Bits and bites of everyday life

Please, don’t be a chicken!

True North Perspective
Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair is the author of The Neglected Garden and two French novels. Visit her website to learn more
Years ago, my late husband and I took a day trip to Otter Lake. We wanted to visit Belle Terre Botanic Garden and Arboretum. I was looking for lavender plants that could thrive in our climate. This botanic farm offered organic herbs, bedding plants, perennials, biennials and rare plants.
It also had a tea room where one could enjoy a light lunch.
I didn’t find lavender but the lady who showed us the gardens was very knowledgeable and suggested a specific type of lavender for Zone 5 gardens. We discussed herbal and plant remedies. That’s where I learned about burdock way before it gained immense popularity.
When we told our hostess we would love to have lunch, she invited us to enjoy the nature trail and come back in about half an hour. Brian and I, being nature lovers, really enjoyed exploring the area. At one point, we rounded a small hillock where an old chicken coop stood. I was attracted to that coop and wondered why, despite the fact there was no door and the fence was down, the chickens remained inside. We could see them peering through the open doorway and we could hear them clucking but not a single one came out. I took a photo and reflected on the fact that some people are just like that. They choose safety over freedom.
A couple of years later, when I was asked to paint a nature scene in my art class, I pulled out that photo and enjoyed painting the scene … Only I added one detail: two geese walking down a path in front of the chicken coop. Two white geese, proud and free! Humans are just like that, I mused. Some will settle for a safe but boring life while others will dare to go off the beaten path and will forge ahead to brighter days and new challenges.
Time and again, I have seen women trapped in a world where freedom is denied, where all the decisions are made by their husbands. They play it safe and accept to be controlled and manipulated financially and psychologically for many reasons, one of them being fear. My mother was like that. She went from being controlled by my father to being controlled by another dominant male in the family. We talked about that at the hairdresser the other day. One lady said her mother went through the same thing. She had never written a cheque or paid a bill or done a bank transaction. When her husband died, she was totally lost and kept crying and feeling sorry for herself. Her children had to take over.
My question is why is this still happening today when women are working full-time and often putting in more hours than their husbands?
I read a lovely story last week in the September issue of Natural Presence. It’s intended for children but is universal. It’s called, “There once was a Chicken”.
As the story goes, a mountain climber scaled a mountain and found an eagle’s nest. He took one of the eggs from the nest and brought it to a friend who owned a chicken farm in the valley below. The chickens, who were respectful, knew they had to care for it so an old hen volunteered to sit on the large egg until it hatched. A beautiful eagle was born but since chickens aren’t very smart, they raised it to be a chicken.
And the eagle, based on what he had learned, lived as a chicken and never flew more than a few feet in the air. Although the eagle loved his family, his spirit longed for something more. One day, he saw a magnificent bird gliding effortlessly in the sky above. He asked what kind of a bird that was and an old chicken replied that was an eagle, the king of birds who belonged to the skies. She added they, on the other hand, were mere chickens and belonged to the earth.
Every once in a while, the eagle would dream he could fly and each time he shared his dream, others told him he was just foolish and to stop dreaming. So the eagle lived and died as a chicken because that is what he thought he was.
I told the story to my granddaughter. She immediately said she would change the ending. I asked her what it would be… “When that eagle had babies of its own, they learned to fly so the eagle realized he was an eagle and learned to fly also.” How I love her version of the story!
You might ask why this story stuck with me! Well, I went shopping with Dee a while ago. Dee has a dilemma that is making her very miserable. She will be 60 in a few months. She worked all her life except for a few years where she stayed home to raise her children. Her pay always went into the joint account to which she has no real access. She has been totally controlled by her husband. (Of course, he has good reasons to believe he is doing the right thing. My first husband was of the same opinion but the real issue was control.)
She is ready to fill out her forms for the Canadian Pension Plan (CPP) and wants the money deposited in her personal account which has always been skimpy. But no!!! Her husband insists it be deposited in the joint account, over which she has no control! Dee would like to travel a little, buy some new furniture and treat herself to something special once in a while. Is it too much to ask for a woman who has always been reasonable?
She is so upset about all this that she is postponing filling out the forms. I feel so sorry for her! Will she ever learn how to fly? Why is her husband keeping her grounded still? Try to tell Dee that she can fly on her own, that she is allowed to insist on certain things and can ask for certain rules to be revisited!! Try to tell her husband that he needs to give her some well-deserved freedom, that he doesn’t own her! After all, she is a reasonable person and so is her request.
I wouldn’t want Dee to live and die like that eagle who never dared to fly because he was made to believe he or she was a chicken.
I can only hope that Dee and other women like her can live by Christian D. Larsen’s “Promise Yourself”… to live in the faith that the whole world is on your side, so long as you are true to the best in you.
P.S. The painting of the old chicken coop hangs on my living-room wall… a reminder to not let yourself be caged in.
Sending you love and light!