“Just Farm Animals” (Part 2)

Just Farm Animals

This is a continuation of the previous post, and you may want to read it first if you haven’t already. Today’s illustration is based on one of Gracie’s bad dreams.

Perhaps Gracie had said this because she wanted to know who she is and what she means to me. It felt like the kind of statement made by someone who is hesitant to say exactly what is on their heart.

“Who told you that you were just a farm animal?” I asked.

“The crows,” she said as she stood up.

Neither my chickens nor I like the crows that occasionally come into our yard. They are loud, oily-looking, and they only seem to want to upset everything.

“What did the crows tell you about being a farm animal?”

“Crows are like you. They can have as much corn as they want. Chickens aren’t like you. Chickens are farm animals. We only get the corn you give us. If crows don’t like the corn in one field, they can fly to another field. We can’t.”

“Gracie, do you believe you are just a farm animal?”

She thought this over very carefully. She didn’t want to expose the bruises the crows had put on her heart.

She had seen their freedom and had heard what they said their life outside our garden was like.

“Gracie, it doesn’t matter what anyone says about what you are. When I look at you, I see a friend who I absolutely adore in every way. But even what I say doesn’t matter. What matters is what you believe about yourself.”

In her deepest heart, she knew all this was true, but what the crows had been telling her made her doubt both herself and me. Those crows will peck until they find a vulnerable spot, and then they are merciless.

“I can’t fly like the others. I can’t fly away, even if I wanted to, though I don’t want to, honestly I don’t want to. Even though the crows say it’s better to be like them and like you.

“I can’t even fly up to the perch here in our run like everyone else can. But I try not to let anyone know.

“I don’t have any choices. Not like Amelia. Not like the others.”

Her voice faded off. It was as if she had nothing more to say and even if she could say more, she felt her words and her actions couldn’t change anything.

“Gracie, I know how you feel. I may never be more than what I am right now.”

She looked up at me in surprise.

“Some people say I’m just a crazy old man who has chickens in his backyard.”

Suddenly she knew she was not as alone as how she had been feeling.

“Making a home for you and taking care of you is just about the only thing I’ve ever done right, or as close to right as I can do it.

“Sometimes I wonder about whether even that is true or not. But I really have tried.

“I don’t have the kind of life most people would think of as successful. But I wouldn’t exchange my life here with you for anyone else’s life.”

Gracie realized life was not exactly like what the crows had told her.

“People have their own kind of crows. You may not have known that. But we do.

“So I have to remind myself there aren’t many people with chickens in their backyards who dance ballet like you do.”

Gracie sat back down and rested her head on my leg to comfort me.

“I guess we are just stuck with each other. Aren’t we?” she asked softly.

“I guess we are, Gracie.”

I rested the palm of my hand on her back to comfort her, and we smiled together.

“You know,” she said, “I wonder if those crows had anything to do with Amelia leaving when she did.”

“It’s possible.”

“Sometimes they give me bad dreams where they won’t leave me alone and I can’t get away from them. They want to take every good thing in my life from me.

“Did you know she left before her feathers were completely back in after molting? She left almost as soon as they had grown back enough for her to fly.”

“I didn’t realize that.”

“It’s really something only another chicken would notice.”

Gracie hopped up into my lap so we could look at the clouds together as they were beginning to be tinted with sunset colors.

“I hate those crows,” she said.

“I do too, Gracie. I do too.”

Somewhere out there was Amelia. We both silently hoped she was safe and free from the crows in her life.

“Gracie?”

“Yes?”

“Crows make horrible ballet dancers.”

We clucked and chuckled together as we imagined how ballet-dancing crows would look. Soon the sun had set. Then I helped her up into the coop for the night.

“Sweet dreams, Gracie.”

My Life With Gracie helped me see we may never be more than what we are right now to the world, but there is no limit to what we can be to each other when there is love.

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

“Just Farm Animals” (Part 1)

Just Farm Amimals

Evenings spent with my chickens are the best part of almost any day. We share a treat of some fresh fruit and recount the day’s events or simply discuss whatever is on our minds.

“So Gracie, what is the best thing about being a chicken?”

“Well, I guess the best thing about being a chicken is being a chicken.”

She clucked at her cleverness.

“Chickens get to hunt for worms. I love the joy and anticipation of running with a worm I’ve just found. What is the best thing about being a person?”

“That is a tough question.”

“And you can’t just say ‘the best thing about being a person is being a person.’ You would just be copying me!”

“The best thing about being a person is watching chickens running with a worm they just found. That’s not really copying you, is it? Gracie, you are certainly in a fun mood today.”

“I guess so. Maybe not. But don’t change the subject. I do think it’s a good question even though the answer can’t change anything.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, if it is the best, it is at the top. You can’t get any better. Ask about what is the worst. Then you have something to work on. You can get better then.”

“I see what you mean. So what is the worst thing about being a chicken?”

“Sometimes we care about people, but they don’t care about us,” she said without hesitating.

“I think that may be the worst thing about being a person too. When other people don’t care about you.”

We looked off together towards the part of the yard that had gotten overgrown over the years. It made a nice place for traveling birds like starlings and crows and thrushes to stop and rest as they came through our neighborhood, but we didn’t see any just then.

I enjoyed moments like this when Gracie and I shared things in common like how important is was to know we are cared for.

“After all, we are just farm animals,” she muttered. “Just farm animals.”

Our moment of connectedness was broken.

She looked down at the ground searching for nothing in particular, and then she moved as if to get up.

My Life With Gracie taught me words can make everything in our world change in an instant.

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. This post felt too long, and so it is divided into two parts. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

My Life With Gracie…Kinds Of Beauty

Kinds Of Beauty

This illustration is based on my second “My Life With Gracie” drawing. It is still one of my favorites because it shows all six of my chickens as I think of them so often…just little chicks in awe of the world around them.

We are born with that same sense of awe as well, but at some point in life, it is often lost. Maybe a part of ourselves is lost along with it too.

What causes us to lose our sense of wonder? It may happen when we stop looking outwardly and begin to compare ourselves to others.

My neighborhood is home to so many songbirds, and they are almost always seen or at least heard in my yard. Yet my chickens never compare themselves to the songbirds. They never feel badly because they can’t sing like them, though they do have their own kind of singing. They never even try to imitate songbirds. But I do think they look, listen, and appreciate.

My house is right across the street from a vacant lot and a branch of the river. It’s marshy, and from time to time, tall graceful white egrets are wading there. My chickens watch them with interest, but they never try to walk like them or stand gracefully like them. But I do imagine they might like to go fishing or frogging with them!

My chickens don’t compare themselves to other birds. They don’t even compare themselves to each other. They are just fine being chickens, and they are just fine being who they are.

Even if a peacock came into the yard and presented a great display of feathers, their reaction would most likely be “Ho-Hum…I’ll bet all of those feathers get in the way of catching crickets.”

They don’t worry about being great singers, moving gracefully, or looking beautiful in the eyes of anyone else. Yet to me, they are all of these things and more, so much more.

Comparisons can be quite ugly when they make us doubt our own value, when they make us feel unworthy of life and unworthy of love. Comparisons can be even more ugly when we use them to try to make ourselves feel superior to someone else.

Oddly enough, the more you stand is awe and wonder of the beauty around you without any self-awareness, the more beautiful you become.

Everything and every person has their own unique kind of beauty. It’s there if you look for it. You are your own kind of beauty, and the world needs your kind of beauty.

My Life With Gracie taught me there are more kinds of beauty than we can ever count.

I will do my best to post each Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

Kinds Of Beauty