Chickens bless me, it has been a month since my last confession.
You are gone now, all of you my pretty chickens. You have moved away, taken your eight thousand feathers and the ten thousand things that make up life, you have taken our morning song, your softness and your gentle spirits so cheerful that even on a cold night when I was tired and thought I couldn’t do all my chicken chores I found myself smiling. You have gone and taken all that with you and so much more.
You have taken Kyra, our four year old boss with the untamed sun bleached hair and small hands, eyes lightning blue and sure of the world she saw-a beautiful place. She left a mismatched shoe in the empty room where we once laughed and read and slept sometimes, cuddled around each other like one person. I walk around with it at night cradled to me like a baby.
You packed up Angela also. She left with all of you. She did not carry with her a lavender candle and a bag of fancy coffee. She didn’t forget them she left them for me because that’s what she does with her loving heart. For twenty five years she was my good morning and good night. Damn I was lucky. Wasn’t I so lucky?
Chickens, you left behind a dozen pretty eggs. I was supposed to give them away but I couldn’t. Claudie, my other, my soul who left on a warm California day and never really came back, was supposed to take them but he had no room in his Portland loft so I carried them back with me to the place that used to be home. I could not eat them all, nor give them away because they represented hope and love and the things, those thousands of things, so they stayed in my car until finally I left them cradled by a kitchen door of someone I do not know. I am pretending they will be a gift. I don’t know that either.
There is so much I don’t know. Sunshine, our twenty year old cat, left one day this summer and never came back. We suspect he went somewhere to die. We never had a funeral or even said words for him. It was not like us back when we were us but as we stand in the ashes of our life, the one that had so many sweet things, we just couldn’t talk about Sunny. It was one loss too many. Tonight I am thinking so much about him, wishing I could have thanked him for being such a good cat. Chickens, you would not have liked him, he was a hunter, but as a cat–he was a good one. It still catches in my throat to say “was”. How did it happen like that?
Daisy dog has gone too. Chickens, she is the little one with the big ears. She thought she was a hunter but you pecked her-pecked her hard on the nose-and she gave that up quickly. She moved out when everyone else did–she’s like me–couldn’t stand the silence, the sleeping in a shell of a house that used to be a home with children’s pictures all over the walls, paintings made by Angela, framed poems by Claudie, old guitar pics–they’re all gone now and with them little Miss Daisy. I thought for sure she’d stick with me but she had a different idea. Who could blame her?
Chickens I am trying to be brave like you. On a cold day you hunker down, lean into it and pass the time. I am learning why people drink, why they seek company, why they lose hope. I didn’t understand such things fully but now finding one of your feathers by the back door I am driven to the kind of tears that come with silence and all I can feel is the shaking of my ribs and the breaking of my heart. I understand it all now.
I also know what it’s like to have no pride. I drove around my old hometown which belongs to the tourists, I have given it back because its streets feel like an old movie I once loved but can’t see again and I looked for a restaurant with no one in it and a server standing at the counter. I asked her about her life and admitted to being lonely. I’m new at this, I didn’t know for sure it was bad to say that until I saw the vague discomfort and her sudden need to clean the place she had just cleaned. Poor girl. Chickens you would never do that, you keep your heads high but I am only all too human.
Arriving at the place once home, prayer cloths across a porch strewn with debris yet to be tossed, I have not found the strength to throw anything away because every piece of it resonates with a memory and a longing cry; “This is who you were,” I find my former cat, Scruffy with his long grey fur and warm, green eyes sitting in the window next to a can of cat food and three dollars left by my former husband and current neighbor. I am crying again. Is it gratitude or grief? I cannot tell, they are so much the same now.
Chickens I am grateful for every day you were my chickens, my flock, my birds which blessed me with awe. I am filled with grief that you are no longer my chickens but still bless with me with awe at this well of grief. I am waiting to get over it, move on, be past it. Isn’t that how it works?
Chickens bless me I am sinning. I am grieving for as long as it takes, I am wallowing with no determined end because that is how it really works.
I am taking you in my dreams, I am walking with you up Georgia O’Keefe’s ladder suspended in an azure blue sky between the Earth and sky where I am certain you were born and I am staying there for a precious eight hours until tomorrow I wake and discover that Chicken dreams were after all…just a dream.