There is a rooster across the street and two houses down who lives with a pair of Barred Plymouth Rock Hens and a Rhode Island Red in a fine backyard compound. This winter, the rooster and I are on the same odd sleeping cycle. I appreciate his company as he crows with precise regularity at 4:30 am for about five minutes and then again at the more customary crowing time of 6:30 am.
Like me, I imagine that he worries about getting up on time. Since he’s up, he thinks through his day’s activities and reassures himself that he can get it all done without forgetting something. After his mental inventory he settles down, walks about his yard, takes a bit of food, and contently waits for the sun.
The rooster’s early call reminds me to contain my worries – to greet my troubles, real and imagined, and build a fence around them. The fence is made with gratitude, rationalization and acceptance. I have to go about rebuilding every morning, as worries are a mischievous lot and are prone to escape.
The fruits of this mediation and construction are the most productive peaceful couple of hours of the day, before the kids are up for school or weekend practice.
From time to time, we toy with the notion of raising chickens. We read up on what would be needed and visit the feed store where they sell chicks. Our hypothetical chickens are named Sunny Side, Scrambled and Over Easy. It sounds ideal until I think about Big Otis, our English bulldog, versus the chickens.
Besides, I already have a rooster friend, a kindred spirit.
Since last October, I’ve had a chicken conversation replaying in my head that I had with a homeless man I met on the Lamar Bridge. I was taking pictures of Thirst, a temporary art installation in the middle of Lady Bird Lake created to bring about drought awareness. When I began, the man was at the other end of the bridge feeding pigeons and yelling at a runner. I’ve seen him before on my runs and knew he was prone to bouts of hollering but was otherwise harmless.
As I continued photographing, the man walked up to me and calmly asked about what I was doing. I put down my camera and talked to him. It was about a half-hour conversation that covered his time in the Florida swamps as a boy, whale sharks, religion, and chickens – in that order.
He told me that Adam and Eve had fifty chickens and that Adam named each of them. He proceeded to list the names: Mr. Chicken, Mrs. Chicken, Henny Penny, Lucky Ducky, Hokey Pokey and so on. I don’t remember past the first memorable handful of names but about halfway through he slowed down. I politely told him that it was OK if he couldn’t remember the rest. He stopped but promised me that Adam knew each of his chickens by name.
I love to think of Adam and Eve tending to their chickens, all fifty of them. I can see them in overalls and cleaning chicken coops. Going about the day, despite their fall from Grace.
I return to the scene of Adam naming his chickens every morning when my rooster friend crows and reminds me to enjoy the stillness.
Thirst sponsored by Women and their Work and created by a team of women including lead artist Beili Liu, Emily Little, Norma Yancey and Cassie Bergstrom.
With his permission, I took this picture of the man I spoke with on the bridge.