Glory be! There they were, the two glossy, black, chickens rediscovering the joys to be found in the flower bed. Four of their sisters passed away before Christmas, but these two persevered. They are reminding me of the Ella rendition of A Tisket A Tasket–“She went peck peck peckin all around, when she spied it on the ground.” This work of theirs represents both the best and the worst of their multi-purpose lives. There is a negative in their lack of discrimination, and they caused great sadness last summer when they took advantage of an open gate and scratched up the lettuce. On the other hand they snap up all obnoxious bugs, cultivate the perennials and fertilize the roots. If they weren’t so attached to dirt (just watch them reducing a piece of yard to dust or fertilizing the patio) we would be satisfied collecting eggs and laughing in a superior way at their apparent stupidity, activities that give rise to the many cliches as, for instance, “mad as a wet hen,” gossipping “old hens.”
I didn’t mean to be carried away by the thought of the hens, when I was really thrilled because so much of the snow had melted and exposed the tulips on the second terrace, pushing up so nice and green against the rock wall. What I must tell is that I started thinking about my tomato again and called White Flower Farm and ordered Costoluto Genovese, and Matt’s Wild at a fairly crazy price. Calling White Flower Farm is always a pleasant experience. Today on hold they were playing a madrigal, and a very refined young woman answered the phone. It made me feel so comfortable that I wasn’t ashamed to admit I wanted them for my experiment, and to say Thank you for the privilege of spending 21.00 to carry it out.
What a day. So many thoughts. There’s the Earthquake in Japan, the West Coast Tsumani, the new dishwasher and its new ways, tomatoes and chickens, and dinner and a phone call to Geri. Such fragmentation takes me back to the old days when women’s work was never done. The Feminist Movement has only made stab at solving the problem which Betsy lives every day. She does get most of the work done by using one of the new freedoms women have won—the freedom to give her husband a ToDo list he is able and willing to follow, but which in another time he wouldn’t have known he should do. It wasn’t even the actual work which caused the trouble, however. It was that while you were concentrating on cleaning up the kitchen before you went to work your husband snorted that he couldn’t find his socks, your daughter threatened to go to school in her flip flops; the phone rings and your mother wants you to pick her up at 12:15 for quick lunch, and you still have to canvas for ads for your favorite volunteer job and read at least a few pages for the course you are taking to upgrade your job.
Betsy does all this with great good humor. Once she has assigned a job she simply has nothing more to do with it. When she chooses to go exercise at the gym at 9:3o she doesn’t ever back down. She shops catalogs while she’s on the phone planning a dinner Party. She eats her breakfast egg cold snd eats it standing up and pretty much smiles Fiona and her friends off to school. She’s glad to see them go, but they’ll all be back tonight with their popcorn and their Ramen noodles, and Betsy will go to bed while the kitchen rings with the sounds of sleepover merrymaking.
But enough of all that. There is a question to be asked, and it is this: Why is it that women find that they are the only ones who seem to be interested in the minutiae of family life. In fact, why is it that women believe the minutiae want and need to be noticed. It’s minutiae that make it possible to shave in a clear mirror, minutiae that make a house a home, that roast the chicken and mash the potatoes and cleanup the dishes when it’s over. It’s the triumph over the small that makes a family whole. It’s why men with their grand ideas presumably think people without union contracts in the general population are better off morally, I guess, than those greedy government employees with union contracts and benefits lording it over them. That must have been when that especially grandfatherly man Ronald Regan thought when he decreed union contracts for Air Controllers null and void.
Well, the chickens have come round to the same flower bed, and the tsunami has reached the West Coast, and I have had a really liberating thought. If the continental plates are still floating around down there in the heat and fire as they have been doing for a few billion years, if they can do that, I’m not averse to enduring some evolutionary action myself. If that happens men and women will soon be sharing their separate strengths to ensure an easier going world.
By the way, thanks to all the nice people who have been reading these newly minted blogs of mine.