Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Fever and the First Egg

I was recently sick for a week and a half. Not just moderately bad, but an all-out flu, with aches, extreme exhaustion, sinus congestion, and the worst fevers I’ve experienced in over a decade. My brain turned into a vat of porridge, my strength melted, and I spent my nights feeling like my skin had turned into sand dunes in the desert sun. All the while, I spent my lucid moments desperately trying to keep up with my teaching job (I managed, somehow), reading books, and scrolling through blogs. Food sounded and tasted terrible, and I ate very little. Zach and I watched some TV but mostly I just slept, slept, and slept some more.

Then, two days ago, it was like my immune system handed back the keys to my brain. “Here, just saved your life from a deadly flu— you’re welcome. Don’t try to get the body up and going too quickly.” I lurched back into my daily routine, fighting only the occasional nose-blowing and dizziness, and tried to pick up all the balls I had dropped while I was down.

On Monday I ate lentil soup that a friend from church brought over, and I felt like going outside and sitting in the sunshine for a while. I let the chickens out and sat on a straw bale and felt the warm sun. The chickies began dust-bathing in the mulch, occasionally crowding around me making inquiring little chirs and chirrups. It occurred to me that their nest box might need a bit of cleaning, so I lifted the lid.

It’s been clear for several days now that the chickens have reached or are reaching sexual maturity— whenever I pet any one of them, she’ll hunker down as if to be mated with. So we’ve been keeping their nest box clean, and Zach put some ceramic eggs in the box to help them adjust to the idea of these strange new objects before they actually lay one.

I lifted the lid of the nest box, and saw two brown ceramic eggs.

And, next to them, a small, oblong, beautifully pale sea-green egg.

I blinked. I wondered if Zach had bought a smaller-than-usual-green-ceramic egg when I was sick. I reached down and picked it up, turning it over, staring at the specks of whitish calcium on the surface. 

I turned slowly to look at Bobbie Dylan, who was pecking at a straw bale with the feathery “muff” around her face sticking straight out. She gave me a wild-eyed stare and a murmuring cackle.

“Good girl, Bobbie!” I burst out. If she were a dog I would have petted her, but Bobbie hates being touched, so I rewarded her by not giving her a huge chicken-y hug. Instead, I cradled her egg in my hand, feeling my heart beat faster. It was like picking the first pepper you ever grew from seed, but this one was even better because of the sheer unexpectedness of it. We knew they’d start laying soon, but there was no “ripening” to observe. In fact, if it weren’t for the distinctive Ameraucana color of the egg, I wouldn’t have any way of knowing which chicken laid it. 

Since then, one of the brown-egg layers has started laying as well, and going out to check on the chickens is a treasure hunt. 

I’d already felt like I was coming back to life after my long sickness, and the new development in my chickens’ lives seems like a sure sign of spring. Of awakening. Of resurrection.

Life is miraculous.


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