Waxing Philosophical: Little Black Hen

A fact about me: I like to joke that I hoard chickens. I have six dinosaurs living in the back yard. One of them is a bantam named Puck. Fully grown, she is pigeon-sized – small, round, black, and the first night I got her, she hurled herself from a rooftop, halfway across the yard in a giant parabola, flying like well-smacked hockey puck.

Yesterday I watched Puck poke around near some flowers.

Unbeknownst to her, she was walking right on top of the grave of a white chicken, named Pillow. Poor Pillow died in January last year during a ~40C heat wave. (Digging graves for pets is the kind of digging that I don’t dream about.)

Watching Puck yesterday got me pondering. If Pillow hadn’t died, Puck would not be walking on Pillow’s grave. Puck wouldn’t even have come to live with us. She would have ended up in a small-town fodder store, and then sold to who knows where.

Puck wouldn’t have been named Puck, but something else by another owner, like Daisy or Berry, or whatever else people like to name their chooks.

I felt a strange wonderment, then. Similar conditions apply to all of us.

The lady who lived in our house before us was an Italian woman, Mrs B.R, who passed away in old age. (My partner continued to receive her magazine subscription from Italy for a good decade, until I moved in and plugged a polite request to unsubscribe into a translating app and emailed that to the editor in Italian.)

Mrs. B.R walked on the same linoleum tiles as us.

If she had gone on living – besides scoring an entry in he Guinness Book of World Records for having the most birthdays ever – Mrs. B.R could still be living here, and this house wouldn’t be our home. We would be somewhere else.

How many resting places in antiquity do we unknowingly walk over, every day?

The only reason any of us lead the lives we do is because other people in history have made room for us. For better or worse, their actions, lives and passing away – all of these have determined how our lives are sized, and shaped.

Call it a thought experiment, or an exercise in sonder; maybe this is the butterfly effect, or a glimpse of Indra’s net. It was just something that struck me, watching a little bantam chicken, scratching the earth and going about her day.

Puck beside the Everlastings

Other two images from


10 thoughts on “Waxing Philosophical: Little Black Hen

  1. I get feelings like this when I watch archaeological digs on tv, or even stronger when I visit our ancient churches and cathedrals. I remember really strong vibes when we visited Pompeii and Herculaneum on the same day, and much earlier when we visited Scara Brae. You might want to Google that one. We have a neighbour with chickens but I’ve never asked them if she names them! In our garden one of the main visitors is a very Randy male pigeon who we call “Stop”. Maybe you can figure that out?

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    • It’s an interesting feeling, I wonder what it is. Looking up Scara Brae – wow! You’re right I had to Google, it can’t have been advertised to the world very much. That must have been an awe-inspiring experience.

      Calling a pigeon “Stop” is hilarious 😂 hope he doesn’t wreck too much havoc…

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      • Stop is a really hilarious pigeon, he chases every female pigeon that enters our garden🤣🤣🤣 Orkney is a great place for archaeology, I think they’re reinvestigating The Ring of Brodgar which is near Scara Brae. You’ll probably need to Google that one too 🙏🙏🕉

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  2. My SIL keeps chickens. And she names them too. She ended up with a rooster who was evil and would attack her whenever she came into the yard. He was given to a friend who had chickens…. seems he ran afoul of the husband and ended up in the oven! They are very much like dinosaurs and fascinating animals. I think it is mind boggling that all the water that is here sis still here having been cycled through life and weather… The juice in the orange could have been dinosaur pee!

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    • Ooh yes, owning young birds are such a hit-and-miss for how they can turn out as adults.

      I agree, very amazing regarding the water on earth! Although I’ll be looking at my juice a bit differently today…


  3. “The only reason any of us lead the lives we do is because other people in history have made room for us. For better or worse, their actions, lives and passing away – all of these have determined how our lives are sized, and shaped.” – This is really interesting and deep. I definitely see truth in this

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  4. Catching up, again, We used to have hens, including Higgledy and Piggledy who laid white eggs – hard to find in UK supermarkets. Too many hens lost to hikers’ dogs ( not foxes ) All survivors moved to a relation’s farm – away from footpaths..

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