Into The Speckless Sky

Amelia’s View As She Soared Over The Cornwall Coast

With “A Most Wondrous Place” finally published, this is another item I’ve been eager to draw and write.

As you may know, chickens can fly, just not particularly well. When Amelia was in her first year, she could fly 6 to 8 feet above the ground and for a distance of about 30 feet. But I have always wanted to give her “a grand adventure flight.” I imagine this as a sequence of full page illustrations from around the world with fast-paced captions.

My hope is that if you can believe, even if only for a moment, that Amelia can fly like this, then you will believe you can accomplish the remarkable as well.

Our morning sky had been speckless, just as speckless as the day Amelia set off on her grand adventure. In truth, she did not feel it was a grand adventure at all. It was simply something she had to do. She had no choice.

While the others played and scratched and pecked, Amelia came and sat at my feet. She had always been more like a person than a chicken.

“Did you see the speckless sky this morning, Amelia?”

“I study the sky each morning. It tells me what to expect for the day.”

“I remember another spring morning with a speckless sky like we had today. It was the morning you flew away to see if you could be lost and not afraid.”

We both looked up and examined the few wispy clouds that had moved in since morning, just as Amelia knew they would.

“Tell me again about the speckless sky, Amelia. I want to feel like I am flying with you. I want to see it the way you did.”

I closed my eyes, and she began the same way she always did.

“The sky was as speckless as an empty sheet of paper. An empty, crystalline, pure blue sheet of paper. But it was still an empty sheet, waiting to be drawn or written upon.

“Only that sheet was endless, and it belonged to me. I could do whatever I wanted with it or nothing at all. And then the lines of the longitudes and latitudes began calling me to see what I could see.”

“But you could not fly the way you had hoped to fly that day, could you?”

“No, not that day. Not until you taught Emily to draw. She did not understand things like how she could see the moon from our garden but someone on the moon could not see the flowers blooming here.

“But she believed what you had told her. She believed drawing lets you do things you could never do any other way. For us, believing is better than understanding, especially when you want to fly.”

“Tell me about flying with your Map Of The World,” I said.

Even though I did not open my eyes to check and see, I knew she had closed her eyes as well. And so, she began to tell me as she had done many times before.

“I soared along the dotted lines and plunged down on the double lines.

“I banked into the solid lines and climbed upward to the dashy lines,

“Then way up high beyond the earth to where there simply were no lines at all.”

She said all this with a rhythm that moved and pressed onward just as she must have.

“And then what, Amelia?”

“I rushed past the global winds and cried out for all the world to hear, ‘This is happiness!’

“Oyster boats and fishing piers, peanut fields and cotton fields, then fields and fields and fields with corn as far as any eyes could see,

“Along the rugged, ragged coast, up to the Arctic tundra bare, to where the snowy owls hunt, traveling on and on and on.

“I felt that love was carrying me to trace the rivers to the sea, to plunge into the fiords deep, to make a mark for all to see there on that sheet of speckless blue.

“Then onward to the islands broad, above their mountains topped with snow, and down below the only speck, an eagle wishing he was me.”

“And what else, Amelia?”

“I may have wing-flapped once or twice, but that was only just to steer.

“And finally at last I found the places that no one else had been.”

“And your Map Of The World?”

“I flew beyond my treasured map, the special map that I had made, beyond its borders, off the page, no longer sure of where I was.

“Beyond the line and markings there, I soared without a single care, and felt at last that I was lost, as simply lost as lost could be.”

“But you weren’t afraid, were you?”

”Fear had no place within my heart,” she said, and I felt our journey gliding back to earth.

”And tell me why, Amelia.”

“It does not matter where or how far away I go, as long as I am loved, I am never truly lost,” she said. “As long as I am loved, I will always know where I am. I will be in your heart and in Emily’s heart, just as we, all of us, are in the heart of Forever.”

We both sat silently until, at last, her memories and my imaginings landed together.

“Thank you, Amelia.”

Almost two years ago, I wrote and illustrated a set of four posts titled “Emily’s Summer Drawing Camp” in which we discover Emily has a remarkable gift. Because she has so much love in her heart for Amelia and because she truly believes “Drawing lets you do things you would never be able to do any other way,” remarkable things happen when Emily draws. More next time!

The New Ink Pen

“What are you doing?” asked Gracie.

”I’m trying out the new pen I got for Christmas.”

“That’s Pearl, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it’s a drippy and messy pen sometimes. Sort of the way Pearl can be. Even though it’s not perfect all of the time, it still makes beautiful lines. You just have to know how to look at them.”

“Messy but beautiful, just like with Pearl,” Gracie said with delight. “But who are the baby chicks? We don’t have any baby chicks here any more.”

