Letter from Birdland: Good night, moon - and chickens
This week, I haven't seen much of Birdland in the daylight. Oh, I run through the chores in the morning, but I'm really running.
Feed the dog and cat, grab a scoop of food for the chickens and let them out. Check the nest box for eggs. Check on the birds and then off to work. Maybe I have time to run the compost out, or maybe I let it pile up next to the sink and hope someone else will empty the bucket before it overflows. But in the evenings, I'm driving home after the sun has long gone down.
My brother called to tell me that it was the year's smallest moon but that Jupiter would appear right next to it. I told him that I knew the moon was close to full, because even though I hadn't been paying close attention to the phases, the moonlight was as bright as a cloudy day at least.
If we'd get some snow on the ground, it would be as bright as day. I like when the moon lights my evening chores. When it doesn't, I'm likely as not to trip, stepping in a hole in the yard, or misjudging the path to the coop in the darkness. Once, I ran smack into the ancient grain wagon that sits next to the garden path.
Last night, I went to close up the chicken coop. The chickens go in on their own as soon as it's chicken dark, but if we don't remember to close the door on the coop, we are likely to wake to carnage: blood and feathers scattered in the nest boxes or feathers sprayed across the yard or maybe just the quiet, depending on what kind of varmint got in to do mischief and whether they carried my birds away or had their meal right there in my yard.
Anyway, last night, I went out by moonlight, and as I got close, I saw the dark shadows of the flock, huddled cautiously on the top of the coop. The door had blown shut in the day, and they couldn't get in to go to bed. It was lucky I got home relatively early, lucky that I didn't let it slip my mind but went out as soon as I got home.
The moonlight makes a fine light for hunting, and an owl could have carried away any number of my chickens. The moon wasn't high yet, and I couldn't quite make out who was who, and they apparently couldn't see me well, as they stayed mostly quiet while I grabbed them one by one and pushed them each through the door of the coop.
To grab a sitting chicken at night is easy. You use both hands and clutch them firmly over their wings, preferably from behind. They squawk a bit but can't struggle much with their wings pinned. If you work quickly, you can get them mostly in before anyone gets too upset.
The last to go in were my little banty roosters, Roosevelt and Butterscotch, sitting at the far edge of the coop roof.
In the low moonlight, I couldn't see who was who, but one jumped off with an indignant crow and ran around behind the coop.
I put the other in, and then went back to catch the first. He ran around the edge of the coop, bumping into the chicken wire, trying to find the door in the semi-dark. I simply walked behind him until he found it at last and went in to join the flock.
Later, when I woke in the middle of the night, the moon was higher, brighter, shining into my window and urging me outside. For the smallest moon of the year, it was still pretty bright. It silvered the yard and lit the fields darkly.
I could see the tree line against the sky in the distance. I think about how the moon illuminates the world differently from the sun. We notice shapes more than colors, outlines more than detail.
In these dark days, I am grateful for this sometime lantern lighting my nights.
Illuminate beauty; deepen peace; blessed be.
Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland near White Heath. She is interested in the cycles of the sun and the moon and how they interact to vary our days, weeks, months and years. You can read more of her writing and see photos of Birdland at http://www.letterfrombirdland.blogspot.com. Hays can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via snail mail care of this newspaper.