A Chicken’s Life Can Be That Way

A Chicken’s Life Can Be That Way“So what is that you’ve done there?” I asked Pearl as she was rearranging some sticks and pebbles and leaves in a cleared out area in the chicken run.

I had brought some of my unfinished drawings outside with hopes of getting inspiration. Some of them were just not coming together.

“Oh, nothing really,” she said.

“Whatever you do is never nothing.”

Pearl seemed glad to have sparked my curiosity. “I thought I might help you with the book.”

“How do you mean?”

“Look more closely.”

And so I did.

“I only see some twigs and pebbles and leaves and a few little feathers.”

Pearl added one more twig to the collection she had gathered, and suddenly an image formed.

It was a chicken, a happy chicken! I couldn’t really call it a drawing, and I couldn’t really call it a sculpture.

“Pearl, it’s beautiful, it’s perfect, and it’s so much like something you would do!”

She just smiled up at me.

“I’ve always known you were a collector, but I never knew you could do anything like this!”

“I thought you might need some help with the illustrations.”

She moved a few of the twigs and pebbles, and there was suddenly a completely different chicken pose. Then she added an azalea blossom, and suddenly there was a dancing chicken wearing a tutu made from the flower.

So I sat and just watched as she kept moving and rearranging and creating new images.

“I started making these last summer. When you were teaching Emily to draw.”

“I had no idea.”

“I taught myself how to do this, how to draw like this,” she said. I could not tell whether she had felt left out last summer, but it was likely she did. “I guess I have always gone my own way.”

“That was when you were getting over Blanche leaving us, wasn’t it?”

“May I show you something else?”

Pearl had not answered my question or waited for me to answer hers.

She went up to the darkest corner of her nesting box where I would have never thought to look. One by one, she brought out bits of torn paper and gift wrap she had collected when the trash truck came by on Tuesdays.

Each held a drawing made with the simplest of tools. These were her real drawings, ones on scraps of paper. She had used feathers shaped into pens, soft twigs frayed and turned into brushes, inks made from charred wood and milkweed sap, smudges of mud, and even what looked like the last of some bottles of white correction fluid and fingernail polish.

“Pearl, I had no idea.”

I sat next to her to examine them more closely.

“May I touch them? I will be careful. I want to spread them out so I can see them better.”

“Yes, that would be fine.”

“I don’t want to damage them.”

“You won’t. I trust you.”

I picked each one up as carefully as I had picked up Pearl when she was just a baby chick. As I spread them out in front of us, Pearl hopped up into my lap and whispered so only I would hear, “They are the story of my life.”

There was her life. Had I ever been so introspective? It takes a great deal of courage to look at one’s entire life laid out like cards, tiny snapshots of who we are. But Pearl had done it, and each of these was an expressive masterpiece.

“Most of these are full of light and hope,” I said.

“A chicken’s life can be that way.”

“But some of them are very dark and scary.”

“A chicken’s life can be that way too,” she said as only one who has known dark and scary can say.

We sat there looking at her artwork together. There were times I wanted to ask a question, but chose to stay quiet. I felt the drawings would speak for themselves, and if there was something they did not say, then maybe it was not important to know after all.

I placed one of my own unfinished drawings under one of hers.

“May I use some of these for our book, your book? Some of the chapters have things that only you experienced. Like this one with the opossum. I haven’t known how to draw those things because I wasn’t there.”

“I was there.”

“I know you were. And you lived to tell about it.”

“And draw it too.”

“You did.”

Life must create and create anew. With whatever it can find. Even useless throwaways. Pearl may have once thought about her own life that way. But no longer. Perhaps Life specializes in turning what others reject into priceless beautiful things, if not on the outside, then certainly on the inside.

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…Endless Wonder

Endless Wonder

This post is next in a sequence which began with a previous post about Bessie that you may want to read as well.

It was definitely way past Bessie’s bedtime, but sometimes there are more important things than getting tucked in for the night on schedule. This was one of those times.

Bessie had been shedding feathers everywhere over the previous few days, and that morning as I headed off to work, she was looking and feeling miserable. With so many feathers missing, it was turning out to be an especially tough molting season for her.

So in the evening, I helped her on with her apron and chef’s cap and said, “Come on, Sweetheart. Come, follow me.”

She was hesitant at first, partly because of it being close to bedtime, and partly because chickens like to stick with their bedtime roosting friends in the evening hours.

