Some of you aren’t going to understand this.
The last year has been just kinda hard. I shake my head at myself for writing that, knowing the kinds of things many of you have been dealing with. Mine has just been a niggling, if chronic, back and neck thing – just enough to pull the stuffing out of me and leave me sort of droopy and spiritless. But, you know, life is what it is. And plenty of dear things have happened, and I’ve read a lot of books instead of doing things.
It’s better now. Except sometimes. But again – it’s little. I’m little. It’s little.
I think I’m just tired.
A couple of weeks ago, we acquired a chicken. A dirty, scruffy buff Orphington (I think. What do I know?) who looked like the bottom of somebody’s pecking order. She had apparently escaped from the pompous black and white rooster (famous now, in that neighborhood around the barn, for obnoxiousness) down the way.
One morning, the barn was just us and the horses.
Next morning, there was this chicken.
She followed us around, discussing things at our backs. Scratched in the dust and old hay. Really commented on just about everything. Like I do.
I told G about her, and when he met her, he was charmed. He took a number ten can full of oats and wheat and – of all things – beans from an old bean soup mix we’d never been brave enough to use. And she was very pleased. She’d eat out of his hand, never touching his skin, but getting every grain out of there—commenting, sometimes under her breath, but always cheerfully. She had no use for the beans.
We talked about keeping her, but I thought someone might be missing her. And I didn’t want chicken poop all over the barn (wouldn’t have been a big difference, and, in fact, wasn’t), so I went to a couple of neighbors, trying to find her real home. Never did find it. Which didn’t bother me, truth to tell.
Yesterday, she was charmingly broody, finding places in the scrap hay and settling down into them happily, vibrating and commenting and squinching around till she had almost a nest. And she climbed the hay stack, looking back at me over her shoulder and explaining something.
I threw her three handfuls of G’s famous homemade feed. There are beans all over everything now.
This morning, she did not meet me the second I opened the barn door. Plenty of disgusted horses; I was late. I woke at an appallingly late hour, heavy and hurting more than I would have expected to at this point in things. They were hungry. I was late.
The barn felt very empty. Nobody commenting. Nobody pointedly scratching in the dirt.
Good, I was thinking. She went back home. But there was part of me that didn’t really mean the “good” part.
I set about my work, shaking out the horse bins, setting them in order. “You need water,” I told the horses, and started it running, went into Sophie’s place to shake out her horse-food-bowl. Looked down at the trough.
The chicken had drowned in it.
Her feathers were bright orange. Much more beautiful now. The dust had been hiding her color.
I had wondered about that trough, worrying about her drinking there. But for once in my life – no, it’s not the only time, and so, I suppose is representative of something – had not insisted on helments and seat belts and handwashing and not giving out personal information over the net. On being home at a reasonable hour and eating right and wearing safety glasses when you solder.
Some of you are thinking, it was only a chicken.
You are the ones who I said wouldn’t understand; and that’s okay. Lucky you. One less in your list of hostages to fate.
After all my years of living, and I do not yet count as old among many (shrinking) circles, I have come to the peaceful and certain belief that animals have souls. They were not sent here to fight themselves like we are. But they are who they are, and do what they do, and often have opinions of their own. And are loved of God. And live forever somewhere else.
Just because we don’t understand somebody else’s comments doesn’t mean they weren’t meaningful.