Thursday, May 26, 2011
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.