Cheeks, NH Rebels, and Writing

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NOTE: I will be reading at Bank Square Books in Mystic, CT a week from today: Wednesday, July 23. It’s a luncheon. 12-1:30. If you want lunch, you can call the bookstore to make reservations. Later that day, at 5PM, Carl and I will be at the Westerly Beach where Carl will be playing with NRBQ. If you can’t make it to the bookstore, I’ll be happy to sign books on the beach!


And then we climbed Mount Monadnock!

Happy sigh.

Until I remember that I have missed two postings.

How dare I be so neglectful of my reading public? Clearly, the goals and intentions that I wrote about in my last post have fallen by the wayside before they had become a habit, which takes anywhere from 66 days to 500 plus days to develop.

I have been writing for
over thirty years. That is habit.

But it is only this year that I can finally call myself an author a.k.a. published. Thus, I don’t think I can be accused of writing for fame or fortune. That’s not my goal. But I have to admit, two months into the process of having a book out, I’m needing to think through why I published because I’m feeling kind of sad. I wasn’t expecting thousands of my books to be sold. But I had hoped for more readings and interaction. Connections not via the web.

There really is a raft/wood pallet in those weeds. . .

Apparently, that’s where people go now. They connect on Facebook. Twitter. Blogs. That feels impersonal to me. Almost alienating. Thus my on-line platform is rather like this it-was-going-to-be-a-raft-in-the-water (see photo to the right): lost in the weeds.

That sense of alienation might be one reason why I’ve been so lackadaisical with posts of late. I’m not sure what they accomplish. Last year’s posts had significance to me: they explored and promoted my war against global climate change. If that’s not purposeful, I don’t know what is. But I haven’t figured out how to go about promotion for my novel Bittersweet Manor. (See announcement of reading to the left!) Bizarre, given there is so much to think about and discuss between its covers. Thus I suspect it is the nature of posting itself. My war against global climate change needed to be formed and so the writing about it in posts directed the process. Whereas Bittersweet Manor needs outside response now. I’ve already expressed my thoughts through the characters’ actions and the story. Now is the time for dialogue and exchange of ideas. Posting to deafening silence? That is how I have been writing all my life. I am having a Pavlovian response.

But what do I expect if I don’t do what needs to be done to develop a platform?

I really do have to take a vacation from overwrought thinking. And happily enough, here are a few distractions that have allowed me to do exactly that: A Pecking Order Catastrophe. A New Hampshire Rebellion Walk. A successful Bread-making Venture. My FC1R’s Visit. A Walk up Mt. Monadnock.

A Pecking Order Catastrophe

Carl, under Big Red’s supervision, had moved around the nesting boxes and roosts. The result was to exacerbate an already bizarre shifting of dominance within the flock. Queen Panda had joined CooLots and the City Girls on the middle roost, leaving Big Red with Beatrice, Ping and Cheeks. But the last couple of days, I had noted that Big Red was on the lowest roost (huh?) and Cheeks all by herself above. The morning I write of, the others had promenaded out of the coop but she remained on the roost, open-beaked and skittish. I petted her. She seemed unnerved.




Cheeks defined: An Americana chicken formerly known as Terrorized, sister to Neurotic, who was taken out by a hawk at the youthful age of 3 months, last summer. Cheeks was also known as Lo, as in The Lonely One because the other hens never accepted her. For a brief time, Cheeks was a favorite of Big Red’s who, as briefly, protected her.





P1040017We named her Cheeks because of her adorable feathery cheeks.

She was always alone without anyone to hang out with. Except me. This past winter, I hung out with her in the coop, where she would spend her days while the others were outside pecking and scratching. She would fly onto my shoulder . . . to get away from the other hens. She would eat out of my hands.

But, by the morning of which I write, she didn’t let me come too close. Whenever I paid attention to her–the chicken on the bottom-most rung of the pecking order-or offered her a treat, the other hens would chase her. She no longer flew to me. She cringed. As if to tell me don’t pay attention to me. It will piss off the others.

By mutual understanding, I ignored Cheeks.

I suspected the other hens were jealous. They didn’t like that she lay beautiful blue-colored eggs.

Or maybe it was because she looked different, with her thickly feathered neck and fluffy cheeks.

