This winter, different than others, the storms come and the snow stays. The normal pattern, with Colorado’s close proximity to the sun is to see warm-ish temperatures following each snowfall. The warmth clears the crusty ice from shadowed roads, sidewalks, and driveways so we don’t have to fear the hidden ice lying underneath the fresh snow blanket.
Our chickens have had to adjust in these cold, snowy weeks. Their two coops (one in use, one the former) lie about twenty feet apart. Eight of our twelve girls prefer to lay their daily egg in the little coop, lining up single file, each new morning, awaiting their turn.
One recent day we awoke to hefty overnight snowfall. In these modern days with up-to-the-minute reporting and Doppler Radar, the storm surprised us all. Bright and early we rose to beeping phones, notifying all of canceled school. During my mid-morning chicken check, all but two of the girls were huddled under the heat lamp’s warmth in the main coop.
Glancing to the hen yard, I found Big White Chicken steady and sure, her breast the prow of an ocean liner, parting the snow with each miniature stride. Determination alighting her eyes, the little coop her goal. Nothing could prevent her from reaching her relief, the relinquishment of her daily egg, the acquisition of mecca – the capital of nests.
Sideways Sue, the other renegade hen, won the race, her traverse managed with no evident tracks. Employing her wings, she skimmed the surface of the great divide, a few flaps carrying her across. Sue’s superiority was foiled, however, when she came upon the door, wedged shut by the heavy snow. My kind efforts of assistance were resisted by the slamming of her tiny, off-kilter self against the coop, attempting to force admittance. The acute need for relief eclipsing her sensibilities.
As a chicken care-giver I have now a greater awareness of my hens’ preferences and needs. I had no idea, prior to the storm, their keen hunger to nest in the little coop. After each snow, I now shovel a path, providing safe passage. I choose to give them this gift, to pave their way, to thank them for their generosity, to protect them.
Last week I ran in the fresh snow, out on the farmland dirt roads. A few cars and trucks went before me, leaving packed tracks to run within. The difference between running in packed versus untrod snow is marked. I was able to clear my head, obtain a decent workout, exercise the dog because of this privilege. Anyone who has snowshoed or nordic skied knows the relief of having the trail packed down. The effort required to navigate and break trail can be harrowing and discouraging.
Who has paved the way for us? Who are the trailblazers that go first in ways we may not notice or we take for granted? Who has stood firm in the face of adversity to challenge laws and assumptions that discriminate and harm? Who are the people who make my life easier and more secure?
I think of the women who have gone before, women who have stood their ground in male dominated worlds to give me the right to vote, the right to have equal pay, the right to pursue my desires and calling, the right to stand on a stage and speak.
I think of the teachers and administrators in my children’s schools who have asked hard questions and demanded answers, who plan lessons and work more hours than they are paid, who sacrifice the needs of their own children for mine.
I think of the faithful who have championed civil rights, who put their bodies and reputations on the line daily so all people can know greater abundance, justice and freedom. I thank them for educating me, for their dedication to what is right and true.
I think of the church people who helped raise me. I think of those who came alongside our family, who loved us well. I think of the meals, the laughter, the homes we spent our Sunday afternoons in.
I think of the friends who challenge and know me, who see my potential yet wait for me to see it myself. I think of my husband who has carved out a beautiful life for our family, who honors me each and every day with kind words and generous offerings of service.
I think of the spiritual leaders and pastors who care for their flocks, who lead and love, provide and nourish the hearts and minds of their congregants.
I think of this nation, that has offered hope and relief to the poor, destitute, broken. I think of our nation that has opened the doors over the years to all manner of race. The fruit we offer, an opportunity for many.
I think of my parents who instructed and led myself and my siblings, who loved and cared and fed us all, who fostered respect and kindness.
I think of those who live quiet and honest lives, who do their work without fanfare or notice or entitlement. Those who make our lives easier, doing what they do, being who they are, living simple.
I hope I am grateful. I hope I notice and see and appreciate the big, the small, the insignificant to recognize the gifts of those who go before, who pack down my path and lighten my load.
I hope I recognize where I get to push forth, forge the trail, and lean into my work, my calling, for those who come after, who walk in my footsteps.