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.

My Life With Gracie…The Gift Of Listening

The Gift Of Listening

There are things my chickens will tell to anyone who will listen. Those are things like how difficult it is to lay an egg, how there is a hungry-looking cat taking too long to walk through our yard, or how there is a mysterious pair of eyes watching them from the darkness of the brambles.

These bits of news will get picked up and shared throughout our little block by the songbirds.

But my chickens do not tell everything they know, and this is one of their greatest gifts.

This is not a gift uniquely given by chickens. It is also a gift given by any of the animals we share our lives with such as dogs or cats. Sometimes it is a gift given by other people, though perhaps not often enough.

This gift went unnoticed and unappreciated until after Gracie and I had a long and private discussion.

“It’s not anything I’ve told anyone but you,” I said. “People don’t like hearing things like what I just told you. They want to talk you out of saying things like that, even when they are true.”

“We have always told each other the truth, haven’t we?” she asked softly.

“Yes, Gracie. We have.”

She leaned against my leg and thought over what I had just shared with her. Then she gently tugged on my jeans to let me know she wanted me to sit.

When I did, she settled in to the hollow made by my crossed legs. It was a place designed just for a chicken like Gracie, or so it seemed. It would also be a perfect place for a dog or a cat, if I had either of those.

“Sometimes I feel as if my life has been one big waste,” I had told her. “I’ve made too many mistakes I can’t correct. Like the ones I just told you about. I have nothing. Most of the time I feel like nothing. Life demands I keep on smiling even though so often I feel like crying.”

She laid her head and neck across my leg. It was so much like the way she had laid across Bessie’s back when they were just young chicks. This was all she knew to do, but it was enough.

The first leaves of Autumn swirled around us, beginning to build the season’s ground of death and decay. Soon there would be a moist, rich foundation for a new start and renewed attempts at growth.

Connected again to the world around me, I felt reconciliation had somehow occurred. To share your shortcomings is a scary thing. Yet to find love and acceptance in the eyes of another life, even when that life is covered with feathers or fur, is a very healing thing.

I write this because it seems at times people have lost their connection to the earth beneath their feet and the animals with which we share it. From there, it is a quick step to losing our connection with other people.

Be sure you have eyes, real eyes, in your life that look back into your own. Make sure those eyes let you see yourself as part of something far greater and more glorious than you can imagine. You are.

Those eyes may be another person’s. If so, you are fortunate.

Maybe those eyes are a dog’s or a cat’s. If so, you are more fortunate.

And perhaps those eyes are a chicken’s. If so, you are most fortunate indeed, particularly if they belong to a chicken like my Gracie.

My Life With Gracie showed me the precious gift of listening with unconditional love.

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated! By the way, if you detected a strong bias towards dogs and cats and an even stronger bias towards chickens, you are correct, but no slight is intended!