Saturday, March 13, 2010
Chickens and the War
We’ve had our chickens for eight years and George is still around. George is a hen, named after the man who planted our fig tree—she is the first and only Boss Chicken. She came with three of her sisters, two of whom we moved to a friend’s coop, in October 2002. Her companion, Myrtle, died several years ago, taken out by a raccoon when she was too old to fly up onto the perch at night. George, however, is hanging in there. She hobbles and hops around and takes sun naps in the afternoon, but she has prime perch spots, unquestioned authority, and lays the occasional egg in the summer. A fine old hen. We’ve had her about as long as the country has been at war with Iraq and I’d like them to go out together.
Mark and I had been pretty active in the anti-war protests that winter. We went to Portland one Sunday to take part in the largest world-wide protest against the war. The march wound through downtown chanting “This is What Democracy Looks Like” And “No War.” People beat on drums and sang. One guy walked the route naked and painted (it was pretty chilly, too). We were quiet; I carried my “Think” sign over my shoulder. We stood in front of the courthouse regularly; I went down one night when the group was holding an all-night vigil for several hours and returned for an hour before school. Beth and I took a personal day on March Fifth, when students all over the country went to “Books Not Bombs” rallies. CHS was well represented that day at OSU—about a third of the students did not go to classes, but showed up at the rally, at least for an hour or so. We had hopes that enough people would come to their senses in time to stop the war.
The night war was declared, Mark and I walked the carpet. We have a braided rug in the living room and, when stressed, we walk along the edge. There was something calming about walking in a focused circle, listening to the news night after night. It functioned as a labyrinth of sorts, keeping us grounded. The president sounded so smug and confident when he declared war, announcing that planes were flying over Bagdad as he spoke. “Shock and Awe has begun!” like it was fireworks over the city, not bombs killing civilians and frightening small children in their sleep. I paced while Mark washed dishes.
Later, I slipped outside to check on the chickens. I unlatched the door to the roost and reached inside, patting both of the ladies in their sleep. Chickens are soft and warm at night, their feathers sleek against their sides. They woke slightly, murmured their disgruntlement, and settled more firmly on the perch. “Let us be, we’re tired,” they said. I relatched the coop, checked the gate to the outside and their food, and went back in. “Chickens are safe,” I told Mark, wishing that the rest of the world was.