1. READ THIS >> “Trading Stories: Notes From an Apprenticeship” (Jhumpa Lahiri; The New Yorker, 13 June 2011).
1a. While you’re at The New Yorker site, let’s all READ THIS, TOO >> “Creative Writing” by Etgar Keret (The New Yorker, 2 January 2012).
2. TO CONSIDER >> “The Writer’s Life.” Where do you write best and when? How do (or how will) you schedule time for writing in your daily life, both this semester but also long-term? Feel free to post your responses in the comments section.
3. TO WRITE >> “But she came back.” (I feel like I stole this from another source, which I can’t remember right now to credit.) Anyway; write 2 pages of either pure fiction or creative nonfiction on a topic of your choice. The other stipulation is that everyone’s response must end with that sentence: “But she came back.” You’ll have to do some of what we educators call “backward planning” and decide how you will get to But she came back. Post your responses below.
4. Don’t forget to continue >> your writer’s notebook.
“When I became a writer my desk became home; there was no need for another.” ––Jhumpa Lahiri
Her Last Few Days
Can I be prepared for another death knocking at the door? This looming loss is knocking at the door of my chicken coop. It’s Isis.
I never expected to be the mother of a flock of chickens, let alone to become attached to their delightful charm and character. The bond wasn’t quite instant. I feared them as they ran toward me from the other side of the yard. I’m anxious around our rooster, Abraxis, the leader of the pack. He has the potential to attack me with the three-inch spikes upon his heels.
Isis seems to be the runt of the flock. She was lagging behind on recent chicken counts. The chickens roam freely on our two acres of land. They know the land better than I do, wandering off to the point where I can’t find where they are hiding. But I am sure to count them when they return, especially at night when it’s time to tuck them away.
Yes, I count my chickens. Isis recently began drifting from the others, spending more time alone, and is now staying indoors all day. I hope that as long as she is eating she will be alright. But now her comb has started to droop and change color.
We consulted the president of our Chicken Club, Sue Z. Yes, we belong to a chicken club. We are relatively new chicken owners & their illnesses are foreign to us. It was suggested we call Frieda & Frank, who have many years experience caring for chickens. Sue Z. warned us not to worry if Frank didn’t say much. He is apparently a man of few words. We were told he might know what’s wrong with Isis.
My husband described the symptoms to Frank and then hung up awfully quick. He said, “She’s got the cancer.” What can we do? Nothing, nada, she’ll be gone in a few days. My mothering instincts kicked into high gear and I continued to try and help her drink and eat. I held her and soothed her throughout the day. I washed her dirty bottom. Before she never used to be still long enough to even pick her up. The days continued to pass.
Death in farming can seem different than death in human life, if that makes sense. Sometimes when I wander with the chickens I wonder if I am like the Pied Piper eventually leading them to their death via predator or human hand. Death is inevitable and tragedy happens. Several weeks ago, I experienced my first death as a chicken owner. A second addition to our flock, Lady Lazarus, was killed by a predator, most likely a fox. She had survived rooster abuse in her earlier days, which led to her name, after the Sylvia Plath poem.
After a dog attack, I prayed for our rooster fervently. My husband said he was dead. We went to get him for burial and he was missing. He came back. I assumed, of course, that I prayed him back to life. I was determined to pray Isis back to life. I had already lost Lady who was in the shed awaiting the appropriate burial site. We know life is full of losses. I had lost my Great Pyrenees to bone cancer the November prior. Making the choice to euthanize her didn’t seem to belong within my power. I lost my grandmother the September prior. She passed away on my birthday. How do we survive the grief?
How do you say goodbye? I only know how to love until death. Like a marriage commitment, “till death do us part.” We thought this was her last few days. But she came back!