My Life With Gracie…Every Egg Tells A Story

Every Egg Tells A Story

There it was in the middle of the breakfast salad, a single just-laid egg.

Now this is unusual. Chickens may do many things in “just any old place,” but laying an egg is not one of them. That is done in the dark privacy of the nesting box. They are safe there. Their egg is safe there too.

So you see, this was definitely an unusual event. But I didn’t have time to ask “Who?” or “Why?” before heading off to work. There was only time to ask, “Is everybody okay?” No one said anything, and so I assumed all were well.

It had been a busy Wednesday morning. While I put down their breakfast salad and welcomed everyone to their new day, I mentioned next Wednesday we would have the whole day together because I wouldn’t be going to work. Then I gave them the weather report so they would know what to expect, though I had a feeling they already knew it was going to be an unusually warm day.

But that was all there was time for. No leisurely second cup of coffee. No discussions of what would be blooming next in the garden like the Japanese iris.

There was just enough time to get ready for work and to tell everyone what I always tell them. “Take good care of each other. Remember I love you more than anything here.”

I did wonder about the egg though. Since Gracie’s foot mishap, I have tried to be extra vigilant. What if something was wrong? What if they were too scared to say anything?

At least those questions kept me from wondering about other questions, bill-paying questions. The reason I would be home the next Wednesday and many more Wednesday’s afterwards was simple. With the economy the way it is now, I am moving to part-time. That means an extra day at home each week, but also twenty percent less pay.

But chickens don’t understand people economics. Nor would I want them to. They only understand chicken economics. We are the richest family on our entire street because we have more worms than anyone. Now we have more time to be a family together. Life is good!

Somehow all will work out fine.

That night as I went out at dusk to tuck everyone in for the evening, I heard the lightest two chicken feet land on the coop floor after hopping down from the nighttime perch.

It was Emily, of course. I know her sounds as well as I know her eggs by their shape and color. In the dimness, she made her way down the chicken ladder and hurried to me.

I scooped her up into my arms.

“That was me,” she said. “I laid the egg in the middle of the breakfast salad.”

“I know, Sweetie. Don’t worry. Sometimes things happen. But you are okay, aren’t you?”

“I am fine. I am just a little embarrassed. It was a very unseemly thing to do. I had to tell you or I would not be able to sleep at all tonight.”

More than any of the others, Emily is a proper lady with impeccable manners. Egg laying must, absolutely must, be done in the privacy of the nesting box and in the most ladylike manner possible and with hardly a peep.

“It’s just that I was so excited for you.”

“What do you mean?”

“You get an extra day to enjoy us even more!”

I held her close and kissed the top of her head.

“You are so sweet, Emily. Yes, I do get even more time to enjoy you.”

She wasn’t excited about having more treat time or more backyard free range time. She wasn’t even excited about being able to walk through the garden more often. Emily was excited about being able to see the pleasure on my face from being with my chickens. She didn’t even realize that she herself was a huge part of why I look forward to spending time with them.

This is the heart of innocence.

“I just do not understand why you enjoy us so much. We are just little chickens, and I am the littlest of us all. Why do you even bother with us? You already have everything we see here. You are so big. When you stand close, I cannot even see all of you.”

I was unsure what to say.

“Why do you enjoy us so much?” she asked.

Again I was unsure what to say, but I knew this was an important question deserving an answer.

“You know, Emily, that is a question people have asked as well, just in a different way about themselves. Not about chickens, but about themselves.”

“What do you mean?”

I carried her over to where we could look up into the evening sky. The first stars were beginning to shine.

“Many thousands of years ago, someone wondered something like what you are wondering right now and even wrote it down.”

“What did they write?”

“They wrote, ‘What is man that you are mindful of him?’”

She thought about these words carefully.

“Did that person ever get an answer to the question?”

“If they did, they didn’t write down that part. But sometimes a question is best left unanswered. Sometimes a question is just meant to make us wonder with eyes as big and as wide-open as yours, Emily. Sometimes we have to find the answers to those kinds of questions for ourselves. No one can tell us the answers, and if they do, we are unlikely to really hear them. Some answers are best found in our own hearts.”

She seemed satisfied with this.

“Sometimes it’s best not to know all the answers,” I added because that seemed like an awfully long speech.

“Nobody likes a know-it-all, right?”

“Or a tell-it-all.” We smiled together. “But I am happy you told me about your egg and even happier you understand how much joy you give me just by being you.”

I placed her back in her favorite roosting spot, back in a corner next to Gracie. Her life and her heart were now secure for the night.

