Tomorrow is Ryan’s birthday which has become a marking point during our Alaska years – will we get our Anchorage winter snow pack started by his birthday? This year, it seems we have. (and right on schedule)
Most afternoons lately I have been hanging out with our chickens – ever since a hawk swooped down to our backyard a couple weeks ago and I went running toward it, arms flailing, hollering go find dinner somewhere else! I like to let our chickens free range because it’s good for them (and our eggs), but it’s also good for me. I stand out in the backyard with nothing in my ears, no hurry, no projects. Just me and the dog and the birds with no particular purpose but to be.
Our chickens are so gratifying. They hear me coming out the back door and if they are not already outside in their pen, they tumble through the coop hatch, down the ramp, and scurry out to meet me at the end of their pen – calling for treats, always. They’ve been pretty skittish since the last hawk scare, but they’ve still hopped out when I open their pen door and, though they stick pretty close to each other, and to me, they carry on in their busy chicken ways, scratching and pecking, scampering about. But as the front edge of winter has crept ever closer, there has been less and less good stuff to be found in their free range time. And when the top soil froze solid this week, they started cutting their free range time pretty short – heading back to the pen early, where it is warm, and also, where they know the helpful humans do deliver treats.
Yesterday afternoon I watched as they turned toward their pen after a super quick tour of all their usual good spots. And as they bustled home, I felt the weight of change. Snow was in the forecast, and I suspected we were about to cross a seasonal line. Sure enough. It started falling in earnest as I walked the dog last night at 9p and was 6-8 inches deep when she and I went out again this morning a little before 8a.
When I went to open the chicken hatch midmorning to let them into their covered pen, I also opened the coop door to show the girls what had happened to the backyard overnight. They were not impressed. Not one hopped out. So I put some fresh straw in their covered outside pen and enjoyed watching as they went to work spreading it with their feet, pecking at it, and churring at me – please may we have some mealworm treats? Of course I got them some. It was all super cute. And delightful. And I felt sadness there.
The snow kept falling all through the day, and by the time it stopped tonight our yard was under a blanket snow more than a foot deep. After 10 years, I know how this works. There will be snow on the ground for the next 4 or 5 months. It will probably be mid-April before the chickens will again venture out to the yard when I open the door. And by then, our family’s time in Alaska will be almost up. My afternoons in the backyard with these chickens will become only memories.
These chickens have been such joy for our family ever since they arrived by mail 18 months ago. We have so many wonderful stories. So much laughter, and also tears. We wish we could take them to Oregon with us, but we know we won’t. And so, it is. We are learning how to hold a good gift. knowing it is transient. and the clock is ticking. We lean into the fullness of this moment. even as we sense the loss that looms ahead.
I know seasons change.
Fall to Winter. Alaska to Oregon. Teens to Twenties. My baby is turning 20 tomorrow!!!
As I watched snowflakes falling outside my window today, I marveled at the beauty that is first winter snow, and I went wandering through my feelings.
leaning in. holding on.
learning how to let go.
Because this is also what I know….
this joy. and this sorrow.
I am here for it. living it day by day. moment by moment.
grieving. and grateful.