Chicken Dreams: The Sacrament

She sat shivering on her roosting bar in the morning. The days of being a small chick in a warm bedroom with the morning light filtering in through gauzy curtains behind her, Rosie is now a grown bird laying eggs and spending most of her time outdoors in her run come rain, shine or frost.

She does not run to me at the end of the day or sit dreamily in my lap as I pet her soft feathers as often as she used to but I’m not sure exactly why. It’s as if she and I are acting as if something has changed, and it has. Our benefactor, little four year old Kyra has moved away and we miss her. Our sadness is creating a gap between us which we are struggling to cross. I attend to Rosie’s needs and the needs of her sweet flock mates but not with the same enthusiasm because my little task master is not there to school me on the best way to hold each bird, to remind me of their favorite songs or which of them like a peck on the beak. I know these things about our chickens but it doesn’t feel the same without her reminding me.

I’m certain her chickens feel that same way. They do not have her to bounce excitedly and clap for every egg that’s laid or to ask them how they feel in the evening as she sits with them before bed. I think their loss is profound and so is mine. I think the way I miss her is magnified when I am with her precious flock and it makes it harder for me to do what she did, it reminds me so much of her. Then the guilt sets in that I am not holding down the promise. I want to look away. I do look away.

Yet, somehow this morning I ambled my way out to them. I heard Kyra’s voice in my heart saying; “Gam it’s eight zero zero, time to put the chickens outside in their run.” (they still sleep in the garage at night where it’s safe). I went to them and as I held each one the familiar warmth returned. I touched their small feet which is my favorite part of a chicken because they are warm and padded and expressive. If a chicken loves you she will wrap her toes around your fingers and nudge her head into your chest. She will speak to you in small, sweet bursts of birdsong. Being loved by an individual so deeply misunderstood and forming that bond is like having a ticket to a new world. It is quite literally magical.

Holding each little bird, talking to her, thanking her for her pretty eggs and putting her gently in her coop as the sun broke through this morning reminded me that in love we may have regrets, even guilt but that’s not the most important thing. What matters is picking up where we left off at awe and appreciation for each other. As each one shivered a bit as I held them I made a note to myself that the garage needs a heater for them. I got to thinking about getting them a nicer coop outside with better nesting boxes. I felt my face lift into a smile and even a chuckle as my dear friend Rosie looked me in the face when we walked together. She has such a comical little bird smile with her eyes that I can never contain a small laugh.

Involuntarily a song slipped from my throat; “Good morning beautiful..how was your night? Mine was wonderful with you by my si-i-ide…” Rosie sang along and cuddled into my chest. I was home again.

If Kyra never lives with me again I will forever treasure the years she pulled me out of bed in the morning with the lilt of her voice and the touch of her hands. I will never stop dreaming of our “goddess baths” by candlelight and the vision of her and I sitting on warm summer days in the backyard surrounded by chickens. It’s the dream I didn’t know I had until it happened. Now that has changed as all things do and must. 

Kyra lives three hours away and attends a pre-school with a chicken coop. Her mother, my dearest friend and daughter, is also there going on to her big education and adventure. The chickens and I are still here, here with the corn they planted, here with the little coop in the corner just a few feet shy of the cherry tomatoes Kyra harvested each morning, here with the love she taught us.

That’s the funny thing about love, it continues through distance and change, hurt and guilt and separation. Loving her little birds is not so different than loving her. Caring for them is my sacrament to love and life and change. One day even these sweet friends and I will be parted but only by the physical reality, as a matter of heart and truth nothing could pull me away from them. Together we can miss Kyra and look forward to her next visit. Together the chickens and I can continue the sweet tradition.

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