Thursday, May 26, 2011

blondie: what does it all mean?

Two days ago at dusk, the lilacs scenting the air, a bower of fresh green maple leaves filtering the late light, I glanced out into the yard from my perch on the couch and saw one hen pacing toward me on the grass.  She was golden blond, and seemed very much larger than usual.  I wondered her apparent great size was the humidity fracturing the light between her and me.  Also, it being dusk, I wondered why she was not snuggled up in the coop with her flock.  I went outside and followed her around, clucking and trying to persuade her to come to me or climb into the safety of the henhouse, but the hen wanted to be outside on her own terms.  She toddled under the enormous branches of a great spreading maple with three trunks, and scrabbled and clawed her way up into a fork about ten feet in the air, where she fluffed herself and settled down.  I followed her into the tree and climbed as high as I dared (which was not high,) then took off my sandal and tried to poke her down.  My sandal was just an inch below her fluffy golden bum.  She hen chuckled at me and stayed put.  She wanted to sleep outside for the night.

Night predators around here include raccoons, foxes, weasels, ermines, fishers and martens (ratlike catsized beasts,) owls, hawks, falcons and dingbats with BB guns.  A chicken outside of her coop at night is merely a meal waiting on a plate.  Fortunately chickens have the instinct to snuggle into a familiar nest,and they always put themselves to bed at dusk.  Except blondie tonight.  Maybe she was getting broody.  Maybe it was her time to die.

My Beloved Spouse was out at a rehearsal, and I expected him to come home after dark.  He almost always comes into the bedroom where I lie reading or snoozing and says hello when he comes home late.  I decided that tonight I could let the hen stay where she was, and when Spouse kissed me hello I could ask him to go get her down and put her away in the safe coop.  I went to bed with Annie Dillard's book For The Time Being, and soon was sound asleep. I knew no more until just before midnight when I woke out of sweet dreams needing to pee.  Spouse came home in the meantime and for whatever important reason did not come up to kiss me.  When I awoke he was snoring beside me in our tender bed.

So, night-time full bladder, black house, black outside, the trees rustling in the breeze.  I wandered into the bathroom which overlooks the maple with three trunks, and sat down to do my business.  Then I heard SQUAWK!  CLUCK-cluck-CLUCK-cluck-gurgle-gurgle!  The blond hen had been caught just outside the window, just when I was there to overhear!

I felt sick inside.  How could I have let her die?  Why did Spouse not come to say hi on this night of all nights, so I could have asked him to get her down and put her away?  And what, creeping into my consciousness from the sides and underneath, were those sweet dreams I was having?  It all felt very portentous, and then, to seal the deal, the clock downstairs chimed twelve times.

Knowing that the hen had died with only a fraction of a second of fear or pain, I forgave myself, and went back to bed.  Spouse and I discussed the episode in the morning.  He felt understandably guilty, although I tried to persuade him not to -- it was simply her night to die.  I followed the bloodless trail of blond feathers from under the tree, around the chicken yard, against the fence along the back field, and toward a known fox den, and thus identified our predator.   And as for the feeling of portent, well, today I got a call inviting me to take the job of director of a small, excellent not-for-profit organization nearby that does good work to help sick women and returning veterans.   I have been unemployed for over two years and looking hard.  I think that the hen's dramatic death was God's way of alerting me that wonderful good news was on the way.

Thanks, Blondie and God.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

cute widdle foxy woxy

Birds conserve their eggs in times of stress.   There will be no eggs today, I am afraid. The fox attacked my chickens again in broad daylight. I heard the rooster's distress call right outside the window where I am sitting – I was thinking, what's he doing outside of the coop, he's usually so conservative and stays in to guard the home. As I looked out at him the fox appeared, tiny little beast, dusty orange color, all fluffy; I can see why people think they are cute. The fox chased and wrestled my rooster right there in front of me, with only the window glass separating us. I pounded on the window and the fox scampered off for a moment. The rooster collapsed and I feared its neck was broken, and then saw that it was still breathing, and so I began to fear I would have to wring its neck myself to put it out of its misery. I called my Spouse in a panic, and then the rooster got up and began to stagger away and then the fox came after it again! I hung up the phone and dashed outside in my slippers, screaming at the fox which ran away again. I held out my arms to the rooster who actually ran into my arms like he saw me as safe base. My birds aren't tame, they're not pets, so this is very unusual. At the last moment he veered off into the garage and went to hide in a dark corner. I chased after the fox again for a second, then went and picked up the rooster, who was not at all bloody, thank goodness, but had lost a lot of feathers and was holding himself stiffly crooked. Maybe his voluminous feathers saved him. As I was carrying him back to the coop I saw the fox had gotten a hen, a small black one, and I screamed and chased yet again. He dropped her and both animals scooted off in different directions. I saw her later, strolling about as if nothing had happened. Almost all of the other birds are perched up as high as they can get inside their coop, away from danger. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