She had not been inside my house since she was a very young chick, and even then it had only been in the sunroom brooder box at the back of the house. Although there had been a few close calls with baby chicks wanting to do a little too much exploring, none had ever been anywhere else in the house.

As we went into the sunroom, Bessie shared a few dim memories. “Oh, yes. I remember that spot. Lefty flew there the time he got out when you were cleaning the brooder box. You were flapping like a baby chick yourself when he did that!”

She also shared some of her clearer memories which I had almost forgotten. “And there’s where you had the television set that kept us up way past our bedtime…when you didn’t understand why we were peeping in such a loud annoying way during all of your favorite shows! We wanted to go to sleep!” Bessie and I both chuckled.

All of my chickens get chatty like this when they are excited, but Bessie became silent as she stood on the threshold between the sunroom and the kitchen.

I honestly don’t know how to draw that moment when all of her dreams and imaginings were coming true right before her eyes. It was all more beautiful than she could have ever imagined. It was her moment, hers and hers alone.

For me, it was just a kitchen, just the room where I prepare food for myself and my chickens. For Bessie, it was a world filled with endless wonder.

Isn’t it strange how something plain, everyday, and totally ordinary to us can be so special to someone else? But it’s that way more times than we may realize.

Bessie wanted to see and do and know everything all at once. We didn’t stop until we were both yawning much too much.

We ended our tour and first tutorial with some words from Julia Child. “What makes a great chef? Well, training and technique, of course, plus a great love of food, a generous personality, and the ability to invent.”

Bessie asked me with such great concern in her voice, almost afraid to hear the answer but willing to risk it, “Do I have those things?”

“Oh, yes, you do. You definitely do,” I said. “We just need to work a little on the training and technique part since this was your first time visiting a real kitchen. Everyone knows what a generous personality you have and how everything you do is done from your heart. What matters more than anything is your generous heart.”

I heard her whispering breathlessly to the others after getting tucked in for the night, “You just won’t believe it. You just will not believe it all.” For me, the endless wonder I felt came from sharing this delightful evening with Bessie.

My Life With Gracie (and especially Bessie) filled me with endless wonder.

I will do my best to post each Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated! You may want to skip to the next post about Bessie’s dream of being a master chef.

Endless Wonder

My Life With Gracie…Pearl’s Comedy Coop!

(Just as a reminder, with chicken humor, you either get it or you don’t. In all honesty, I don’t really quite get all of it myself, but I hope you do. It probably is better understood by children, especially when read aloud in both Chicken and English.)

The time for Pearl’s comedy debut had finally arrived. The spotlight came on and illuminated the brick wall backdrop, microphone, and stool. Muffled clucks of excitement spread throughout the coop.

Pearl jumped and flapped to the top of the stool with confident precision. She has practiced this part well. Silence fell across her audience.

Everyone noticed her painted hot pink toenails. Low, hushed coos of amazement and approval could be heard here and there.

Then Pearl began.

Much to my surprise, everyone thought this joke was funny. It made no sense to me, but to the chickens, it was hilarious. Pearl was off to an excellent start.

Even more to my amazement, the chickens could hardly keep their seats they were laughing and cackling so hard! Pearl was an instant star as far as the other chickens were concerned.

A few of the chickens turned to look at me as if to say, “Don’t you understand how funny she is?” Pearl flipped over onto her back and pretended to be taking a dust bath while telling her next joke.

While everyone was laughing so hard they had tears coming from their eyes, I noticed Pearl had already pulling out a tall hat decorated with bananas. It looked just like one Carmen Miranda would have worn.

Suddenly I couldn’t help from joining in the laughter. Before I knew it, she had the hat tied under her chin and had popped off a brown beak cover to reveal her matching hot pink “beak-stick” shaped like a heart.

There was uproarious cackling and wing flapping throughout the coop. Everyone was laughing so hard, I seriously thought they would all lay eggs right then and there.

Pearl did her happy dance on top of the stool to signal the show was complete. She definitely left her audience wanting more!

It took quite a while to get everyone settled down enough to have their mealworm treats before bedtime.

Walking back to the house, I’m sure I heard a few hushed chuckles and cluckles of “To feed the chickens! To feed the chickens!” as everyone drifted off to sleep.

Knowing I had been a witness to something few people ever experience, I wondered, “Where did she get all of those little bananas?”

My Life With Gracie helped me see life just might work best when you have an “anything can happen” positive attitude.

I will do my best to post each Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated! So what do you think about Pearl’s comedy routine?

Anything Can Happen