Posted by: alegra22 | May 6, 2012


ImageDan points to a spot next to the newly planted feijoa bush and says, “Is that a good spot? This time I’m going to dig it deep enough for several of them.” He’s wearing a flannel shirt and  basketball shorts and I’m wearing dirty UGG boots, cut-off shorts, and a Mickey Mouse hoodie sweatshirt from Disneyland. We are both exhausted.

Behind Dan, the moon sits in the sky, not nearly as impressive as it is meant to be. It is just another moon casting shadows. At my feet, there are a pile of bodies, dark and light, feet like uprooted trees. I can see the claws, the scaled skin, and I think I will probably never eat chicken again.

I gather surface weeds and grass clippings while Dan digs. I rake dirt over the two graves he’s already dug. I promised the children that I would call them out when it was time to bury the ‘boof-head-rock-star chicken’, so I do.

Sol wants to see the body.

Zaviera stands at the edge of the garden and says, “I just feel like dead chickens give me excusement.” She waves her hands in the air and takes a step back. “What do you mean, sweetheart?” I ask because she was determined to say goodbye to the grey chicken and now she stands in the shadows, shrinking toward the light and warmth of the house.

“I feel like I have excusement,” she says. “Excusement means that looking at that,” she points to the bodies waiting in the freshly turned earth, “makes me feel yucky inside. I feel bad inside looking  at their bodies.”

“I understand,’ I say, “I feel yucky inside, too.”

This morning, the children raced out to say hello to the chickens, to feed them, to befriend them and imagine names. Sol has been full of excitement since the chickens arrived. He has been ready to take on responsibilities, including cleaning up their poo. We all fell in love with the chickens. For me, they held an extra level of attachment because we’d inherited them from a dear friend going through a major life transition. I felt a spiritual guardianship over the chickens.

We were getting dressed, preparing to go buy materials for building their nesting boxes, when I heard the first cries of alarm. It only took a few seconds for me to register that something was wrong.

Pepita was in the aviary and she had one of the chickens in her mouth, shaking it. Feathers were in the air. I yelled. Sprinted. It was only seconds and I expected one dead chicken – the one in her mouth. I wasn’t prepared to find bodies everywhere. It put me in a state of shock. These bodies.

I chased Pepita out of the aviary. Closed the door. Knelt down to touch the bodies, one after another.
Something went quiet inside of me, somewhere in front of my spine, and in the center of my throat.

So tonight, I want to claim the immunity of ‘excusement’ to mourn what was lost in my care, including our beloved big oaf, Pepita, who is suddenly thrust into a new territory of blood and instinct and a path that branches away from our own. We are praying to find her a good home, free of smaller animals that tempt her lion-hunting compulsions. People she can guard and protect and love as is her hard-wired nature to do.

As winter curls around me with its cold, its falling away of greenery, its drawing inward, I feel death stretching, a shadow against the light of a very full moon.

I am grateful for the lessons wrapped in these small pockets of grief; I tell my children this as they process their sadness and anger and sense of responsibility throughout the day. Sol was in tears because he was the reason that Pepita got into the aviary. His sense of justice translated into his wanting Pepita to be taken to the pound, a life for a life. This included his own, he felt he should be given away. He didn’t kill the chickens with his hands, but he left the door unlocked. He went into the aviary when we told him not to. He didn’t want to go near the chickens again, afraid he might do something that would lead to more death or hurt. Zaviera cried at the loss of the chickens and at the loss of trust in a dog she believed would  protect our family and all of its members. Joaquin ran around making loud clucking noises and scolding the dog.

One more day alive. One more day I realize this: we all deserve excusement from judgment, excusement from believing we understand what is right or wrong. These lives of ours are filled with grief and joy. More often than not, they seem so intertwined that I wonder if we don’t lose something in attempting to untangle them.



  1. Oh, dear. I’m so sorry this happened. Death is not something that is easy to deal with, no matter what age.

    • No, it isn’t…and each time we’ve encountered it, I’ve tried to help my children process it in a way that helps them gain a little more freedom in life.

  2. As you mourn, remember we mourn because we love. I am so sorry for your losses but glad for the love that exists beneath it for you.

    • Amen xoxox

  3. Even in tragedy you and your children teach some pretty damn good lessons. Excusement. I’ve needed that a few times in my life and never had the word to help process it. Thank you, Zaviera, for that. I hope Sol forgives himself. He didn’t intentionally let Pepita in there. I sense that he’ll be even more attentive and caring to the remainder of the brood. This is one of those times I want to stretch my heart across the ocean to give you any extra energy and strength you may need to navigate this stretch.

  4. Thank you, Zaviera, for excusement. That’s something I’ve needed a few times in my life but never had the word to help process it. I dearly hope Sol can forgive himself. He carries such a strong sense of justice. I sense that he’ll be extra attentive and caring to the remainder of the brood. I just want to stretch my heart across the ocean to give you any extra strength and love you might need as you navigate these waters.

    • OHMYGOODNESS how did I miss this comment from you?! Yes, let us claim ‘excusement’ as our own! xoxoox

  5. You said it honestly and beautifully. Hugs to you and the family as you go through all of this. It was a very sad incident and you handle it so gracefully as always, acknowledging profound truth and always with love.

    • Thank you so much, my friend xxx

  6. I’m sorry to hear about your chickens, but I can’t help feeling bad for the dog who was probably just doing what was instinctive. My heart aches when owners get rid of their pets because pets think of us as their pack.

    I hope and pray you find comfort in your grief.

    • Hello Nikole,
      Yes, absolutely – we feel the same about our animals. Pepita is one of our family and we are taking our time finding the right situation for her – one that will be able to treat her like the big and loyal child she is. It has been an ongoing issue with Pepita that simply came to a dramatic head with the chickens. We’ve been unable to give her the consistent care she needs – like walks, etc. and this has often resulted in near-miss situations when she has accidentally gotten out of our property and taken herself on walks. We’ve been struggling with the fear that one of these days there will be a situation where she gets out and ends up crossing paths with the wrong person and is put down simply because she is a big dog and scary-looking to those who don’t know her.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: