After Wendell

I’m getting pretty good at chicken burials.  

It’s no secret:  I didn’t want him in the first place.  Maybe that’s not really fair to say; the truth is that I wasn’t confident that I would know how to care for him, and I was intimidated by the thought of having a rooster.

I have heard it said that we don’t know what we need, that we are given what we can handle, and that the right people make their way into and out of our lives.  I’d like to believe that this is also true for chickens.

There’s too much here.  There’s too much detail.  There have been too many thoughts for there to be nothing beyond, for it just to be over when our jobs are done here on earth.

Sunny, beautiful, and perfect; a whole Saturday with nothing much to do.   My chicken helper opened the door just ahead of me.  He closed it suddenly, turned to me, and stated matter-of-factly in a voice uncharcteristically devoid of emotion, “Wendell’s dead.  I think Wendell’s dead.”

Indeed he was, lying in the sand tray, not really on his back but not really on his side, at the opposite end of the roost from his usual perching spot.  He no longer reflected the glorious presence of the Cornflakes rooster; he had a grayish dusty stiffness about him, and the sharp red of his comb had transformed to a sort of garish purple as the hours after sunset turned the sky.  He had gone out on us as we slept, and the new sun rose, but not to the sound of his characteristic crow.

Wendell was dead.  My sunny Saturday became cloudy at the prospect of digging a grave for this chicken who came to us at two days old, and who grew into a robust rooster that spent his days pacing near his flock, afraid of spurring no one.  He would tolerate no threats to his hens.  Young Kitty May, the only chicken hatched at the farm, though ostracized and often ignored by the flock, knew to run to Wendell when she felt vulnerable.  Now, her refuge and the protector of our chickens had dropped dead in the roost, and we didn’t have time to say goodbye.

The days are full of things that are hard, that make us hurt, that frighten and sometimes hollow us.  They are also filled with grace, beauty, and wonder to the ends of the land.  We know not what the tomorrows will bring, but surely there must be something greater than what we have known.

Hypatia, the socialite of the flock, spent the days after Wendell left us in search of her comrade.  I found her calling from the far edge of the property, in the grasses by the township drive, well out of range from her usual territory.  She had been perpetually by his side, except for the times when she was trying to get in people’s cars, and now he was gone.  I remember making a point to find her after I had left the car open while unloading groceries.  At some point, though, she found her way into the van, where she spent her last moments among the forgotten French fries and discarded apple cores.  It seems she died in her favorite place, but without her beloved Wendell.  If one might die of a broken heart, I suspect that she did.

I watched Dan from afar, but he didn’t know.  His steps have slowed just a bit, and though he works at setting flagstone, tilling the garden beds, and painting trim until his projects are done, I fear that the years may be taking a toll.

I, too, can feel the passing years each time I stand from kneeling among the runner beans or fairy roses.  I am tired, and time is catching me.  

There would be no way to replace Wendell, the rooster that we didn’t want in the first place, but that we now so desperately missed and mourned.   Roosters can be mean, scary, and aggressive.  I had to put Wendell away when the little boys ran around, and I was forever looking over my shoulder while I weeded patches around the farm.  

A few days later, I buried Hypatia with my little boy by my side, scooping an occasional shovelful of dirt and asking repeatedly, “Are you sad?” to which I had no response.  Hypatia was settled in a shallow grave near where Dan buried Wendell, and under the same evergreen where we had buried the baby chick that had died the year before.

A Lavender Orpington rooster from Whitewater, Wisconsin caught my eye in a Craig’s List offering.  Yesterday, I packed up the boys, and we went to see him.  

“He has a good disposition, and he never approaches people.  We have over 200 birds.  He doesn’t have a name.  There are just too many for individual attention.”  The man caught the rooster at the tops of his wings and placed him among the pine shavings in the container that we had brought for the transfer.  He was massive and majestic at the same time, adorned with silver lavender feathers.  Right then, we decided to call him Ben, and he was coming home.  I gave the man’s wife twenty dollars. 

