This week I met Ghazi Hussein, a Palestinian/Syrian refugee and award winning writer. He spoke of his experiences both in his adopted home and in Syria before he left. Now I am in no way relating my own experiences to his, but there were a few things he said about himself and his fellow prisoners that got me thinking. Trauma surviviors have their own superpowers. They each have a particular enhanced skill that helps them to exist. Ghazi has two. He commands words. With his poetry he is able to transmit highly charged emotion through the simple conveyance of sound, creating vibrations that directly connect him to the heart of anybody listening. A true superpower.
The other is less obvious. I knew it was there but for most they only saw it when he told us about it. When asked how he gets through each day he told us a story. He spoke of his family when he was a child. It was a very large family, with something like fourteen siblings all vying for his mother’s attention. To get his fair share Ghazi used to lie down and play dead. Now, he says, he stands up and plays alive. Anyone whose neurons fire through the altered state of a traumatized brain will immediately recognise this superpower.
For myself I claim the power of invisibility. Unfortunately I don’t seem to control this power but it’s manifestation usually occurs when I am in an uncomfortable social situation – which is where I would place the majority of my forays out into the world of people I don’t know or situations I’m not accustomed to. This week no fewer than three people who I’m well aquainted with walked straight past me without even a glimmer of acknowledgement that anyone was there. I’m talking inches between us. How can this be if I am not invisible?
On the chicken front there is some news. After two emails and a telephone message I finally got a response. My chickens should be here in the next two weeks. Hoorah! I test-drove my new hammock seat from Venezuala last weekend. I intend to sit in it and commune with my chickens when they eventually arrive. I’m happy to report that it’s tremendously comfortable.
Not long now. The feathered therapy experiment is back on track.
No chickens yet, and only silence from the vendor. I fear they’ll be past their best laying years by the time I get to meet them. In the mean time, all hell is breaking loose. Since I started this blog, America has bombed Syria and Afghanistan. Trump has sent an ‘armada’ to threaten North Korea, who in return have threatened pre-emptive nuclear strikes. And, of course, there’s been the weekly terrorist attacks and the horrendous and ignored ongoing plight of millions of refugees. Closer to home, our own slippery-slidey, authoritarian, political opportunist, doublespeak prime minister has called a snap election. So much is horrible and frightening in the daily news it’s difficult to know where to look or what to think. Is it ok to worry about things closer to home when all this is going on? Is it ok to glory in the sunlight hitting the hillside opposite your house? Is it ok to go on about chickens and their potential therapeutic properties? I just don’t know.
Terrorism. Here’s a word that is beginning to lose it’s meaning. Acts of terrorism come so regularly that they have almost become absorbed into normal, everyday life. An atrocity that would previously have dominated the headlines for weeks, if not months, now only gets a few days attention before it is banished from the front pages by another. The infamous place in history once promised to those who martyr themselves for their cause is no more. They’re names forgotten almost instantly. No wonder they must be promised the glory of heaven.
Sometimes I wish I believed in a god. But not one of those self-obsessed thou-must-have-no-god-but-me kind of gods. I’d like a benevolent, kind, non-judgemental kind of a god. The kind that makes you serene and confident of your place in the world. Like the people you hear on those Thought for the Day type segments on the BBC. They always seem to be so calm. Of course, all sorts of things could be happening in their personal lives that we don’t know about. And they often are. One of the last newspapers I read, a couple of weeks ago, contained not one, but two stories about clergy involved in theft and adultery. So I guess that’s no real route to serenity either.
Help me Obi-wan Chicken-obi, you’re my only hope.
The days roll on and still my coop remains empty. In desperation I’ve broken the first rule of chicken club – I’ve ordered chickens online. Days passed with no confirmation of my order. I phoned. I emailed. I phoned again. The money had gone but where were my chickens? I began to think it was all an elaborate con. The family business involving three generations, the twee farm name, the green rolling hills in the background of all the photographs. It got me to thinking about the internet in general. So much of it is make believe. Some of it innocent, much of it not. There’s gaming, of course, and there’s fake news, fake biographies, fake photographs, fictions presented as truths, straight-out cons to get your money, propaganda, and Facebook. No wonder people are retreating into their belief systems, closing the door on ‘alternative facts’.
The happy news is that the vendor did eventually email to confirm my order. He said he will be in touch about delivery but I’ve not heard anything since. So here it is, the Easter bank holiday weekend and I remain chickenless, unless you count the free-range bird carcass currently situated in the bottom of our fridge. It’s a strange thing to be omnivorous and be yearning for chickens as pets. It’s not an easy line to tread. My bible to all things chicken refers to this dilemma. Suzie Baldwin writes candidly about eating her chickens and the horror with which some people greet this news. I must admit to feelings of revulsion myself but why is this? Surely if I’m going to be revulsed by eating something that’s had such a good life, then I shouldn’t eat meat at all. How many beasts have suffered appalling lives to feed me cheap beef, lamb and chicken before I became more aware? And don’t the chickens themselves happily eat anything that comes into their path; snails, slugs, worms, bugs, frogs and mice? It’s the transfer of energy from one living thing to another. Everything does it. It’s only our ignorance about the life of plants that makes it seem ok to eat them. But should we really be so complacent? I listened to a podcast recently about the amazing communication network of a forest. So much is going on beneath our feet we don’t know about. We cannot know if plants feel pain, are conscious of their own mortality. We can presume it based on our knowledge so far, but presuming doesn’t make it so.
But back to the chickens. It’s perhaps a good thing that they haven’t arrived yet. I still have a little more chicken-proofing to do to the yard. Patience my friends, they’ll be here soon.
The scene is set. After weeks of work the back yard of our ramshackle, half-renovated home now houses a cute little chicken coop and a mid-section they can roam in seperate from the planned vegetable garden (my partner’s project….we’ll see, we’ll see) and the herb garden near the house. The ‘cute’ and ‘little’ part of this is the most troubling. Once again I have been fooled by the internet into believing something was bigger than it turned out to be. The last thing I want to do is traumatize some chickens! The description said it will house 4 to 5 hens. I’m going to start with 3 to be on the safe side. Apparently you should always have at least 3 to stop any bullying. This intrigues me. Perhaps the relationships of chickens are more complex than I have previously been led to believe. I fear this whole experiment will make me completely vegetarian.
Unfortunately I have hit my first hurdle. Only I could have chosen the middle of a bird flu scare to start keeping chickens. Restrictions on allowing birds outdoors have led to shortages of point of lay hydrids in this area. Wait, I hear you cry, why aren’t you rescuing battery hens? Well, there are a number of reasons. I don’t feel I have enough experience to care for traumatized birds yet. And there’s something about clearing out used-up birds so they can put some more in that makes me feel like I would somehow be contributing to an industry I hate. I haven’t really thought all of these reactions through yet. Sheesh, nothing is simple.
Still, even before my new friends arrive they are helping. Just working out how to use WordPress and write a blog got me out of bed this morning when I was all set for my familiar hide-for-a-day-in-bed after an accumulation of work and socialising. How silly and self-indulgent that sounds when written down. Right now I have another tab open on my laptop. It’s an Amnesty campaign to demand justice for the victims of an illegal gas attack in Syria. What those poor people are going through. And here’s me, exhausted with my luxurious, safe western lifestyle. I know this. Of course, I know this. But traumatized minds and the body functions that follow don’t always follow the rules of logic. How refugees get through every day I don’t know.
I must go and find some chickens……..