Sunday, April 17, 2011

These feathered breaths

today i feel is day to reckon,  a settling of accounts.  one tiny such account was not expected to but has been totaled and settled and put to rest.

i returned from a glorious day at the Marin headlands filled with the splendid drama of wind, cold, and an ocean fury to my own little Mission refuge.  I traced my usual path from side gate to backstairs to Victorian flat door with customary cooing and shooing of my feathered lady friends who like to wreak a bit of chicken havoc in my backyard.  Fancy and Chubs waddled furiously in my direction, eager for treats? or something to simply break the monotony?   Goldie wasn't among the marauders but sometimes she lays late so i kept on my path into the house.  I will spare you the details, but let us just say that i was greated by a great fecal explosion of the canine variety as i walked through the door.  continuing to spare to you details, i ended up outside hosing down various materials and rugs when i suspiciously noticed a continued lack of Goldie presence.  Something to note is that Goldie is never demure or unnoticeable.  As a rather larger and tall golden Americauna, she has a glorious beard and an attitude to match her size.  She is cantankerous, feisty and LOUD.  So, the relative quiet in the backyard was eerie.   I postponed my clean up measures to make some inquiries into Goldies whereabouts.  Not in the hen house for an early bedtime, not hiding out amongst the garden pots, tools and backyard ephemera of Under the Porch, not even munching on the irresistible new arugula sprouts.  i did not even have time to fear the worst when i noticed a poof of little golden feathers near the garden beds.  damn.  my hope was that she was messed with but got away.  it could happen.  right?  right??  unfortunately, more feather poofs formed a trail to a little covered hideout in the furthest back corner of the yard.  This area is almost impossible to get to unless you are a smaller animal type thing - its marshaled off by some gnarly metal trellises and ticketed with blackberry bramble.  Now anticipating the worst, i crouched to see what i could in that corner and made out what looked like a avian shape.  Getting closer i confirmed that i was Goldie - what was left of her.

As many folks do when they encounter any shock or crisis, i went into DO mode.  I knew i had to get her out of there.  So i hacked my way to the area and somehow wiggled and wriggled and shifted my way close enough to grab her foot and drag her out of there.  I quickly set about figuring what to do with her remains.  Keep the wings.  Bury the rest.  With this firm plan i laid her down and went off to get the necessary tools.  as soon as i laid her down, her death overcame me and i cried.  Much harder than i expected for a chicken i had befriended two years ago who was arguably the most difficult one in the little flock.  Cried for failure, for failing to protect her.  Cried for loss, her life, her sisters extra body warmth in the hen house, my eggs, my friend. Cried because i had just been talking about her and her cranky ways to a new friend early that day.

I know that i am not a farmer. i have to pretense that this i what i am doing at 2621 Bryant st in the Mission, SF.  Yet, somewhere i assumed an idea that my chickens, while not being livestock, were not entirely pets or members of the family.  I even entertained the notion that perhaps when their time came - naturally, not from disease - that i would be able to eat them.  I guess i was wrong.  They are family - not the brightest bulbs in the barn, dirty, noisy, not particularly affectionate family members.

Goldie, Fussy Pants - you were a good chicken, an unexpected friend and i will miss you.  I send your little avian spirit off with new wings, ones that can take you skyward.

"And when the sky drops all those feathers
And when the birds sing in the morning
I'll be a mama
I'll have a daughter

And I'll give her melodies
I'll give her melodies"
Alela Diane


  1. joolay! ugh. this is the first time i've read this post.
    i'm so so sorry to hear about goldie's passing.
    sending you love three months late, but hopefully not too late.
    i'm grateful for the way you've captured and chronicled this.
    love love love you.

  2. You are a farmer. A compassionate one. I tear up when any animal passes ... it is my humanity and yours that make us good farmers!