Friday, February 21, 2014

Three Years On....

Three Years On… Today marks the third anniversary of the Christchurch February earthquake that brought death, pain, and destruction to this city. You could feel the anniversary creeping up on the people of the city. I think a palatable weariness once again descended. Conversations with my friends and even strangers once again turned towards the ‘stories’ of the earthquake. People who have not yet settled there affairs with broken houses, buildings and businesses are once again expressing the distress of the slowness and unfairness of a system that leaves people to struggle on feeling helpless. I sit here, on this hot day, looking out at the beautiful situation that I am in because of the earthquake and ponder on how unfair life really is. The unfairness goes beyond the earthquakes effects on this city. Yesterday I went off early to pick up groceries before I picked up kids from school (who would come home and eat those groceries up this weekend). I stopped first at the fruit market. I’m really into the summer fruit, we will turn around and have only applies, pears and mandarins before we know it. So I load up. I put my purchases up on the counter to be paid for and I am late to notice that the woman in front of me is unpacking nectarines from her plastic bag. It takes a few minutes to register that she is having the bag reweighed over and over and the woman in the counter is telling her how much is owed if she pays what is left. I take my wallet to see if I have change that I can offer, but before I do, the little process is over and the woman has walked away, at least a dozen nectarines behind. I pay for mine, wondering why I didn’t act faster. As I walk out of the story, there is that lady, about my age, loading her purchases into a very nice car. She had a whole shopping cart full. I realise she must have come back to use up her budgeted money. Fair enough and silly me. Then I go on to the grocery store. I go there often. I should be more organized and then I wouldn’t need to go so often. I line up with my small cart full and chat to the check-out lady, whom I’ve chatted to before. She is much older than I. She asks me about my day. I bather on about how nice my day has been, saying, “Oh, I’ve done pretty much just whatever I wanted to do today. And how are you?” “Tired,” comes the answer. She is older than me. She really should be retired. “I just can’t get enough done,” she continues. “By the time I get home, I seem to be out of energy and nobody is going to take care of these jobs except me.” I didn’t know what to say. Why, oh why, did I talk on about my nice day, when a woman was struggling with life right in my realm. We talked on as she checked-out my items and I loaded them in the cart. Just the talk of two people. How the earthquake anniversary added to our tiredness with the memories returning, how life never seemed to let up. I walked to my car wondering what more I should have done. I was pretty certain that she would not have wanted any offer of help. Most women don’t want some acquaintance coming into their home to clean the toilet. I struggle with how to be a better neighbour, and how to give assistance. I stumble, not walk in this area. I just hope that when I don’t offer the help they don’t need it . And I pray that a few minutes of chatting with a check-out lady at my grocery store, offers her just enough friendship and encouragement to get through the day. I please God, help me that the next time I am out in the city, I will be just a little more effective at sharing your love than I was yesterday.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Chicks and Chickens

Now that we live on this five acre ‘lifestyle’ block outside Christchurch (our earthquake settlement house), life has taken on so many interesting aspects. We have the classic dog, cat, goldfish, sheep (five to be exact), a calf and chickens. Who would have known how much fun chickens could be? I am quite taken with them and this summer as been more interesting than ever. It all started about a year ago when my neighbour arrived at my house with two chickens. One was a friendly and was a sleek, black girl with little red comb on her head. The other was a truly fluffy grey that wanted nothing to do with anyone. I named them Miss Blackie and Lady Grey. No one could ever think my chickens were just birds. They have such distinctive personalities. Miss Blackie is feisty little hen who pecks at toes and fingers until she gets something to eat. She curtsies and you know she is allowing you to pet her smooth feathers. Lady Grey puffs up and runs away if you get close. She is far too royal to allow a mere servant to do anything but throw grain for her enjoyment. We put them in the run. I had spent some time cleaning out the weeds that had grown wild over the years the place had tenanted. It is such an enviable chicken run. A well protected area, with a high wire fence housing a good-size coop and shaded by a dozen mature pine trees. They looked so happy in there and I was delighted a few months later when they started laying eggs. What could be better, cute little characters that actually give back! Then it happened. Lady Grey was suddenly unwell. She would stay in the coop instead of coming to scold me when I arrived with their wheat and pellets. I was worried. But, after consulting with my chicken-expert neighbour, I discovered that Lady Grey was broody, and I came home with seven fertilized eggs to put under her. We weren’t sure how Miss Blackie was going to react to chicks, since she showed no signs of being broody at all. Lady Grey showed herself to be a wonderful sitter. I threw a little less food out for Miss Blackie and put some in the coop for the Lady. Then one day, no Miss Blackie came running for her food. Sure enough, there was Miss Blackie, in the coop sitting on her latest egg. I took it out, reminding her that her eggs aren’t fertilized because we have no Lord of the Coop. She flapped and squawked at me and then climbed on top of Lady Grey. And that was it. No imploring of mine could persuade that bird that she should not be in that nesting box. She was determined to be co-mother. Every day, I pulled her out of Lady Grey’s box, every day she went back. Then the hatching began. I pulled Miss Blackie out of the nesting books, Lady Grey came out too, followed by a little yellow chick. And to my surprise, a little black chick followed Miss Blackie into the other nesting box. As the days past, five little chicks appeared. And two happy hens clucked about the coop taking turns sitting in the nesting boxes. We had the little yellow chick, two greys, a black and a gold one. They were beautiful, and they sat under a different hen every time I checked on them. This might look like a truly modern family story. But in truth, it did become clear that the chicks knew Lady Grey was their mother. It was to her they ran if they were frightened. But Miss Blackie doesn’t seem to know they prefer Lady Grey. And sometimes, not knowing is just fine in life, whether you are a chicken or a person.