Chickens: Reflections & Lessons

Posted by on May 11, 2015 in inspirations | 0 comments

beak

I have long held animals in high esteem … viewing majestic elephants and wild cats and elegant horses with wonder. Considering the nobility of these animals … it has been a bit surprising that chickens – in all their ornery, messy “ordinariness” – have come to be some of the most inspirational animals in my life. Allow me to explain…

I’ve kept, and loved, chickens in the past. Sadly – the last experience ended traumatically at the paws of my neighbor’s giant husky. So I was understandably hesitant to bring them back into the fold. However recent events compelled me to take the chance… and I am so grateful that I followed my heart.

In early March I returned home following a beautiful retreat in a pastoral setting outside of Portland. At that time I had planned to launch a brand new business –developing the idea with a colleague for months and becoming excited about this new endeavor. However, the minute I walked in the door after the retreat and saw the looks on my family’s faces – the ones that silently said, “please don’t leave again … we need you” – my heart sank. I couldn’t bear the thought of taking more time away from my family – so with great sadness I gave up the idea of the new business. And my mind turned immediately to … chickens.

pecking

During the retreat we had been instructed to adorn paper bags – featuring collages on the exterior and interior. The exterior was all about how others see us – so I plastered pictures of busy, important-looking women tending single-handedly to careers, children and husbands. On the inside, however, was the softer me. Imagine images of a mother spending time in a beautiful yard with her lovely family. We were then instructed to place another bag inside this collaged bag – which represented our “golden self.” The truest part of our being. And this “golden self” was closest in proximity to the loving images on the interior of my bag. THESE images – mother, wife, woman in nature – this was my essence, my authentic self. This is the part I wanted to embrace and reveal.

So upon my return home, I decided to embrace my “golden self” … my husband, my children, and … chickens. We now have five of them scratching and pecking around our backyard. Every morning I traipse out to feed them, clad in my business suit, ready to conquer the day. And every morning my chickens slow me down – they center me. I find myself squatting low, picking them up, not caring that my hands are quickly covered in chicken poop, that my fancy suit is adorned with feathers. This dichotomy never fails to soothe me – they reconnect me to who I truly am. And when I return home, I get to tend to them again. My day bookended by what is really important. I am reminded that I am, first and foremost, a mother – to my children, my chickens, the earth. I am a mother to the wholeness of who I am – who we all are.

These chickens – more than any animal I’ve encountered – have been transformative. They are so in tune with nature – oriented around the rhythm of the day. As soon as the sun starts to rise, Stardust (our rooster-who-was-supposed-to-be-a-hen) starts his call. As soon as the sun starts to set, the five of them walk rhythmically into their coop to roost. Watching this dance connects me into the bigger rhythm of life. Their instinctive routine pulls me out of myself – of my natural tendency to race through the day and my need to accomplish out in the world.

watermelon

And these birds – they are hilarious. They’re like a troupe of comedians, eager to remind me of the importance of levity and laughter. The unbridled joy they exhibit over a falling leaf or a watermelon rind never fails to bring a smile to my face. And though they are often chaotic and always messy – they are beautiful. Their feathers are downy soft – reflecting all the colors of nature … burnished reds and chocolatey browns and beautiful golds. I could go on and on…

But what I really want to share is the importance of practice. Of dedication. Every day I tend to these chickens. And every day they give back to me. They remind me that life isn’t all about work and doing. My new routine is chipping away at my outer persona – helping me access my golden self.

feather

Perhaps Alice Walker, author of one of my favorite books The Chicken Chronicles, says it best: “I love this chicken because she is so in her body.” Today, I am more embodied. I am more whole. I’m not perfect … none of us are. But I’m going to continue my daily practice of living and laughing with my chickens. My teachers, my comedians, my saviors.

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