I was already feeling rotten when I went out to put the chickens away. We don’t really put them away at night. They instinctively go into their coop, which is a metal storage shed. They hop up onto their roosts and turn in for the night all on their own. All day long they have free rein of the backyard and can go in and out of their coop. At night someone needs to close up the door to the coop to keep them safe. Yucaipa does have its share of critters and predators.
I had finished an easy night at work but was feeling upset because I had lost one of my framer’s gloves. I use the gloves every day at work. When I vacuum they keep my hands from blistering and they are helpful to wear moving tables. I had worn my gloves sometime that evening, then later noticed one missing. They were pretty new gloves and now I was missing the right one. Just thinking about missing it makes me run my thumb over the inside of my palm as if feeling calluses.
And if that wasn’t enough, I had lost a folding utility knife sometime too. I keep my knife and multi-tool in a pouch on my belt with Velcro closing it. Yesterday I noticed the knife had disappeared, fallen out of the pouch somewhere. I don’t know when or where and that got me down too. Prajna had given me the knife and multi-tool for Christmas a few years back. I tend to attach feelings to objects.
I stepped into the chicken coop and counted. There were 14. There should be 15. A few weeks ago we had had 17 chickens. Two had died in two days. We weren’t sure how but suspected the heat. I counted the chickens again, this time looking at the different breeds until I realized which one was missing. I shone my light all over the corners of the coop and inside the nesting boxes. No, one of our Plymouth partridge rocks was not in the coop.
I stepped outside and shone my flashlight around the yard. I looked around behind the shed where the girls hang out a lot, in the kid’s old playhouse, and under the trees. Then from a distance I saw it over by the side fence. As soon as I saw it I knew, but my mind just kept saying, no. But there she was, dead on the ground. Feathers were around her like there had been a struggle. This hadn’t been the heat. She had been killed. If could have been a predator. Or worse, it could have been one of our dogs. We had been letting them outside unsupervised and never had trouble with them and the chickens. The puppy sometimes chased them but they were too fast.
I came inside and told Prajna. I got a plastic garbage bag, scoped up the dead chicken and put it in the dumpster. I don’t know how hardly dignified and perhaps hardly legal.
I felt more miserable than ever. It was hot outside still. I didn’t want to go to bed but didn’t know what I wanted to do. I took the stuff off my belt to get ready for bed and felt around where my knife could have fallen out. I have a cluttered area on top of a bookshelf where I keep all my gear. My fingers touched something and I pulled it up. It was a key holder that I had lost about a week back and thought was gone forever. I have two of them that I keep on my belt to hang my keys on. I had forgotten this one was missing. Now it was found. In my deep sadness, I felt just a little rise in my hopes. Just a little. But it wasn’t really enough.
I tried to use the tools I have to get in touch with my feelings. Was I frustrated, angry, what? It was my fault for losing the glove and maybe the knife too. Was it my fault if one of our dogs, the puppy perhaps, had killed the hen? All I knew is that I felt sad. Sad was the only word. Maybe I was ashamed at myself for grieving over a dead bird. Sarah had named it. The hen had been shy and gentle. There is so much loss and grief in the world, who am I to feel bad for losing a pet chicken?
I tried not to deny the sadness while still having a sense of perspective. I could get a new glove; I could get two in fact. I had other knives. And we have 7 new baby chicks.
I hung the found key holder on the hook where I keep my personal keys. Right now my personal keys there are only my house key and the key to the family van. My truck key is at the mechanic along with the truck that probably will never be fixed.