the usual birds and some others, too

Just now, strolling out in the side field with my son, on the fresh snow I saw a wide messy swathe of sweeping feather marks and the end of a trail of tiny mouse tracks.  Junior was oblivious to the drama this showed--a moment of diving from the sky, crashing into the equally oblivious mouse, and an instant rodent death in the talons and beak of an owl, falcon or hawk.  My three-year-old son stomped across the delicate feather marks and his boots obliterated the one-way mouse tracks.  I have seen a bird of prey crash down out of the sky onto a chicken, like a fluttering grey and brown stone, blammo, and then off again in powerful strokes, chicken no longer grazing on the ground.  That would be a quick way to go, I think.

The chickens are out of their coop now, the snow having melted enough so that they can exit easily.  At first this morning when I saw the feather marks in the snow I worried that I had just lost a chicken, but the mouse tracks told the story clearer than I could have imagined.  No blood, just a ploof of evidence on the dusting of snow.

Yesterday as I was driving through the mountains with a friend, she noticed a big bird arcing over us and craned her neck to watch it.  Then with a sigh of disappointment, she said, "Turkey vulture.  But it was flying like an eagle."  I look forward to the day when I know the birds well enough to spot their flying styles, feather patterns and habitat.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

as white as something white

The other day I settled in to read my son a book about fire fighters.  He is in love with all things fire fighter, partly because Dad is a volunteer firefighter for our mountain town.  Well, I opened the book and found to my sadness that every single firefighter in the story was a white man, and they were fireMEN, not fighters.  As I read to my son, and he gazed avidly at the detailed and engaging illustrations, all I could think about was Crayola multicultural magic markers.

I will order some brown-hued markers and crayons from the good ol' big south American river and edit this and other books.  Babar has been banned from our house due to overt African colonialism, and Curious George's early life in the U.S. is not a part of my son's knowledge base, as George was kidnapped from his brown mother and brought to live with the white people.   Not every children's book is so potentially offensive, and I can't say if my son found it upsetting at all.  All he saw was his beloved fire house and gear.  But deep inside his capacious brain, I wonder if there is anything that registers when he sees books like that.  All-white, all-white, all-white.  Does he get the message that he is invisible or different?   When will I help him untangle this particular messy knot?

His hair is growing and we are sadly inconsistent about moisturizing, so his curls are a little dry.  But they are black and tight, and sweet-smelling, and cling to his handsome head just as hair is supposed to do.  People in our entirely white, rural area who reach out to touch his hair have no idea, I suspect, how this action frightens me.  Get your ignorant hands away from my son's head, I want to shout.  At the grocery store recently I frowned at two little girls and in the hearing of their father, said sternly, "didn't anyone ever teach you its impolite to stare?"

Even at home, in the quiet comfort of my son's blue bedroom, racism sticks its insidious snake-like head inside our lives.  Tomorrow some magic markers can fix it.  What tools will I need in the future?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

art and tools of orgasm

Winslow Homer is a great American artist, and I came across a series of his works reproduced in black and white in the November 1975 edition of Antiques magazine. Immediately I saw penises in these pictures.  Am I particularly dirty minded?  I don't think so!  But I do acknowledge that we see what we want to see in art.  If I were looking for vulvas I probably wouldn't find them in Homer, but maybe in O'Keefe.  Actually, I think what O'Keefe painted was women's orgasms.  Here's another nice one.  Leaves me breathless and satisfied.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Here I am, in a new disguise, hoping to entertain you with my transgressive, funny and radicaliberal point of view.  For my previous blogcarnation please see