By Kristen MacKenzie
© 2015 Diversity Rules Magazine and Kristen MacKenzie. All rights reserved.

kristen_Mac_thumb_thumbKristen MacKenzie lives on Vashon Island in a quiet cabin where the shelves are filled with herbs for medicine-making, the floor is open for dancing, and the table faces the ocean, waiting for a writer to pick up the pen. Her work has appeared in Brevity, Rawboned Journal, GALA Magazine and Extract(s) Daily Dose of Lit.

It’s starts with a tug, my eyes move toward chain link fences and pickup trucks, hard hats and muddy lawns. I get a visceral shove when I see the lumber piled high, pink corners lined up, every piece precise and every piece, potential.

To build is to make a thought three dimensional, to shape desire into form. It feeds me. I don’t just mean this figuratively, as a spiritual metaphor. When I build, I’m creating a home for creatures that provide me with daily nourishment. 

It actually begins even before the hard hats and pickup trucks. When the sun begins to shine before I get to work, spilling over Puget Sound like a bottle of rose´ poured from up high, when I’m tempted to wear a t-shirt for my walks on the beach, I know it’s chick season. Co-ops, granges and feed stores begin to receive the first boxes of day-old chicks from hatcheries, peeping from nests of excelsior and all I can think about are tiny beaks and fuzzy heads wobbling under red heat lamps, the dusty sweet smell when I press my nose to a downy baby.

It’s been a dozen years or more and the longing hasn’t lessened. I plan my new flock the way artists create their own pigments, seeing color and shape, beauty and expression in the details. Each breed is chosen not only for her feather pattern, but for what color egg she’ll produce and how often, for her temperament and her inclination to vocalize or not, and whether she will be likely to go broody and try to hatch out eggs even though no rooster is around.  The ideal flock for this artist-farmer produces an egg basket like a palette, with shades from deep rose-brown with red freckles to an astonishing blue-green, no two eggs the same color.

When I line the boards up on the floor of the garage or deck, and pry their stapled tags off each end, I’m seeing the fat insouciance of my Rhode Island Red hen, waddling across the yard in pursuit of a bug. I breathe in deep and know the smell of fresh-cut wood will hold the softer scent of fields under summer sun; each nest box lined with straw, waiting to cradle the first egg, the yearly miracle that doesn’t grow old. It’s a wealth that wants to spread, a feeling of both hands full with as much prosperity and hope as I can grasp. It turns me into a farm evangelist, preaching back-to-the-land redemption to sidewalk-and-city-street inmates.

It’s a rare spring with chicks growing around me that doesn’t turn my mind insidiously to other ventures, coops morphing into barns big enough to shelter a goat or two, maybe even sheep for wool, and while I’m at it, rabbits and quail. The picture I see just continues to spread out, like ripples from a rock thrown into a pond, and I see that with all the creatures in my care, I may need some help. When I close my eyes, sometimes I see an old truck parked out front with fenders the color of the apples that grow in the field and a woman who tastes like the first bite of stolen fruit when I kiss her. And I remember what dangerous things those chickens can be.


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