Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Feathered Toes

Some new hens arrived yesterday. I am pleased to announce four new Auracana (green-egg layer) chicks and one English Game/Mille Fleur cross. English Game chickens are these small birds with a whole bunch of personality (once used in chicken fights and apparently excellent egg-sitters). Mille Fleur chickens have feathers growing out between their claws. It is a Lady Gaga fashion statement to say the least. This little female is lovely (the only full grown one of the lot) – she is friendly, curious, calm and vibrant.

Introducing the hens to our current brood that consists of one Chantecler rooster, an Ameraucana rooster, one Barred Rock hen and a whole bunch of Rhode Island Reds, was of slight concern to me. As someone who came new to a community, I know what it is like to be the import.

We all know that it is impossible not to be curious about newcomers. When we moved to our house we noted the traffic drove extremely slow by our place. Now that the cars have sped up a fair bit, we realize that this was just the period where the neighbours were circling to check out the new residents. Now when a place sells near us, we are sure to do the very same when the new people move in.

But I have to admit that it can be exhausting to be the one without the roots – especially in an area with relatively few transient folks. Getting to know new people involves investment, emotional and physical energy and time. Lots and lots of time. We tell each other our histories a puzzle piece at a time and if we find ourselves sharing tea many years later those histories finally begin to add up to a whole picture. In this community, the histories are intricate patterns made over many generations. It is nothing for someone to be surrounded by 100 or more of their close relatives and have four generations of their family within a small radius of their home.

There is not one place in the world where I could find my own history like this. I have scattered people across the planet or rather I have found my people in many far away places and then left. Yet now I feel a very strong urge to herd them into one small space.

So when it became time to plant roots, it did not matter where I began. People often ask us what brought us here. Was it cheap land? Why were we not fearful as Anglophones in a French province? How could we come to a place where we didn’t know anybody? I recall the day we drove into the driveway of this farm for the first time. A friendly black dog wagged her tail from her chained post, the leaves were boasting their colours of bright red and gold and a full rainbow arced over the mountain beyond the fields. We immediately knew we were home.

Now, this is the place where our babies were born, where we are investing in the soils, in buildings, and most of all, in the people that surround us. In this place we care about the local businesses and know the owners by name. There is such a rich history here and we do our best to respect it. We find people with similarities and we accept the differences of others. I try to keep the linkages straight so that I know who is related to whom. It isn’t easy. There are a few last names that tend to repeat themselves which can be both confusing and helpful. I have three friends with exactly the same first and last name. There is no short way to explain which one I mean.

It can be lonely starting over in a place where your attachments are recent. I feel separate from the undercurrent of the town most of the time. Perhaps even those who have lived here forever feel this as well though. Yet I will never bump into aunts and uncles, cousins, my siblings and their kids, my parents, my grandparents or my childhood friends throughout the course of any day here. The people who know me best still live many, many miles – if not thousands - away.

If I am honest, I would admit that I am someone who spends the majority of her time alone so relationships are slow in coming no matter where I am. I’m also aware that I’m a little strange. I don’t seem to do what most people do. But that’s been true everywhere I went. It isn’t different here. I’m an odd bird. Perhaps we all have some oddities to us, and we just learn different ways to cover them up and fit in. Or flaunt them and worry less about the fitting in part. I’m afraid I’ve never been very good at hiding the feathers between my toes. So I've learned to survive the consequences whatever they may be.

Now I watch that little bird – the Mille Fleur in my barn. I am so very fond of her already. There she is, minding her own business as she figures out how to make her way in her new space. The current residents are all looking in on her – she will be in her own coop with the other new ones for a couple of weeks so that they can get their bearings. The cat has skulked by, the dog has sniffed around, the cows have poked in, the other hens have ripped off the chicken wire to get at their usual nesting boxes (even though they had previously preferred laying in the cow mangers), and the roosters are making their usual cock-a-how-do-you-dos.

Mostly I think its okay to have feathers between ones toes. What choice have we got anyway? One short life to live. One small being to be. Be it, I say. And try to bloom where you are planted.

I’m going to take a page from my new little hen. She seems to not be worrying too much about what the others are thinking.

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