(Originally titled: Denise, Here is My Homework, Where Is My “A”)
Once upon a time, I had a beautiful black chicken called Sabina who was a “silkie,” a type of Chinese chicken with soft fur-like feathers. This unusual breed has black skin and meat and black bones. Black bones? Did God hold back an inch when he set out to delight and entertain our very eyes? I’d say no.
Anyway, I digress. Sabina was a motherly type who had no babies of her own. She would encroach on the nests of other hens, so desperate was she in her quest for her own egg, and this led to girl fights, turf wars and other problems. For some reason, the roosters did not find Sabina attractive (possibly, she fussed too much) and no rooster seemed ready to “take one for the team,” so everyday she haunted the barn searching for that lone egg she could call her own.
One day, my son took some kitchen scraps down to the barn, leaving the bowl in the quieter reaches where Sabina was wont to go. When we went back down later, we beheld a welcome sight. Sabina sat proudly on a newly constructed nest in a place of pride within the barn, head high, chest puffed out, busy hatching with great maternal servitude. If you don’t know hens, they will stay on their nest no matter what, making only the briefest of forays from their post for food or water.
As the days went by, Sabina sat with regal composure. It didn’t even seem to bother her when the other chickens came close and pecked at the area where her egg was safely stowed, she being complete in her happiness despite their ill regard, though as it continued, I decide to watch her. Something was up. I sat and read a book, looking occasionally at Sabina and at the nest. After about twenty minutes, she shifted her weight revealing a mysterious cream-colored object that was flat, flat and rather square and a part of me began to wonder how I might reach Ripley’s Believe it or Not with the story of the “Square Egg of Woodside”.
I reached towards her slowly (for which I received several hard pecks) until I got a firm purchase around her body and lifted her off the nest. There was no egg. I turned her at an angle to see if she had crushed it thereby gluing it to her body, and then I saw it. This egg, which had produced such a strong maternal outpouring, WAS square, flat and cream colored and even had a wavy edge, and then I knew the baby to be would never grow, hatch or leave the coop. It would never trouble it’s mother, suffer pain of any kind or fear for its existence, for this baby was a surrogate, something Sabina had chosen to stand in for the baby she really needed. When I looked at it carefully, I saw the “egg” she was hatching was actually a large ravioli, taken from the kitchen scraps.
I debated what I should do next. Above all, I saw she needed hope more then anything else, and so I returned her to her nest to finish the job. After a few days, Sabina (now nicknamed Ravioli) grew bored, got up and walked away leaving the “egg” behind her. Clearly, something had integrated in her little chickeny brain. Wasting no time, the largest and fattest rooster promptly ate the ravioli
The 500 Word Challenge is like that ravioli, a transitional object used to carry us from the idea of writing to the daily reality of putting words on the page. With a simple instruction to write a small amount on a daily basis, to forgive ourselves our shortcomings, and to press on when we lapsed, Jeff gave us a way we to experience ourselves as writers just as Sabina experienced herself as a mother as she tried so hard to hatch that ravioli. Three months after the ravioli incident, she became the proud mother of two strange half-breeds that were her pride and joy.
As I set out to hatch my own “real” egg (my novel) I think about the journey that got me this far. It was another ravioli so to speak through which Coach Melanie Stiles persuaded me to “just try” the Writer’s Sessions at 2013 C.S. Lewis Fall Conference, where with her help, I read aloud my first piece. That led me to take a bigger risk, to ask two women to be my writing buddies, and so with Roslynn Pryor and Brenda Redell Shipman we formed a now cherished small group. With our friends Red O’Laughlin and Rob Fennell, we joined the 500 Word Challenge together. These people had enough care and interest to encourage this ordinarily very shy woman to put herself out there just a little bit more. It’s their fault I was unleashed.
Over the course of the 31 days, I’ve never missed a day, and I’ve written 32,437 words on my novel and on prompt assignments. I took steps I never expected to take including sharing the following pieces:
- Swimming Lessons
- All That
- My Eulogy – Read it and weep
And this one…
- Debbie, Here is My Homework, Where Is My A
Had you asked me a few weeks ago would this invisible person push herself out there and share, the answer would have been a resounding “never in a million years,” yet here I am.
By reading your writing through your posts and blogs and learning of your dreams struggles, I came to care about you, to savor your journey, and to check in many times each day and to relish what you had to say as you wrote our world. That you engaged with me made my solitary writing experience that much richer and blessed me with those many tiny moments where you stopped and played with me.