Into The Speckless Sky

Amelia’s View As She Soared Over The Cornwall Coast

With “A Most Wondrous Place” finally published, this is another item I’ve been eager to draw and write.

As you may know, chickens can fly, just not particularly well. When Amelia was in her first year, she could fly 6 to 8 feet above the ground and for a distance of about 30 feet. But I have always wanted to give her “a grand adventure flight.” I imagine this as a sequence of full page illustrations from around the world with fast-paced captions.

My hope is that if you can believe, even if only for a moment, that Amelia can fly like this, then you will believe you can accomplish the remarkable as well.

Our morning sky had been speckless, just as speckless as the day Amelia set off on her grand adventure. In truth, she did not feel it was a grand adventure at all. It was simply something she had to do. She had no choice.

While the others played and scratched and pecked, Amelia came and sat at my feet. She had always been more like a person than a chicken.

“Did you see the speckless sky this morning, Amelia?”

“I study the sky each morning. It tells me what to expect for the day.”

“I remember another spring morning with a speckless sky like we had today. It was the morning you flew away to see if you could be lost and not afraid.”

We both looked up and examined the few wispy clouds that had moved in since morning, just as Amelia knew they would.

“Tell me again about the speckless sky, Amelia. I want to feel like I am flying with you. I want to see it the way you did.”

I closed my eyes, and she began the same way she always did.

“The sky was as speckless as an empty sheet of paper. An empty, crystalline, pure blue sheet of paper. But it was still an empty sheet, waiting to be drawn or written upon.

“Only that sheet was endless, and it belonged to me. I could do whatever I wanted with it or nothing at all. And then the lines of the longitudes and latitudes began calling me to see what I could see.”

“But you could not fly the way you had hoped to fly that day, could you?”

“No, not that day. Not until you taught Emily to draw. She did not understand things like how she could see the moon from our garden but someone on the moon could not see the flowers blooming here.

“But she believed what you had told her. She believed drawing lets you do things you could never do any other way. For us, believing is better than understanding, especially when you want to fly.”

“Tell me about flying with your Map Of The World,” I said.

Even though I did not open my eyes to check and see, I knew she had closed her eyes as well. And so, she began to tell me as she had done many times before.

“I soared along the dotted lines and plunged down on the double lines.

“I banked into the solid lines and climbed upon to the dashy lines,

“Then way up high beyond the earth to where there simply were no lines at all.”

She said all this with a rhythm that moved and pressed onward just as she must have.

“And then what, Amelia?”

“I rushed past the global winds and cried out for all the world to hear, ‘This is happiness!’

“Oyster boats and fishing piers, peanut fields and cotton fields, then fields and fields and fields with corn as far as any eyes could see,

“Along the rugged, ragged coast, up to the Arctic tundra bare, to where the snowy owls hunt, traveling on and on and on.

“I felt that love was carrying me to trace the rivers to the sea, to plunge into the fiords deep, to make a mark for all to see there on that sheet of speckless blue.

“Then onward to the islands broad, above their mountains topped with snow, and down below the only speck, an eagle wishing he was me.”

“And what else, Amelia?”

“I may have wing-flapped once or twice, but that was only just to steer.

“And finally at last I found the places that no one else had been.”

“And your Map Of The World?”

“I flew beyond my treasured map, the special map that I had made, beyond its borders, off the page, no longer sure of where I was.

“Beyond the line and markings there, I soared without a single care, and felt at last that I was lost, as simply lost as lost could be.”

“But you weren’t afraid, were you?”

”Fear had no place within my heart,” she said, and I felt our journey gliding back to earth.

”And tell me why, Amelia.”

“It does not matter where or how far away I go, as long as I am loved, I am never truly lost,” she said. “As long as I am loved, I will always know where I am. I will be in your heart and in Emily’s heart, just as we, all of us, are in the heart of Forever.”

We both sat silently until, at last, her memories and my imaginings landed together.

“Thank you, Amelia.”

Almost two years ago, I wrote and illustrated a set of four posts titled “Emily’s Summer Drawing Camp” in which we discover Emily has a remarkable gift. Because she has so much love in her heart for Amelia and because she truly believes “Drawing lets you do things you would never be able to do any other way,” remarkable things happen when Emily draws. More next time!

A Brief Retrospective Of January 2019

January 2019 Favorites

The beginning of a new year seems to be a good time to look back on the old and look forward to the new, and so some type of retrospective of our illustration and story posts also seems appropriate.

For me, it’s a chance to see what was successful (or not). If something resonates with readers, then I have a better feeling of being on the right track. For new readers, it’s a chance to catch up with some of the most popular posts here. For those of you who have been reading for a while, there may be something you missed or might like to revisit.

After employing a rather complicated mathematical formula along with the very reliable and soon-to-be-patented “Chicken Peck Selector,” these are the most popular posts from January 2019. (These are shown above from left to right. Links to the full illustrations and posts follow.)

