As I write at the kitchen table, oblivious to my tense shoulders and cooling coffee, a strange popping sound filters into my awareness like distant fireworks. Probably the cat sharpening claws, I think, until she wanders past me. And the dog is nearby. Is it ice cracking on the roof? Squirrels in the attic? Finally, I have to check and climb the stairs, baffled.
Two steps into our guest room, I burst out laughing. I forgot about the chicken.
One of our Polish hens had ended up indoors on Saturday evening. The other hens had plucked her tail raw and naked—chickens can be as mean as people—and she stood with her head hanging. We considered culling her, but between my feelings and dinner guests arriving within the hour, she got a reprieve and a dog kennel in the guest room. This morning, she spilled her food and is pecking vigorously at the newspaper-bottomed cage.
I forgot the chicken because I woke up bleary, roused reluctant kids, herded them through breakfast and into backpacks while zigzagging the kitchen being distracted by other thoughts, ushered them to the car without wearing a coat, hurried back indoors and fumbled for coffee, then opened my laptop and left half my senses behind until the popping started above the ceiling.
Laughing brings me back to my senses. I sink to the floor beside the cat, who has devoted herself to sitting with her very own indoor chicken. I notice the hen’s beak curving slightly to the right out of face feathers so thick I cannot see her eyes. The damp, sharp smell of chicken poop on newspaper. Low crooning of the hen. Purring cat.
Later, with my toes clipped into cross-country skis, I shuffle forward awkwardly out of our yard behind Andrew. Again, I forget my body, thinking that these skis are not working with me, probably because they are both left skis, and I should not even be out on them, risking a fall that could be debilitating, but I should get exercise and back into shape while I have the privilege of being healthy and access to skiing, which is not to be taken for granted, especially in this changing world. My shoulders have tensed and crept towards my locked jaw, and I am white-knuckling the ski poles. Even my toes are curled.
I breathe, sink into my feet, wiggle my toes, drop shoulders, unclench hands. My center of gravity shifts from my neck down into my pelvis—stability. Skiing becomes calming. I notice the woods around us. The smell of my breath in the scarf. Swish-crunch of Andrew skiing ahead of me. Jingle of dog tags as she wriggles past, focused only on how good it feels to move through snowy woods with people you love.