Henny Penny is by far the best of the flying chickens. It would be nothing for her to stretch her wings and simply fly away. Who could stop her?
She looks like a woodlands bird. She is a light golden brown with dark brown splashed about her wings and chest. Her beak is deep brown and her eyes are warm and dark with white eyelids. Even her tell tale chicken symbol–her comb is very small and pale. You wouldn’t see it without trying. She could pass in the world of wild birds.
Why would Henny who could easily soar with the best of them choose to ground herself pecking at the same little plot of dirt day in and day out? She is not lauded in her community as anything special despite her gift, in fact being the smallest bird she sometimes gets bumped out of the way and treated a little shabby, yet she stays.
Is Henny, well, chicken to venture out? Does she lack confidence or a spirit of adventure? I don’t think it’s any of those.
Henny tucks up on her perch at night with her dear friend Rosey next to her and her love Happy on the other side. She pecks the same patch of dirt every day and every day finds something new about it which satisfies her. Henny finds joy and wonder in her life judging by her cheerful, daily embrace of it. She also finds love which is clear as she grooms her friends hard to reach back feathers. She stands on a perch just to reach Rosey’s back and she can spend a long while going through each feather as Rosey so contented often falls asleep standing up as she does this.
We know Henny is smart. She has more than two dozen distinct sounds of her alphabet and uses them in different order to mean a near infinite amount of information and expression. We know she can plot angles in her head and tell what time of day it is by reading the winds, the sun and the moon.
Despite her talent to fly powerfully and her intelligence, Henny chooses the simplicity of backyard hen life. Why? Perhaps she knows that one rarely sees a lone chicken, they are known to be social creatures with complex group order dependent on one another not for physical survival so much as soul survival.
I can think of few things sadder than a lonely chicken. The second they are separated as I move them from inside to out, from one free range patch to another the first chicken is mournful letting out cries of solitude recognizable as the chicken blues with a warble and depth, low murmurs and elongated cries that sound entirely different than the song of a bird reunited with her flock.
I suspect Henny is entirely aware of this. She knows her need to be with those she loves, with her flock, is more tangible than an abstract notion of flight alone. She can fly about the yard when the mood strikes but she will always come back down–down the patch of dirt, down to the flock she loves, down to the little coop, down to the grounded love which fills her buoyant heart.
Henny knows her place. She knows the tragedy of a lone chicken and has no need to experience it. She knows of impermanence, nothing lasts forever, but on this day she is pecking happily in the backyard posing as just somebody’s chicken with eight thousand years of wisdom under eight thousand feathers as she is in this moment to cherish it.
I have not always cherished my grounded time in the same patch of dirt and it is most certainly my loss. As I sit here in grounded glory it is all so very clear.