there just like that for the longest time without speaking. Sometimes it is that way. You can say a lot without saying anything at all.

From the roof, I heard the other chickens making their way up their ladder and into the coop for the night. Emily and Gracie had a brief argument over who was going to roost where.

“They always do that,” commented Amelia.

“Is that why you always go up last and take whatever space is left?”

“Partly. But I also have the best eyesight, and I don’t want to miss anything. I’ve always wondered about the glow in the sky when it gets dark.”

“Yes, the downtown lights. You will see them for yourself tonight.”

Then all was quiet up where we were and below too except for the sound of an occasional passing car.

“It all feels so beautiful,” she said.

“Yes. The stars are coming out now. They make patterns and pictures in the sky. If you learn them you will always know where you are. You will never be lost.”

We watched as the panorama of lights unveiled itself around us and above us.

“I feel so small and alone,” she said.

I got up and moved over to stand where she was still perched on the kitchen chimney. This one spot high above the world below was the only place I felt we had ever been eye-to-eye. Suddenly I was very grateful to whoever had unknowingly built this chimney at exactly this most perfect height.

“It’s alright,” I told her, as she turned to find my eyes. “And it will be alright. Just look at the downtown lights and the stars above with me, Amelia.”

I can’t really say I know for sure what she saw after the light from the setting sun had been replaced by the light of the stars. It was long past the time she would have gone up to join the others in the coop for the night.

“It all looks so beautiful from this place here with you,” she said.

She may have seen nothing through her own eyes and everything through my eyes. I don’t know. I didn’t ask. But I felt I was seeing the world through her eyes for a moment, and it all truly did look so beautiful.

Perhaps it is not so much what we see but who we see it with.

The Downtown Lights

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated! This is one of the few stories I’ve shared where the final sentence was written first and then everything else was written later as a way to get to the final sentences. The illustration is perhaps the most realistic I’ve done for any stories. Amelia has helped me to see and to think in different ways.

My Life With Gracie…Magic Pictures

Magic Pictures

“Amelia and I are going to be writers,” Emily said.

“Yes, I know. Amelia told me. I have to find a typewriter. Didn’t she tell you?”

“No. Yes. Well, you don’t understand. She wants to write the words. I want to paint the words.”

“That sounds like a very interesting combination for making words. We definitely have to work to make this happen then.”

She seemed relieved and chittered happily as she flew up to her favorite perch so we would be more eye-to-eye. Her confidence and faith in me warmed my heart.

“You know, I’ve been having dreams about you and Amelia and your new typewriter.”

“You have? Really you have? We have been having dreams about a typewriter too because we don’t know what one looks like. We imagine all sorts of things.”

“I’m sure you do, and especially since you have such excellent imaginations.”

Gracie had been listening in to all of this and called up to Emily, “Tell him about your letters you have been painting.”

Emily looked a little embarrassed, though I wasn’t sure why. She draws and paints very well.

“I already know some alphabet letters,” she said. “I remember them from when you were writing out some of Pearl’s jokes into Chicken. Do you remember?”

“Yes, I remember. That was fun. All of you did a nice job of helping me to make an alphabet for writing words in Chicken.”

“Do you remember everyone’s favorite letter?”

“Yes, I do. It is the Ÿ because it looks like a chicken who is eating an earthworm. It’s source is an ancient greeting between two chickens which means ‘I wish you many earthworms.’ But that isn’t a letter on American typewriters.”

“That is why I want to paint the letters and the words.”

“Will you show me the letters you have been painting?”

“I’d rather not. Only because I’m not sure they will be like the ones the typewriter will make.”

“I see. I have a feeling your painted letters will add more meaning to the words that the typewriter makes. So in the meantime, you want me to imagine your painted letters and words, just like I want you to imagine my typewritten letters and words. At least for now.”

“That’s right.”

“That seems only fair. And I’m sure what you have done is quite wonderful in it’s own way.”

Gracie had still been listening from below. “Ask him how to make the letters into words.”

“Words are like magic pictures,” she said. “So I need to know how to turn letters into words. But there are some secret words I want to know how to spell so that I can paint the letters that make the words.”

