Mill Creek Beacon - Your Hometown News Source

By Jana Hill
Mill Creek Beacon Editor 

Finding chicken Zen


Last updated 11/19/2020 at 8:08pm

Jana Hill

Mattie McAllister and her pet chicken, Hazel, toured Paddywack in Mill Creek's Town Center, on Nov. 17.

I was visiting Mill Creek last night in a downpour, and I met a chicken. Her name is Hazel. She seemed to be on tour and having a lovely time seeing what work looked like, for the people-folk. She was unfazed by the hip-height dog nearby or the nosy editor asking her name.

Meeting a chicken is not something everyone appreciates, but I grew up in a household that had several. One had blue features that popped out of the top of her head like a spout, and we named her "Hairdo." Blue eggs were her specialty. I can do a chicken impression.

I know that if eggs are brown, that does not mean they are "from a farm" – that's a claim I have heard more than once. Eggs are white or brown or blue or some other shade depending on the breed, but I won't delve into the ugly world of chicken assumptions.

The great thing about animals is they have no idea that there is a pandemic going on, and in fact they may be happier than ever. They are possibly aware of why they are so thrilled. I cannot say. But since late March, they are surely aware something has changed.

I suppose it depends on the level of sentience for that animal – bird or dog or cat. My dog is ecstatic, daily. But normally we only have two telecommuters and now we are all, quite often, right here. She gets more treats and more cuddle time. She is a full-sized, full-figured lab mix and doesn't even seem to mind the new cat relatives. She just knows all change is getting her more hugs. In spite of her large-breed status and her girth, she considers herself a lap dog by nature. Quarantining is really her zone.

As I write this, my cat is licking the top of my dog's head. They're supposed to be enemies, but they're getting past it. Sharing attention, food, space. We can all take a lesson from this – I'll call it chicken Zen or cat-and-dog friendship. There's a metaphor around any corner, so just go with me on this one.

We can mimic that. Do not lick anyone's head in some unannounced plan to bond with that person. I am going to take a guess and say that won't end well, and in a socially distanced era there's a whole new reason to not do it. That is likely illegal, unless that person lives in your home. And, even then – leave that to the cats.

But do wander mentally in what appears to be aimlessness. Guide your thoughts toward a better place then fear and find that keen sense of release and acceptance. Hazel looked calm, so I will demonstrate my chicken mind-reading skills: she knows that Mattie has no ill will toward her, so she may as well relax and enjoy the view from about 3 feet higher up than she would normally be able to gaze.

And, higher than that, as chickens seem to have good neck mobility – easy to look up from waist level. That's the release and acceptance thing that you can borrow, from a chicken – you are here, in whatever space you are in now. Your space is hard or not hard. It is abundant or scarce. It is sick or well. It is employed or not, broke or not, even headed or not. It is what it is, and it is the only now you have before you. You will not live this unique set of moments, ever again.

Faces have fear but masked ones just have half an expression. So maybe this era is even more chicken Zen than ever, for some animals. Maybe it is for you. If it is, share your thoughts. People have an easy time expressing mad, critical, rude, judgmental, annoyed – what about supportive, gracious, kind? It's harder now as a human: try on gratitude.

So, the age-old question begging to be asked here is clear: why did the chicken cross the road? Well, Mattie was carrying her, so presumably the choice was not all hers. But I like to think she wanted to take a tour of Paddywack, in Town Center. Maybe she needed to get out. Maybe she's happy that the lady carrying her looked unworried. Who knows?

We are in the most uncertain times I can ever recall. Sometimes I look around at people and animals, and when I catch a glimpse of something or someone that looks calm, I am curious. What keeps them level, grounded, and in such a firm place that all this chaos just rolls off.

One thing I note about animals is that they seem to be able to focus on exactly the priorities that are before them, with no wavering, no fretting, and no confusion about who has their back. Somehow, they just know.

What a world that would be. Maybe we can work to be more like that as we enter the newness before us, that post-COVID era we are all looking forward to with all its effective vaccines and open restaurants. All of its concerts and its time at the park. Maybe we can all find our chicken Zen, as we move toward that newness.


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