At a coffee shop recently, I was economizing a second cup from a tired, green tea bag and pondering the long stretch ahead on the calendar. Punxsutawney Phil had already missed his shadow and Valentine’s Day was knocking at the door.
“We’ve got to get through February and all of March before we have a break,” I thought. “How am I going to keep these writing students motivated during the dreary, wet weeks ahead? How am I going to keep myself going?”
These questions and more revolved around my brain as I gazed out a window, a dreary grey sky lingering there. All of nature was hibernating, it seemed, taking a break from productivity and movement. Some humans had taken a cue from the red maples: A sign on the nearby ice cream shop said, “closed for the season.” Yet some of us plow ahead, a caffeinated beverage in one hand, a raincoat in the other.
After more contemplation, a bright light ignited in my head.
We will have tea.
“Tea makes everything better,” says Bindi Irwin. “Where there’s tea, there’s hope,” says Authur Pinero. I’m not sure who these people are that said this about tea, but I liked what they said!
Yes! Let them drink tea!
So, the idea that formed in my February brain grew into an event. At our next class, I announced that we would have a tea party during our read-a-round session. Everyone signed up to bring something from home: a snack, a jar of sweetener, some bags of tea. I brought an electric tea kettle and 10 porcelain tea cups. For a few of my students, this was their first tea experience. “What do I do with the tea bag?” and “How much water do I pour into the cup?”
Once we finished with the how to’s and everyone was settled, we enjoyed reading each other’s stories while we sipped and snacked. Smiles could be seen on weather weary faces. The caffeine gave a boost of energy for peer reviewing. And, generally, the tea provided a calming effect upon the whole group of young writers as they read and commented and grew.
At the end of class, I picked up a goodly stack of well-written peer reviews. Then someone asked on the way out the door, “Mrs. Naz, can we do this again on the last day of school?” I smiled, knowing they would want lemonade by then.
Yes! Let them drink tea! Tea warms the heart and softens the grey (I said this and liked it).
Sometimes its the little things that get us through the tough times, like a kind word, a smile or, in this case, a cup of tea.
Two weeks ago, we’d been out all day. As usual, when we got home I went out to check the flock. Right now, we have 11 hens, mostly large breed, that lay eggs so colossal they can’t be contained in a standard egg carton. There are two little black bantams in the mix that lay smaller round, white eggs. This is a prolific group of layers and they are happy, sturdy gals. We love this flock and I watch them closely as these foxy fowl are attractive to more than just humans.
I made the journey down the well worn path, past the giant white oak and to the coop. Immediately, I noticed feathers under the hen house.
After a quick head count, and it was determined that all chickens were present, I gazed into the run to see a drooping hen. She was eating, and moving, but slowly. There was blood on her leg.
At once, I went into the poop zone (I have boots for this purpose) and grabbed her out of the run. Now, I’m not one for blood and guts which is why I’m an English teacher, not a nurse. But, when I saw the gash on my Barred Rock’s leg, I knew there was no turning back. What I saw, when I moved her feathers aside resembled a poultry slaughter house. A drum stick and possibly an organ was in clear view.
I quickly brought the patient inside.
As most folks know, you don’t bring a chicken inside during the rainy season unless you’re cooking it or you’re nursing it. Mud and stink traveled into the house and this chick needed a cleansing. If you’ve ever washed a chicken’s feet, you understand how fowl can be descendants of dinosaurs. They literally have leather-like, reptile claws which is why they’re able to grip a wooden dowel all night at 6 degrees.
My husband happens to love blood and guts. So, when I asked him, “Do we have another suture kit?” …and… “I think you’re gonna need to stitch a chick tonight,” he responded, “Sure. After dinner.” Of course, he said this without looking up from his salad prep, in a tone reflective of one who does poultry surgery several times a week.
So, with the patient relatively clean, a suture kit, a nurse assistant (me), a headlamp and a willing surgeon, the procedure began. The laundry room was quickly converted to a surgery site complete with an obnoxiously bright light and metal tools. Music and scrubs were the only missing elements. Although the little hen did coo a bit as we held her tightly in the surgeon’s lap, she took the trauma like a real woman.
“Hon. This is a pretty nasty shred of a wound. I have my doubts this chicken will survive,” Matt said as he saw the exposed flesh and gore.
“We’ll have to look at it as an experiment,” I said. “If we stitch and she lives, then it was worth it. Otherwise, there’s no way she can live with a gash this size,” I surmised.
It took us about 20 minutes of feather plucking around the gaping injury and another several minutes of applying purple anesthetic to prep the sufferer. Then, the surgery began. There is something awesome that happens when a chicken goes into shock. The chicken just calms down and lets you do whatever you need to do to it. The young hen was wide awake and strong through the whole affair, cooing and grunting occasionally but not fussing too much.
