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.

Family Photo Friday!

Family Photo Friday

Today’s Family Photo is of Amelia, and particularly Amelia’s right eye rather close up! She is examining the camera very carefully while having her picture taken. Like almost every other chicken, Amelia is very curious. I believe the curiosity comes from trying to determine if something new can be classified as “food” or “not food yet.”

One of the most fascinating things about any chicken’s eyes are the tiny feathers which surround them. (You may remember Emily’s eyes weren’t quite right in a recent drawing I made of her.) Even these tiniest of tiny feathers still carry the distinct markings of light and dark which identify them as belonging to Amelia.

You will notice this is her right eye, and that does make a difference, at least for chickens. It would not have been so easy to get a closeup photograph of Amelia’s left eye, and here’s why. A chicken’s eyes develop differently before they hatch. The right eye is nearsighted and best for seeing things close up, like my camera. The left eye is farsighted and best for seeing things far away, and so she naturally examined my camera with her right eye.

Chickens can also use each of their eyes independently, so while the right eye may be examining your face, their left eye may be looking far away for potential danger. (Maybe everyone should have a chicken to guard their backyard!) Their eyes also have a double cone structure which helps them to track objects, like crickets and other insects. These special features serve them very well except they lack night vision which we have. It’s why they head up to their coop for the night as soon as the light gets dim.

All of this brings me to the reason why I’ve selected a picture of Amelia’s eye for this week’s Family Photo Friday. Our story post tomorrow will be about seeing.

For today, I hope we will all see just as Amelia sees: honestly, fearlessly, and clearly.

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…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.