Tag Archives: chickens

Tucson in November

November in the desert is a study of opposites.  The skies have gone quiet, awaiting the arrival of winter migrants. The sun still shines warmly yet the wind blows cold, laced with the sweet smell of decay.  Night come early and lingers well into the next day, and even though I am a morning person, I find myself slumbering longer and longer under heavy blankets.

The chickens are up with the sun when she shows her face, and demanding squawks eventually pull me out of bed and into the garden. The cold is quickly dissipating under the sun’s loving stare; even though I can see my breath in puffs, my rumpled hair is warmed by sunshine as I feed the birds and release them from the coop into the yard.The air is perfumed with the aroma of the growing and the dying.   I appraise the winter lettuce,whose green fingers tentatively reach upwards from the deep black earth.  The fig and peach trees shed their leaves like a papery dress, yet the carrots extend tender young greens upward and wave a feathery “hi!”

Even in Tucson, winter gardens can be a bit of a gamble.  With hardly a warning the long night could decide to push the temperature below freezing and irreparably damage the brave young plants that dare to grow in the coldest, darkest months.  The eggplant has already taken a hit, and its only mid-November.  But we are fearless beings, the veggies and I, and seek the light wherever we can find it.

The warm sun, the cool breeze, the sweetness of the earth, the cackle of the chickens are intoxicating, but the afternoon pulls me indoors.  Today has seen temperatures well into the 70’s, but deeper instincts of the dying light and coming cold cause me to seek shelter.  Home yields its own delights; before long the kitchen smells a curious combination of burned sage, the yogi tea bubbling on the stove, the yeasty sweetness of bread in the oven.

It is fall.  We grow upward, we turn inward  We shiver through the night and bask in yellow sunshine during the day.

Our Fall Garden, 2011

May you find your own sweet balance between the light and the dark.

bird medicine

About three weeks before Mom died, I was inspired: I went to True Value Hardware, and purchased two bird feeders. 

I should take a step further back. Sometime in the fall, when my husband was frustrated that the wild birds were constantly flying into our chicken coop, he decided to dress up the pole that supported our power lines in our back yard.  He installed a few feeders, in hopes the birds would be distracted by the seed and avoid three squares of chicken feed. The birds were thrilled, and I was able to experience bird watching for the first time in my life.  It was relaxing.  It put a smile on my face.  It was the answer to a need I didn’t know I had.  So, when I was so often away with my family in Phoenix, I missed the birds and knew that the picture window in my grandmother’s bedroom would be the ideal place to gaze at our migratory friends. I hung up the bird feeders and once they figured out there was food to be had, the front patio of my mother’s home was almost constantly filled with a frenzy of quail, finches, sparrows and thrashers. The patio is also accessible from the kitchen. Mom spent much of her final days there, gazing out the sliding glass doors onto patio, admiring her very own aviary. Fortunately, she was too sick to worry about bird poop.


we enjoyed watching hummingbirds, too


At that time, we needed birds.  These free, beautiful beings seemed to soar above and evade the pain and loss which permeated our every moment. We gathered with our family in the kitchen and enjoyed watching their antics around the feeders. The hospice nurse snapped pictures whenever she visited. Grandma smiled from her bedroom, where she is often confined.   The only joy I can recall from December was found bird watching.

Mom has since taken flight. I recently have felt her presence pushing me forward, encouraging me to plunge ahead into the future.  She wants me to spread my wings and fly. 

I still need those birds in my life- to remind me how to be brave, yet graceful, connected, yet transcendent.