My Life With Gracie…More Alike Than We Realize

More Alike Than We Realize

My time with my chickens in the cool of the evening after work is something I look forward to each day. No matter how difficult the day has been, everything is quickly forgotten.

Even though Amelia is very independent-minded, lately she has been spending more time with me than usual. She will stand and look up at me and speak to me in a very low almost hushed voice. She tells me her secret thoughts.

I will tell her softly, “Amelia, I have good news for you. You and I are more alike than you realize.”

Then she will turn her back on me and hurry off to another place.

Soon, she will return and share more of her secrets.

Again I will tell her softly, “Amelia, you and I are more alike than you realize.”

Then she will turn her back on me and hurry off to another place again, but she will not wait nearly as long to come back and tell more of her secrets.

We will repeat this routine with each of her times away from me getting shorter and shorter, and then finally she will stay.

“Amelia, you and I are more alike than you realize,” I will tell her.

Her heart takes its own time in accepting this as true. Then I tell her some of my secrets, and she does not doubt any longer.

We can do this for days in a row, almost as if it was a game she has made up. Sometimes it feels as if we are starting all over again at a place of doubt. But it doesn’t matter. Eventually I know she will come and stay with me without hurrying off to another place. This is simply her process for understanding love and belonging.

Having been adopted by me six months into her life has something to do with this. She just needs extra assurance this is her forever home.

“I would not give you up for anything,” I tell her.

“Not even for six bags of sunflower kernels?” she asks.

Amelia can only count to six. That is all of the toes that she has. For her, six is the highest number there is. There is no higher number.

“Not even for six and then six more,” I always tell her as if it is one of my own secrets.

She closes her eyes with a quizzical expression whenever I tell her this. She looks as if she is trying to imagine that many, but she can’t. Then she will always smile because she knows however many it is, it is a great amount.

“You are mine and I am yours for as long as you want it to be that way,” I tell her.

Then she will say to me, “Yes, we are more alike than I realize.”

My Life With Gracie (and especially Amelia) reminded me we are more alike than we realize.

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Lately I have been working on what I hope will be our next book titled “How To Explain Christmas To Chickens.” It continues to be a good yet challenging project. 

I have readers of all faiths and even no faith at all, and so there has to be a message for everyone.

As I think through this, maybe, just maybe, on that very first Christmas Day so long ago, Love was no longer far off, distant, and unknowable. Maybe, just maybe, Love was right here with us in warm, tender, and fragile human flesh.

Then maybe Love could at last say to people, “We are more alike than you realize.”

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!

Family Photo Friday!

Family Photo Friday

Yes, there really is a chicken in today’s Family Photo! Can you spot her? (If it helps, this photo was taken with the camera pointing down towards the ground.) That’s Emily, or at least as much of Emily as will show up in a photograph taken early in the morning.

Emily is making her own assessment of the weather outside even though last night the birds in our neighborhood were giving their own predictions of what today would bring. (They really do listen to the bird calls around them, and last night there were bird calls which I have not heard in a long time and definitely not in the evening as the sun was setting.)

The other chickens are waiting on the roosting perch above and behind her. They won’t hop down until they know Emily is out of the way, and Emily won’t be out of the way until she takes those brave steps down the chicken ladder (in the lower right) to greet her new day.

Emily is almost always the first to venture out in the morning. She has learned that because she is the smallest, she has to get to the breakfast salad first to get her favorites before anyone else. She may also have figured out that on stormy days there is almost always something special for them like chopped okra with all of those seeds!

Hurricane Dorian was beginning to affect our area this morning, and all of my girls met their new day with cautious curiosity. It is one of the main ways they inspire me each day.

They always get up in the morning. (My record from the past is not so good! Now I have to get up because they always get up!) They always go down their coop’s chicken ladder every morning and look expectantly for something good. (Once again, my record from the past is not so good!)

They have a trust in each new day which I often lack, and so I am grateful for their morning reminders about how important it is to be brave even in life’s stormiest times. As I have said a time or two before, you can learn a lot from a chicken.

Best wishes to all of our friends and readers. Stay safe! Trust in the Goodness which brings you each new day!

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