Sunday, November 7, 2010

Carnivorous chickens, amazing butterflies and Harry Potter

Carnivorous Chickens

There are a few things that I need to share with you. 

First off, you need to know that anyone that tries to sell you eggs that are described as both "Free Range" and "Fed an all vegetarian diet" is selling you a big carton of malarkey.  Chickens, by their very nature, cannot be of both the aforementioned persuasions.  Chickens, when left to their own devices, will, most willingly, hunt down and eat meat.  My sweet Golden Laced Wyandotte hen, pictured above, is running very determinedly away from her fellow lady friends in order to eat her just bagged toad, alone.  She will most likely, peck its fool brains out, toss it around in the air a bit, and then leave the remaining carcass for anyone else who might be interested. 
Now, if all this time you've naively brought home your Fresh Farm Eggs  and imagined that the sweet hens that shared them with you had, only just that morning, been grazing contentedly in their open field, feeding on seeds and nuts and berries while simultaneously eschewing anything that crawled across its path, well you have been mistaken. 
Chickens are ANIMALS I tell you!  Animals!

Amazing Butterflies

"God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume."
--Vance Havner

As I shared in a recent post, I've been struggling a bit lately.  Valley living, I called it.  The place where everything is hard.  Where everything seems, very simply, broken.
And then, when stumbling out into the blinding sunshine to gaze upon the zinnias outside my front door, the ones that were planted as an afterthought and with nothing more than a haphazard scattering of seeds, I find this marvel pictured above.

A broken butterfly.

One whose wings had an actual hole in them.

And it didn't even seem to notice.  It was flying.  And flitting.  And sucking nectar.  And flapping its wings in that quiet and subtle way that all butterflies do.  It was doing its thing, despite the hole. 

Or could it have been because of the hole?

Did it matter, really, which was the reason?  

Does it matter that I, too, am broken? 

Of course it matters.  But it is what I choose to do with that brokeness that defines me.   Sometimes, all I can manage is what is most basic...eating, sleeping, bathing, caring for my children.  Other times, I can push through and open the shades to let in more light, even if it is a little later in the day than I would have wanted.  And the warmth penetrates something deep within, stiring up the dying ember that He wouldn't snuff out.  And there is hope.

"Grass grows at last above all graves."
--Julia Dorr

Harry Potter

I don't think I will be able to adequately describe to you how our family is forever changed from reading the Harry Potter series.  I know we're a little slow on the draw, having witnessed fellow friends be swept up in the Harry phenomenon a decade ago, but the timing just wasn't right.  But I suppose all of the planets lined up just right three months ago and we found a set of books on sale for cheap.  We gobbled them up and determined that now was the time.  Was it ever.
Our "schooling" has been all over the map this fall.  We've endured growing pains with regards to structure and flexibility, independence and neediness, desire and apathy.  We've studied history and math in spurts and science as the spirit moved us.  We've been tossed back and forth between plans made and undone, sickness and health, dreams cast and reality reeling us back in...  Nothing has gone as planned for a long time.

And then we began reading Harry Potter.  And everything (some days, literally everything) was put on hold.  We read the books aloud, together, all of us, whenever possible.  John couldn't wait for the rest of us and quickly read through the whole series in a week.  Aidan, similarly restless, succumbed, kept at least 5 chapters, if not a whole book ahead of us and, for the first time, while reading in bed, had to be told that we (John and I) were going to sleep and we would see him in the morning.  August, restrained only by the fact that he simply couldn't read the book on his own, depended on me to keep up the momentum and begged, at every turn, to please read another chapter. 

It was magical.  Truly magical.  Our nights, after dinner, were defined by how many chapters we could squeeze in before grown up eyes became too tired and blurry, or little ones' eyes could no longer stay open.  And the discussion.  Ah, the discussion.  There were the continual interuptions by August, full of questions and commentary, that, honestly, often tried our patience but, just as often, presented an insightful observation that caused us all to stop and ponder anew.  There were plot predictions and interpretations of characters' actions and musings on why things had to be the way they were.  There was action and fear and joy and utter despair--one night, as we read after dinner while still sitting at the table, unable to even wait until we had cleared the dishes, an unexpected plot turn found me racked with sobs and tears that I carried with me to my bed.

And then, almost as suddenly as it had begun, it was over.  We had managed to read through the whole series, aloud, together, in less than three months and now, it was over.  John had asked me, the whole time while we were reading aloud, why I didn't read ahead.  "I just don't understand how, after the kids go to bed, you can keep yourself from reading more?" he would ask.

The answer was simple.  I didn't want it to end. 

I suppose, upon finishing, there was some relief.  Like that which comes when you endure a long race or a big project.  A sort of "We did it!" kind of thing. 

