For the last several days, I have been collecting eggs for our incubator. It’s a spring task that a hardened criminal could get behind.
Since only still warm eggs can be successfully hatched, my morning chore requires sorting eggs by their temperature. It’s blustery and snowing here at the farm, so I’m wearing gloves and a furry hat with ear-flaps. I remove my gloves to collect the eggs to assess the temperature of each individual egg.
I approach the first clutch of eight eggs, which are a varied mix of colors suggesting antique porcelain, paper bags, sea glass.
The first few eggs are stone cold, so I put them in the egg basket with a plunk. The fourth egg is so warm that I resist a strange unbidden urge to nestle it up against my cheek. I put the egg in the pocket of my barn jacket.
The next egg feels slightly warm; or so I think. I grab one of the cold eggs in my other hand to compare. “Yup. It’s warm,” I say out loud to the hen in the neighboring nesting box. She coos seeming approval and I pop it into my pocket.
I have seven warm eggs across my two coat pockets when I finish collecting all sixty-four eggs. Their combined heat warms my pockets in a way that I can feel through the thick insulation of my coat.
Hatching chicks is the trifecta of farm work, I think to myself, gently patting my pockets. Everything on a farm turns like a wheel of deadly routine. But this morning, that wheel has stuttered to a near halt. Something different is a afoot. There is a soothing sense of acceptance, mystery, patience perhaps, as if some mystery had fogged a window, leaving a quiet, yet reassuring note. One that I could have easily missed.
I’m finished tending to the chickens now, so it’s time to leave the barn. But I do not button my coat for fear that the strain across the pockets will break the eggs. So I hug my coat closed and lower my head against the wind as I cross the road and make my way back to the farmhouse.
Winter is calling out one more time, reluctant to leave. The ice is pelting my brow as I navigate the slippery slope of the driveway. I gently pat my pockets. The warm eggs are like a secret talisman. They are a faint whisper against the wind: there is always this.
I have collected another sixteen eggs over the past days that are safely tucked inside awaiting their incubator mates. In 21 days, with the grace of nature about 80% of those eggs will hatch out into chicks. At least one of those chicks will have a life threatening deformation, and it will likely die with the first 24 hours. But the rest will grow into hens and roosters that will lay and fertilize next spring’s brood. The torch will assuredly be passed.
I consider how spring is the pat metaphor for how everything that ails us runs in a river of time whose only consistency is its cycles of decay and renewal. But as of late I am more struck by those times when we have fallen entirely out of the path of the river and can find no shore; of the times when hope, like warm eggs, is in shorter supply.
I am reminded of a poem I wrote on Thanksgiving when winter had unexpectedly wheeled into gear.
I love this world.
And not just in morning, when
the long, dark drug of night
opens like a clam to the light.
I love the hinge itself
that swings back and forth
as the tide washes over;
an attempt at renewal.
I love not just the mighty whale
but the plumes of his excrement,
that feed the tiniest plants,
that create the air we breathe.
I love not just a seat at the table,
But the debt we owe
each time we eat, a holy communion
with mineral, vegetable, or animal given.
I love not just the beauty of rivers
leading to oceans, but also the
black sucking microbrial muck
raising nutrients up foodwebs like spirit.
I love this world,
which suggests something whole in the
valleys between wave crests
and a chance at forgiveness.
I know it’s true for so many of us at times: hope can sometimes feel completely and utterly out of reach. Even then routine can be slowed down and seen with our newly shaded eyes, meaning can be found in the guts of the ordinary, and even in the dark there might be something worthy of a muttered sigh.
It’s March and it’s cold and snowing. And I have warm eggs in my pockets. Hallelujah, any way!