Or perhaps she wasn’t a nice bird and her cringing was more that of an evil Dickens’ character.  Maybe she was unlikeable, mean-spirited, selfish? Maybe every morning, when the din in the coop reached its highest level, it was Cheeks incessantly cackling, haranguing the others.

Or perhaps pleading her case.

That morning, we heard odd noises coming from the direction of the coop. A passing thought. “Huh. Odd noises.” I even thought, “one of the girls sounds miserable out there.” But it was very hot and I figured one of them was having an egg, which is uncomfortable even on a cool day. I assume, given the cacophony of squawks and Big Red’s encouraging Lamaze-style call and response. But there were no loud squawks. Only an occasional croak.

Why did I not go out there to check?

Chickens are uncomfortable creatures. They have rules we have no clue about. I can put my impressions and imaginations on them, create a story of what’s gone on. A tribunal of condemnation a la the Puritans? She was sick, and they saved her greater pain? Maybe Panda wanted to go broody but didn’t like that raven-looking creature around. Panda never liked Cheeks and her sister, they having been adopted at the same time as Panda had her chicks.

I do know it wasn’t for the flock’s survival that they killed her. Too late, I went to check for eggs. Cheeks was underneath the coop, miserably crouched, dead. Coroner’s report: Pecked to death.

I can’t think about her final minutes. I will never know what they were like. A sad, neurotic, terrified bird who, however upset and lonely a life she had (I tell myself in hopes it will help me to feel better) yet had a far better life than the tortured billions raised every year in cages, or “cage-free”, “organic”, “free-range” factories. So named to help us feel better.

I got chickens so as not to eat bad Karma eggs. I wanted to know no animal had been tortured or made miserable as a result of my wanting to eat eggs.  Oops.

It gives me a new perspective on chickens. I still like them. But I don’t trust them anymore.

After last year’s experiment allowing Panda to go brood–four chicks resulting–and the adoption of Neurotic and Terrorized and the City girls–we have gone from a high of 14 chickens back to where we started: Six hens and a Cock-a-Doodle-Do.

A New Hampshire Rebellion Walk.

IMG_0755Carl and I left Darwin’s View at 6:15AM and arrived at Fort Constitution Park at 8:05AM. All by our lonesomes because none of our friends could break away from previous July 4th weekend commitments.

We arrived on time! but already late. The first bus was full. Lawrence Lessig was ready to go. We were put into a van. For a shining moment, I thought we might be in “Larry’s” van. We’d be able to chat with him on the way, in which case I could test out my new theory on him.

No such luck. The van did not follow the first bus to the start of walk that entailed 16 miles of New Hampshire shoreline but two miles along where we were to meet another bus in a larger parking lot that would hold all the other cars that needed parking. We waited, content to remember what it felt like years ago to be in a school bus. Avoiding the seat with the wheel hump so your knees were at your ears. The bounce of the green seats. The echo of voices talking a blue streak so early in the morning.

At last, we were on our way, driving the route we would be soon be walking. We arrived at Hampton Beach and were dropped off with the other forty-five or so people. The volunteer on the bus told us others would be there. We stood about. No leader in sight. No one else bedecked with plastic red, white and blue leis. No signs suggesting we Join the NH Rebellion. The bus started to pull away. A few of us waved her to a stop. She suggested we start walking because, clearly, the first group had already left.

IMG_0758Having announced this suggestion to our bus group, Carl and I marched off. Heading our pack who remained unmoved. We set a good pace, figuring we’d catch up to the first group. Carl had a GPS app on his cell phone that kept us apprised of how fast and how far we had gone. We marched on. We caught up to and passed the first bus of people, including Lessig who was strolling along with a baby carriage. With strong, forward strides, Carl and I agreed how too bad it was that our friends had not joined us. A perfect summer day for a walk.The ocean breeze was brisk and cooling. We had on 70 SPF lotion. We were marching it out!

