Dead Chickens & Rainbows

dead bird photo on 35mm film
Last night I dreamt of dead chickens.
Looking out my kitchen window into my backyard, I noticed a dead chicken. Years ago we had chickens we adored. One by one, they started being killed off by a family of raccoons. They were relentless. I haven’t had the heart to try again. You work so hard to nurture them, take care of them, get them to thrive–protect them from danger. It’s hard work, as most anything worth doing is. But I knew this chicken couldn’t be one from all those years ago. And as I looked around my yard in my dream, I noticed many more chickens lying dead. Ones of all colors and sizes. My dog was eating on one in the back. I was confused and overwhelmed. Where the hell did all of these chickens come from? How did they get in my yard? How will I clean them all up?
When I woke up I was afraid. Afraid to send my son to school. Because although I don’t know what happened to the chickens in my dream, I know that earlier this week children were killed while they were in school. It happens far too often. But this time it hit closer to home. This time it’s more difficult to push away and stuff down and keep going like it doesn’t affect me. Like the possibility doesn’t exist. Like I can protect my son and our hearts by looking forward with tunnel vision for the next spark of joy.
And this morning while I was writing my morning pages I was asking why I had this dream, and why I let myself binge eat an entire box of cheddar bunnies while cooking dinner and then again a box of cookies after–also in the shape of tiny bunnies. No answer made sense. “I don’t know.” I kept repeating to myself; my stomach in knots from overeating the night before and from thinking of my son at school unaware of all of life’s cruelties. The possibility of tragedy hiding in every corner of the world. 
And then I somehow, miraculously let myself feel something like grief. And I cried over my morning pages and I wrote how I felt scared, and mad, and grief-stricken, and helpless, and unsure if I’m ever doing the right thing to keep him safe. And I remembered why I choose not to watch the news if I can help it, and I choose not to engage in politics, and I’m triggered by the posts on facebook and by my mother talking about the guns we’re allowed to buy in this country. Just yesterday my answer to her venting was “Either suggest we all move out of this country or don’t talk to me about it. What else is there to do?”
Perhaps I’d rather stuff the fear and the pain down in the form of cheddar bunnies than to admit how afraid I am of the world. How intimidated I am by the well of grief always found at my feet: threatening to open up and pull me in. Afraid of drowning. As a person labeled “highly-emotional” and “too-sensitive”, I have a tendency to set subconscious limits on feelings. They make their way on all of them to protect me, I suppose. Perhaps that’s why I have walls up, why I don’t dream too big, why I put a limit on my joy just as I do my grief without realizing it.
There is this idea of duality that I know is the ultimate truth. There are things that are both good and bad, joyful and sorrowful, and they are equally true. I know this because I have to–to survive motherhood.
But somehow I lack the understanding in myself; haven’t given myself the full grace of expansion. I struggle with the idea that I can be playful yet long for care-free play. Joyful yet full of sorrow. That I can be full of feelings, able to articulate them and name them, yet still find ways to get out of feeling them. There are times like these when naming my feelings aren’t enough. There are times when I have to accept that I can be afraid of the grief at my feet and still have enough faith to feel it, knowing I won’t let myself drown.
There was some sort of poetry in the innocence of the bunnies I ate last night, as there often is if you can take the time to find it. Just this minute, rainbows have made their way onto my walls from the sun shining through the film-covered windows in my room. I mean, there could be death in my yard outside my windows and still there are rainbows drenching my walls. Maybe I can be both the chicken and the dog–ravenously devouring the parts of myself that feel the most vulnerable. And maybe that’s true. And maybe that’s okay.
For today, it will be enough. For today, I will not run from my big, hard feelings AND I will continue to watch for the rainbows of small-joys on my walls.
Holding space for all of those affected by such tragedies today. And for all of the mothers in the world who know the well of grief at their feet.
dead bird photograph on 35mm filmhydrangeas on film
Tricia Taylor Paducah Ky Photographer

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