Trees surprise you. Across the street two maples, which I must have noticed in the three years I have lived here, yet perhaps ignored, suddenly glow. Golden, misted amber leaves with a hint of harvest grape green stand quietly behind my neighbors fence. So vibrant on this day of gray. Trees change, fields dull to muted shades, summer blossoms wilt and even my indoor furry friends get a bit furrier. Autumn arrives in medias res, to begin in the middle, in the middle of change.
Yet what about the chicken? What changes do they rely on to understand the coming cold, what harbingers of this season do they have? For example, this fine photo of our very own Polish Hen, whom I refer to as the Wandering Pole, knows nothing of winter to come. Sprouted this spring, her fellow layers and sister, Queen Louise the 15th, also know nothing of days kept indoors, hours of white on windows and the wind that doesn't stop for the domesticated. Chickens continue to lay, cluck and roll in now colder dirt, doing their chicken duties and doing them well.
We have six chickens and this past weekend while raking leaves and then putting them in their coop, the chickens acted grateful. They continued on with their chickening without any fear of cold winds from the north. We who have cultivated this animal for the past 10,000 years all for our own needs have failed to inform them or give them something to note the change in seasons. Perhaps knitting chicken sweaters is about as publicly insane as walking your cat in a sweater while on a leash. Sure we give chickens heat lamps as their own private sun during cold nights, but really, the poor bird is quite literally left in the dark.
Recently, I watched a documentary on the history of the chicken, which really could have been called "the stupid things humans do to forget they are animals". One such chicken lover in Maine gave her frozen hen left for dead mouth to well, beak resuscitation and brought her favored fowl back to it's chicken life. Another woman in Miami bathed her hen daily and believed her chicken was her soul mate, dare I say fowl mate. Regardless of the absurdity and extreme in chicken ownership, I do think about these little beings despite their bead of a brain need a bit more credit.
For regardless of an occasional molt, chickens are incredibly trustworthy and reliable creatures. Perhaps even loyal to their duties in producing eggs. Roosters have long been more than useful in time management and what could be more bucolic than a pasture with a few hens scratching in the background. From the practical to the artful, hens surely have their place. This place is usually side lined or in the back drop unless you have lived your life as Gonzo from the Muppets who was not shy or bashful for his love of chickens.
And so, it is the middle of the week and at the end of autumn that I want to pay homage to the spirited bird, which lives without expecting to fly. The underdog without even practicing a song. Chickens, you are the falcon of humble acceptance. Enjoy the poem.
September crowns each crest of larch with gold,
geese mold the sky and maple, with their hands
wave to the sun, waning the horizon red.
And the hen cares not for falling leaves.
Their bodies preen slow knitted winter
warmth as feather sweater. While your cider
skin, no longer bare, demands covering.
You try to hold the passing of your longing,
try to keep August as your private yolk
to feed off February fates. But you, more chicken
than god, season your days in dirt and grass.
You learn to quiet yourself by raking leaves,
your fallen heart, you cannot keep green.