But there was also a tremendous sense of loss that came with reading that last page.  We had been completely immersed in this world that had come to define us, in a way.  Questions surrounding the power of truth, love, sacrifice, friendship, bravery and righteousness had informed our conversations with each other as well as the quiet of our own heads.  Conclusions about the consequences of actions, or lack thereof, had been made, again and again.  These books had been an incredible bonding agent, for weeks on end.  And now, we had to move on.  Stumble back into the light of a new day, find our bearings and trudge on.

The level of discourse and understanding that my two boys (one of whom is not yet 6) demonstrated as we read these books truly stunned me and easily accomplished what years of "Language Arts" curriculums aim to achieve.  The attention to detail, ability of recall and overall comprehension of the text was truly impressive.  And the beauty of it all was--they couldn't help themselves.  It just happened.  It had to. 

For that, I thank you, J.K. Rowling, from the bottom of my heart.


  1. Wow Holly!
    This post is JAMMED packed with goodness!!!

    Let me see....

    1. ok. thanks for the heads-up about the chickens! i've recently been reading up on them (we're planning to get a few) but none of the 6 or so books i read pointed this fact out! good to know.

    2. what a wonderful reminder of how God takes whatever we have, wherever we are, and makes something beautiful out of it. that photo of the butterfly is amazing!

    3. i can feel the excitement in your words as you described reading with your family. there is something magical that happens when we all can join in and be a part of something together. i totally get the "not wanting it to end" feeling that you had. we haven't read any of that series, but have definitely enjoyed others this same way. i just finished reading one of the books in the Harriet the Spy series to my eldest (we've been up late reading together) and as i read the last paragraph found myself all chocked up, and then having to explain why (all the interruptive questions). it's a beautiful thing to be able to connect with your family in this way!

    happy for you! thanks so much for sharing your experiences!

    peace & blessings!

  2. Leslie,
    So good to see your comments. I hope you and your family are well.
    Chickens...ahh, we love everything about them...their beautiful feathers, their yummy eggs, their delicious meat...
    Have fun on your adventure!

    The butterfly--couldn't believe it when I saw it. Truly remarkable.

    Reading--I hope that when my children remember their childhood, reading will be such an integral part of that memory that they will not always be able to distinguish between what they read on their own and what we read as a family.

  3. This is what I posted about Harry Potter on my own blog, and thought you might like to read it.


    It’s been more than a week since I’ve posted anything on the “Chair Massage” series. I do have more posts written, but they are not really ready to send. I could give you all sorts of excuses if you’d like, starting with the obvious ones; I don’t feel like it, and it’s Thanksgiving week. That and I got stuck reading Harry Potter. See, really, that last one is my family’s fault; they demanded that I go see the last Harry Potter movie, and a lot of it doesn’t make sense if you haven’t read the book first, and the seventh book doesn’t make sense unless you’ve read the first six. So see? I had to take a week off.

    I can get through one book in two days if I stay up until 6 in the morning, flipping back and forth in my bed reading it. Then, of course, I end up with a back ache. Just finished “Order of the Phoenix” and still have two books left to read before I’m caught up. Am still sad about Sirius. And apparently, the name “Sirius” has been programmed into my Spell-check, as there was no red squiggly line underneath when I typed it. Cool, eh? Here’s the strange thing; Dumbledore and Hermione and Hogwarts are also in Spell-check, but Voldemort and Hagrid are not. Strange.

    Spectacular special effects on the movie, of course; it wouldn’t be a Harry Potter film without those. But truthfully, the magic and flying motorcycles and such are kind of the whipped cream on the cake; it’s cool, but not really why I read and watch the series. I think what most attracts me is the family and friendship relationships between Harry and the Weasleys and Hermione, Sirius and Remus. I’m envious of Molly Weasley’s position of head female in the middle of all those men. I’d love to be the one who took care of all of them, especially if I could just swish and flick, and have the dishes and housework do themselves.

    I want to stick those twins in my pocket and take them out whenever I need cheering up. I’d love to have Hagrid show me his animal friends and let me ride Buckbeak. And truth to tell, I wouldn’t mind marrying Remus Lupen ; even with the werewolf factor. Yes, I know, none of these people actually exist; in fact, I’ve seen several of them in other movies. I guess I just envy those who have a large circle of friends and family to look out for them and enjoy their company. I want to sit around a big table with a whole bunch of people who love and value me and just have fun with them.

    Yes I know, relationships are never entirely made of pie and laughter. But the more people who are in the inner circles of your life, the more your horizons expand and the more interesting your life becomes. It also means there are more people for you to take care of, and more to take care of you.

    Yes, reading books and other blogs and newspapers and such do expand your knowledge, but they can’t replace the warmth of real people, and especially a gaggle of people, all interacting with each other.