Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Death: Just the Other Side of Life?

We had more chicken death here in our little backyard farm today.  But, this death wasn't intentional.  Usually, when John moves the chicken tractor, the chickens, who've grown accustomed to the routine, move right along with him, eager to discover their fresh ground.  Today, however, as John moved the tractor in the rain, one of the chickens failed to scurry along with the rest and found herself underneath the weight of the tractor.  Besides crushing her internal organs, it also pulled off a foot, and she had to be put out of her misery quickly.  John and I were both pretty shaken up about it.

The chicken was a Dominique (perhaps the black and white one pictured here).
The incident reminded me of a section of The Dirty Life I read recently:
"I had a boyfriend once who liked to gamble, and I'd ride on the back of his motorcycle through the Holland Tunnel and along the Jersey coast to Atlantic City.  Sitting at the table, watching the cards being dealt, I heard a man say that the difference between an amateur and a pro is that the pro doesn't have an emotional reaction to losing anymore. It's just the other side of winning.  I guess I'm a farmer now, because I'm used to loss like this, to death of all kinds, and to rot.  It's just the other side of life.  It is your first big horse and all he meant to you, and it is also his bones and skin breaking down in the compost pile, almost ready to be spread on the fields."

I guess by this definition, I am not a farmer yet.  I'm not accustomed to death of any kind.  When my zucchini vines grew so frail that they were no longer worth the water I was putting on them each morning, I mourned the loss even as I uprooted them and drug them to the compost pile.  And, when I slit the throat of my first meat chicken, I had to take a few cleansing breaths and fight the urge to close my eyes as I made the cut.  

Still, today was somehow different.  Worse still than all of those other deaths.  This chicken wasn't intended to be meat.  She was intended to be a part of our laying flock -- a pet, really.  The way she died was not a part of our plan.  The fact that clouds of "what-could-I-have-done-differently?" and "it-wasn't-supposed-to-happen-like-this" are following us around today is evidence that we haven't yet become accustomed to the death that is inevitable in this new lifestyle of ours. 

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