This afternoon, I had mercy on our new rooster in the sunny run alone.  I watched closely as he stepped out into freedom just seconds after I opened the door.  The first to approach him was Kitty May.  

All of the chickens went to the coop at sundown, and it seemed as if Ben had always been here.  He did not sit in the spot that Wendell had vacated in the roost.  Perhaps he knew; perhaps he felt it would be irreverent.  Or, just maybe, he was claiming his own spot in the coop.  

We may not miss the days of being chased down by Wendell; I may find my moments in the garden just a bit more peaceful without worrying about being approached by an ornery rooster.  I know, though, that we will always miss our Wendell, our surprise and slightly terrifying introduction to farm life, who certainly showed us that we were meant to have him in our lives.  

“Spread your wings, and I know that when God took you back, he said ‘Hallelujah, you’re home.'”

–from Ed Sheeran, “Supermarket Flowers”

Rest In Peace, my dear Wendell, until we meet again…and we will.


What Lies Beyond

Jenny has always been a little bit edgy.  She’s my chicken.  It seems she is always trying to sit on an egg or two, and she will make an awful noise and even snap at me when I reach under her to check for eggs.  Today, the egg had been cracked, and she was sitting in a sticky, bright sun-colored mess.  She didn’t want to get out of the nest box.  She wanted to stay a little while longer, though her egg, along with her hope of brooding a baby chick, was broken.

Bright butter and lavender together blended to nearly a muddy brown, nondescript, until I slowed a bit and let my eyes see what was really there.  Each flower is unique to this earth.  I could take these wildflowers that grow by the side of the road for weeds, or I could celebrate the fleeting beauty of Queen Anne’s lace in a mason jar on my family’s piano.

“They’re lucky to have you.”

No, really, they are not.  To be taken from everything they have ever known; to be transported into the chaotic, confusing rhythm of another, very different family; to eat, sleep, and breathe in an entirely new, unfamiliar circle; to have unthinkable things happen; to be delivered to places and people that they do not know; and to always, always be at the mercy of others…that’s really not lucky.

There isn’t going to be a breakthrough.  There won’t be a moment when everything is right.

And it’s very different for my boy, a boy who is no longer so little.  It’s different, and he is definitely not lucky.

“I want to go somewhere else.”

And he did, for eight days this time.

The storm clouds had been there the whole time, but I could look the other way to see just an icing swirl of gray atop the majestic splendor of a cloudy, late summer sky.  On my drive through the countryside, I passed fields of corn, expanses of wildflowers, and apple orchards almost ready to open their gates.  Taking in the season’s turn, I thought that it really was time to put away the hummingbird feeder as I hadn’t seen a visitor in a string of weeks.  

“He’s ready to come home.  His behaviors have been stable.”  

The corn has grown so tall by now, anticipating fall harvest, that from the edge of the farm, I can no longer see anything but clouds and sky beyond the stalks, to know what might be just ahead.  I think I like it this way.  There is much comfort in not knowing, before our eyes are opened and we have to see.  

“You really should plan ahead, just to be safe.  We can’t say for sure because we really don’t know.  You need more services.  You’re going to need help into the future.  This is how it’s going to be.  He’s probably not going to get better.”

That’s not lucky at all.  

I thought of Jenny, who looked almost bewildered as she jumped from her nest box to join a couple of the other hens at the feeder.  Her egg had cracked, and it had broken.  There would, though, be a new day, another egg, and another hope to hatch a baby chick.

Two hummingbirds visited my feeder that day, the day after I had thought of taking it down.  I am glad I hadn’t.  Instead, I filled it with fresh sugar water.  It’s not too late; our cups need to be filled again and again, no matter how late in the season.

A sparkle of sun shone through the mostly gray clouds, though the rain had not yet passed.  We looked for rainbows the whole way home.  We didn’t see any, but still we kept looking.

At least he’s home for now.  And that’s lucky.

