My feathered warrior

So, she was the third curve ball I was thrown in as many days.
It’s often like that. When you’re beyond busy. Or juggling too many plates. I don’t have to bang on here about my busyness – we’re all beyond stupid busy. But I find it’s when I’m dragging myself to the finish line, these curvy balls seem to come more often. They’re harder to dodge. Seems they’re aimed at your heart. And the ones you can’t dodge, well, they hit.
And when they hit, they hurt like hell.
I had maybe a billion more tasks to do at this current finish line, rather than attend to these waywardly directed balls. The other balls that came, I dodged. Palmed them off to someone else.
But this time, the ball was mine. And despite my squirming and my palming, it kept bouncing back. This third ball, bringing her with it.
She was the bravest and hardest of my girls. She wandered so far and travelled so deep, her flecked feathers held the marks of her warrior soul. She was always a little different from her sisters – first out in the morning, last in by the evening – but my feathered warrior lass always returned home. The teethmarks down her back stressed on an early empty womb. And it was hard for her at first – being the only girl off the lay – but after a time she picked herself up. And continued to cluck, and to coo, and to turn over my garden. She never made a fuss, shared every scrap she had and simply just got the job done.
She seemed in her strength a no-nonsense woman that just quietly went about her way.
She even had the kelpies at her call.
But for a few days I had noticed her silently slowing down. Staying in our garden beds, not too far from the front window. Not adventuring quite so far at all. But I dodged thinking about her too much, I had too many other things to do. I believed she would pick herself up in her strong no-nonsense way, as she had so many times before. But on Friday, I noticed she was not the first out of the coop. She was last. In fact she stood at the top of her little ramp for a time. As if to convince herself there even a was reason to leave the dark inside.
It was then, I realised, she was too weak to walk out at all.
She nestled herself into a safe corner of her coop and rested there.
In slow, sad silence, she sat.
My heart knew that even though I had been trying to will her to feel better, something very bad was happening. And that my feathered warrior, my no-nonsense woman was very, very sick. And that my wingman’s little pet was dying.
I reached into the coop and gently coaxed her out. Wrapped myself into her soft freckled feathers that small hands had stroked so many times. She smelled of wheat and warmth. Using all of her warrior strength she held her eyes up to see mine. I noticed she had small pink eyelashes. And I knew I had to make the call. The call I had been trying to dodge and the call I had unconsciously been dreading.
I knew there was no-one else who could make that call, but me.
The vet asked me her name so I gave our surname. My feathered warrior was named by a lad of 4 – meaning her name served her no justice – but she was one of us. The vet was wearing the traditional uniform, double denim matched with a polar fleece vest. Her words and her hands were kind. She told me what needed to be done, and that it wouldn’t hurt at my feathered warrior woman at all.
And that it was the only way to end her pain.
Chickens don’t have tear ducts, but I swear I saw a single tear across her fine pink eyelashes. It settled down over her sad, silent eyes. Because she knew the curveball had hit. And as I signed my name on the dotted line, the ball hit me too. I took her pain away. Her strong, silent eyes quietly closed.
And I made her pain mine.
Think restorative forward folds, hip openers and prayer.
Curveballs are hard because they’re uncomfortable and inconvenient. They force us to make conscious time and effort to shift from task orientation and linear direction to a single, expansive moment. When we’ve got a million balls in the air and we’re just trying to get ourselves across the finish line is when it’s easier to avoid the hard stuff. It’s easier to pretend it will get better by itself, pick itself up and return to happy families where we can tie off finished things in neat packages with bows. Or to ask someone else to make the call.
But the grit of life is where we learn deepest. And it is in grief that we have the capacity to grow strongest. And just because something is uncomfortable or inconvenient or we’re simply just too busy, doesn’t make an excuse for avoiding what needs to be done. Even if you hate what you have to do. Especially when you know it’s the only thing you can do. Knowing that it will make you hurt so much inside. As well as hurt those that you love most.
I told my 3 small ones, of our warrior chicken and how she died in my arms. I told them about her pink eyelashes and that she was sad. I said that she had a small tear when she said goodbye. And that I was sad too. In her mortality, I saw mine. We buried her under the orange tree, watered the ground with tears of our own, and hugged each other tight.
The curveball hit us all. The ball hurts like hell. It’s not only the guilt of signing the dotted line, but the sorrow of breaking so many hearts in the process. But I know in time, we’ll pick ourselves up again. And again, we will all cross the finish line. If not for ourselves,
For Her.
RIP my brave feathered warrior.

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