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!)

Family Photo Friday…My Bold Brave Amelia!

Family Photo Friday

Today’s photo is of my Amelia who is beginning to molt. You can tell by the pair of longest tail feathers that are still left and sticking straight up like an awkward flag to say, “It’s me, your bold brave Amelia!”

She has come a long way in her comfort level with molting. Her first time was extremely embarrassing. She didn’t want anyone to see her. This may have partly been because she didn’t want anyone pecking at her bare places, but it may also been she didn’t want me to see them. She knows how much I enjoy admiring her black and white patterned feathers.

I was reminded of a story and illustration I had shared the first time Amelia molted. It is titled “Feeling Vulnerable” and you can click the title to go to that page if you’d like. The lesson Amelia and I both learned that first molting season was this: “When we are feeling vulnerable, it’s probably because we are growing to meet new challenges.”

That was almost two years ago. Back then, I was trying my best to post at least three stories and illustrations a week. But as you can tell, I’ve slowed down a bit since then. Along with “Feeling Vulnerable,” there was also “While We Sleep” and “About Becoming.”

I read those three stories again this morning because they feel quite appropriate for this current year and season. Many of us are feeling vulnerable right now. There is a lot going on and a lot to process in our hearts and minds. That processing takes time. It is uncertain what we are becoming, but like Amelia, I am hopeful for what we shall become.

Amelia is no longer embarrassed by molting and change, as you can see from her photo today. (She actually posed for this.) When I get home from work this evening, those last two big tail feathers will likely be gone, but she will be eager for her new tail feathers to begin growing. They will help her fly to unimaginable places, and that is something to be excited about.

Thank you, Amelia. Let’s all be hopeful for what we shall become.

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