Perhaps this is a part of how the universe is intended to work. I cannot imagine a world where Light and Life and Love would not be looking forward to enjoying each person. Equally. Delightfully.

And if Light and Light and Love can do that so intensely with each one of us, can’t we do that too, even just a little, with each other? Even when we are different?

Yes, every egg tells a story.

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…Gleaning Wisdom

Gleaning Wisdom

This illustration is based on my fourth “My Life With Gracie” drawing. It is still one of my favorites because it is the first one of Gracie dancing. You can see this illustration has a lot more happening!

Pomegranate seeds are a treat my chickens enjoy in autumn. These are never passed up, and that is what made me wonder if there was something wrong.

For a few weeks, I’ve noticed leftover corn kernels or fruit pieces in their run at the end of the day when I went to secure them in their coop for the night. I had just assumed they were given too much, more than they could eat. But the leftovers were gone in the morning.

This was a bit of a mystery, but I really didn’t give it much thought until the leftovers included some of their prized pomegranate seeds. What was going on?

So as I was making sure everyone was snugly in their coop for the night, I questioned Gracie about this. At first she seemed a bit embarrassed as they all looked at each other, unsure what to say.

Finally Gracie explained it had been her idea for them to leave food behind for the field mice who visit them at night. With all of the rain we have had, it was more difficult for them to gather food for themselves and their little ones.

So I quickly told them not to worry because they had been doing a wonderful kindness.

All looked quite relieved, and moved a bit closer to me when I said, “You know, that sounds like something The Rose Garden Princess would do.”

And just like that, we were all wrapped up in Gracie’s dream.

(For those of you who are new readers, Gracie wants to be a ballerina more than just about anything, and “The Rose Garden Princess” is a ballet project we are creating for her.)

Yes, kindness to strangers and wanderers is an ancient tradition of the Princesses who live in The Great Garden. (Feather’s rustled happily because they all could be princesses for the ballet.)

“Remember when you had no home of your own” is ancient chicken wisdom once heard long ago and passed down from momma hens to chicks. (Suddenly there were disappointed expressions on every face. But why? Then I realized they remembered never having a momma hen to teach them anything.)

I paused the story to let them know how proud I was of them for knowing this on their own without the guidance of a momma hen. They were all truly wise chickens indeed. (Everyone smiled and sat a bit taller. They were definitely feeling their parts in the ballet.)

And so one autumn evening the hungry field mice scampered into The Great Garden and began to jump and run about, grabbing scraps of food that the Princesses had not eaten. The Princesses were startled and became frantic because their peaceful garden home was being overrun by mice. (Together they pretended to be surprised in the most adorable way.)

Although much smaller, the field mice moved much faster and could hide in the tiniest and most unexpected places. More than either of those things, they were scary because they were different. They didn’t have beaks and wings. Instead they had sharp teeth and grabbing hands! (Serious shivers spread from one chicken to another, and Emily hid her head under her wing. Pearl hid her head under Blanche’s wing.)

But do you know what The Rose Garden Princess did? (Everyone leaned forward to hear better. Gracie moved closest of all, even though she started to feel a draft where her fluff feathers had molted.)

The Rose Garden Princess made promises with the field mice. They could come each evening to collect food left for them. In return the field mice would use their teeth to cut flowers from the garden and hold them as banners when The Rose Garden Princess and the other Princesses danced in the moonlight. (Joyful wings applauded along the perch at this delightful turn of events!)

Although it took a great deal of practice, what a grand and amazing dance it was! Some of the smallest field mice entered first, scampering and leaping in unison. They were joined by more field mice who carried flowers like banners. Then the Princesses began to dance onto the stage.

It all made for a great and dramatic spectacle, unfolding in The Great Garden as more and more mice and more and more Princesses joined in the procession. Mice carrying daisies, and then the Daisy Princesses. Mice carrying daffodils, and then the Daffodil Princesses. On and on it went, and each seemed more beautiful than the last.

Finally when everyone was certain there was no way for the dance to be any more breathtaking, The Rose Garden Princess appeared! (My chickens could not hold back their enthusiasm any longer. The sounds of their delight filled my little backyard garden.)

We all said “good night,” and they huddled closer together for warmth. It was going to be a chilly night, but not in our hearts.

There were a few still-excited whispers about who would dance as Daisy Princesses and who would dance as Daffodil Princesses and so on. Everyone was unanimous only Gracie could be The Rose Garden Princess as she had already led them in showing unselfish kindness towards others.

My Life With Gracie taught me always to have a generous and welcoming heart.

I will do my best to post each Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated! Right now I am revisiting some of my earlier cartoon illustrations and giving them a different twist.

Gleaning Wisdom