She wants the beautiful thing.
She wants to eat. – from “The Grackle on the Lawn” by Eloise Klein Healy
I open the little coop door with the ramp first. . . . “Morning, birdies. Morning.” Then, I swing wide the large door and walk backwards across the run. I’ve learned that it’s best to give them distance – especially the guineas.
This morning, Thing 2 (the other guinea is Thing 1) soared out the door, banking left just as she skimmed my face with the breath of her wings.
I spend minutes just watching these birds . . . Zinnia runs up to almost everyone, her chest out, the brazen one, the one who needs to be the boss, the most insecure one? Rose, Fern, and Snowman – three of our Polish chickens – stay on the roost while I clean their droppings to keep them clean. They flap and frenzy when I’m near, but I cannot force them to move on without more fear. Violet, the tiniest chicken, has already broken free of the building – our care of her frail baby self no longer necessary.
I know I am anthropomorphizing. I can’t help it. It’s the only way I know to understand.
In the pasture, Acorn and Olive – the Nigerian Dwarf kids – lay against each other, facing opposite directions. Keeping watch in their still mildly anxious state as the newest members of the herd. Earlier, Wilma – their elder “sister” – had butted them away while they ate, gently, as if to teach the babies that sometimes you don’t get to be first. Sometimes, you will be pushed aside. Keep coming back.
It’s safest to learn these things in the confines of a pasture where a woman comes every morning to nuzzle you around the ears.
In the shop, I watch Sonny – the kitten who will soon live with Philip’s parents – hold his own as he wrestles Sabeen. I have to resist the desire to intervene, to make it easier for him. I had to put my hands in my pockets and walk away as they play because it is not my job to make the path smooth as ice for even these animals. Ice is treacherous. We need the grit of conflict to hold us steady.
Outside, when Boone whines, and I hear Bella snuffle, I remind myself that they are okay, they have each other and the goats they love. They have shelter, and food, and the shade of multiflora rose tunnels. They do not need my coddling; they need my care.
A friend laments on Facebook, and I think I have the answer, the way forward, the easier thing. Someone I love is breaking open, once again, and I want to step close, try to advise, hold his heart together in my fingers. A dear friend has made a choice that can only – through my hazel eyes – only lead to so much pain that I want to grab her up, tuck her away in this place and keep her from it.
But instead, I stand nearby, hands outstretched with grace and sweet feed. My presence, the only comfort I can give.
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