 A Good Place to Hide 

Inside my days lies unspoken beauty that asks for no description, and at the same time a darkness of unknowing, of where there can be no answer now, and maybe never.

The lingering smell of a new coat of blacktop added an offputting layer to the earthy freshness of the morning prairie path before me. Things have to be done; I understand.  We don’t want well-intentioned joggers slipping on the loose gravel of an unkempt trail.   

When you have been to most of the places, when you have tried as much as you know how, when there’s nowhere left, you have to go deep inside yourself.

The woods adjacent to the path had grown thick enough to be its own backdrop, as long as one did not look too hard.  Just on the other side of the dense grasses, weather-beaten     trees, blooming thistle taller than me, and even what may have been an obscured fox den, I could see a garden shed, a whirling miniature windmill, a series of intentional annual plantings in a perfect parade of red and yellow, the remnants of last night’s marshmallow roast in a sand-and-stone fire pit, and a lonely tire swing.  I could see the backyards of people that had no names or faces, at least not known to me.  

There was a wooden bridge that stretched from the edge of one of the backyards into the woods, just to the other side of where I stood.  Another had a worn patch of grass and some stepping flagstone that led away from the yard, toward the prairie path.  These people could slip right from their own properties onto this path, for a morning run, to walk a dog, or to get lost, as is my habit, in a mid day reverie. 

A dark thought passed through me even as I squinted from the brightness of the sun.  Something sinister could happen; someone could be lurking between the woods and the family homes.  Maybe nobody would even know.  How do you know when you really are safe, when there are no ill intentions, and when you have served all of your time?  I could go there, and nobody would see.

Perhaps we don’t realize how influential someone has been until they leave us.  There is time for so much, but no time at all.  If you fully give in, offering all that you have, can’t there be more?  Won’t it keep going?

Every so often, there was a tiny flash or a sparkle of some sort.  A butterfly, the bluest I’ve seen, and a tiny ground squirrel.  These are the fairies in the woods, the spirits of those who walk there, those that are unaware that the darkness may sometimes fall.

When I know I am not strong enough, when I am sure that this must be the last time, when I just couldn’t keep it from happening, even as it tears into my skin and wreaks havoc on my aging body, it somehow lessens, and though there is no softness, it is not as dark, and it is not time.

When I am feeling vulnerable or strong, I am just to the side of the other. I am just a step away from what might be unthinkable, yet there are wild geraniums and foxglove all around.

I can’t go anywhere else; no one can, because this is today.  Past the clearing, the new blacktop meets the sidewalk where the grass has been clipped.  Cars pass by along the city road, and the people that I do not know have gone from my thoughts.

At just the right moment, though, there will be a woodland sprite peeking from a hollow in the brush, and I will see him, no matter where I am.

Bird Street: Retrospective 

It’s a bit different now.  We haven’t lived there in nearly two years.

Though not exactly a historical scholar, I have always been drawn to things of the past.  Four or five thrift and vintage stores are now part of our sleepy university city’s downtown.  I found myself alone in the bustle, if even there is one, of the lunch hour, with a little time before I had to get my son from camp.  There is a just-opened store in the first block of town, and I was startled by an unsettling bell as I, now distracted from my admiration of a hand-painted cast iron doorstop that would have been perfect for our bedroom at the farm, passed through the door.  I would have preferred that nobody had known I was there, and then I could have continued my reverie.  

“Can I help you find anything?”  The woman’s voice was neither brazen nor friendly, neither shrill nor bellowing.  

“I’m just looking, thank you,” I responded, being careful to avoid eye contact and invite further conversation.  

What I may have said, though, is, “No”.   No, I don’t think you can help me.  I don’t think anyone can help me find what I am looking for.  I don’t think you can help me find that clearing in the park near the conservatory, the one where we shared a picnic of grapes and muenster cheese with our toddlers who are now grown men and women.  I don’t think you can help me spot my young twenty-four year-old husband as he returns to the train platform from his commute to the city.  I don’t think you can save me a place on the bleachers where I can, just one last time, watch my son pitch a baseball.  I don’t think you can tell me that they are all, in this moment, okay,  and I don’t think you can help me find an afternoon where the shadows go into hiding, and where I can forget that we have taken on a lifelong search for the elusive.