First “Most Popular” Post January 2019

“A Leap Of Faith” You can read it in full here if you’d like. (This story became the turning point for Gracie in our story collection titled “Seasons Of Friendship.” It is also one of my favorite of all time because it shows Gracie’s heart.)

Second “Most Popular” Post January 2019

“Lost And Not Afraid” You can read it in full here if you’d like. (For me, this continues to be a reminder to be motivated by love, not fear. It is also a reminder that we can never hold onto anyone if we truly love them. This post is one of my favorites about Amelia because it shows her at her bravest and most vulnerable.)

Third “Most Popular” Post January 2019

“But Is That Enough?” You can read it in full here if you’d like. (This is one of my favorite memories of just how special my Amelia is. Like her, we all need a home where we are loved.)

It would be difficult for me to select a personal favorite from these three. Each is special to me in its own way. Thanks for joining me on this retrospective of our illustration and story posts. I have enjoyed this chance to look back and see what you as readers enjoyed the most!

 

My Life With Gracie…A Chicken’s Life Is Not So Bad!

A Chicken’s Life

This post is the conclusion to a short series which began last week. You can begin at the beginning by reading here if you’d like.

“So what do you think about all of the treats you collected?” I asked. “You almost filled your bag, and it was a big bag too.”

They looked at each other, unsure of what to say and who should say it. I waited.

At last, Gracie spoke up and said, “Honestly, we felt really sad, especially for the other kids.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, we got corn. But it was hard. Not like what we get at home. And when we tried the little pieces of it, they tasted terrible.”

“Emily had to spit hers out,” added Bessie.

“I see. Was that all?”

“The worms,” said Gracie. “We got plenty of worms, but they were covered with white sand. They were hard and rubbery too. And sour. We don’t like sour worms.”

“They wiggled like real worms when we shook them, but they weren’t real worms,” said Amelia. “They must have been some kind of trick worms for trick-or-treating.”

“We got tricked,” said Bessie. “And that was no fun.”

They all nodded in agreement.

“I would have been disappointed too if I was you. Is there anything else?”

“There was one more thing,” said Amelia. “We didn’t like being called ‘the funny kids with the homemade costumes’ by the other trick-or-treaters.”

“That was not right or fair,” added Bessie.

“Yes, I heard that too. But you were right not to say anything back to them. That might have only made things worse. Their costumes did look like they came from a store. But the stores don’t sell chicken-sized costumes.”

“Why not?” asked Bessie. “Chickens have rights too.”

“I think it might have something to do with the fire code.”

“Oh,” they all said, and nodded knowingly. Chickens do not like fire even though they don’t know what a fire code is. (This answer has helped me out of a good number of tough conversations. Hopefully they will never ask what a fire code is.)

“Why would they make fun of us like that?” asked Emily. Her feelings seem to have been hurt the most. “They were loving all of their treats. They thought everything was really tasty. They were getting exactly what they wanted, but we weren’t. And then they had to make fun of us too.”

“But you did enjoy making your costumes and wearing them. Didn’t you? And you did enjoy doing all of this together. Didn’t you?”

“Yes.”

I leaned in and lowered my voice as if I was about to tell them the biggest secret in the entire universe. “Can I tell you something?”

“Okay,” they whispered back to me.

“In a few years, those kids, even The Big Boy At The End Of The Street, will have forgotten all about their store-bought costumes. They will have forgotten about how tasty all of those treats were for them. But you will still remember how much fun you had making your costumes together and all the times like this that you spent together.”

They thought this over carefully. Chickens do have very good memories.

“What’s more…You have real friends all over the world, and if you had shown up on any one of their front doorsteps, your real friends would have given you the best chicken-loving kind of corn and the best chicken-loving kind of worms you could ever imagine. Even without the scary Halloween costumes. Just because you are you.”

“Really!?!”

“You are my little flock. And that will never change. Even when you go out looking for better treats than what we have right here in our own backyard, you will always have this place and each other. This will always be your home, and this will always be your family.”

They looked around their back yard and at each other. Their eyes brightened.

“What if I take these treats and give them to some kids who might not have been able to go trick-or-treating?” I asked.

“Then we can do a little work together in the yard and garden. I need to do some raking, and I’ll bet there are crickets hiding in the leaves. What do you say?”

“We say we are your flock of chickens, and we would like that very much.”

“So you aren’t ‘the other kids’ any more?”

“We are what we are,” they said with one voice. “And we are very happy with what we are.”

“And next year,” Gracie added, “Maybe our costumes will even let us flap our wings and dance ballet.”

Then because she could not hold it in any longer, Pearl put her foot up in the air and sang out, “Trick Or Treat! Smell My Feet!”

And all was right once again in the world of our little backyard garden.

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

Poll Results for “Scariest Halloween Costume Contest!”

👻 BOTH!!! 👻……33%

👻 “Finger Lickin’ Ghoul” 👻……33%

👻 “Eat More Chikin” 👻……22%

Other……13% “The chicken in the pumpkin” and “Both! AND Pearl in the Pumpkin too! Peek-a-Booo!”