March Daffodils…(from “How To Find A Most Wondrous Place”)

Today’s story and illustration come from Chapter One of “How To Find A Most Wondrous Place.”

Sometimes the most wonderful things happen by chance. Selecting baby chicks can be that way. Finding a forever friendship can be that way too. At least, that is how it was with Gracie and me.

My life with Gracie began when I was unemployed. Suddenly there was enough time to raise baby chicks. They would keep me busy and looking towards the future. It is difficult to feel sorry for yourself when you are holding a little ball of fluff that looks up into your eyes so innocently and then says, “Peep!”

That spring day, I made two trips to The Feed And Seed Store. On the first trip, I hand-selected the baby chicks to take home with me. Few things are any cuter, and so I went back for more. Those were just scooped up randomly by the sales clerk. Without the second trip back, there would be no Gracie and Bessie in my life. Without that second trip, you would not be reading this.

Including Gracie and Bessie, there were fourteen chicks to raise in my sunroom. Eight were for friends. Six were for me. Those were some of the busiest and noisiest but altogether happiest days of my life.

There were several different kinds of baby chicks in my brooder box. Somehow each kind knew, “You’re like me!” But even among the other Buff Orpington chicks, there was always a special bond between Gracie and Bessie. With best friends, you simply know.

Gracie looked a little different. With the others, the feathers above their beaks were even. Gracie’s weren’t, and so her face seemed slightly lopsided.

The first week, a small lump appeared on Gracie’s side near her thigh. As the weeks went by, it grew with her. It kept her from moving quite like the others. Even so, she did her best to act like them. She didn’t want to get picked on by the more active and assertive chicks.

She stayed close to Bessie whenever she could. Bessie would go off to play with the others, but she always came back to Gracie. They slept beside each other, perhaps more by Gracie’s choice, but Bessie didn’t mind. It’s just like that with friends.

Most mornings after the spring showers, I would collect earthworms for everyone from under the bricks and logs outside. While the others were enjoying these treats, Gracie stayed back from the excitement. When it was over, she would go to Bessie. Sometimes she was lucky and found a small earthworm the others had overlooked.

Once I picked her up out of the brooder box and tried hand-feeding an earthworm to her. She was missing out on so much, but she wouldn’t eat. Being with Bessie was more important than even a tasty snack.

Gracie was slow to develop, and I wasn’t sure she would ever lay any eggs. Bessie started laying almost two months before her. Gracie worried about this.

During the long waiting period, I would tell Gracie every day, “It’s okay. You don’t have to lay eggs for me to love you. Even though that is what hens usually do, if you can’t, I will still love you. I will never get rid of you. It’s a promise. You will always be my best girl ever, just like Bessie.”

Over time, Gracie began talking to me too. First only a few words, then more as her trust grew. Eventually, we would have long heart-to-heart conversations, but whether in English or Chicken, I really can’t say. Languages blend together in the heart. That is where real and true listening begins even when everyone is perfectly quiet.

One of the first things Gracie told me about was her time at The Feed And Seed Store. It had been a scary place for her.

“I stayed close to Bessie in the big box with the heating lamp. There would be a shadow blocking the light. Then a hand would scoop some of us up. I didn’t know what happened to those taken away. But when it happened to me I hoped it would be for the better. More than that, I hoped it would be with Bessie.”

“So do you think it was all by chance that the two of you ended up here?” I asked. “You weren’t in the first group that I brought home. It was only because those others were so cute that I went back and got you and Bessie. Even then, it was the sales clerk who picked you out and not me.”

“Maybe some of it was chance,” she said. “But you didn’t tell the sales clerk to put me back. Even when you noticed my face was not perfect like Bessie’s, you didn’t tell the sales clerk to put me back. I trust a good heart more than chance. Your eyes told me we mattered and you would be taking us to A Most Wondrous Place.”

“Well, this little garden here in the city is nice, but I’m not sure it’s all that wonderful. It does need some work.”

“It may not be wonderful to you, but it is most wondrous to us. That is what I called it because that is what it is. Not every wonderful place is wondrous. But every A Most Wondrous Place is wonderful.”

This seemed like a riddle and a very fun riddle too. She smiled at how her words gave my face a curiously delighted expression.

