I ask my nephew whether chicken in Switzerland tastes the same as chicken back home. He says chicken here tastes like fish, in a good way, and chicken at home tastes a little bit sour in the end. So I ask, it's better here, then? And he says, no, it's good both places. My nephew refuses to be pinned down on the subject of chicken.
Which is pretty much a wise way to go. A while ago, in response to a friend's Planned Parenthood post, I opined that compared with the tragedies of unwanted & unsupported motherhood, abortion is a blessing. Another friend responded, it doesn't have to be not-tragic to be a blessing. Word.
It's not because the Jesus story has come to encompass many layers of myth that Jesus wasn't also a real person. It's not because I'm right that you're wrong. Chickens taste good to my nephew in Baltimore as well as in Lausanne, and even if I don't eat chicken myself, I can still cut up his meat & point to each piece as it calls to him to be eaten.
Chickens are fecundity are fearfulness are the mark that separates town from country, until someone in town decides she wants hens, and the whole Civil War-era compact Sewanee, Tennessee has been built on has to be re-examined. If we take to keeping chickens, does the town's proud separation from hillbillyhood dissolve? Do we revert? And if so, how long does it take, and what does it look like?
As it happens, my friend and her chickens are altogether so charismatic that they are allowed to stay. Antoinette with her dowager's wig of white feathers, and her sisters of the green-speckled eggs, are granted amnesty, and Sewanee does not slide any steps further towards end-times uncivil ways.
There are other Sewanee chickens - the cherished hens of the Green House, sheltered in a queenly coop & chicken tractor. My friend Sid and I are called in to bless them & so we do, chanting in Pali & sprinkling everything in sight with improvised holy-water from the springs in Shakerag Hollow. It's parents' weekend, whose dress code my friend has dubbed "rich casual," and yet I don't see a single Mom or Dad recoil when given a big fluffy talon-footed bird to hold. They take their offspring's feathery offspring - their grand-chickens - to their cashmered bosoms, proudly.
I am writing about chickens, and I am falling asleep right here at this table. I blame the cheese pie for lunch. I blame the amount of time it takes body & soul to re-find one another, after a journey 1/4 of the way around the world.
Window open. Fresh air. Sleep chases away.
We drop off Chloe at Good Dogma for boarding & training, and discover that chicken-distraction is part of the program. Paula, the dog savant who runs the place, has ordered a flock of hens and named the 13th "Spare." But, since Paula is a genius, no harm has come to any of the birds, even though so many dogs. Even though armed Libertarians doing target practice every time the Patriots play, Amen.
I pull my shawl around me - open window means less sleepy, but also chilly.
Chickens frying. Broilers, fryers, fancy poultry parts sold here. The ideas we prefer, about where our chicken comes from, as opposed to the things we know about CAFOs and horribly confined birds. Driving by the chicken-truck on the freeway - a dense concentrate of horror. What should be birds preening is sad infected piles collapsed on one another in wire stacks, never allowed the space or resources to develop into themselves. For this, for our malodorous and misguided mountains of food, we have a lot to answer.
We chicken out of admitting the weight and the skid of our hungers. We cluck in sympathy. We allow ourselves to be blind to what we know, and we carry on as though our blindness were all that we are capable of. Chickenshit. But it's not true. Care. We are capable of care, and of admitting that we know what we know.
Julie Püttgen is an artist, expressive arts therapist, and meditation teacher.