I had just a few minutes left.  I was looking for a mug, one like the one that proclaims “Always Drink Milk” that I had gotten for five dollars from a shop that no longer stands just a block from here, a shop that had treasures piled so high that I knew the shopkeeper must have been unaware of anything beyond the first layer.   I always look for that mug, and three times so far I have found a similar one.  It may be nothing special to anyone else, but it means something (what, I’m unsure), to me.  

I do like milk.

My mind continued it’s plea to this woman: Please help me uncover the years; take me back to when I could drink coffee with my grandma, to the time before my friend lost her child, to when my college comrade was not facing an overwhelming diagnosis, to the days before my sons left me in the wake of their childhoods.

“Thanks for stopping in.”  Her voice was the same, and I hadn’t found the mug.  Not this time.

It wasn’t hard to sell our house this time around.  It’s a beautiful home, and we hadn’t stopped loving it.  It’s just that we found our farm, and it was time to go.  I am fearful of walking through it for the last time, though I know I want to spend my remaining days on these acres, watching sunsets of violet, tangerine, and pink with my chickens, and with anyone else that will stand alongside me.

It was the only home where every child of mine, all twenty-three, lived for at least a short while.  I will walk on the weathered oak floors for the last time, and I will remember.  I will remember when Juliet, then just a kitten, perched herself atop the bird cage and knocked it to the floor, startling the birds who flew frantically through the house and evaded me for hours as I tried to get the children out the door to school.  I will remember kneading bread with little ones, coloring Easter eggs at the kitchen table, keeping vigil at the bedside of sick children, listening to the sounds of Sam’s ukelele, and playing catch in the backyard.  I will remember hurt, but I will also remember great joy.  I will hear the music of their younger years.

Tears are for missing, and we pine for not just the good, but also the hard, for that, too, has made us what we are and has brought us to today.

There were bright lights that flashed against the brick, hosting a carnival of chaos and having no mercy in the dark hours of an August eve.  The sirens were loud, and they startled into my very being as the chocolate chip cookies burned on the tin.  There were screams, tears, and sleepless nights. There were calls when we should have been tucked in bed, strange voices, sounds of fear, and doors opening before dawn.

There were balloons, presents, and all sorts of things to celebrate.  There were questions without answers, and paths that didn’t really make sense.  There was a whole lot of life that happened in that house on Third Street, or “Bird Street”; the autocorrect on my friend’s message would always make me laugh until my stomach hurt.   

We met as foster parents, and our friendship was fast.  We took placements of each other’s children’s siblings when we had no room at our own homes.  She brought me chocolate when I was sad (and no one else knew).  She even climbed through a window when we were out of town to make sure the cat had enough food.  It made perfect sense that her family would move to our Third Street house when we left for the farm.

It may have been easier to see her children swinging on the trees where my children had played.  She could have tended my roses and hydrangeas and picked grapes from the arbor that Dan had built.  Her children would have warmed their fingers and toes by the fireplace that brought such warmth to the winter evenings.  

Maybe that would have made it easier, but that’s not what happened.  Someone else is going to move there.  I guess it’s not supposed to be easy.  It’s just supposed to happen.  

When we give up the keys at the end of next month, we will be closing that chapter, only to continue another that has already begun.  

When I have time to go downtown again, I will still be looking for my milk mug.  I will probably always be looking for a milk mug, not because I have nothing to drink from, but because I am reminded that my cup is already full, full of life through the trials and the blessings alike.  

I think my friend drinks milk, too.

