Last night, in anticipation of a warm day today, we opened up the house before we went to bed to allow the cool air in while we slept. Upon arising this morning, we were making the rounds to get all the windows closed up and just as we entered the kitchen, which is in the corner of the house nearest the chicken coop, we were surprised by the sound of a rooster crowing. Stepping quickly out of the house, I caught sight of the chicken we have known and loved as Lollie standing proudly on a log in the coop opening up to another full-throated “Cock-a-doodle-do” and revealing himself to be Lalo. And just like that, the story of raising 5 hens changed.
We like to think we’re the author of our own stories, and for the most part, I am privileged to be able to believe that I am, that I have control over how the story goes. I was deliberate in the breeds I chose, I purchased the chicks from a reputable breeder, I made considered decisions as to how to feed and care for my new charges, and further carefully planned how best to house them over the long term. I was writing this story of our sweet little flock of hens — or so it seemed.
Sometimes, a story writes itself. Lollie was so much bigger than the others (we had affectionately dubbed ‘her’ The Beast); while the others are happy to be stroked and held, Lollie always shied away from any contact initiated by us but instead would peck (hard) at our clothing and skin (as if to intimidate); and in the past week it had become harder to ignore the beautiful plumage that was looking more and more like a rooster. Try as they do to correctly determine the sex of chicks before shipping them off, the breeders acknowledge there will be mistakes: Lollie’s story was always different than the story that I had imagined (and kept trying to believe) — in fact it is Lalo’s story and it is not mine to tell. Within an hour of this morning’s revelation, I delivered Lalo to a local farm center so that a new home for him can be found.
Recently we visited a brewpub where our waitress was generously tattooed. In particular, I noticed two tats in elaborate script that were symmetrically arranged and I asked her about them. One suggested, “Everything is a story.” The other claimed, “Stories are everything.” As we sit with our sadness today after losing our Lollie, the stories ARE everything and we are grateful that, for a time, our stories were intertwined. Truly we are only authors of our own responses to whatever comes next, whether it be anticipated delight or unexpected bummer, THAT is what we can control as the stories unfold. ‘Flock of five hens’ becomes ‘flock of four hens and one rooster’ becomes ‘flock of four hens’ — the story changes and we move through our disappointment to embrace the new normal with grace because we can. And so it goes.