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A Question for Foghorn (a poem)

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Oh, dear rooster

Why must you

C   R   O   W

so insistently

so repeatedly

at 2:30 in the morning?

Unplug

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Social media can thieve away my creativity. I know it does, but some days I don’t have the will power to fight against it. Because looking at Pinterest or checking Facebook is easy. Writing is hard. And if I don’t write, then I won’t write badly, see? It’s easier not to try.

Pathetic, I know. Especially since I’m trying to write a freaking novel.

But that’s the whole problem. I’m trying to write a freaking novel. It is the most challenging writing task I have ever faced. My senior honors thesis in college – the writing project I loathed to the essence of my cells by the time it was finished – was cake in comparison. Because then, I just had to have thoughts about what somebody else wrote.

But now, everything must come from me. The characters, their problems, their joys, their struggles, their triumphs – it all must come from my head and my heart.

That is really hard. It can exhaust me. I have already cried over these characters’ lives. I have lain awake at night thinking about them. And – I thought this was just a writers’ myth – I have been surprised by them. (How can you be surprised by something that comes from your own brain?)

But when my days are crammed with other responsibilities, and when the ideas no longer flow like water, then writing is hard. It is hard to make myself delve into these lives again, especially when I don’t know what else to do with them. When I look into their faces and they just stare blankly back at me. When I search their histories, their minds, their spirits, and come up with nothing. It’s frustrating and discouraging, and while it may not cause blisters on my hands or sweat down my back, it is difficult, demanding work.

But today, I’m logging out of Facebook. I’m shutting off Pinterest. Maybe I’ll write today, or maybe I’ll just let my brain rest and detoxify from social media. Perhaps what my mind requires on this misty, foggy spring afternoon is a nap under a cozy blanket or a walk through the woods.

And if you see me on Facebook today, nudge me in the right direction.

A Cold One

It’s five degrees outside, and my running partner is in Florida.  I stand at the door, looking at the thermometer, pondering.  The dogs need to go out, so I open the door and step outside.  it’s surprisingly lovely.  The sunshine is inviting and the birds twitter to me, saying it’s not really so cold.  I know they’re lying, but I resolve to do it anyway.

My running buddy texts me, saying, “Ran in shorts and a t-shirt but my thumbs were cold.”  I scowl and growl as I put on two pairs of pants, a running skirt, two pairs of socks, three shirts, a fleece, and plenty of gear to cover my hands and face.  Out the door I go.

The air is crisp and clear, and despite the cold, I inhale deeply.  The action of my muscles warms me.  The sun beams out of a cloudless blue, and as I reach the intersection that marks the halfway point, birds chirp from their hiding places, encouraging me onward.

No one else is outside on this cold morning.  Even the cars seem to hide in their garages.  If I had stayed in, though, I’d have missed seeing the family of ducks gliding through the frigid river, and hearing the downy woodpecker tattooing an irregular rhythm in the topmost branches of a hackberry tree.

The wind kicks up as if to tell me to quit dawdling, hurry home.  I oblige, picking up the pace for the last quarter mile and pulling my hat more securely over my ears.  Back home now, it’s tempting to stay out, so I relax for a few minutes in the lawn swing, wondering what the neighbors would say if they saw.  But nature calls in another way, so I breathe in the fresh air once more, and head back into the house.

Well, that explains it.

We had been trying to breed our rabbits for some time, and weren’t having much success. Then, Husband tried Fawn once more. He put her in Bear’s cage. And after watching at bit, he found out why Fawn would never kindle.

Fawn’s a buck, not a doe.

So… that changes our approach to things.

Sad Sally

On a cold day a couple of weeks ago, Husband said we had a sick chicken. She was standing in one place and moving very little. She was not following the other chickens around. She wasn’t eating or drinking. She wouldn’t even eat meal worms, which is like crack for chickens, so we knew something was wrong. Husband said she seemed despondent.

Since we wanted to make sure she didn’t infect the other chickens with whatever she had, Husband put Sad Sally in her own little cage in the rabbit barn. There is a heat lamp in there, and she seemed to perk up and begin drinking water. Finally, she stepped out of her cage and Husband thought perhaps she was on the road to recovery. He placed her back with the rest of the flock.

Perhaps it was too soon, or maybe she just was never going to make it, but a few days later, Sad Sally was dead.

We think perhaps she just got too cold and wasn’t hardy enough to survive her first winter.

This week, the forecast shows even colder temperatures than what made Sad Sally suffer. Wind chills below zero had us a little concerned. There is a large door-sized window in our coop, and we thought we’d better do something about that to make sure the rest of the chickens don’t get too cold. I had an old shower curtain, and this morning we stapled it over the opening. However, I hadn’t considered that the cold temperature would make the plastic brittle, so the staples were tearing the plastic. Clever Husband put staples in the top where the plastic is reinforced, and folded the sides over to help make it stronger. It’s better than nothing, but if the winds are really strong, the plastic may tear loose anyway.

We still have the plank of wood we had cut out of the shed to make the door, so we carried it to the window and rested it against the opening. It should block some of the wind, at least, holding the plastic in place, and hopefully it will be enough to avoid more sad chickens.

And next time we build a chicken coop, we’ll keep these weather concerns in mind, perhaps by having an actual storm door.

We’re always learning something on our little farm.

The Nice Thing About Being 40

A few nights ago, I was having a really rough time.  I was feeling lonely and discouraged and down on myself.  I was reading a book and lamenting that I will never write as well as that author.  I was feeling pretty worthless, when it comes right down to the truth.

But even in the midst of my tears, I knew something.  This will pass.  It is largely a symptom of winter, when the gray clouds fill the sky and the temperatures chill my bones.  When April comes and the warm breezes ruffle my hair and the trees and flowers bloom, I will feel much better about life.

It’s one really good thing about being middle-aged.  I know myself better than I ever have before.  I know that winter is hard for me.  Rules I’ve made for myself include that I’m not allowed to make major decisions in the winter, and I’m not allowed to label myself in the winter.  Things always are brighter — both literally and metaphorically — in the spring.

And a December sunrise like this one always serves to lift my spirits, too.

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In Admiration of a Rooster

Written by The Husband

Foghorn1

This fellow is truly inspiring. He guards his hens with dignity — pecks them into the hen house if he spies a hawk and makes an awful fuss if he senses one of them is in trouble. He works through his fear by sidling up to danger and keeping the corner of his eye on you. He is the great, white, kingly Foghorn.

Foghorn2

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