Ponies and Cupcakes: All Grown Up 

There was nothing magic that happened at the end.  It just trailed off quietly and uneventfully.  I’m not sure what I expected, or if I expected much of anything at all.  Now, though, it’s all done, without fancy sugar-sparkled cupcakes, rainbow-maned ponies with golden hooves, or a ticker-tape parade.  The hopes and wishes have faded out with the passage of time.

How could a mother do that to her child?  Why would a mother do that to her baby?  How could it possibly be okay?

We delighted in watching Fried Chicken, one of our hens, care for baby Kitty May.  The tiny chick that surprised us all with her arrival as a miniature fluff of downy gray in the nest box was guided through every “first” by her proud mother hen.  For this new life, one I knew nothing about, I worried constantly and consulted my mom many times with each potential new obstacle.

Where will she sleep?  How will she get down from the coop?  What if the laying hens eat her food?  Will she range around the property with the rest of the hens?  And, of course, what will Wendell the rooster think of her?

We looked hard to find the good.  Even as each day seemed an impossible chore, the years picked up speed and pretty soon we could see lights.  Not the bold, confident type of lights that blare overhead in the supermarket.  I am not sure I would have been able to tolerate those anyway.  We saw little sparks, glimmers, and an occasional burned out bulb, not with the predictability of the rise and fall of the sun, but the brightest bright when it was good.

“You think you’re such a good mom.”

“You don’t even take care of the kids.”

“You don’t do anything for me.”

I watched as Fried Chicken lowered her beak into a saucer of water, lifted her head skyward to drink, and then urged Kitty May to do the same.  When I set a plate of cottage cheese out for the flock, she used her foot to scrape some over the edge just for her baby chick.  

During the first nights, Fried stayed with Kitty May in their makeshift nest on the floor of the coop.  When the time came, the mother hen helped her little one up to the perches where she kept Kitty May warm alongside the rest of the flock.  Fried kept Kitty May close as they explored the farm each day, and she led her to the safety of the coop at sundown.  I remember hearing loud squawks one afternoon as Fried called Wendell to defend Kitty May from the curiosity of one of the barn cats.

She was her baby, and she took care of her.

There were times when she wanted so badly not to need me that she made me believe that she didn’t.  

When she moves out on her own, is she going to be okay?  Will there be someone by her side, someone to watch over her, to laugh with her, to understand her?  Will she notice if there is?  Will she know if there isn’t?

I could hear the loud peeps as Kitty May seemed desperate in her search for her mother, who appeared deliberate in her attempt to keep a distance.  Though the little one continued to seek out Fried Chicken, it was clear that something had changed.  

When I check the chickens every night, the laying hens and Wendell are in their familiar spots at the top perch.  The four teenagers have claimed one side of the lower perch. Then there’s little Kitty May, in her own spot, on the rafters above the window.  She’s all alone.

There are times, too, when my grown child spends idle hours as her own best company.  Perhaps she likes it that way, as she has passed on many invitations to play “Go Fish”, to pick cherry tomatoes, and even to go for frozen custard.

Will she feel alone?  Will she close the door to the farm for the last time, never once looking back to wonder what a Saturday morning might bring?  Does she know I love her?

As I stand, bewildered by ambivalence while somehow struck by something deep within my soul, I knew there would be no breakthrough, no moment when all of a sudden everything thing is right.

I didn’t think Kitty May was ready to forage on her own.  I wonder if my daughter is ready to find her own way to adulthood.  It’s hard not to let the tears rush like the wild rivers; the reality of today contrasts sharply with my starry-eyed vision from days past.  I hope she is ready.  I hope I am.  I hope I did the best I could.

I hope that one day, she will think so, too.


Even though the plant’s tag read “full shade,” I was sure that if I planted it in a bright, sunny spot, it would do even better.  I have learned much about plants over the years.  I have learned that more sun is definitely not better for impatiens, and that tomatoes will not grow well if planted in the same spot, year after year.  I have yet to learn, though, how to protect the vulnerable from the forces that strike when we do not expect them, and when they are far from welcome.