“What does A Most Wondrous Place mean, Gracie? To a chicken.”

“It is not something that can be described. It is not something you can point to and say, ‘Oh, look at that! It is A Most Wondrous Place!’ But you will know when you are there. You will feel it with your heart. Sometimes you will know even before you are there. That is how it was for me the day you brought us home with you. This is A Most Wondrous Place.”

My first awareness of chicken wisdom began at that moment. Over the seasons of that first year together, I would learn more about how wise chickens truly are. I would also learn what A Most Wondrous Place means to chickens, and that is why I am writing all of this for you.

But I am getting ahead of myself. First I must tell you about how timid and shy little Gracie became the unlikely leader of my backyard flock. I may ramble a bit, but chickens do that too.

Daffodils in March are for new beginnings. The daffodils in our garden say to us, “I will never forget when our friendship began.”

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated! If you have read our first book, “Seasons Of Friendship,” some of this may seem familiar, but there is now a beginning, middle, and end. These make one longer and more focused story rather than a collection of stories. The book begins in March, and so we hope to publish March 1, 2021.

Family Photo Friday…After The Snow Day

Today’s photo was taken as I was leaving for work today. It’s a little dark, but it is early morning, and to make it lighter, I would have to move closer. If I moved closer, they would also move. And it’s really the pose that tells the story today.

It was cold (below freezing) and windy this morning. Even though there are bales of hay beside the door to their main run and coop to act as windbreaks, they choose to be by the door to see outside. They choose to huddle together.

They are still in awe of the snow that has lingered. It has been three years since we have had no more than a light dusting of snow.

I’d like to think that this is their way of saying, “Have a nice day. We will be waiting for you to get back home.” That’s because I’ve told them, as I always do before I leave, “Take good care of each other.” And that is what they do.

There is Gracie sitting at the front, shielding the others from the wind gusts. Amelia is standing to the left and keeping guard, just as I knew she would and just as I wrote about last week. That is my Amelia, always a leader whether others realize it or not.

Behind them is Bessie, and at the very back, with her head stretched out at far as possible to see over everyone, is Emily. You’d never know she is the shortest from this photograph, would you?

(By the way, Pearl is “off camera” snacking on sunflower kernels. Always different. Always my precious little Pearl!)

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

Amelia On The Wild River

Some kinds of missing can creep up on us gradually. Life goes along from one day to the next with everything the same. Then an event or a memory triggers a reminder that something or someone is missing.

This was not like that. We missed Amelia immediately.

Amelia had always been the one to stand guard while everyone was scratching and pecking in the yard. As the leader of the flock, Gracie would sometimes join her, but she appreciated Amelia’s willingness to give the gift of her time. Amelia would stand silently and only make an alarm call when she sensed something might be dangerous and hiding in the shadows.

Here on the wild river, there was nothing but shadows. It was so late, and she was so tired. The moon was so full and bright. As it had risen in the sky, she thought that she was getting closer. It had to be closer. It just had to be.

She had flown almost the entire day from tree to tree. This was not flying the way she had remembered it. With an entire flock, flying is different. By herself, she was more aware of her limitations.

She realized she was not like the Canadian geese who had moved into our neighborhood and had flown so high and for such great distances. Even though she had always been the best flyer, she realized that even at her best, she could only fly like a chicken.

Amelia was glad Emily was not there. Emily had always looked up to her. Emily would not look up to her if she saw her there alone in the middle of the wild river searching for a safe place to roost for the night.

There was no way of knowing what was in the hollow of the tree. That would not be safe. The limbs above would be safer perhaps, but if she closed her eyes, what might grab her while she slept?

For a moment, she longed for the warmth and safety of home. Then she remembered why she was doing this. It was not for herself. It was not to prove that she could fly to the moon and back. It was for Emily.

Emily had leaned on Amelia for too long. Emily had a gift within herself that would never be fulfilled until she learned to stand on her own. Amelia did not know what that gift was. She only knew she had to let Emily find it on her own.

Amelia was not lost. She had made her map of the world, and she could find her way back home any time she wanted. She was not afraid, not yet. But she was alone out there on the wild river.

I still need to find out if I can be lost and not afraid, she told herself. I need to know that as surely as Emily needs to discover her gift.