It’s raining feathers.
Step out into the chicken yard these days and it looks like someone ripped open a down comforter – feather confetti everywhere, every day. It’s been going on for weeks. Not an egg has been laid since early September, since all the hens’ energy seems to be going into the humiliation of losing their precious plumage.
They are patchy and disheveled. They are addled and aimless, so distracted that they wander about without their usual sense of purpose, failing to fall in line when called back to the coop for treats. Ava seems determined to dig herself the deepest of all dust bath holes and hide in it until the situation improves. June, deprived of her tail feathers, is simply beside herself, off balance.
I understand this all better than they might imagine, having been going through a season without purpose myself. Off balance, indeed. And speaking of patchy, the salon shutdowns have left me to my own devices, hacking off the unruly locks and watching my ‘feathers” go gray and grayer.
You want to talk about aimless? I went out to do real errands the other day for the first time since March. Ticked off four things on my list and had to come home for a two-hour nap.
Edith and I appraise one another in our patchiness. “You aren’t looking so good”, is the silent message we share. The difference is that Edith’s feathers will come back. But me? Hmm…
I just finished listening to Dear Ann by Bobbie Ann Mason, an author I’d heard of but never read before. The book is epistolary, a love letter to the 60’s, to literature, to both the passage of time and being in the moment. I had just been berating myself for failing to get back on track with my deadlines and expectations and, in frustration, stomped off to go for a walk and finish the book.
With the last chapter, the entire tone of the book shifts. Ann, the main character, steps off the track of the story to spend a season of reflection. She does nothing much. She tramps around a lake and she sits on her porch in upstate New York. She talks with her father in Kentucky about different kinds of oak trees. “There’s water oak, blackjack oak, red oak and post oak”, he drawls . She befriends a white-tailed doe that brings its fawns to her porch. “She savored the workings of the day, its preciousness.”
As I walked and listened, all those deadlines and expectations fluttered away like spent feathers. I recognized what the author was saying here in a way I never would have before the Great Pause of 2020.
For one thing, I probably would never have read Bobbie Ann Mason’s book if one of my book clubs had not perished due to the shutdown, leaving me heretofore unavailable time for discretionary reading. I wonder if I might also have missed out on walking around the bend in the road and encountering, for the first time ever, a Western bluebird sitting on a tree branch above me. Would I have had the time for that walk? Would I have bothered to notice the flash of color that alerted me to the fact that this was not the usual sparrow or towhee?
I know for certain that I would not have taken the time to notice the difference between my Mexican lime and my Persian lime trees. And I absolutely would not have taken the time to grow my two sorry little Roma tomatoes – more next year for sure! Because I have time, I think of these things, lots of things, and store them up for keeping like jam jars on a cellar shelf. This can’t be all bad, can it?
Joni Mitchell comes to mind, as she often does for me. “Well something’s gained and something’s lost in living every day”
I’m going to be kind to myself on this particular purposeless day, and encourage the hens to do the same. Pardon us, we’re molting. In time, maybe we’ll all get our tail feathers back, and in the meantime, as Bobbie Ann Mason says,
“You could slow down a day; make it timeless. Each moment is only now. The only now.”