As I walk around my suburban neighborhood these mornings, I hear the cluck of chickens.
Brrtuttututt, brrtuttuttut, they warble, the first syllable on a higher note than the second two.
It’s a sound that makes me happy, because I grew up with chickens. They lived in a large caged area in our back yard, a wired enclosure with a latched gate and a roosting house .Never have I seen again such golden yolks as those from our eggs, for our chickens were well nourished and had plenty of room to strut about.
Years later I lived in the bucolic town of Lincoln, Massachusetts, where chickens and all manner of livestock thrive in backyards and small farms. The photo is of the free-range chickens at Codman Farm, the town’s community farm.
The commune members in my new novel, Joyous Lies, keep chickens. These fictional chickens, like our flock, had individual personalities and were named.
Yet the life of a chicken comes to an end, as do we all. I learned not to be sentimental about this when my father selected an aging hen for our dinner. He’d lay the chicken on his chopping block made from the cut-down trunk of a tree, and axe its head off. I don’t know why the chicken lay there passively in this uncomfortable position. I guess Dad must have twisted its neck mercifully before decapitating it. Later, I “helped” my grandmother when she plucked and gutted the bird.
Life with livestock and birds can be messy. Looking back, it seems to me that we then had more respect for the creature and for the work involved in feeding ourselves than when we scan rows of plastic-wrapped pieces of flesh in the supermarket. Our squeamish denial allows us to buy breasts in one packet, legs in another so we don’t have to recognize that these birds once had individual lives. Whether we view animals and birds, plants and trees as equal partners in the balance of life, or whether we see them solely in terms of how they can benefit us is one of the questions at the heart of Joyous Lies.
Thank you, Brenda, for this opportunity to tell readers about one of my inspirations for Joyous Lies!
Readers, if you liked the book, it would be truly wonderful if you could post a review!
If plants can protect their young, why can’t humans do the same?
Maelle Woolley, a shy botanist, prefers plants to people. They don't suddenly disappear. Raised on her grandparents' commune after her mother's mysterious death, she follows the commune's utopian beliefs of love for all. Then she falls for attractive psychiatrist Zachary Kane. When Zachary claims her mother and his father never emerged alive from his father's medical research lab, Maelle investigates. What she discovers will challenge everything she believes, force her to find strength she never knew she had, and confront the commune's secrets and lies. What happened to love? And can it survive?
All those years of seeking peace from the commune by walking into the forest and lying on the ground, feeling the earth underneath her, cool, prickly with twigs, alive. She’d lie there and just listen. The forest was blessedly free from the din of humans, the only sounds birdsong and the rustle of small animals. And after a while the forest itself spoke, full of noises. A regular cacophony of crashes and bangs, squeaks and murmurs. Not just the soughing of the trees in wind, but creakings and tearings. Trees were not passive at all.
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