Today was hard from the moment the chimes of my iPhone wake-up alarm sounded. A quick list includes: the sudden cold and heavy rain; missing some former coworkers known for their no-holds-barred costumes, and festive Halloween snacks (no surprise, this was the children’s room at our downtown library); and kiddo being with her dad for this trick or treat. That last one, as last things often are, was the real kicker. Not the day’s fault, but it was sucking before it even got going.
Chasing down paperwork on these dreary days, still figuring out my place at the farm, dealing with lawyers (even when they’re on your side)- I’ve got my hands up in the air, saying, ‘alright then, Lord, what? Could you throw down a little mercy? Just, you know, a crumb.’ (It’s my understanding God loves sauciness from us humans, especially when accompanied by a touch of sarcasm.)
After that quick, salty prayer, I go right back to working as hard and fast as I can. While yelling a little. This morning I couldn’t even yell. I was just flat-out exhausted. In the kitchen at work, I put on The Pop Cast with Knox and Jamie, hoping to sponge up some of their good energy, and hunkered down. It didn’t work. Jim came to see me and the ‘hi’ died on his lips when he saw my face. Instead, he braced himself, and asked, ‘oh babe, what’s wrong?’
Nothing. Except I had seen a job posted, a steady, boring job, and there was a salary, and I know some folks who work there, and maybe I should look into it because then we would have one steady income, and who cares about the long hours, or dull work, nothing is ok right now. Because I’m worried about family situations, and I don’t know what I’m doing here, and we’re going into a slow season at the farm, and that just straight up scares me, and I’m trying to write more but I barely have time, and you and I just got married, and we’re figuring all that out, so I’m thinking maybe I should get a new job.
This is how my mind works. Sometimes, if one piece isn’t working, or even several pieces, my response leans towards burn it all down, and see what you can recover from the ashes.
It doesn’t work out as well as you might imagine.
Jim listened and hugged me and considered. He suggested I might be getting ahead of myself – just a little- by suggesting we should give up farming altogether. And this job probably wasn’t, he posited, the only good option available ever, so maybe I didn’t have to jump on it rightnow, as I thought might be the case.
‘Maybe you should take a break?’ This was his thought. ‘Just, now, today. It’s been a long week, there’s been some weird stuff. Just take a break.’
‘I’m so tired,’ I managed to say, without crying, ‘but I can’t. I don’t have time for a break. And it’s fine. Just nothing is working.’ At that point, I cried.
One thing has been working this week. Well, to be fair, lots of things, but that wasn’t where my attention was going. But there was a little bit of good news, in the form of our hens.
We got chickens this year, and, after Dorothy gave them some baby-chick cuddling, we set them up in their coop, and said, basically, ‘here’s your food, here’s your water, there’s the door, best of luck.’
We fill their food and water, put them out in their yard during the day, close them up at night, clean their coop about two weeks after they need it, and collect their eggs. It’s farm life. We don’t have time to be babying no birds.
The chickens did fine. Except for one grotesque instance of hen-on-hen bullying, they’ve worked out their circumstances by, I’m figuring, the power of deduction. The food isn’t here, but it is here. The water is not there or there, but look, this metal container I’m standing on seems to have something liquid in it. Ooo, a rail to grip. That’s where I want to sleep. This is what I imagine their mental processes to be as they grow themselves right up.
The only struggle has been their eggs. Where to put them?
We were slow to set up nesting boxes, so the hens were left to their own devices. Here, behind this door? Ok. This corner? Yep, go for it. That ledge up there? Sure, why not?
This wouldn’t work for the long term.
Jim came up with a plan for milk crates. He used 4 plastic boxes, cut one side off each crate, and fixed them to an inside wall, a few feet off the ground.
There the crates sat, while our chickens laid eggs everywhere else inside the coop. And once in the outdoor yard.
Occasionally an egg ended up in a nesting box, almost like a hen just couldn’t help but lay the egg, on her way to the corner.
We thought placing eggs in the boxes might give them the idea. Hint, hint, right here.
Nope. The chickens didn’t flinch. They put those eggs wherever they wanted, including one lady who would fly to the top of the open feeder, hunker down inside, and leave her eggs there.
That’s what, or who, gave Jim the idea.
That hen, her little head and fluffy tail poking from the top of the feeder, her plump body filling the opening, she looked so – no other word for it – cozy. She was tucked in.
He added hay, and a top to the nesting boxes. ‘I don’t know if they’re going to like it,’ he said, while he and I studied his adjustments. ‘It looks pretty tight. Will they fit?’
It is tight. They do fit. They love it. Talk about cozy on a rainy day. And guess what?
They just needed the right environment to feel good about leaving those eggs. Now the eggs are in one safe spot, less likely to get trampled by us or other chickens, and the chickens have their happy place.
Tonight, I followed their lead. Jim and I made dinner, and then I set up my nesting box.
These are what I need. Clearly, I’m more high maintenance than a chicken. And when I get up, there won’t be an egg, but there will be (please, Jesus) a calmer, kinder, more rested human person, ready to show up in the world, and act like one.
A hen figures out most of her life based solely on instincts, and imitation, at least our hens have. They wanted a cozy spot for the purpose of egg laying, and when it wasn’t immediately evident, they made it work. Behind a door. In the far corner. On the high ledge, at the back, where only one chicken could reach. Private, quiet, cozy. No one told these hens that’s what they needed. No adults showed them, either. They just walked around, living life, watching each other, and figuring it out.
I missed a lot of cues we’re supposed to pick up when we’re growing up. Like how to rest. How to find a cozy spot and land. I see other people doing it, but even then, I’m not so good at imitation.
However, if I’m lucky, and I listen, there’s usually good human people around who help me put these pieces together. People, like Jim, who have a better sense of what rest, and breaks look like and how to do them.
We can’t all be as bright as chickens, but, like chickens, we all need a cozy spot to land. Praying you find that rest and your own nesting box today, friend.
What does your landing spot look like? I’d love to hear how you find rest in this busy world of ours.