Tuesday, July 15, 2014

I Don't Have a Rooster -- An Open Letter to My Neighbors

Dear Neighbors,

I promise you; I don’t have a rooster. 

I know that you must hear what you believe to be a crowing male in my chicken yard.  In the early morning hours, I suspect you may be slightly irritated by the occasional cock-a-doodle-do, despite that my property is zoned agricultural and it’s OK for me to have livestock.  But I assure you, there is no rooster on my property, nor is there likely ever to be one.  

The culprit is actually a hen, who carries the distinctive name, Princess Mindy Bird Brain – Mindy for short. When she began to crow one day, I was dumbfounded.  I didn’t know hens were capable of vocalizing in such ways, but there she was – educating me in the quirky ways of certain chicken girls.

Of course, at first, being hearing impaired, I didn’t trust my ears.  I must’ve imagined it, much like I sometimes twist the lyrics of a song and end up singing it wrong for years. (That’s happened…) Then Mindy did it again – an unlikely, un-dainty, rusty croak emanating from my princess, who at the time was an only hen.  It could be no other.

The crowing doesn’t happen all of the time, but often enough for me to finally Google “gender confusion in backyard hens.”  What did the world do without Google, right?  Apparently, there is an uncommon but not unheard of phenomenon in hens known as Spontaneous Sex Reversal, and Mindy’s odd crowing behavior does seem to fit a bit of the profile. 

Except… while abnormal hens who experience this reversal trend tend to take on physical rooster traits, such as increased size, elongated necks, increased spur size and distinctive combs, Mindy hasn’t developed any of those signs.  Sex reversed hens usually stop laying, due to ovary damage.  Mindy, however, still proudly presents me with an egg every day.

So, what gives?  She doesn’t display the usual signs of Spontaneous Sex Reversal, so what do I have on my hands -- an abnormally abnormal hen?  That would be just like me to have such a thing, wouldn’t it?

Now Neighbors, I know you’re already aware that I’m a sarong-wearing, barefooted hippie who hugs horses and herds cats – and you tolerate me quite nicely, thanks -- but would you be shocked to learn that I had a conversation with my hen about her non-mainstream behavior?  Well… I did.

In my quest to understand rather than judge, I questioned her about why she felt compelled to crow.  Of course, she didn’t answer in words, but in behavior, which I observe very closely. 

Here's what I know.  Mindy has a story.  She and her sister were rescue chicks, but Maggie died in their first year, leaving Mindy alone.  Even with plenty of handling and love from her humans, she lived on her own for almost four years before welcoming two newcomers this past spring. 

I wondered out loud, “What do we do when we’re alone?”  Answer:  We adapt.  She had no rooster to protect her and no other hens to keep her company, so she developed a new coping mechanism for those times when she felt threatened:  crowing.  Sort of a warrior chicken battle cry.  And I think that living alone, she kept herself company with the sound of her own quirky songs.  I get that, because I sing to myself all the time when I'm alone.  

My conclusion is that she's evolved into a strong, capable Bantam/Rhode Island Red mixed Bird of Power.  How awesome is that?

Mindy found her voice, and damn it!  She’s speaking up.  OK.  It’s not a dainty voice.  It’s not particularly feminine where chickens are concerned, but it’s hers and she owns it.  When she has something to say, she’s going to say it. 

So, Neighbors, I’m going to encourage you to embrace Mindy’s crowing, if you can.  It’s not intended as an insult to your pre-dawn, pre-caffeine experience.  It’s the croaky song of an empowered Sunshine Chicken Girl, proclaiming to the world that it’s a new day.

Rock on, little red hen!!


Your Hippie Chick Neighbor

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Life Is Messy

It’s summer.  I’m on the move.  Gardening.  Dancing.  Cleaning stalls.  Mowing the lawn.  Feeding chickens.  A dozen projects always in the works.

By the end of the day, I’m exhausted … drenched in sweat and dirt with mud crusted to my bare feet.  My greying blonde curls twist into humidity ringlets, often accessorized with strands of hay.  I smell like horses and patchouli and fresh air and earth.

And I am unbelievably happy, because being a mess means that I’m fully engaged in Process.  I’m shifting and making progress. 

To me, a life well-lived requires that we get messy from time to time:  physically, emotionally, and spiritually. 

