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.

 

Perhaps The Perfect Gift (Revised for 2020)

Today’s post is based on one shared around Thanksgiving Day two years ago. I’ve edited it quite a bit for this Thanksgiving Day to fit with the changes which a worldwide pandemic have brought to all of our lives. 

Thanksgiving Day makes it official each year. The holiday season has begun. For most people it is time to share a meal together with friends and family. It often means sharing gift lists or at least gift hints for whichever wintertime holiday is next to be celebrated.

Some people, I believe, just seem to have a talent for always giving “the perfect gift.” For me, it is an elusive skill. Gifts never seem to work out as wonderfully as I imagine they will.

Yet this Thanksgiving, my chickens and I will give each other the perfect gift. We will simply sit with each other and enjoyed a pleasantly sunny afternoon.

But our hearts hurt for those who will be unable to do the same with their own loved ones, particularly when due to quarantine or death.

“Of all gifts possible, I do believe that the most perfect gift is our time to be together.” That is what I wrote two years ago.

But this Thanksgiving, perhaps it is better to write, “Of all gifts possible and for this year only, my best gift to you is time to be apart. One of us may not be strong enough to fight this virus which has taken so many beautiful lives from us.”

And for those of you who are unable to enjoy that gift of time together today, take heart. This challenge will pass, and it will help us to appreciate all the more what is ultimately important.

I believe love is truly transcendent. Love transcends time, distance, and yes, love transcends even global pandemics.

Be safe, stay healthy, and enjoy the anticipation of receiving that perfect gift of time together when all of this is behind us.

We are thankful for all of you, our readers, family, and friends.

Sincerely,

John, Gracie, Bessie, Pearl, Emily, and Amelia

This November, I was surprised by the sudden blooming of a chrysanthemum I had planted in the garden several years ago and forgotten. It had not bloomed since having been added to the garden. It definitely speaks to me of the things which it symbolizes: fidelity, optimism, joy and long life. Today’s illustration is from “Seasons Of Friendship” which is being revised for a second edition.