One of our chickens died last weekend. I noticed that the other chickens were pecking it and keeping it away from the chicks. There was something wrong with its comb and it didn't seem to be eating. We took it inside to keep it warm, and tried to feed it, but it grew weaker and weaker, and slowly fell into a sleep. My daughter was really upset, especially because it was the "mummy chicken", who had been so broody that we had acquired some eggs for her to hatch. We told her the chicks would be fine because they have three other, extremely protective, mummies. Then a few days later, my daughter was a little distressed - she seemed to have forgotten about the sick chicken, and was then surprised and sad when I told her that it had died. My youngest wanted to see what it looked like when it was dead and was disappointed because his dad had already buried it in the garden, underneath a plant. My middle child suddenly grew very indignant, on the way home from school one day, and demanded that we get another chicken to replace the one that had died. When I pointed out that we had 5 chicks, he said: "no, we need another mummy chicken, just like the other one".
To be honest, I'm not overly fond of chickens - I like the eggs they lay
and I like the sound of them scrabbling about in the garden, but I
don't really like picking them up - and yet watching this chicken fade
away, while my children watched on, filled my eyes with tears. Obviously I was sad because they were, but also it made me remember the other times when pets have died, and to feel again the way I did as a child when confronted with death.
I've been having some trouble writing a certain part of my novel, which involves the childhood relationship between two brothers and a girl who lives with them. I don't know why I find it so hard - there are far more "difficult" scenes in the book - but I'm struggling to plunge myself back into that way of viewing the world. I'm reading this fascinating book about psychology and writing, and I think that perhaps there are some feelings of sadness and anxiety associated with my childhood, which make me wary of mining these memories. It hadn't really occurred to me before, but so often issues faced by my children force me to revisit similar situations or emotions that I'd long ago forgotten. Sometimes, it is more than just empathy; it's as if I'm experiencing something again, but with a greater understanding and objectivity. Once more, I'm realising why writing a novel can be painful.
"Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be be lived forwards." Søren Kierkegaard