I’m going out on a limb here to assert that getting messy is necessary on some level in order to grow.  But I also understand that the very thought of getting our metaphorical – if not literal – hands dirty creates huge resistance in people.  After all, we’ve been taught to wash with antibacterial soap.  We’re taught to abhor life’s messiness just as we are the unseen germs on our skin, despite that they are part of our natural existence. Even minor chaos is uncomfortable in a world that craves predictability, stability, and order, all wrapped up in tidy packages.

Being messy means that we’re forced to accept the discomfort of change.  In my own experience on life’s spectrum of disarray, the less willing I’ve been to embrace change, the harder it’s been to navigate its ups and downs.  The more I’ve resisted, the harsher it’s been, because along with the loss of my illusions of control there comes an inevitable shove into a state of surrender.  I wasn’t raised to surrender.  I doubt many people are.

I think that many of us were raised with the notion that surrender isn’t an option.  If something isn’t working, we’re conditioned to try harder to make it work – to force a situation into reasonable parameters of winning.  To surrender means to lose in the common core understanding of things.  It means… gasp!... failure. 

It’s interesting to me that some of the people we consider brilliant and successful have spoken with such high regard of failure.

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”  Robert F. Kennedy

“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker.  Failure is delay, not defeat.  It is a temporary detour, not a dead end.  Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”  Denis Waitley

And my favorite…

“The phoenix must burn to emerge.”  Janet Fitch

Inspiring words from big thinkers. 

To mere mortals, however, the cringe of failure resonates with loss and despair.  It rises from fear … of making mistakes that can’t be undone, of making the wrong choices at the wrong times, of experiencing judgment by our loved ones and the inevitable shaming that comes with it.

We are shamed in our society by the threat of failure, and messiness is a sign that we could fail because it takes shape in the unpredictability of risk-taking.  Getting messy means that we’re allowing ourselves to experience the vulnerability of not always knowing where we’re going, but moving forward nonetheless.  It’s a realization that our restlessness and discontent are real and can no longer be confined to neat, tidy packages.

Getting messy isn’t a popular choice.  It’s not the path of least resistance.  Sometimes, though, the socially acceptable confines must completely abandoned, even leveled to the ground. Our internal landscapes must give way completely in order to achieve something greater.

It’s scary to think about, isn’t it? The process of change can feel like dancing with a hurricane or shaking apart at the epicenter of an earthquake.  It tears us apart so that we can reconstruct ourselves from a new foundation.

How we approach change is up to us.  We can choose to accept that life is messy with trepidation or joy.  I choose joy.  I choose risk-taking; some measured and some motivated by radical trust.

I’m going to get filthy in the process.  But at the end of the day, I’ll strip naked and shower off and curl up in bed with a good book… and I’m satisfied. 

Tomorrow I’ll rise and do it all again.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


It's fitting to begin with thanks...

When I pulled up my horoscope last week at http://www.freewillastrology.com/horoscopes/, I knew that my first post on my brand new blog had to be expression of gratitude.  Here's what the site's creator, astrologer Rob Brezsny, has to say.
In the last two decades, seven Academy Award winners have given thanks to God while accepting their Oscars. By contrast, 30 winners have expressed their gratitude to film studio executive Harvey Weinstein. Who would you acknowledge as essential to your success, Libra? What generous souls, loving animals, departed helpers, and spiritual beings have contributed to your ability to thrive? Now is an excellent time to make a big deal out of expressing your appreciation. For mysterious reasons, doing so will enhance your luck and increase your chances for future success. 

Well, every bit of luck helps, and I certainly do want to be successful in this new endeavor... so here it goes...

Every morning I wake, slide groggily out of bed and glance at the reflection of my rumbled mane in a nearby mirror.  Every morning I open the blinds to the window that looks out over the pond.  I look further, across to the pasture where my horses graze.  Every morning, I offer up prayers gratitude for my beautiful haven and for everyone connected to it.

I am blessed beyond imagination to be here.  I am blessed by my immediate family and family of friends; by all of the animals who have come and gone in my life, each offering its own lesson; by the wild things and the land, for which I am a constant steward.

I am grateful most of all for the Old Ones, my Ancestors, who set my feet on this Path.  They lived so that I may live, and I work every day to make them proud.  I am thankful for their guidance, even when I don't understand the directions in which they nudge me.  I am awed and humbled in their presence. I lay at their feet and surrender to their higher wisdom, knowing that they are always with me, that I am always loved.

Fortune sides with she who dares.  I dare in gratitude to begin again, here and now.

I encourage you to share your gratitudes.  I welcome your comments with the directive that, no matter what topic I post, we all play nice, with respect for dissent should we disagree.  Let's make this about us.  Let's see what happens.

Let it begin...