Awkward Apologies

With “A Most Wondrous Place” finally published, I have been eager to draw and write new material. I have wanted to expand the stories to include more about Lefty. I think he can add balance to an “all-hen” group of characters and help these stories appeal to more readers. Today’s post also hints at more mysteries that are part of the secret lives of chickens. I think I may be on the right track here, but let me know what you think, okay?

Lefty was learning to crow. His first attempts were weak and even embarrassing, but he was persistent. He practiced until he got it right. My neighbors did not appreciate his desire for perfection.

My heart had hoped that somehow he might learn to be quiet. He had been My Best Little Buddy from the moment he started watching everything I did. He had studied all the construction of their new home just as if he was going to do everything he saw me doing. Likewise, he had been my best gardening companion while we prepared the spring beds. Whatever I was interested in, he was interested in too.

But he had to be what he was hatched to be, and that was not a calm and quiet bird who followed me around everywhere.

“There is more to a rooster’s life than you realize,” he told me. “Do you know why roosters crow, even young roosters?”

“Is it to show everyone that you are the boss?”

He laughed. “That is what I thought at first when I was learning. But it is more than being loud and bossy. It is to tell all the other birds what is happening. We take in all that we see and hear and then send news, warnings, and sometimes even commands.”

“And what do they do with what you tell them?”

“They pass those messages on to others, and then those pass it on to others.”

“But they don’t speak Chicken.”

“There is a voice, a language, in all bird tongues. It is under the layers of species and kind. It is The Ancient Language. It was the language born when the first birds leapt into the air and flew. They called out in amazement to all the world about what they could do.

“It is the common language we birds hear all around us. It is a language that encircles the world at the speed of flight and the speed of sound.

“Then above The Ancient Language is Old Chicken, the language of the first chickens. It is only for chickens. No other bird can understand it.

“Above that is Chicken, the language we speak with other chickens and the people who love us. We build language upon language and then language upon language again and again.

“To your ear, when a bird speaks or calls or sings, it may sound like a single language, a single sound, but it is not. This is why someone must listen with their heart to understand what we are truly saying.”

I had never read anything like this in an encyclopedia. But I believed every bit of it.

“Lefty, you are not a little chick any longer, are you? These are not things a little chick would say. You really are a rooster now.”

He nodded proudly.

“You’ve grown up, and I hardly noticed until now. I think I wanted you to stay My Little Best Buddy forever. But that’s not possible, is it?”

He shook his head sadly. He sensed an even bigger change was coming for him. The other birds, the ones who flew from place to place carrying messages, had told him change was coming.

It was in their calls of news from the outside world. He had heard what they said about roosters out in the country and around the world. Some of it was good. Some of it was not so good.

There would be hundreds and even thousands of hen voices for every rooster voice. Roosters did not matter as much to people as hens.

By then, it was late evening, and we watched the crows moving from treetop to treetop. They were sharing secrets I would never know. But Lefty knew. He was already learning of life out in the country from the messages they brought to him.

“I am sorry I could not be the kind of chicken you wanted me to be,” he said.

“Don’t apologize, Lefty. I was wrong and selfish to want you to be something you could never be. I wanted you to be My Best Little Buddy who followed me everywhere. I wanted us to do things together. Just the two of us. Forever.”

“We did have some good times together, didn’t we?”

“Yes, we sure did. But you grew up, and I stayed the same. I should never have tried to silence you or hold you back. Love always has hope, but love is not love when it will not let another be who they are meant to be.

“I don’t know what else to say except I hope you will forgive me, Lefty.”

“It is rare for a person to ask forgiveness of any animal, particularly of a chicken. Our lives depend on you.”

“But that doesn’t mean we can treat you any way we want. Even when we are treating you well, if it is not what is best for you, then it is wrong. It is something I worry about, Lefty.”

“Perhaps you have not stayed the same as much as you think,” he said.

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

By the way, I purchased the Apple eBook to make sure it looks good, and I’m very pleased! It is in “fixed” format rather than “flowing” format. Pages turn just like with a print book. Resolution and color on the illustrations is just as good as when they were drawn on my iPad.

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.

 

Starting Over

“Sometimes we learn a little from our goofs,” said Pearl. “Sometimes we learn a lot from them. I should know. I have had more goofs than any chicken here.”

“Thank you for helping me to cheer up. So what do you think we should do with the story about you and Blanche and The Bottle Cap Lady?”

“I think we should start over again with the pictures. The ones you made. The ones I made. The ones we made together.”

She went over to her stash of drawings and pulled out a few.

“Remember when I told you these are my heart and my life?”

She spread her drawings carefully in front of me.

“If a story is good like a life is good, then you should be able to tell all of the important parts just in pictures.”

She looked up at me, and gave me a little hop up into the air for no special reason other than because she is Pearl.

“Pictures that show action, that is. Love is action. You told me that yourself.”

She rearranged her pictures so they were in the proper order to show me the story they told about her life.

“Then you can add some words. The words all depend on who gets the gift of your story.”

“The gift of my story?” I repeated back to her. “I never thought about a story as a gift.”

“Well, maybe you should. Blanche gave me gifts I never realized were gifts at the time. It is something to think about.”

Pearl seemed a little surprised at her own insights (or perhaps at my lack of them).

“Pearl, what is the most important thing about your story?”

“Blanche was my best friend ever,” she said. “Blanche tried to teach me about giving, but I did not begin to really understand until after Blanche left us that Easter Sunday. I wanted to be a light in the Bottle Cap Lady’s life, just like Blanche had been for me, so I gave a Christmas gift to her. It meant not getting my own gift because I was not in my own home and asleep when Santa Claus came. But I got an even better gift than I could have imagined.”

I was silent and just smiled at her.

“That’s it. That’s all. That is what you should tell people with the words,” she said and waited for me to say something. “That is my heart. That is my life.”

“And such a sweet and beautiful heart and life you have, Pearl.”

She gave me another a little hop up into the air for no special reason.

“Don’t you want to say something about how Gracie had said ‘silliness never saved a chicken’s life’ but you saved everyone from the opossum by being silly and scaring it off?”

“Not really. But you can if you want.”

“Don’t you want to say something about how The Bottle Cap Lady drank all of those soda pops and ate all of those candy bars?”

“Not really. But you can if you want.”

“Or how she lost her job at The Chicken Place because she kept falling asleep at work? And why she kept falling asleep at work?”

“Not really. But you can if you want.”

“Or how she roamed around the neighborhood saying strange things or doing strange things even in the middle of the night? Or how she stole eggs right from under you?”

“Not really. I don’t want to tell any of those things. But you can if you want.”

“Why is that, Pearl?”

“You know already. You told me yourself. Love fills emptiness. Love covers imperfection.

“I loved The Bottle Cap Lady when nobody else loved her. Even when she could not love me back and had nothing to give me, I still loved her. That is what Christmas is about. That is what Easter is all about too.

“Light and life and love are all about giving, just like Blanche said. People need to know that part most of all. Tell them whatever will help them understand that part.”

She gave me another a little hop up into the air, but this time for the very special reason that she had just shared some of her light with me.

“You are such a pearl, my little Pearl.”

Pearl and I put our heads together and made a personal inspiration video that uses the illustrations for “How To Explain Christmas To Chickens” along with a song that seems to fit. You can get to it through our “My Life With Gracie” Facebook page or directly on our Vimeo page. You do not need a Facebook account or Vimeo account.

We are going to try to be more conscientious and always have something special pinned to the top of our “My Life With Gracie” Facebook page just for all of our fans!