Paradox is hard to miss here. It forces me to pay attention. Modern high-end resorts sit next to the ravages that Ivan left behind back in 2004. The lovely beaches, I expected. The flood of childhood memories was a surprise.
Chickens are everywhere. They announce the sunrise to all who attempt to sleep past the day’s arrival. The sounds seem so out of place and yet… so familiar.
Mrs. Parry Lee lived across the road when I was growing up. Her chickens rummaged around the back yard, fussing and clucking at one another. I would climb her little cherry tree and sit on a branch near clusters of tart cherries, spitting the pits onto the ground below. I watched as the hens scattered not knowing where each little bomb was coming from. It made me laugh. Chickens are so silly. Perhaps we are more alike than I realize.
To Mrs. Parry, the chickens were part of the family. I can still see her wearing her apron out to feed them. She would take a small bucket of grain and shake it while calling, “Here babies…. here babies.” It was just a part of the soothing rhythm of each day out in the country.
On the other side of the road, lived Dempsey and Mamie Dunning. A woven wire fence grown up with a vine of gourds, separated our properties. Inside her fence lived another flock of cackling hens. Mrs. Dunning was a kind woman but her chickens had a job to do. Nothing more.
We lived on about seventy acres of farm land. My dad didn’t farm anymore. He’d taken on more profitable jobs. He bought little houses in desperate need and fixed them up a bit and rented them to people in desperate need, because he understood. He had been one of them.
I can still see these places in my mind. Green fields planted with tobacco, soy beans, corn or rich alfalfa hay and cows, pigs and chickens littered the rich and fertile farmland. It was a lifetime ago. It’s like a story that I’ve read and remember but still it seems foreign to me now.
So, here I am forty-five years later, visiting a place that is thousands of miles away where the sun perpetually shines, the sea surrounds me on all sides and the soil is too sandy and dry to grow much and yet the sounds of those cackling chickens takes me back there, in an instant. It pulls memories lost long ago and connects me to my past.
It will be something to ponder as I sit and stare at the sea. I will try to learn more about the child that ran barefoot and became “brown as a biscuit” as my great-aunt Opal used to say. The girl that ate June apples until her stomach hurt, spit cherry pits at the chickens below and drank fresh ice cold well water. I long to be that girl…the one who entrusted all of her worries to her parents.
We often think that we grow up and come so far—but have we? Are we reaching for something better only to see that what we had was pretty good to start with? Or can there be bits and pieces of the good, offered a little at a time? Could it be that if we pay attention to each bit of good and entrust our worries to God and just appreciate, that we will see a steady stream of blessings in our lives?
Fussing and picking. Zigging and Zagging. Always busy…
It’s hard to say but it gives me something to think about.
I am a daughter, sister, aunt, mother and probably most notoriously, ‘the Vet’s wife’.