A Coup in the Coop

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Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.
Emily Dickinson

The Broody Hen died yesterday.

Our oldest hen, the one at the top of the pecking order, who dictated the flock’s mood and egglaying patterns died. It was apparently a gruesome scene that I didn’t have to clean up. Thank God. The seven other hens decided they couldn’t take it anymore and took matters into their own hands, or beaks as the case may be.

Even in her early years, she ruled the coop. Her intolerance for being anything less than top bird was notable, a subject of much of my writing. In fact, my first blog was named after her. I understood her broodiness. As she tended to her unfertilized pile, I tended to my tentative words, infant thoughts finding purchase in the world.

Apparently her intolerable ways reached a tipping point among the younger birds who determined it was time for an overthrow of the old government.

A coup in the coop.

I’m glad she’s gone, but a little sad too. She was hardy, resourceful. At four years of age, she outran and outsmarted foxes and owls and wayward neighborhood dogs. While she employed dubious methods to ensure her survival, at the expense of other hens, she was a tough old bird, propelled by reservoirs of misplaced anger.

Today I watched the swearing in of our 116th House of Representatives. I’m not usually one glued to C-SPAN, but with the historic numbers of women of color I wouldn’t miss it for anything. The kids wanted some lunch so I withheld nourishment, forcing them to watch for ten minutes. These are fascinating times where we claim hope every chance we can find it. They didn’t starve.

The women rose up. Our electorate said: No more! Not on my watch! in the November midterms and today we got to watch history happen. The pecking order of our systems of government is shifting and it’s time we pay attention. It’s time to find the glimmers of hope.

The last two years have been rough. I just completed Michelle Obama’s book Becoming. Of course I adored every bit of it but found myself in a funk. I had to put the book down at certain points to breathe and grieve our national losses – decorum, norms, values, compassion. To witness America’s first black family and then to witness our current situation, well, it can take my breath away. I had to take some moments.

But today, bearing witness to these halls of Congress, the children, infants, freshman representatives, mothers and fathers, brown, black, white, LGBTQ – Stage Right burst with energy and enthusiasm.

I found hope again.

I am a self-diagnosed optimist prone toward disappointment. And today I hold onto the goodness I witnessed across C-SPAN’s airwaves while also holding onto the reality we still face. The work isn’t over. Love demands we find a way. Love asks us to place kindness, compassion, belonging at the forefront. Kindness, compassion, and belonging not just for others, but also for ourselves. We deserve goodness and care. The nights have been so long and cold, but the light I hope is winning.

Power is rising among the women and our allied men. Women are not having it. The pecking order of our country is being overhauled in favor of our majority minority. It is time for all Americans to have representation. The old ways of oppression and shame and gaslighting need to die. Self-preservation is for the weak who will use dubious methods to ensure their survival. This is not the way of Love, nor is this the way of God.

Our former First Lady, Michelle Obama offers us some light, a path forward in these days from Becoming:

What I won’t allow myself to do, though, is to become cynical. In my most worried moments, I take a breath and remind myself of the dignity and decency I’ve seen in people throughout my life, the many obstacles that have already been overcome. I hope others will do the same. We all play a role in this democracy. We need to remember the power of every vote. I continue, too, to keep myself connected to a force that’s larger and more potent than any one election, or leader, or news story – and that’s optimism. For me, this is a form of faith, an antidote to fear (pp 419-420).

As the balance of power tips, the old ways no longer define us. The ways of mercy must guide us. The ways of generosity must propel us. No longer must we be ruled by the harsh winds of fear and foreboding. We deserve better. We deserve benevolence. We deserve to be known.

R.I.P. Broody Hen