The sun is baking down. The roses are wilting, the worms are pondering God and his lack of caring as the chickens set about to take whatever the Robin with the burnt orange chest has left behind. Henny has no interest in their crisis. She is on her side panting lightly and dozing off in the freshly watered dirt. God, the worm, the chicken or the human–it is all about perspective and on any given day the roles could reverse.
On this day in this garden the chickens are running things and the worms are oppressed. On a different day, in a different place the perspective is entirely shifted. My friend used to say reality is when it happens to you. Henny’s reality is under the shade of a large red rose, me on the grass guarding against hawks and the sun baking down on us all reminding us no matter how important we are in our heads, the sun in the sky is the reality which governs all others.
Henny and Rosey and all the others in our flock are biology. They are life. I am life and so is the worm, the bee and the bugs I cannot name. Because in my mind I am important the thought could never make the statement actually true. What I like so much about Rosey and Henny is that they never seem to worry about any of that. They wake up, open their green eyes, stretch their long, soft feathers which I swear feel like the best brushed cotton of your favorite jeans and see what the day brings whether worm or corn, heat or shade they will still be chickens in their living glory not a tick different or better than any other living thing. Each day I aspire to be more like them.
If God exists and she is in the details then I feel certain she sees the bend of Rosey’s neck, the subtle way Henny walks on the earth picking up her feet as if marching in a parade only she is aware of and Happy’s luminescent pink comb as he constantly herds his flock away from the many dangers of an open yard. She must hear his twenty different sounds which have a different meaning every chicken understands and if she is anything like me, she smiles.
Here is what chickens and all of life have to teach us, the important thing is that there is not any one thing which is important, yet paradoxically it is all important. How can it be? The love of one which expressed truthfully is the love of all. Once you have loved a human child, you see all children as beloved. Once you have extended that kind of love to any other creature, the more unlikely the better, the more you see how love stands firmly in the way of all else.
Somehow in loving Rosey I am now exposed to the strength yet fragility of every other living thing. I carry her under one arm, my hand under her feet so she can keep her balance. I look down and see her neck draped over my hand with her hundreds of tiny feathers around it looking like fur and I feel her super light bird bones, hollow and taut, nothing like my own skeleton, and I am both protective and in awe. Somehow the deep core of fierce belief in the sacred is unleashed in me and I feel like a berry collecting, plant eating, peaceful warrior standing for the cause of all living things as vital, beloved and as essential as water and breath.
Because of Rosey I find myself laying in the grass trying to decipher the various calls of wild birds, I am aware of good dirt and sweet rain water and the absolute value of sitting in the grass with nothing but a smile. Sometimes we think we have answers because we think. But the flock is teaching me that goes only part of the distance, answers come from feel, not emotion but touch, touch for what is living in me and how it touches what lives beside me.
Here is how it works; pick something to love which is unlikely and see what grows in you. A yellow lab puppy, a striped kitten, a parrot who knows your name will not do. Pull out of your culture and comfort to the unexpected and promise to love with every part of yourself as Rosey has done with me. I cannot think when she hatched she expected to cuddle up next to a human animal without a single lovely feather nor a knack for doing nothing but here she is and all I can say is I am grateful.
A chicken in every lap could do us, as humans, nothing but good.