Our giant black chicken stood outside the open kitchen
window clucking with vigor yesterday afternoon.
Despite the high heat and humidity, she marched back and forth in the
green grass busily squawking with an air of self-importance, a clear sign she’d
just laid an egg.
I dropped what I was doing and rushed outside. “A-ha!” I thought. The day before I’d gathered a measly four
eggs. I knew the hens were holding out on me and I walked slow searching
circles around the yard in the afternoon and early the next morning hunting for
their secret nest.
Our sixteen hens have a total of seven nesting boxes spread
between two coops and one “alternative” nest tucked in a pile of hay on the
garage floor. They have plenty of good
places to lay their eggs. But once a
month or so first one, then three or four find a new place to
The first secret nest we found was
tucked under a piece of abandoned plywood lying at the base of our largest pine
tree. In the sheltering shade of the old
wood, resting in a shallow depression between two roots, lay a clutch of eighteen eggs. Since then we’ve found
clutches on wooden shelves in my husband’s wood shop, in dark corners of the
garage, and in the middle of a much-trampled flowerbed. The nests are cleverly hidden and nearly
impossible to find, although they have hens sitting in them and coming and
going for most of the day.
When I suspect the hens are hoarding eggs, I prowl the yard
looking around the base of shrubs and trees, I roam the garage looking for
secret corners and shadowed shelves. Most
importantly, I start listening to the chatter among the birds.
Every chicken we have, save perhaps for the shy Polish hen,
announces her freshly laid egg with a puffed chest and wide-spread wings,
her beak opening to pronounce pride with a voluminous round of
“bawk-bawk-bigawk.” This announcement
can go on for a good five or ten minutes as the hen boasts and elates over her
own great deed. If I’m paying attention,
then I notice this cackle of delight and quickly head toward the loud-mouth
hoping to catch her red-handed at the scene of the crime.
Yesterday when I heard “Thunder Storm” (as
my daughter calls her) or “Darth Vader” (as the boys call her) clucking up a
storm I ran outside and checked closely in the weedy
flowerbed beneath the window, pushing aside leggy Cone Flowers and Daisy stems that refuse to
yield more buds. I scanned the base of
the overgrown shrubs that need trimming but found nothing. Lately I’ve noticed the hens hanging out around the old well-house just
beside the kitchen window but I’ve checked the ancient trellis there with its
climbing vines and knew, just knew, there was nothing there.
Still, I paused and scanned low again while the black hen
with her feathers that shimmer iridescent blue and green chattered on. Then my eyes caught it, just a glimpse of
brown tucked in below the trellis, behind winding vines hidden in shadow. Kneeling, I tenderly pulled back vine to
reveal a sheepish brown hen who, startled by my abrupt arrival, decided she had sat
for long enough. Tottering off, she too began to boast about the egg just laid and I stared at the pile of eggs,
I called the kids outside to witness my discovery and we started counting the brown, white and
blue eggs I pulled out of their secret shade.
“Eleven eggs!” I shouted, delighted with my find. Then I ferried the eggs into the house in the upturned hem of my shirt.
In the kitchen, I eased the eggs gently onto the
counter and sent my husband a text, “I found the secret nest!” Then I washed the eggs, checked for freshness
and slid each into its own slot in a new carton.
I don’t know why the hens change their laying habits, why
they refuse to utilize the seven perfectly good nesting boxes. I
suppose it has something to do with hiding from predators and other ancient longings they could
not quite articulate even if given the gift of human language. I want those eggs, though, as much as any fox
or raccoon in the wild might, because they’re of value to me and since I feed
and shelter the birds (as much as they’re willing to comply) I feel entitled,
you might say, to certain benefits.
I find it tempting, then, to accuse my birds of hoarding
their gifts and from there it would be an easy leap to turn this into a
reflection on hiding one’s talents under a bushel basket and the likes. Some of us do hide the gifts we’ve been given
and hoard them to the detriment of ourselves and those around us. But the truth is, many of us have a hard time
finding and claiming our own nest of gifts.
Many of us spend weeks and months circling our lives waiting to discover
what it is we have to offer a needy world.
I could tell you not to hide your talents, but I bet most of
us know that’s a no-no already. Instead I want to offer this to those who are hunting and
seeking for the hidden nests among us, the places of fertility and
fruitfulness, the places of hidden treasure:
I never found a hidden nest by shaming a bird.
I’ve never sat a chicken down and had a stern
talk eye-to-eye and told them they really should be more compliant. (But I have a hunch the effort would be wasted.)
What I do, when hunting hidden treasure, like a nest or a talent or a sense of true vocation in this world, is listen for the song. Look for the place where joy and pleasure abound, splitting the air on even the hottest of days, the place where you sing loud enough that you can be found.
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Author, Shawn Smucker and I are offering a one-day retreat this coming October 15 in Carlisle, PA. Titled, Writing As Witness, we will explore the ways writing can position us to witness the presence of God in our own lives and in the world. Visit link to learn more.
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Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.
What if we chose to deliberately look for small moments of wonder, the small sparks of presence, of delight or sorrow, of true humanity in which we meet God?
That’s my proposal – that we gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days. You’re invited to link-up a brief post about a small moment of wonder. Don’t worry if your post is too long, too short, or not just right – you’re welcome to come as you are.
While you’re here, please do take a look around and encourage at least one other blogger with a comment. Thanks for being part of our community!