But there really aren’t any directions, at least not any reliable ones.  I thought things were better, but then it comes screaming back.  I guess it never quite settles, though it seems to from time to time.  We might look okay, like the blooms of sparkling fuschia and the sun’s cheer of yellow that spill boldly forth from the repurposed white enamel pot.  Nobody would speculate that they had been picked at, stripped, and stomped on by my curious flock of chickens before being salvaged, repotted, and resurrected to glory.  They were almost lost, but it wasn’t time.

How long is this going to take?  

I did learn, though, in those early years of gardening, that real lavender leaves and blossoms smell just like Yardley of London pump soap, and that this enchanting herb will grow into a fanciful, robust hedge in just a few years’ time.  And recently, I learned that the chickens will leave lavender alone.  That, to me, is victory.

“Let the chickens do all of your garden work for you.”

Here comes Wendell with the hand weeder and his pair of gloves to pick  the stray grass from underneath the tomato cages.  Jenny is not far behind, equipped with twine to tame the snap pea climbers.

I really didn’t think that would happen, as some books and articles had promised, but I still don’t recommend adopting the belief that your herbs will be pruned to prize status by your flock.

They fertilize the land.  What more could I ask for?

There will be destruction, devastation, even regret.  Things will not come out even, and maybe we will be less confident than before it all began.   We will work for nearly nothing, and our bodies will be stiff and sore.  We just want to lie down and rest.

Maybe it will be seasons, years, even decades before we see the sun.  It seems to be ready to peek forth from behind the clouds.  There are a few glorious rays, but then we can no longer see.  Darkness comes over us, and again, we wonder.

I figured out that I can fasten a length of wire fencing into a dome to protect my new plantings.  Of course, the chickens can knock them over or pull them apart, but sometimes, what I have done is enough…at least for one small chamomile plug on a windy Sunday morning.

The richness of what they have left for us must surely be enough to feed our souls as the land for a while longer.

I guess it is best to follow directions, at least the obvious ones.  They don’t tell you, though, that even if you plant the impatiens in the shade, feed it with fish emulsion, and provide plenty of water, a curious chicken may still cause it’s demise.

We don’t know.  How could we ever be expected to?  

In all of the amazement and surprise of a baby hatching at the farm, I hadn’t given a thought to the true possibility that Kitty May could be a rooster.  She looks different from all the others, and she seems a gentle, independent, spirited little hen…or rooster.  One day, she will either crow or lay an egg, and there will be no more questions.  Until this day, though, I am content in my hope that Kitty May will be joining the other girls in the nest boxes.

It must be okay not to know.

Darkness had long since fallen when I returned from the hospital without my child.  When I passed by the garden, there was enough light coming from the window in the main house that I could see that four of my young plants had been uprooted, surely the work of curious chickens.  I was tired, so they would have to wait until morning.

And I guess it’s alright to wait for lots of other things, too, especially when there aren’t any rules or instructions.  It’s just not time yet.  

This spring, the lavender has come back rich and strong, with just a few bare branches.  I know, too, that in time, however long it may take, and even if a new rooster crows on the farm, the holes will begin to fill in, and we will admire the flowers in their magnificent resilience.

Getting to the Other Side 

The chickens cross the road for lots of reasons.  

It was unusually warm for late May.  As I stole time in the garden on a Sunday morning, I could nearly feel the seeds taking root beneath the soil.  There was already a row of mesclun, a cool weather crop, showing itself to life above ground.  There would be two rows of popcorn this season, for one had not been enough last year.  Perhaps it would be a good year…for the garden, at least.   

My dear friend, someone who has taught me much about this life, lost her father unexpectedly last week.  The sultry wave of lilac perfume that greeted me at intervals in the spring breeze held me at a state which was somewhere between a dream and intense, conscious concentration as I heard my friend describe her father’s accomplishments, the way he took care of his family, and how deeply he will be missed.  As I held on to her words, I thought of my own father.  Both fathers were given the name, “Don”; both fathers had two daughters and one son; both fathers had served our country; and both fathers had taken their families on memorable pilgrimages to Wall Drug.  The commonalities that bring us together, however tiny or seemingly insignificant, give meaning to our journeys, no matter how long or how far.  I am not sure if my Dad likes the smell of lilacs, but I think he would.

