Inspired by a debate on the Michael Roads Facebookpage during this week, today a rather different blog entry, a story. MY variation on the theme of eagles and chicken – there are already a few stories on this out there…that I personally find more frustrating than encouraging. So I chose a different approach. Furthermore it was important to me for various reasons to have a female protagonist – even though this might make for a less smooth reading, because we´re not used to it. Please bear with me and – enjoy the read:
The strange chicken
Nobody remembers anymore how it happened, but one day an eagle´s egg was laying among the chicken eggs to be hatched. The sitter hen decided not to worry about the strange egg among the others underneath her: if the bird god wanted this chick to be hatched, she intended to do her best and help this little bird to become proud poultry, just like she had learned it from her mother.
However this wasn´t so easy, for the chick from the strange egg did not look much like her siblings and also behaved differently. But the hen really tried her best, to teach the little white birdy proper pecking and scratching, and even though her beak was rather unsuited for pecking and her talons rather unsuited for scratching the strange chicken grew to a healthy big bird.
And one thing had to be said for the strange chicken: even though she was different from her siblings in appearance and stature, she tried her best to be as much like the others as she could. She ran in the mornings – even though slowly – out of the chicken coop, stumbled through the yard, got upset sometimes about a resistant worm or a sudden rain and was, though not really popular, somewhat accepted among the other chickens. The hen loved her ‘special’ bird daughter, who caused so much more pain of the heart, but also a lot more joy than all the other rather low maintenance chicks, for everything seemed to demand an extra effort of the strange chicken. Sometimes the hen secretly worried about her. Most of the other chickens were increasingly avoiding the strange chicken and would there ever be a cock crowing for her? After all she would have to lay eggs one day, for otherwise – that was the law – she´d be slaughtered and end up in the cooking pot. But the hen rarely entertained such thoughts, she was too busy doing all the other things that fulfill a chicken´s life.
However the strange chicken had to realize that she managed less and less to feel like the other chickens. They talked endlessly about how to keep your nest dry and clean, how the hay had to be and what body posture was the best for laying eggs and her sisters spoke more and more about handsome roosters – and the crowing of the young cocks was discussed in ever more detail. But to the strange chicken all this seemed oddly uninteresting. These ever repetitive conversations seemed dull and boring to her. Every day her heart became heavier. Only the sight of the mountains in the far distance and of the clouds high up in the sky could sometimes cheer her up. But every time she stared longingly into the distance, invariably she was disturbed by the hen and reminded not to neglect scratching and pecking, as if there was nothing more important – but was there really?
One evening, the farmer was obviously rather late today, a fox appeared outside the fence at twilight. In panic the chicken fled into the coop. But the strange chicken realized that she had wanted to follow the others as quickly as possibly – as she had learned and often exercised – into the safe shelter, but… actually, she was not afraid at all. She rather sensed something like curiosity and an odd kinship and even a kind of yearning. The gaze of the fox however expressed amazement and perhaps something like contempt, but why? The admonishing cries of the hen interrupted her thoughts and when finally the farmer arrived in the yard carrying a gun the fox also disappeared.
But the strange chicken couldn´t forget these newly experienced feelings. Suddenly she noticed that she rather slept during the day – despite the worrying clamor of the hen that she surely was never to become a proper chicken this way – and rather preferred staying outside in the dark. It was calm and quiet there and she could ponder her own thoughts that none of the other chicken seemed to share. So it happened that one morning in early summer, a big dark bird landed silently on the fencepost by the yard, while the strange chicken was restlessly sleeping in the way of chicken all fluffed up in a small sand pit.
Suddenly she was woken from her dreams by the big bird. “Hey you! What are you doing there?” “I’m sleeping.” The strange chicken said. “You´ve got to be kidding!” replied the big bird and plucked his tail feathers back into shape. “Why would I be kidding?” asked the strange chicken and the big bird answered: “Because eagles simply don´t sleep with chicken. I know that. I am an old eagle and I´ve been sleeping forever high above in an aerie on a rock, near the mountains.” The strange chicken hopped to the fencepost and replied: “But I am no eagle, I am a chicken!” The eagle almost fell of the fencepoast roaring with laughter. “Whoever told you such nonsense? Look at yourself! Do you look like the creatures in the coop or do you look like me?”
The strange chicken tilted her head and reluctantly began the comparison: her beak was indeed similar in shape, color and size to that of the visitor, as were the talons, the width of wings and the quality of the plumage…should she really be…? The old eagle interrupted her thoughts: “Stop thinking! Come! Fly with me!” “But I cannot fly!” she replied. The eagle shook his head: “You won´t know until you´ve tried. If you fail…then you´re perhaps a chicken, that has an eagle´s body by mistake. But if you succeed, then you´re perhaps an eagle with the temporary illusion of being a chicken?!” The strange chicken had great doubts – was she really able to fly? And what were the consequences? If she actually did something none of the others would certainly ever manage?
On the other hand, her curiosity was strong and she thought about the mountains and the clouds and a deep force from her heart burst forth. She knew, she would never forgive herself, if she didn´t at least try. Boldly she spread her wings and looked questioningly at the old eagle. With clear and brief instructions he helped the strange chicken to make a short flight onto the fencepost next to his.
