The other night, I dreamt about chickens. I don’t think I’ve ever dreamt about chickens before. Chicken, sure — the crispy-fried kind I love but seldom eat, or doro wat, the spicy Ethiopian stew — but not the living, clucking birds.
Specifically, I dreamt about our chickens. In the dream, the brooder shrunk so that the chickens barely fit, and I worried that they were unhappily crowded. It wasn’t an anxiety dream, exactly – I didn’t wake up in a cold sweat – but it was definitely a reasonable concern dream.
I had this dream because we were out of town – in Dallas for a couple of days, and then Portland for a few more. We left the chickens, along with the cat, the house, and the garden, in the care of our next-door neighbors’ kids, who are capable and responsible. But the chickens were on my mind. The cat, too, although we know the cat to be a resourceful survivor and I was more concerned that she’d vomit on the rug than that she’d be consumed by coyotes. But the chickens are young and vulnerable. Was the brooder warm enough? Were they getting enough to eat? Were they picking on the runt? I was also concerned that, somehow, the cat would get at them and slaughter them wholesale. After which she would undoubtedly vomit on the rug.
Having living things in your care is satisfying and, if you play your cards right, even remunerative. Our animals and plants have rooted us to our home in a way that seems healthy and wholesome, but it’s got a significant downside: you can’t just leave. If you feel the call of the last-minute weekend in South Beach, or the wine tour of Burgundy, or the Vegas gambling jag, you can’t lock the door behind you and get on a plane.
We’re not prisoners, of course. If we arrange for responsible caretaking, we can take a trip – even a long trip. This time we were only gone for five days, though, and Kevin and I found ourselves thinking and talking a lot about the one cat and eight chickens whose lives are entirely our responsibility.