Emily, Our Living Treasure

Emily with her drawing titled “Amelia And Emily Flying Together”

This week’s post about Emily pairs with last week’s post about Amelia. They tell of the same journey across a speckless blue sky. This is a revision of a post shared almost two years ago. The way I am using “living treasure” in a slightly different from how the Japanese people use it, but I could find no better phrase to describe Emily in this post.

“I want to learn to draw,” Emily repeated more emphatically. She seemed startled at her own boldness. “You will teach me, won’t you?”

“There is nothing I would rather do,” I said.

Just like that, Emily’s Summer Drawing Camp began. We used white chalk from the workbench and some brown grocery bags for practicing with everything spread out across the garage floor. As her skills grew, she began to use small pieces of colorful pastels for her special drawings of flowers. She had always loved the garden plants.

Then one day before our lesson, Emily asked, “Is it true what you said about drawing? Does drawing really let you do things you would never be able to do any other way? You did say that.”

“Yes, that’s true. At least, I believe it’s true. Not everything is true just because you believe it, but there are some things that are true whether you believe them or not.”

She thought this over then went to where we had a stack of colored pastel papers. We saved these only for special drawing, not practice drawings. She tapped a sky-blue piece of paper with her beak and said, “I want to make a drawing of Amelia and me flying together.”

I pulled out the sheet for her. She began drawing carefully from memory without saying a word. Her concentration was intense. Her lines were sure and confident with no sketchiness in them. They began definitively, travelled across the paper definitively, and ended most definitively as well. Everything she had ever learned about drawing was in each line, and each line spoke to my heart just as surely as if it had been made of words for a poem, a poem of love.

Finally she said, “I’m ready.”

This was not what I had expected to hear, not yet. She had only drawn Amelia flying. She had not drawn herself. This was not a drawing of Amelia and Emily flying together.

What if she was too embarrassed to tell me she wasn’t sure how to draw herself because she didn’t know how she looked?

“Do you need anything else? Like maybe a mirror?” I asked.

“No the drawing part is finished. You just need to write the words of the picture for me.”

“What words would you like?”

“Make the words say ‘Amelia And Emily Flying Together’ because that is what this drawing is about.”

And so, I did. Even though it was only a drawing of Amelia flying, I wrote what she asked.

“I’m ready now,” she said. “Let’s prop it up against the workbench like we always do.”

As soon as her drawing was in place for us to look at, she stood beside it, closed her eyes, and then she opened them again. She closed her eyes for a bit longer, and then she opened them again. The third time, she closed her eyes and kept them closed.

Slowly she stretch her wings until they were fully extended. Then she spread her tail feathers.

She trembled with excitement.

Her eyes opened wide, but she wasn’t seeing the garage or me. It was as if all she saw was sky and Amelia beside her with the fields and forests and rivers below them.

She swayed from side to side as if being carried along like a kite by winds high into the sky above. She dipped. She drifted from side to side. She opened her mouth wide as if she was tasting the air in some far off place.

She looked to her right, then she began opening and closing her beak. No sound or words came out, but I knew she was calling to Amelia. She looked down towards the concrete floor of the garage and pointed to something with a wingtip. Then she looked towards her drawing and laughed aloud.

She would stand on one foot and then the other. Occasionally, she would flap her wings for balance while standing on her toe tips. She looked as if she might fall at any moment, but I was hesitant to steady her. My touch might interrupt whatever was happening. To end this magical moment seemed worse than allowing her to take a tumble.

It seemed as if Emily was in two places at the same time, but how could that be? She was in the garage with me, but she was also somewhere else far away and up high.

I am unsure how long I sat there on the garage floor watching her, but I didn’t dare speak or move. Even if had known for sure she was imagining it all, I would not have tried to stop her. She had not been so happy for the longest time. Nor had I.

Suddenly, Emily did several strong, fast wing flaps as if she was landing. She blinked her eyes, tucked her wings close to her sides, and looked at me.

“I was flying with Amelia,” she said. “Just like you said would happen.”

This was not what I had meant when I had told her drawing lets us do things we can never do any other way, but it didn’t matter.

“I know you were, Sweetie. I know. That’s why you said you were ready. That’s why you didn’t draw yourself with chalk like you drew Amelia, isn’t it?”

“It was all so beautiful, and seeing Amelia was the most beautiful part of all.” She hopped into my lap and sat down.

“But it’s good to be back home,” she said as she rested her head against me.

“It’s good to have you back home.”

I was unsure what had happened there in the garage. I only knew it would be best not to tell Emily it was not what normally happened with drawings. What if our two hearts had wanted to be close to Amelia so much we had simply imagined it all?

If only I could discover what had happened with Amelia so many miles away at this same moment in time, then I would know for sure. But I wouldn’t know until Amelia came back and if she ever came back.

You may remember a mention of Amelia being aware of a gift inside Emily but not knowing what it was in “Amelia On The Wild River.” This post explores that gift which comes from love and faith. I hope this was believable enough to carry your imagination along with Emily. Thank you for reading.

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.

GraciePress.com And A Free “Thank You” Gift For Our Readers


If you watched the book trailer for “A Most Wondrous Place,” you may have noticed “GraciePress.com” was on the last slide. (But maybe not!) This is a new separate website and independent of WordPress.

Why do this? The biggest reason for me has been to have a website with stories and illustrations that children (and adults) can read with no social elements, no external links, and no advertisements. (It’s about internet safety for me. You can’t even contact me through the website, but I may add a street mailing address because my chickens would love to receive some “fan mail” to post in their coop.) Links to Dropbox free items will be there. Links to purchase our books will be there too, but that is not what the site is mostly about. (See first two items below which focus on just reading for free.)

Why not some other name? Something like “JohnSpiers.com”? Well, that’s an easy one. People aren’t always sure how to pronounce my last name. (It sounds exactly like the last part of the word “inspires” which is what I hope my books will do.) There’s also a much more famous person who is musician with the same name, and he is the one who comes up on searches before anything about me.

What’s there? That was tough to decide. I didn’t want it to be too much…or to little. And I didn’t want it to be a duplicate of a blog-type website like “MyLifeWithGracie.com.”

  • Newest Reads” has a selection of chapters from the most recent published or soon-to-be-published book. This gives readers a chance to preview the book.
  • Coming Soon!” has a selection of stories from future projects that may be turned into books. My next projects are likely to be expanded chapter books for independent readers in the upper elementary grades. Those will have many more pages along with black and white illustrations.
  • Our Books” gives more information about books which have been published and are available to be purchased. Right now, there is only one, “A Most Wondrous Place.”
  • Author’s Page” give more information about me. (It’s not really all that important, and so it’s last on the page!)

Why not check it out? And while you are checking it out, why not look for and select this picture and you will find a free coloring book to print out! Selecting the picture will open a link to Dropbox, but you don’t need a Dropbox account. You can print some or all of the pages, and with Easter just around the corner, what could be more fun than pages and pages of baby chicks for coloring, cutting out, and creating?!? (4 season illustrations and 12 month illustrations, black line versions from artwork found in “A Most Wondrous Place”)


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

If you have any feedback or suggestions for improving GraciePress.com, please let me know. I don’t want it to be difficult to navigate or to be too complicated. It should mostly be about reading stories and looking at illustrations, and that should be easy for anyone to do. Thanks!