Chickens And Reading
I don’t get to take vacations very often. Even if I have time off from work, I usually have about 100 ideas for creative projects I want to be working on, or work to do for one of my side jobs, or both. It’s kind of exhausting. And when I do get to take time off from my full-time job, I rarely get to sleep in, either because of having to take my son to school, or the chickens making an unholy racket at 5:30 in the morning, or just my general long-running history of unsatisfying sleep. I’m not complaining, I’m just saying that the standards for what constitute a vacation these days have fallen considerably. It’s like the time I realized that all I really wanted was to go to bed at 11 and get up at 7 like I used to. That’s a pretty sad fantasy, but here we are.
I work for a university, and the last week of May is always really hectic on campus. We get Memorial Day off, which is nice. Then I can’t work on the following Thursday because that’s commencement, and due to security reasons, you can’t get into my building. There’s a huge ceremony right outside. So I’ve gotten into the habit in the past few years of just taking the rest of that week off. Then I only have to use a few vacation days, but I get a week off, and I at least get a break from the commute. As usual, before I had even put in for the time off, I had already made a completely unmanageable list of things I wanted to do while I was home. Spoiler alert: I accomplished one, maybe two, tops. I did get to let the chickens out every day, which was big for all of us. I’m not even entirely sure where the rest of the time went, but I started no new projects, and only barely kept up with the existing ones. But like I said, no riding the train, so that was nice.
By Thursday, I was completely wiped out, and decided it was time to bag productivity and just sit out in the yard and read while the chickens ran around. I’d get to relax, and they’d get a nice long bout of free-ranging. I brought Boss Chicken over to her favorite hosta, and she happily began a dirt bath underneath it. I sat at a table in the yard a few feet away with a book, and started reading. You probably already see where this is going. Boss Chicken, normally kept out of sight by the hosta, decided she wanted to be out on the grass. The other chickens, who usually work the far edge of the yard for bugs in the leaf litter, decided they wanted hang out near where Boss Chicken was. They will attack her if they get too close, and she has leg problems, so she can’t fight back or run away. So I’d read a sentence, get up and chase the others away, sit back down, read another sentence, get up, chase them away, sit back down, blah blah blah. I decided sitting at the table was a no-go, so I moved a chair over to where Boss Chicken was, and she sat next to me. The other chickens circled like feathery sharks for a while, then wandered off to do their thing, whatever their thing at that time was. Chicken trends are super hard to keep up with.
And that, of course, was when the squawking began. Since I was right there, Boss Chicken wanted to be patted. I would try to read with one hand, and pet her with the other, but my book was large and unwieldy, and if I took my hand off the Boss, she began to loudly squawk until I put it back. I appreciate that she enjoys my attention, and that she’s tame enough for petting, but it really made it impossible to read. I put the book down and spent the rest of my time out there resting my hand on her back, and staring off into the distance. I suppose that’s a kind of chicken meditation, so it was not without its benefits. It just wasn’t how I had planned my afternoon.
Even though reading was a wash, I still got to spend time outside, the chickens got to roam, I got to pet a chicken, and I came back inside without any ticks on me. Even if I had come back inside covered in ticks, I’d say that still beats a day in my windowless office bookended by fights for a seat on the train. I’ll take whatever sort of vacation I can get.