Heart wrenching affair. My evidence a dying poult on the driveway and a mother hen's mannequin like stillness.
When I set out for my walk with my dog Snookie today, I had planned to return to paint a coyote. The theme was going to have been light and fun. The coyote was going to have been caught by my paint frolicking. The mood was to have been joyous. I shall paint this scene and tell you that story another day now.
Instead, shortly after taking off down the road, Snookie and I stumbled upon a tiny, wild turkey poult. He was lying in the road. His breaths were very shallow. It was hard to see the small chest rising and falling. The eyes were closed. His tiny feathered wings resting limply against his yellow chick fuzz body. He was dying. I think his neck was broken. I heard no other peeps around nor the sound of the mother hen trying to call to him. Perhaps he'd already been given up on. He looked so small and delicate. It was sad to see him so young, vulnerable and in need of his mother in the moments of his imminent death.
I scooped him up to comfort him. I cradled him gently in my hands. I wanted to kiss him but didn't. I thought perhaps it might scare him. I knew he was probably beyond fear in his final state. His neck just flopped back and forth. His body was soft and warm. I did not feel his heart racing. The only way to help was to end his suffering. This I hate but sometimes it is the kindest service one can offer.
I thought of the mother hen. With a full brood to watch over, how much mind space could she spare to grieve one of her poults? They know when one is missing and call frequently for it. When they hear its peep, they go and get it. Their is a bond and a mother's instinct. If they can miss, I am sure they are upset by the ones that can not be found or can not be revived. I am guessing there is also a sense of loss felt by the mother hen when one is gone for good.
I know that turkey hens are good mothers. They watch over their poults closely for almost six months. They do their best to guide them though an “odds against” beginning. For the first month, a mother hen sleeps on the ground with her poults tucked underneath her for warmth and comfort. For the next several months she sleeps with them tucked under her wings on a low branch. It's a big investment of life and energy for the mother to raise a brood. Most of us would hold dear what comes at such a costly price.
A few days ago while walking Snookie, I saw a funny small stump in the field where I had not remembered one being. I wondered at its placement. Upon getting closer, I thought it was a huge tortoise. Then, almost on top of it, I realized I was staring down at a turkey hen sitting on her very young poults. Snookie had been fooled and run right on by. She had her eyes closed and was trying very hard to not be there. She was so still.
I thought of a movie I had seen. In one scene a Jewish family is hiding in a crawl space under a dinning table. Nazis are sitting at the table above them. A Jewish woman is holding a baby, trying to be so still and not have the baby cry. It must be hard to be so still when so much life is riding on that stillness. The hen looked like she was in deep concentration. Willing me to be gone.
I remember when I was a child I tried to pretend I was made of wax. I had gone into a roped in display area at Madame Tussauds Wax Museum in London. A family had come along and was inspecting me carefully. They were not quite willing to believe I was made of wax. I stood the stillest I've ever stood and managed to maintain it through a good not-convinced kid kick.
I stood still like that once in my whole life and still remember the feeling of concentration and will. A hen turkey does that many times in her life for her poults. She invests so much in them. I feel for the mother hen whose poult died on the driveway this morning. Surely, the loss of this investment is somehow grieved.