• Last modified 500 days ago (March 8, 2023)


Another Day in the Country

Like smoke ascending

© Another Day in the Country

This past week, we had some wonderful warm days to enjoy being an outdoor cat.

I had gone through files preparing for income tax and had lots of paperwork to burn. Monday was a perfect day for burning; the air was still.

Once fire got going in a burn barrel, I took the opportunity to walk the lawn and pick up sticks. I wonder whether Jane Fonda in her “let it burn” exercise videos ever suggested stick-picking?

While the fire burned itself out, I sat watching smoke rise from the comfort of a rocker on my front porch.

It was a quiet day in Ramona. No wind. Neighbors were indoors. Only chickens were out and about.

White smoke billowed into the air, becoming ever more transparent as it rose. It was a beautiful sight, resembling tendrils of fog as it dissipated into blue sky.

A train came through town, and I realized the sound was like dissipating smoke. A whistle calls out the crossing, and the sound lingers in your memory but fades from preeminence. Something else takes its place — the clickity-clack of wheels — and then fades like the smoke into the distance.

Smoke reminds me of prayer. As a child, I was taught that my prayers ascended, like smoke, straight to heaven until they reached God.

As an adult, I’ve come to believe that our prayers — our murmurs of gratitude, our wishes, our good thoughts — go out into the world like sweet incense in small molecules of blessings and love that dissipate into the atmosphere and refresh the earth like spring rain, making the world a better place.

Like smoke rising from ashes, all the good, positive feelings we conjure up waft up and away. Whatever was there before is gone now, leaving only ashes to fertilize something new.

Because I was going to be working in the yard, I let the chickens out. At first they were excited but then they meandered back into the house.

When I came back to give them water, they were all inside, acting as if they still were caged. They’d become so used to being sequestered that they ignored their freedom. The same four walls had caged them up for so long that they were hesitant to venture forth.

I can relate. Another of my hens isn’t doing well. She’s weak in the knees, and I know that feeling, too. My birds are getting up in years. She can walk, just not far.

Remembering my daughter’s heroics for their hen, Helga, I pick up a bunch of feathers and check her out, imagining what a vet would do: No broken bones, no apparent injuries, no dislocated joints.

My grandmother comes to mind again. Whenever we’re talking chickens I think of her because Gramm was my first introduction to these feathered friends — except her chickens were not chums; they were bread and butter and, if all else failed, dinner. 

I have yet to eat one of mine. I cooked one once and just couldn’t take a bite. Everyone else at the table seemed to enjoy the dish. To them, this was just an anonymous hen. But to me, it was my little chick, raised from the very beginning, a pet with a personality. 

Gramm’s chickens were a business enterprise. If my hens were a business, I’d be bankrupt.

Chicken food has gone up in price along with everything else. My hens went on hiatus for more than three months — still eating but not laying. We definitely went into the red.

I stretched out a stockpile of eggs in my refrigerator as long as I could and finally had to resort to buying Eggland’s Best, all the while hopefully checking nest boxes for eggs.

The day that one blue egg arrived was almost as exciting as tulips blooming. I admired that perfect egg in my hand and bragged about it to my friends — even took a picture of it and sent it to Dagfinnr in California with the caption, “Look what I found.” His hens were on hiatus, too. 

This week, he sent me a picture of a nest that Peckerface had hidden away under the deck by the kitchen door. Evidently, his three other hens had decided to contribute to the venture, too, laying eggs there instead of in nest boxes.

“I was wondering where the usual eggs were,” he said. “and then today, I couldn’t find Peckerface, went all around the house calling, and here she came out from under the deck, only to pick up some twigs and head back under.

“She’s tried this nest-building thing before — almost killed Mom’s honeysuckle vine trying to build a nest underneath it last spring.”

It’s another day in the country, and while hens scratch in still sleeping tulip beds, I’ve been mailing out more books. I got a letter from Lois — who now lives in Maryland but came from this area. When I opened her letter, I was hoping this would be another book request, but just as nice, it was a thank you. I got a call from cousins in Winfield with a request for picking up a whole box of books. I haven’t a clue what Rita and Quinn are going to do with that many books — maybe give them away at church — but, whatever, we’re thrilled and open to innovative ideas.

Last modified March 8, 2023