“I know. Pearl wants to be a Momma Hen more than just about anything these days. She misses having Blanche at her side. She would like to have some baby chicks that look like her. So I made this drawing.”

“It’s like you’ve said before. Drawing lets you do things you would never be able to do any other way.”

“And that is how you and I will dance in the streets of Paris even if we never get to travel there together. But that is many drawings from now. I still would like to really go to Paris with you, Gracie.”

“Is there a reason why you did this drawing without any bright and pretty color? Besides Pearl being mostly white, I mean.”

“You and I both love pictures. And our readers love pictures too. But books with pictures in color are very expensive to print. So all of our books with color have to be short. No more than sixty-four pages. But it’s going to take more than sixty-four pages to tell some of the stories we want to tell.”

“So these books with black-and-white pictures mean more adventures?”

“Exactly right.”

“Even though you didn’t stay inside the lines all of the time?”

“For me it’s harder to go outside of the lines than to stay inside the lines.”

Gracie laughed, and we smiled together. It didn’t make much sense to either of us, but it didn’t matter.

“What kind of more adventures?” she asked.

“Adventures like Amelia flying to the moon and back. Adventures like you dancing at the Paris Opera Ballet. Adventures like maybe even Pearl having her own little family.”

“And some baby chicks wearing little tutus would be very nice. Can you draw that too?”

She nudged me with her head to make sure I was listening.

“That would make both Pearl and you happy, wouldn’t it? Yes, I can do that. But it will all take some time. A drawing that shows how much I love you takes time to get just right.”

“We can wait.”

“You know, Gracie, this really is A Most Wondrous Place just like you have always said.”

This Is All for You, Sweetie. This Is All For You.

For the past several weeks, I have been reading and thinking about what is called “personal branding.” It’s sort of how you present yourself to the world.

I had been playing around with some of the free tools on Canva.com and came across this series of videos on “Personal Branding with Dr. Talaya Waller” in what they call their Design School. Each video is short and gives good information. At the end, there is an additional explanation of how you can use the Canva.com tools to apply what you have learned, BUT you don’t have to pay anything for most of the Canva.com tools.

I began to realize this was what Gracie had been trying to tell me months and months ago when I was figuring out how to draw friendship. We were discussing some of my recent drawings of her and Bessie.

“Well, I guess they are okay. If that’s what you’re going for. I like it better when you draw on paper with a pencil.”

“What’s the difference?”

“You’ve got everything in there and it doesn’t fit together. Too many big colors. Too many little shapes. Too many of everything! People aren’t going to be able to find us.”

“You’re sure? I took art classes, a lot of art classes.”

Gracie shook her head sadly. My drawings just weren’t going to receive her approval. But I did trust what she had to say. I wanted her to be pleased with my drawings, even if no one else was. These were drawings of her and for her.

“So what do you suggest?” I asked.

“Well, the colors are the main thing. You’re picking colors you like, not colors we like.”

“I see. So what colors do you like?”

“Colors that go with our feathers. Colors that go with our eggs. Soft colors. Hen colors, not rooster colors.”

“I think I see what you mean.”

So that’s what I’ve been thinking about lately. Gracie is a very smart girl, particularly when it came to her advice about color. I’ve begun to think about how color can carry emotion, and part of building a personal brand has to do with emotional value as well.

This morning it began to make more sense to me when I took everyone’s breakfast salad out to them. There was some really nice organic Swiss Chard at the grocery store yesterday and they got a whole bunch of it all chopped up just the way they like it.

Everyone is always eager to see what’s in their breakfast salad, but Pearl is the most eager of all. She is the only one who jumps and kicks out her feet in midair when she is excited. I could not help but say to her, “This is all for you, Sweetie. This is all for you.”

So I went inside and pieced together today’s illustration from different things I have been trying out for backgrounds, drawings of chickens, fonts, and of course, a color palette. All of this is because I am beginning to think more and more of my stories and illustrations as being less about my chickens but for my chickens.

My hope is by doing that, I will also make it for our readers.

There is always room for one more under the shade of the camellias in our little backyard garden. It’s friendly and peaceful here. Chickens and people like friendly and peaceful. – Gracie

Just wanted to let everyone know that I spotted two errors in the eBook text for “How To Explain Christmas to Chickens.” The first was a stray capital “I” on the dedication page. How it got there, I’ll never know! The other was a really weird and awkward sentence in the epilogue.

So I got both of those corrected and uploaded a new interior file for both the Amazon eBook and the Barnes & Noble eBook. While I was at it, I also changed the cover to better match the one for the paperback book. It now has a “softer, fluffier, more chicken-y” chicken on the cover! If you have purchased either of these, they can be reloaded through Kindle or Nook.

We are still anxiously waiting for the paperback proofs from Amazon and Barnes & Noble before making those available. In the meantime, I suppose we should spend more time working on our “personal branding”!