“So you already have words you want to make and you won’t tell me what they are because they are secret?”

“Yes. That’s right.”

“And you want me to spell them for you anyway? Without knowing what they are? That seems impossible.”

“I know,” she said, rocking back and forth quite happily. “I have secret words.”

“If I’m not able to make it work out with the typewriter, if that turns out to be impossible too, will you still love me?”

“What kind of question is that?” she asked.

“Well sometimes people are that way. When you can’t give them what they want, they don’t love you any more.”

“People are very confusing.”

“I know.”

“That’s not the way chickens are. If we love someone, we love someone. Forever.”

“That is a nice word. ‘Forever.’ I like that word.”

“It is one of the words I want to paint.” Then she realized she had let one of her secret words slip out.

“I am sure it is. Just like ‘Amelia’ and ‘Friend’ are special to you. Will you tell me a little more about ‘Forever’?”

“Not now. It will be in Amelia’s poem and in my painting.”

“That’s fine. Words really are like magical pictures, and anticipation can be so much fun.”

Emily blushed.

“Wait! That’s one of your secret words too, isn’t it? Anticipation!”

She flew down from her perch giving me her happiest chittering ever.

Magic Pictures

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated! This particular post has gone through several revisions for story and illustration, even after posting. Thanks for reading!

My Life With Gracie…Revealing Reflections

Revealing Reflections

“That really doesn’t look so much like me,” said Emily in her most polite yet most matter-of-fact way.

“How can you be so sure? What I mean is, have you ever seen yourself?”

I had expected her to walk away and simply ponder these questions for a while and then forget all about the newest drawing I had made of her. At most, she might ask me to get a mirror so she really could see herself and maybe make her own self-portrait.

But she didn’t do any of those things. She had a ready answer.

“Yes, I have seen myself,” she said with complete certainty.

“Yes?”

“Yes, I see myself everyday when I look at my reflection in Amelia’s eyes. It happens when we are smiling at each other.”

This was a perfect answer because Amelia is Emily’s best friend. Her words had taken me by surprise and warmed my heart at the same time.

“I understand now. Without a doubt, that really is the best way to see yourself. In the eyes of your best friend. I like that.”

Emily smiled. She often smiles when we teach each other something new. She was definitely the teacher this time.

“If that’s how you see me, then I’m fine with it,” she said. “You did a nice job with the background. I look really well camouflaged, just like in real life.”

She was being so careful to keep my artist’s ego intact.

“Just one thing. Please?”

“Of course.”

“Would you work a little more on drawing iridescence?” she said. Her smile reassured me she was not at all bothered by her portrait.

“I will, Emily. I promise. But you know, I was trying to draw you more grown up. You changed a lot over the summer when you started making drawings for yourself. You’re more confident now, but still such a sweet little lady.”

She smiled again in her most charmingly playful way.

You may ask, and rightly so, how do chickens smile? This is a fair question. Anyone who has ever examined a chicken closely knows their beaks are hard and don’t bend or move the way our mouths do when we smile.

I can only recommend spending time with chickens, and then you will learn to recognize their smiles. This may take lots of time, but that is the way it is with most things of value. Eventually you will begin to recognize their smiles and they will recognize yours.

You will also learn the best way to see an image of yourself is just as Emily had said. Your truest portrait is not found in a drawing or painting or even a photograph. It is found in the reflection you will find in the eyes of someone who has called you their friend. No mirror is needed.

There are many things that someone can call you, but I believe “my friend” may be my most favorite one.

My Life With Gracie (and especially Emily) taught me the best way to see myself.

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated! The reference to iridescence in today’s post is from our most popular post so far this year titled “True Iridescence.”

The biggest “not like Emily” things in this drawing are the feathers around her eyes. That’s not how face feathers grow on a chicken. But I like how drawing them this way emphasizes Emily’s eyes. She does have the biggest and most wide-open eyes of all my chickens. She sees everything! And although drawn incorrectly, they do echo the fall chrysanthemum blossoms in the background.