Saturday, March 31, 2012

Heeding the Wake-Up Call

Every morning I awake to the hens' calls. Diamond, the Silver Spangled Hamburg, chirps a noise somewhere between a woman's guffaw and the screech of a red-tailed hawk. The other two hens emit quieter sounds, more like gentle "Top o' the Morning" greetings.

Jersey, the fourth hen and alpha bird in the flock, has taken ill and no longer sings her morning wake-up song. Three days ago I walked into the coop and discovered her in a heap on the ground, one wing splayed out. I picked her up and placed her back down. Her legs folded under her and she collapsed on the bed of pine shavings.

Does Jersey have Marek's disease?

She was a gift to me, Jersey, the giant black bird with iridescent feathers. So, were the other three hens and the large two-tiered coop, hand-built with love, that houses them. Even though it's nearing the time for Jersey to start laying eggs (she's six months old), instead she has become ill.

I purchased a small dog cage from the local pet store and separated her from the other hens. Marek's, an airborne poultry virus, is a highly contagious disease.

I called the local feed store. The poultry expert assured me that all of the hens had been vaccinated as chicks for Marek's disease.

"Ten years ago, we never saw Marek's in this area," said the woman. "Maybe some strains are becoming resistant to the vaccination. Or, perhaps, there was something wrong with the original vaccination." Whatever happened, she agreed, that Jersey's plight sounded like Marek's. She suggested I put Jersey next to a small light to help keep her warm. "Hens body temperatures are high and without the flock to warm them, their bodies can become stressed from the cold."

Jersey now sits in a cage on the patio during the daylight sun and sleeps at night in a cage in the garage under a light. She's stilling eating and drinking water. I'm feeding her a homeopathic remedy Hypericum Perforatum (St. John's Wort), 5 dosages in 1 tablespoon of distilled water and also a complex of crushed food-deriven Vitamin B. Occasionally during the soft hours of the day, I hear her gently cawing to the other birds as if to say, "I miss you." And, I also see her scooting around on her tail feathers trying desperately to stand up. She seems determined to not give up on life until she can stand on her own again.

Having a sick bird is a wake-up call to how fragile life is.

Last year, I had a series of my own wake-up calls. Some were medical, others professional, but they all resulted in the eradication of toxic things from my life.

Intuitively I knew that if I continued on the same path, a path that seemed to wind through a thicket rife with poison oak and venomous snakes, I would end up like my beloved Jersey--wings clipped, legs splayed--unable to stand on my own two feet.

So, I made some changes and heeded the wake-up call.

And, while in flux, I met one of the most important souls I've ever met. He challenged me to debunk status quo, eradicate prescribed meanings of success, and to follow my creative being. He asked tough questions, taught me what he knew, and pushed me beyond my boundaries. Under his tutelage, I flourished. Or, at least, I began to.

But, thickets are notorious for spawning new growth and, sure enough, the weeds of exterior forces began to entangle our feet, ensnaring us in expectations, judgments and external demands. Even the sun that cast its dappled guiding light at the end of the thicket, couldn't stop the questions from coming. Had we, like in Don Quixote's Impossible Dream, dared to run where the brave dare not go? Were external forces clipping our wings? When did love become not enough?

Wake-up calls sometimes don't go as dreamed.

This morning when I awoke to the sounds of the hens, I realized I was like Jersey. Alone. Sequestered in a cage. Sad. Hurting.

It's time to heed yet another wake-up call.

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