I wake up at 4:44 a.m., stretch like a tired cat, take a shower, then amble my way down to the zendo for the 5:25 zazen where I sit until 6, then head upstairs for a quick breakfast, return to my room to get dressed, and head out the door no later than 6:45 a.m. Work until 3:15 (at the earliest - usually meetings, parent conferences, etc.), and then head back to the Zen Center just in time for the afternoon zazen and service at 5:40. Tuesday night, class; Wednesday night, dharma talk; Thursday night, sewing my rakasu, Friday night , fukudo duties, plus dishes. Saturday mornings start at 6 a.m. (we get to sleep in an hour later, and it makes a HUGE difference!), work meeting, soji, breakfast, and then public program until noon.
I'm not complaining. It's a wonderful life, this practice period. With that being said, I can't wait for spring break, which is in two weeks. I plan on going to San Diego to see my dog. Can't wait. I almost cried the other day, I miss her so much. But those tears, I'm guessing, are more about other things. Or maybe not. There is something to be said about the love of a dog.
But I want to talk about chickens now. Yes, chickens, as in the cluckers that live in coops. My BFF, B, and his wife and kids are out of town this week. This is the same one whose 5 year-old daughter corrected me on my grammar recently. Remember, I said "anyways", and she said, "It's 'anyway' Auntie Caren, not 'anyways'."
Anywaysssssss, they are out of town this week, so I said I would swing by their place to feed the cat. So I went there on Sunday. It was nice to have the place to myself, to have A place to myself. I've been feeling the need for some privacy lately, of which I do not always get around here, so the timing was good. I brought my laptop and work over there and set up shop for the day. Anywaysssssss, B recently purchased some chickens. He and his lovely wife, G, are into that whole sustained living thing. Four chickens equals about a dozen eggs a week. And B gets to be a farmer when he's not doing his full-time corporate schtick.
My only duty was to the cat. He found someone to feed the chickens. Which is a good thing because I have an aversion to domestic birds. Bad childhood experience with a neighbor's pet crow named Poe, which I will humorously expound on some day, but not now. It's now 9:12 p.m. Which makes me thirteen minutes more tired from the beginning of this post. Okay, so I'm hanging out at B's, doing my work, when I go downstairs to check in on the litter box sitch, when I see this chicken bopping around teh back yard, NOT in her coop where she belongs. As if on cue, she sees me looking at her through the sliding glass door, and she aggressively rushes towards me, stops at the door, and just stares at me. I felt like Tippy Hedron in The Birds. Like I said, bad childhood experience. Leave her alone, Caren, I thought to myself. It's her own damn fault for getting loose. But then, it occurred to me that if she could fly the coop and amble out into the back yard, then she could potentially fly the "big coop" of her owner's habitat, and that would be just - tragic. Tragic for B's daughters, ages 3 and 5, who have grown quite fond of these birds. Okay, man up, Caren, I say to myself. Put on the gloves (literally, there are work gloves conveniently located on the coffee table), and get that bird back into the coop. So, I took a few breaths, stepped outside, and chased the friggin' chicken all over the yard, looking like a damn fool, I'm sure.
She totally played head games with me. She would stop, letting me get close enough to her, then take off. Meanwhile, the other chickens looked on, supporting her naturally, with their passive-aggressive clucking in the background. For some strange reason, all I could think of was my recent visit to Alcatraz Island. Escape from the coop. Maybe it's the whole Birdman of Alcatraz thing. But in this case, she's the real bird, escaping from her own private Alcatraz. Truth be told, she wanted to get back into the coop because that's where the food is. But, like most institutionalized creatures, she still resisted the need for the institution, running around the yard rebelliously, enjoying her short-lived freedom.
Alas, I grabbed her from behind (this was a quietly terrifying moment for me, that human-to-chicken contact), to which she did not resist. Clearly, she is far more accustomed to human contact than I am to chicken contact. I walked her across the yard and plopped her over the fence, causing the other chickens to scatter about. It was like that scene in Cool Hand Luke where Paul Newman escapes for the first time, only to be humbly dragged back into the prison yard, gawked at by the other inmates. Within moments, she worked her way over to the tree stump, which I learned served as her launching pad over the chicken wired fence. I yelled at her to not jump over the fence, truly thinking that she understood my logic when I told her that the food was on her side of the fence, and then returned to grading my students' resumes' and cover letters. About an hour later, when I returned downstairs, who do you think was eyeballing me just inches from the sliding glass door. I swear she she was smiling. Again, we danced the chicken dance, all the way around the yard, for a few more minutes, until I conjured up the courage to pick her up and drop her back into her part of the yard. This time, however, I barricaded the area from which she had previously escaped, with two deck chairs. It was brilliant engineering on my part, at least I like to think so. I then proceeded back to the house, but this time, I went all the way upstairs into the bathroom, where there is a great view of the backyard. I stood there for a few minutes, watching her try to escape. She pretended not to know I was there, so she didn't really attempt to fly the coop, though I could tell (from fifty feet away), just by the way she was walking back and forth along the fence line, that she was considering other options, but to no avail! Alas, I stood the victor!
I returned this afternoon, almost 24 hours later. I walked into the house, this time, going directly downstairs (to hell with the cat, she;s mostly self-sufficient anywaysss, right?), and there she was, that orange bird, staring through the glass door, head bobbling, and if I didn't know any better, flipping me off with he middle talon. She had escaped my barricade. One of the chairs fell off the fence. Did she push it off? Or did the wind knock it off? In any event, the dance continued. I chased her around the yard, quietly cursing her, until I caught her, and tossed her back over to her side of the world. I re-barricaded the coop, returned to the house, cleaned the litter box, fed the cat, and refreshed the cat's water dish. Then, I left.
It's now 9:38 p.m. Where is the chicken right now? Is Cool Hand Luke at it as I type these words? Why does she insist on jumping over to the other side where there is no food? Is freedom just an illusion? And who's the bigger fool? The chicken, for escaping from her institutionalized "freedom" or me for spending forty-four minutes writing about it? Not to mention, the good thirty or so minutes chasing the damn thing down, and then setting up the barricade.
Anywayssssssss...that's my profound zen experience of the week.