The strange chicken had hardly any time to be amazed by this for the old bird cried: “And now, don´t think, just follow your body!” Spreading his wings he let himself drop off the fencepost into the air. With a couple of flaps he rose high into the air above her. The strange chicken had great fear, but slowly she spread her wings and let herself drop, just like she had seen the old eagle do. All of a sudden it seemed as if a magic power was running through her body. The upwind lifted her high above into the air and as if she had never done anything else, she flew after the other bird. As elegantly as her body moved through the air, as inelegantly thoughts and feelings tumbled through her mind: was she really an eagle? But then she was meant to lead quite a different life than all the other chickens…and yet…from the area of her heart came a powerful feeling of affirmation: she was different from the other chicken, she was meant to have a different life and yes, apparently she was an eagle! The more she permitted this to spread through her consciousness, the lighter her heart became. With every beat of her wings that lifted her higher and the more aware she became of the vastness of landscape and the details of the ground below her at the same time…the more she became exhilarated by the intoxicating realization: “I am an eagle! I am truly an eagle! This is my true nature.”
Suddenly the old eagle plunged down, approaching a mouse nibbling on a wheat ear. The young eagless immediately became daredevil and speeding up her flight she dashed down before the other bird, grabbed the mouse with natural aptitude and flew onto a branch of the tree, where the old eagle was already sitting. She tore the mouse apart with her superbly suited talons and beak and swallowed it with great relish. Only then she started thinking again and was afraid, the unfamiliar food might not agree with her. But the opposite was the case: for the first time food actually seemed to vitalize and strengthen her. The old eagle watched her with amusement: “Ain´t it something else than the usual grain grub, hm?!” The newly initiated bird of prey just nodded and said: “You were right. I am an eagle.” The old eagle laughed: “Great, that you finally noticed it yourself! I am curious how you will convey that to the chickens!” Suddenly the eagless felt really bad. She had completely forgotten the chickens. But not for anything in the world would she have been willing to already go back. So she pushed these thoughts aside and spent a wonderful day with the old eagle. Together they flew through the air and the old bird showed the young one the world and the way of the eagles. When the sun was setting, the eagless was tired and wanted to go home…but was her home still her home?
Cautiously she landed behind the chicken coop and then hopped around to join the other chickens, who were already waiting for the farmer to be shooed into the coop. The hen saw her first and cackled excitedly: “Where on earth were you? I was worried sick! God knows what could have happened to you! We feared the fox may have gotten you with your unhealthy habit to sleep outside at night….What were you thinking?” The eagless lowered her head and quietly said: “I am sorry, that you got worried.” And then, hardly audible, she added: “I was flying!” But the hen didn´t miss it. All ruffled with indignation she said. “You did what?” “Flying…” and then the young bird of prey began telling first slowly but with ever more delight about the tall trees they had circled, the fields and meadows and even the meandering river over which they had flown and the mountains, she had now finally seen up close. But the hen interrupted her: “Rubbish, silly fantasies – you fell asleep somewhere in the sun and you dreamed! This passes! From now on you’ll sleep in the coop again, like everybody else! For U can tell you one thing: you will never be a proper eagle! They cannot live among chickens. They actually eat chicken! They are birds of prey! Predators! Besides, they are alone a lot and have to live terribly lonely and unprotected all by themselves outside and always hunt for their food themselves – I can tell you, no reasonable bird wants to live like that! It is dangerous, reckless, and awfully exhausting! You very certainly don´t want that.” A few of the chickens nodded in agreement with the hen. However most of them hadn´t even listened, but were utterly absorbed by scratching and pecking. The eagless gazed at the flock of chicken she had become so familiar with. Some of them she really liked, they had a fine nature and sometimes even a sense of humor. But…should she really sleep in the coop again? And spend the next day again with scratching, pecking and cackling? The more she imagined this the larger her resistance grew and her clear knowing: she couldn´t do this anymore. She had become a new bird today and would never ever be able to pretend she was a chicken. Not even to make her old friends and relatives feel safer around her.
Something got irrecoverably lost today…but something new, slightly unfamiliar had taken that space: an amazing strength, a magical connection, an infinite love for life she had never known before. She would never, never, never relinquish that again and so she said firmly: “Yes, that´s exactly what I want!” The hen shook her head violently: “Nonsense, you have no idea what you want! Here with us you´re taken care of, protected and loved! That is the most important!” The eagless sighed heavily. “I love you too. But I cannot and do not want to live like you. It is against my true nature.”
And in front of the flabbergasted chickens, she spread her wings and rose high up in the air and with every beat of her wings that carried her further away she knew this was the only right decision. “How can you abandon us like that?” a chicken cried after her and another: “You thankless bitch!” And a third one yelled: “I always knew, something was wrong with you.” Howver the hen that had raised only whispered to herself quietly: “Then fly, but God speed you.”
The eagless was already too far away to hear it but suddenly she felt that even though she didn´t know where she would sleep tonight or where she would find food tomorrow, life would show her the way to become the best possible eagle she could be. Filled with awe and bliss she flapped her wings a few more times and flew higher and higher further up into the night sky towards the stars.