Wednesday, February 09, 2005

continuity and curiosity

I finally discovered where the chickens go to roost at night. I've been wondering for quite some time...

So many chickens-- probably twenty or thirty of them in the neighborhood-- but no coops, or whatever it is that chickens are typically supposed to sleep in... They just kind of seem to be there during the day, hens pecking around on the roadsides, chicks resting in the grass, roosters crowing atop concrete pylons... but they always seem to magically disappear as the day wears on. I never knew where. Like subconscious habits or deep wounds from childhood, the chickens just seem to be there on the Tuglaweg at some times and not there at other times.

But of course, it's only logical and natural that there would be a point of continuity. The mystery has only been made clear to me through outside intervention. The construction crews started cleaning things up about a week ago. Big yellow vehicles, men in hard harts, digging up the grass, ripping out the brush, thinning out two-thirds of the trees on the embankment... I still have no idea what the gemeente is trying to do with all this dirt, vegetation, and concrete. Presumably I'll find out someday. But in the meantime, one result of the construction crews has been a new ability to more closely observe the daily habits of the neighborhood chickens.

They seem to be most active in the mornings. The roosters love to crow from pre-dawn to noon. There aren't really any new chicks at this time of the year, but the hens keep themselves busy hunting for food along the street. They take advantage of the bread crumbs and grain thrown out by the Morrocans-- although they have to contend with the pigeons (and probably the rats). As the afternoon wears on, they rest. Stray birds can be seen here at there on the street, but most of them relaxing at the bottom of the embankment, wiling away the afternoon without doing much of anything.

But the real discovery comes with evening. I had pretty much guessed that the chickens just lounged around in the second half of the day; the trees and brush that covered the scene didn't really keep me from anything interesting. In fact, the reality of the situation which had been so suddenly unmasked by the construction crews merely reinforced the picture that had been in my mind's eye. But riding home from work the other day, around twilight, I was surprised by the flap of wings that crossed my peripheral vision off to the left. The rusty flash of feathers was typical enough for our neighborhood chickens... except it was ten meters up from the ground.

So it turns out that the chickens roost each evening in a tree by the railroad tracks. I'm not sure how they get up there. In spite of their feathers and wings, I've never seen them fly. It doesn't strike me that chickens would be adept climbers. But there they were, plain to see: a couple-dozen plump orange chickens stacked from branch to branch, filling the tree like a strange sort of holiday decoration. They were quiet-- no crowing, clucking, or cooing-- in fact, they were barely moving. Most of them had their heads tucked into their wings, excepting an occasional rustle to settle more comfortably.

There was a peace and a beauty to the scene and to the realization. As my bicycle clattered over the cobblestone street, I marveled at their bizarre majesty. It's amazing what you can see and learn when the view is cleared.


At 3:09 PM, Blogger Bret said...

I like this Eric - and it is indeed a true blessing to finally know where all the chickens go. Good stuff. I'll look for them next time I'm in the hood.

At 1:52 AM, Anonymous jan (that's mom to you) said...

Hey, Eric-Boy! Do you remember the old Sesame Street song "Oh there are chickens in the trees, there are chickens in the trees..."
We just never realized that there was truth to that song!

At 12:56 PM, Blogger Eric Asp said...

I remember the Sesame Street song very well:

There are chickens in the trees.
There are chickens in the trees.
Won't you listen to me please?
There are chickens in the trees.

I would be lying if I said that song hadn't crossed mt mind in writing the story about the chickens...


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