We met a few people along the way. None of whom seemed in shape. Carl and I tended to our hubris. Mile five: no problem. We smiled and waved to the cameras and passersby. And noted that those driving past us didn’t have a clue what “NH REBELLION” was about because they were yelling things like “Down Obama” and “Go Obama” and this wasn’t about Obama. The walk was to call attention to the fact that the majority of Americans, across all political lines, want money out of politics.The NH Rebellion was jumpstarting that conversation. It was organizing to get this question asked of all presidential primary candidates in 2016: “How are YOU going to end the system of corruption in Washington, D.C.?” Because this issue, that the vast majority of voters, across the political spectrum are concerned about, has not been discussed by candidates during their election season. It’s time for them to discuss it.

IMG_0761This invigorating thought kept us going. Until around mile nine, when I was not entirely convinced that I’d make it the second half. My legs ached. I commented to Carl that it was probably a good thing our friends had not come.  Because it was harder than I thought it was going to be. A lot harder. We kept up our spirits with jokes that ran contrary to our previous assumption that we were in good, physical condition.

Fortunately, the day before we’d had a conversation with a New Hampshire friend who had talked about resilience. He told us about a test that challenged people to stick their bare arm into ice-cold water and to leave it there. Some people can bear it for five seconds. Some an hour. And the findings were that, if you’ve experienced trauma, you can endue more. Until a certain point. If tested too far, suddenly you have no tolerance.

I was not going to be shown as lacking. This was pure Mind Over Matter. I suggested skipping. We skipped, which uses entirely different muscles than walking, and how can you grimace and whine when skipping? But skipping takes the wind out of you so, not too far into our skipping adventure, we returned to walking.

My legs and hips hurt so much that I had no idea I was working on a blister!
My legs and hips hurt so much that I had no idea I was working on a blister!

Mile maker 12 was ugly. Very ugly. Pain almost to tears. The thought of skipping was impossible to have, never mind enact. I wasn’t sure what would happen when we stopped. To help, I thought about how this was my choice. Think of the millions who have been forced marched.

Mind over matter, I reminded myself. I could do it in their memory.

We made note of how glad we were it wasn’t raining. How amazing it was that the temperature was perfect. Our gratitude for the wind. We managed to join an occasional conversation to distract us. But the last two miles, I noticed that Carl had fallen out of conversation. I looked back. He looked grim. In fact, he looked how I felt. I hoped he wouldn’t die. That would suck. I mean, how sad. For us to be crippled by a mere sixteen mile walk that, in fact, was only 15.3. Thank the powers that be because I don’t think I could have made it another step. And how the hell was everyone else doing this without any apparent show of agony. I mean, this was pain. My hips. My knees.

What I was most grateful for, as we gently placed our feet one in front of the other, trying not to trip, was that we had not dragged our friends along on this insane adventure.


A successful Bread-making Venture. 




A picture instead of another thousand words. This attempt was far more successful than the last.






My FC1R’s Visit & a Walk up Mt. Monadnock.

I’ve gone on too long already. Suffice it to say that my blister healed in time for us to climb Mt. Monadnock with my FC1R (first cousin once removed for those who were not around for last year’s romp) and Carl’s Griece (great-niece). At the end of that hike, I was in fine fiddle. Sure, I ached a wee bit but it was nothing like that 16 mile walk on paved roads. Carl and I agreed, it must have been the paved roads. Because we were fine. Perfectly fine.

Until the next morning, when I tried to get out of bed and my entire body morphed into a bruised and aching entity. I am still recovering.


I look out the windows of my office.


At the compost pile and the Garden Shed.


P1040531The Chicken Paradise with the beautiful new fencing.







The Entry to Chicken Paradise.

All done by Carl in these last weeks.


What have I to show for myself?



I am resilient. I don’t give up. For the fifth time since my last posting I am on Day One of my new habits:


Into the office before the sun.

Set goals and intentions.

Admit addiction to email and on-line surfing.

Write with focus.

I am progressing through my next book. In overachieving fashion, I hope to have a draft done by the end of summer.

Don’t forget: Bank Street Books in Mystic on the 22nd of July!

Below are more photos of Cheeks and of Mt. Monadnock and ALPACAS!

P1040234 P1040134 P1030871 P1030608 P1040317









My new favorite magazine: It reminds of of MAD magazine.
Can you see Darwin’s View? It’s there!
No. No. No. We are not buying alpacas.
No. Just say no.
PINE CHIPS for the blueberries!

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