Fried Chicken was my first hen to go “broody”, with such a strong instinct to nurture that she would spend hours, and then entire days and nights, in one of the nest boxes.  She seemed a bit confused…as was I…about the task at hand.   Several times I went to the coop to gather eggs, only to find Fried sitting in a different nest box, atop different eggs.   With chicken anxiety in high gear, I became vigilant about moving the hen to her still-warm eggs or moving the eggs to her new station, whichever seemed more reasonable on a given day.  I brought her yogurt and scratch and barely allowed myself to dream about what could happen in the  weeks to come.

Sometimes I wonder what Ethan would be like if his days were not spent in a spell of anger, if he was not overwhelmed by forces much greater than a nine-year-old boy.  I do know, a little bit, because I have seen the other side.  I have seen the charming little fellow alight with joy as he describes a NASCAR race or attempts a skateboard move.  I have seen him invite his baby brother to sit by his side as he played a game;  I know there is another side.   He knows just what he needs to do.  Then something goes wrong: someone says the wrong word, or the demons inside rise to the surface.  

My shoulder had been burned earlier that weekend from the unexpectedly strong sun, so the pain was sharp.  He drove his nails into my flesh, drawing blood this time.  We tried so hard.  Testimony, letters, a rally, and even a lawsuit was not enough. It is beyond my understanding how a young child could have been prescribed twenty-four different medications yet be prohibited from being allowed a trial of medical cannabis.  One day, my dear boy, we will make it to the other side, and you will know what it is like to be free from the wrath of your own mind.

The chickens have missions.  Each day, after some eggs have been collected and the chores of the morning are done, I open the door to the run so the flock can explore.  With Wendell, our rooster, at the lead, they race, chicken-style, across the gravel drive, past the Fairy rose, through my sage, parsley, and mint, directly to the cat food bowl.  If it wasn’t already empty, it soon would be.  

Maybe I did not have enough faith.  I did not expect that, on the twenty-first day, when I would check Fried Chicken and her eggs just as I had each day before, that my eyes would meet those of a tiny bundle of gray feathers.  Fried had hatched an egg!  

I had promised my friend that if a chicken came from one of the eggs, I would name the baby after her.  Little Kitty May is a wonder;  she, too, explores the farm alongside Fried and the rest of the flock.  

There was a loud, unsettling squawk.  One of the barn cats had discovered Kitty May.  Wendell was on his way, flapping his majestic feathers in terrifying fashion and making his way, followed by the rest of the flock, to defend his own, and to scare the cat from ever trying such a thing again.

We need people to take care of us, to help us to the other side.  What if we’re not strong enough to make it there alone?  Where, even, are we going?  What if we work so hard, and our fight is just done before we were ready for it to end?  I think that is better than never having fought at all.  And maybe the strong people, the ones that work hard to make sure we are okay, need a little help crossing their own roads.    

If our work isn’t done, there must be  a time again for us to keep going.  From the freshness of new life, through our trials and failings across many roads, in the shadows of our last breaths, we must know that there is much left.  In pursuit of our missions, with our flocks at our sides, the time will come.

I see my friend stoically carry on, across her days, along her road, which surely must be different than the one she had envisioned.

We live through one another, those that have meant something to us along the way.  Whether we are headed to Wall Drug, to a rally in support of medical cannabis for autism, or to the cat food bowl, our missions are important.  The day may come when we find what we are seeking, or maybe we will realize that what we truly need is not what we had been looking for after all.  I’m pretty sure that’s a lesson from my dad.

I was taken by surprise this morning as Kitty May, too, ran across the road to the cat food bowl.  The sun is shining brightly from above, and it should be a good day in the garden.