It turns out that those monster thighs and herding tendencies that Amy, Diana’s chicken, was developing made a lot of sense. You didn’t even have to notice the red comb on top of her head; Amy cleared her throat and let out the first crows right after Diana and her husband Nik returned from England. Amos needed a new home pronto. Fortunately, Diana has a friend who knew a non-urban farmer happy to trade a healthy five-month old Ameraucana rooster for a hen of indeterminate breed. The farm, two hours away, wasn’t exactly conveniently located but what could Diana do? (Don’t even go there! For heaven’s sake, she’s raised this bird and beside, Diana’s a vegetarian! However, as a side note, I can attest that the bird formerly known as Amy was the least cuddly of the flock, and possibly not entirely heartbreaking to part with. There was murder in those eyes. One time Nik—wearing extremely thick gloves as I recall—picked her up for me to pet and when he thrust her toward me I knew that if I touched her she was going to kill me with her beak. No petting occurred.)
Anyone wondering how to transport a rooster two hours east in a BMW? Well, one borrows a small dog crate for the operation and stuffs the squawking Amos into the back seat. Diana says this combination might look a bit strange, so it’s important to wear a good silk scarf to carry it off.
Apparently it was pretty much a shoot-out at the OK Corral when Diana introduced “New Amy” into the coop to join Meg, Jo and Beth. You’d have thought they were members of Congress, from whom they apparently learned pecking, squabbling and power-seeking strategies by sneaking into the house and watching C-Span while Diana and Nik were at work.
Diana, a college professor, administrator and chicken whisperer, comes home from her job every day and roosts on a low stool inside the backyard run, hand-feeding treats and petting the hens, like Jo the cuddler, who particularly enjoys it. Diana’s such a good mediator that the chickens are getting along wonderfully now. She says it’s very zen to sit there with them after a day at the office. And it is quite comforting to watch them in their run, and to hear their low clucking and cooing. They’ve entirely worked out their differences and live together in peace. Hmmm. Sort of embarrassing to consider if you’re a person who reads the news. Anyway, whenever I visit, I go see the chickens first. Possibly this is not flattering to Diana and Nik, come to think of it. But their entire neighborhood pretty much stops by nightly, which is not so great perhaps if they want to get something done, but maybe the glamour will eventually wear off.
The first egg was laid this past Sunday by one of the Ameraucanas, identifiable by its light blue shell, which means it was the proud gift of either Beth or Meg. Maybe it’s the same as achieving “flow” for a writer. But what does all this really have to do with how you write fiction? Maybe just that you glom onto the ideas and backgrounds for stories when and where something attracts and enthralls you. You ask too many questions. You turn it around in your mind, like something that’s glinted in the sun, lovely. You write it down. You pay attention to the details. You wonder what more it means. You know you will use it all later.