Saturday, January 7, 2012


The clouds sail like freighters to the East.
IN BIRDLAND A BITTER WIND BLOWS FROM THE WEST, and yet we have picked today to attach the protected chicken yard to the winter coop. It is both very important, and very foolish to do it today. Important, because without shelter from the cold wind, the chickens will surely get frostbitten wattles, combs, and feet, even though I coated them with vaseline a few days ago. Foolish, because, covered in plastic, the chicken run is essentially a giant box kite without the kite string. Michael built the run in the basement and covered it in chicken wire. He asked me to help him carry it to the yard to cover in plastic, and we soon discovered that he forgot to measure the door. He had to partly disassemble it to get it outside. I reminded him of the story of his father building a boat in his basement and discovering that they couldn't get it up the steps without taking out the railing. His mother wouldn't allow it, so he had to cut the boat in half. 
The wind makes a sound like a buzz saw.
By the time Michael has put the chicken run back together and covered it in plastic, the big wind threatens to carry us to the next county. It is an enormous wind. Dark clouds of blue grey cover most of the sky, only a little bright turquoise showing through as the cloud sail like freighters to the East. The wind has a sound like a buzz saw and my hair whips around my face as I try to hold onto my end of the structure. Michael has come armed with a staple gun, a drill, and some screws. The plan is for me to hold it still against the wind, while he joins it to the coop proper. The chickens have gathered to watch. It is nearly chicken dark, but they are leery of us, blocking their door. They huddle down near a clump of grass near the peach tree. 
The chicken run is essentially
a giant box kite without the string.
 We secure the snug yard to the front of the coop. They will need to learn a new door to go in to their dinner and their roost. They are puzzled and circle around the coop, suspiciously looking into the new door, one at a time. We try to herd them in, but they are wary, and every time they get close to the door, they veer away at the last minute. I go in and get a scoop of food, sprinkle it near the door, and then pile the rest right inside. They begin to take the bait. My brown hen even hops in and begins to pick at the pile of pellets, but then startles and hops out again. I suggest that we leave them alone. The sun is going down, and either they will figure out how to go in by themselves, or we can go back in a few minutes and catch them easily in the dark. We warm ourselves in the kitchen with hot tea, and return to find them huddled again in a clump of weeds against the wild wind. We catch them without too much trouble, and pop them in the coop.
They are suspicious of the new door.

Inside we begin to prepare dinner. I am baking the overnight dutch oven sourdough bread that Chad taught me while he was home. My oldest has taken a new interest in cooking and baking, with great success. I loaf the dough and let it rest on the counter while the oven preheats. The groaning of the wind grows louder. We put in a movie and settle with our supper on the couch. The lights flicker, then dim, then go off altogether. The first power outage of the winter, and we are not surprised, but not prepared, either. We sit quietly in the dark for a moment before getting up to fumble with candles, matches, and flashlights. Soon we have a cheerful glow in the quiet room. We start a fire and call the aunts to see how they're doing. Yes, their power is out. No, they don't need anything. I transfer my half-warmed dutch oven to the top of the stove and pop my loaf of dough into it. Ellis pulls out his phone and starts a long-distance chess game with Chad by candlelight. The brothers spent a lot of time playing while Chad was home last week. We sit at the table and Michael suggests reading Cannery Row. The smell of bread begins to fill the room with warmth, and the story curls through our minds. When the lights slam on an hour or so later, we are startled out of our peaceful world, but snuff out the candles one by one to save for next time.

Warm in Beauty; Illuminate Peace; Blessed Be.

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