Family Photo Friday!

Yes, there are no chickens in today’s photo! But why was this photo selected for “Family Photo Friday”?

Sometimes these “My Life With Gracie” stories may blur the lines between reality and imagination.

When it comes to writing genres, most of these stories could be classified as “magical realism.” This genre has a realistic setting and for the most part all seems normal except there are certain things which are “magical” but are treated as ordinary occurrences. (For example, I’ve never written anything like this: I could hardly believe it when Gracie spoke to me for the first time, and I was even more amazed that Gracie could dance ballet. If I wrote like that, these stories would not be the same at all. By treating things like this as plain everyday life, it may make it easier for readers to slip into Gracie’s world.)

It is important to mention this is not “magic” in the sense of witches and wizards casting spells. For me, it is the kind of magic found when a child believes teddy bears have genuine feelings and really do talk to them. I may never have outgrown my childhood imagination, and so perhaps this is why my stories write themselves as they do.

Magical realism has been described as the intersection of two worlds: the magical world and the realistic world. There are many story possibilities which happen within this intersection.

My hope is that readers will get caught up in the imaginary elements of these stories long enough to believe anything can happen. Chickens really do dance ballet and make drawings with pieces of chalk. Then the deeper meaning of the story can be revealed.

But getting back to this Family Photo Friday picture.

There are times when the imaginary story elements move into my reality in a most unsettling manner. This is what happened one morning just this week.

It was a little after 6 AM. I had just finished getting my chickens ready for their new day. The sun had not yet come up. It was still quite dark except for the back porch light and my flashlight.

As I went back in to get ready for work, a light flipped on next door. I heard a sharp and raspy sound like laughter.

“Hah! Hah! Hah! Hah!”

I stood at my back door, turned out the light, and looked to see what it might be. This was somewhat unnerving. Except for the guy who delivers the paper, I am the only person up and outside that early in the morning.

I studied the light that was on next door which had not been on when I went outside to do my morning chicken chores. Suddenly the light turned off. it was as if someone knew I was trying to see them.

Then I noticed the silence. The early morning birds had stopped their calls as had the fall crickets.

Immediately I thought of The Bottle Cap Lady, a character from the book I’ve been working on. Had she returned? I had written about her standing in the street at the end of our driveway laughing and yelling, “Ha! Ha! Ha!” One extra “Ha!” and a slightly different spelling, and The Bottle Cap Lady really had returned.

So there you have it. An imagined portion of my book had worked its way into my backyard reality in a most unsettling way.

This brief real-life event would work it’s way back into one of the chapters in the book I’ve been working on.

And I will share that chapter tomorrow! Then perhaps you will see how there seems to be a kind of dance between my real world and my imagined world.

Do you get the eerie feeling that anything could happen inside that house?  As have written before…Right in my own backyard were more mysteries than I could find anywhere else.

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…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.

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

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…Saturday Surprises!

Here is something a little different for you, our readers, and “Saturday Surprises!” seems to be the most appropriate name for this type of post. This morning when I went out to welcome my chickens into their new day after the passing of Hurricane Dorian, I found some bright and cheerful morning glory blossoms had beat me to it.

These had been slowly growing up the chicken wire, and today they have decided they like this spot and it is time to bloom. They are one of the most beautiful shades of blue there is. I thought it interesting that this is practically the same blue that I used in parts of Monday’s illustration about the hurricane that was coming our way. Sometimes life has coincidences like this, I believe, to remind us that neither the bad times nor the good times remain forever.

Everything around us may change, but pure and simple beauty, such as the beauty of the color blue, will remain the same.

Yesterday afternoon, I was able to leave work early, and when I finally got home, my chickens were glad to see me. They had huddled together in a protected corner under their coop. I quickly changed into my “chicken clothes” and sat on the ground inside their run area with them.

They gathered around me, and Amelia tugged at my jeans. This means she needs to be picked up and hugged, and of course, that is exactly what I did. We all sat there together in our little huddle and watched the wind as it swayed the tree limbs. Only occasionally would it blow some rain in where we were. (Their garden home is very sheltered, and I add additional barriers during bad weather.)

Then Emily and Gracie decided it would be a good time to scratch around for something to eat. Amelia decided she had enough hugging and decided to join them. (After all hugging is for silly little baby chicks, isn’t it? Definitely not for big independent grown-up hens like Amelia!)

Life had returned to normal, even while the hurricane was as close to our home as it was going to get before heading out towards the Atlantic Ocean. I’m sure that there are several life lessons in all of this, and I may write about them another day. For now, I’m just grateful for this new and surprising day!

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