My Life With Gracie…Waiting For Autumn

Waiting For Autumn

We are waiting for early autumn. We are waiting to let go. My chickens and I, we have things to release, and early autumn is the best time to begin.

Soon the summer heat will have passed, and cooler breezes will blow against their feathers and against my shirt.

The days are already getting shorter. Gracie and the others need a flashlight in the early morning to find their way safely down their chicken ladder. The sunset is coming sooner and stealing greater bites of our precious time together in the evenings.

But even so, we are waiting, somewhat impatiently, for early autumn.

It is the season to end all that we had tried to start, but failed. It lets us begin the forgetting process so that we can push on towards the cold blankness of winter and then on towards the warm promise of spring.

Early Autumn lets us begin the important forgiving process because often we must gently forgive ourselves for failing, even failing again and again.

Sometimes we must forgive ourselves for choosing the wrong hopes and dreams.

Sometimes we must forgive ourselves for choosing the wrong time for the right hopes and dreams.

Sometimes we must forgive ourselves for not having enough hope, not having enough faith…or just not having.

Sometimes we must forgive ourselves for not wanting to let go of those precious hopes and dreams that did sprout and grow and bear Summer’s fruit…but they were only meant for a season, just one season.

That may be the most difficult kind of forgiving to do.

Then will come Winter when our new hopes and dreams have a chance to incubate. In the darkness of Winter we cover our heads for warmth. With our eyes closed, we shut out the cold and then we dream of the world and the life we want for ourselves and those we love.

Finally will come Spring when we have a new chance to do again what we had tried and failed to do. Spring is a time when we can try to make the things we love fit into our lives one more time. We never give up hope.

But first we must wait for Autumn to have its turn at touching our lives. Autumn’s ground of death and decay lays the moist, rich foundation for our next ambitious attempts at new growth.

There really is a season for everything…and that does include a season for letting go.

My Life With Gracie taught me to gladly let go of what was meant to last for only a season anyway.

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…“Feed The Chickens!” Card Game

Feed The Chickens

For the August 1st One Year Anniversary of these “My Life With Gracie” stories and illustrations, I have been wanting to do something special. Gracie thought a game would be a great gift for our readers, and the other chickens agreed.

Gracie explained, “It has to be the kind of game we chickens can play too. That way we can make sure it’s good enough to give to people.”

“I see.”

“Plus everyone will want to play it with their own chickens. I’m sure of that,” she added confidently.

“Not everyone has chickens in their backyard,” I said. “Some people don’t even have a backyard.”

Everyone looked at me with unblinking surprise and open beaks.

“You can’t be serious.”

“It’s sadly true,” I said.

“How are they able to make it from one day to the next?”

“Who guards their house for them?”

“Who digs their holes for them?”

“Most important of all, who eats their worms for them?”

I shrugged my shoulders and looked at them sadly. “It’s not easy. That’s all I can say.”

“Well then, we really do need to do something to bring some happiness into their lives,” said Gracie with her strongest determination.

“Yes. Oh, yes!” the others clucked emphatically. “Bless their people hearts!”

“How about a card game?” I suggested. “Those don’t need dice which would be difficult for a chicken to roll.”

Then I showed them a deck of cards, and they practiced moving and flipping them over.

They put their heads together and talked among themselves. Finally Gracie declared, “We want to give everyone a free card game.”

“So what do you want to call your card game?”

“Feed The Chickens!” they clucked together without giving it a second thought or any debate at all. “What could be more fun for people than feeding their chickens? Even if it’s only in a card game?”

“I see. Sort of like your favorite joke…Why did the farmer cross the road?”

“To feed the chickens!” They all rocked from side to side with laughter.

That old joke always makes them laugh. I guess I will never understand chicken humor.

After that though, the discussion became somewhat disorganized. Everyone was sure “Feed The Chickens!” was going to be the most phenomenal card game ever in all the history of the world. What could be more fun? But how should the game be played? We needed rules.

I started jotting down their ideas as quickly as I could, usually without being able to tell who was saying what. There was a lot of excitement!

“There should be six different kinds of fruit and vegetable cards.”

“How about seven? One for every day of the week. To remind people how they need to feed their chickens every day!”

“Color the fruits and vegetables so they look really tasty!”

“Don’t color the fruits and vegetables. That way the people can have extra fun coloring them in for themselves.” That was Emily’s suggestion because she likes to draw.

“Don’t put any words on the cards because some of us can’t read,” offered Gracie. “Or numbers either.”

“Yes, but if you do use counting, don’t make the numbers go too high,” said Pearl. “One of us can’t count past four, but I’m not naming any names.”

“Everyone knows you’re talking about yourself!” the others pointed at Pearl who laughed along with them.

“Big cards so people can handle them better.”

“Little cards so people can tuck them away in their pockets and take them with them wherever they go.”

“How about chicken-sized cards so both chickens and people can play with them? Or at least the few fortunate people who have chickens in their backyard.”

This went on for the longest time, and I was sure I would run out of notebook pages.

“The winner should be the one who feeds the chickens the most.”

“Okay but only if the most is the most corn because that is my favorite.”

“That’s fine for you, but I like chopped apples and grated carrots the best.”

“No, the winner should be the one who finishes feeding the chickens first.”

“Make some cards with worms on them!” someone suggested, and the others thought that was just about the best idea ever.

“And a smelly old shoe,” laughed Pearl. “Nobody wants that!”

“Then the winner should be the one who feeds the chickens the most worms!” declared Amelia.

“I think the loser should have to eat the old shoe,” chuckled Bessie. “I can come up with a nice recipe!”

With that, they had just about exhausted all of their ideas, at least for this brainstorming session.

It would be my job to turn their suggestions into a card game that would entertain my chickens and hopefully our readers, even those who don’t have chickens.

Please check back here on Thursday, August 1st when we will post the PDF documents for you to print your “Feed The Chickens!” Card Game. The basic rules will also be posted!

This may look like an easy card game, but just because chickens can play it, doesn’t mean you won’t need to use some strategy!

We are also testing a solitaire version for those who don’t have chickens (or children) who would enjoy this game!

“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!