After an hour of pinching and fastening skin, the deed was done. It probably took 20 – 25 stitches to sew her up. Look how happy my hubby is post-procedure. He really did miss his calling.
One benefit of being a convalescent chicken in midwinter is that you get to sleep in the big house next to the dryer. A nice bed was made for our little hen in a box and she took to it readily.
Next morning, just before the surgeon made his rounds, our patient had flown the box and was smugly perched atop the side, a haughty look across her beak. “Look at me,” she seemed to cluck. She reminded me of the heart patient taking his first walk around the hospital floor, the day after the bi-pass.
Day 1: She pecked slightly on two Frosted Mini Wheats.
Day 2: She gnoshed down a whole bowl of wild rice.
Day 3: She ate a bowl of feed was ready to go back to her people. That afternoon, I reintroduced her to the flock for a couple of hours. When I placed her in the coop, the others lifted their combed heads, pausing from that ever-important business of picking food from mud and poop. There was a collective acknowledgement amongst her coop-mates, “Oh. You’re alive.” The moment was brief, and then it was back to scratching. She joined them and it was then I knew she would make it.
A couple of days later, I took these photos.
Yesterday, we brought her in to take a look at the sutures and to apply more anesthetic. Amazingly, two weeks later, she is alive and well.
There are nay sayers out there, people who probably think we’ve been hen pecked a few too many times.
“You guys are crazy spending all that time on a lousy chicken that probably won’t lay again anyway.” That thought crossed my mind. Maybe they’re right. But, it’s been worth the try. She’s been a mighty good patient and a faithful layer. We owed it to her to give her a chance.
So far, the stitches have held. But, you just don’t know how it will play out. That’s the excitement of this hobby and its the fun of living with this sometimes-surgeon. You never know what experience is coming your way. Kinda like life generally.
I’ve always lived by the rule of thumb that you fake it til you make it. I had good reason to apply the adage recently when I signed up to attend the Professional Photography Association’s Imaging USA Conference in the ATL. Basically, this was Photo Con for people who make their living taking pictures. As a photography enthusiast, I became a roach-on-the-wall for three days to see and learn about all things photography. Guess what? This experience was a straight-up blast and nobody cared that I wasn’t a pro!
My dad called me about two weeks before the conference to see what I was doing in the new year. I told him I was going to Imaging USA.
“What’s that?” he asked.
“It’s the biggest photography conference in the country and its going to be right here in Atlanta,” I told him.
“Well, maybe I’ll come up there and go too. You know I was taking pictures long before you were born,” he added.
“Great! Come on. We’ll be posers together and hopefully we’ll learn something too,” I said.
Two weeks later, he arrived and off we went on a Sunday afternoon, into the heart of the city. Now, getting to the Georgia World Congress Center is one thing: parking is another. You have to get creative. Of course, the day we decided to train in, the temps were a steady 38 degrees all afternoon. After freezing for 30 minutes waiting on the westbound train, I decided against doing that again and we paid the $15 to park in the garage and walk in from the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
One thing I knew going into the conference: Photographers carry cameras and take pictures. In that department, I was in good company. Everyone around me was just as fanatical about documenting their experience here as I was.
A walk into the giant exhibition hall brought us into a mecca of cameras, lenses and the tech world that supports them. At the Canon booth, there were 20 sales reps standing like soldiers ready to answer every imaginable question. Displayed in glass cases like diamond rings, an in some instances more expensive, were dozens of the newest cameras and lenses and printers and flash devices.
Around the corner, a vendor set up a learning booth complete with a live model and a half dozen cameras to practice shooting. The colors were stunning!
When the model in blue came out, I took a whirl on one of the new Canons.
After a time in the exhibition hall, there were dozens of technique classes and a couple of parties to attend. I learned about OCF’s, LightRoom presets, the 12 elements of a competition image and high speed sync flashes. My head was spinning by the time we attended the closing party on Tuesday at the Georgia Aquarium.
By the time we left out of there, we had actually convinced ourselves that we were photographers. Maybe that was part of the purpose of the conference after all…getting comfortable with who you are and what you like to do by being around 10,000 other people just like you.
A few days later, when my dad was packing up to leave, he said that he had a blast. We met people from California to Illinois, Texas to North Dakota. We talked with wedding photographers and sports photographers and studio photographers of all ages, shapes and sizes. As hobbyists, we were definitely in the minority, but that didn’t seem to stop folks from talking to us and telling us about their businesses and photography philosophies.
In the end, this fake session, this time of putting myself out there as photographer turned out to be an eye opener and a blessing. Seeing through the lens of real photographers for a few days gave me a new perspective about what it means to embrace photography as an expression of one’s artistic talents, a way to meet new and interesting people and a way to connect with my dad in a totally new and exciting way.