Friday, April 04, 2014


In the academic environment, the word "brilliance" has a singular meaning. It's reserved for the elite of the academic elite. A club of sorts. He was a brilliant scholar! -- someone would say. You got the sense that in that person you would encounter near-genius. Everyone else? Mere peons. Foot soldiers of the academic enterprise, never to rise in the way that the true meteors of brilliance would rise.

To me, none of this made great sense, probably because I knew far too many who demonstrated excellence in one domain but were utter fools in their other tasks and endeavors. The stories I could tell about the so called brilliant, when caught off track!

Still, I will admit to this much: I do admire excellence. Many forms of it: in cooking, writing, teaching, painting, machine building, listening. (I'm in awe of brilliant listeners.) Even as no one I know is excellent at everything or even at very many things. It would be too exhausting to try to perfect all that you ever undertook. But I do admire people who try to get pretty good at one thing or another.

Ed comes at this whole muddle of brilliance and excellence from a different angle. When I'm feeling cranky because someone performed really poorly at a skill set you would think they would know inside out (say, for example, scrambling an egg when it is your life's work to scramble eggs for others) and I mumble how that person is clueless, or when I hear someone saying something profoundly off-putting on the news, leading me to groan about the stupidity of said individual, Ed will tell me that everyone has their brilliance.
I'll retort - no, not everyone.
He'll look at me as if now I'm the clueless one: yes, everyone.

I was reminded of this today -- a gray day that could easily make you cranky, especially if you wake up no longer hacking away, but now with a lower back issue all over again, making you absolutely convinced that you are on a path of a rapid decline. I can usually shake off such stiffness, but it takes a few hours and here we have these chickens that are dying, dying to be freed from the coop and I'm in an ancient person's hip joint agony.
You want me to take care of them this morning?
No! Absolutely not! Mustn't get soft!

I do my chicken round of chores and I see that indeed, the weather is making Lexie feisty this morning and the other hens, too, are remembering that when last we saw each other, I had doled out  mealy worms, so rather than letting me tidy their quarters, they all hover at my ankles, waiting for some magic to come flying out of my pockets or hands. It makes it difficult to get anything done.
Sorry guys, I'm going inside the farmhouse. It's cold, drizzly, windy. Have fun.


And I retreat to do back exercises which make me feel much better. As I am stretching this way and that I think -- wow! first morning where I have not taken a single chicken photo!

And then we have breakfast.


And Ed goes off to his machine meeting and I go off for my weekly grocery shopping and the wind continues to usher in dark, puffy clouds and keep the temps unpleasantly in the mid thirties.

Later, as I unload the grocery bags, I see the chickens hovering ever so close to the corner of the pen, watching my every move. And they cluck and beg and so I let them out. Oh, are they happy! They quickly visit all their favorite digging spots as I look on. The two girls work side by side...


...and Lexie, as usual, puts all the strength and energy nestled within that scrawny little body into her two footed scratch that sends the dirt flying.



And, too, she has an insatiable curiosity. It's a much overused set of words, except in her case, it's true. If she sees me on the bench, she will run like an Olympian and jump up to the table top just to make sure she's not missing out on anything.


Even as sometimes, she can be hard to love: it's as if she can't help herself and she'll dart and peck at my shoe, then back away, suddenly remembering that this may bring out the meanie in me.

The flock is all over the property today and I cannot get away to do my work. When I'm inside, they quickly move out of my viewing range. Or, they stand by the door, setting off the motion sensor door bell that we have installed for Isis. Again and again. And again.


In either case, I am getting nowhere with my writing. I take a book outside to read at the picnic table, but midthirties and book reading do not mix well, so I say to them -- you've had your two hours of fun. Time to get back in the pen. And I rattle a jar of the coveted mealy worms (when dried, they make a chicken-tantalizing pleasant rattling noise). And the hens run to me, waiting for the distribution. I go into the pen and throw some worms down and there are the three chicks, safely inside the chain link fence.

Not so Oreo. For a guy who is so utterly brilliant at keeping tabs on the brood of hens, understanding in a flash when there is danger and knowing exactly what to do under those trying circumstances, he cannot figure out how to get back in the pen when the girls are inside. And when I try to herd him, he usually ends up in the rosebushes and I have to take a broom to him to get him going again. (He's equally daft about getting out when I open the gate. The girls will come running, he'll look around, see them outside and grumble in low, cocky tone -- now how did you do that?)


Everyone has their own brilliance.

For supper I make Irish fish stew. The weather certainly calls for it.