Little Gold T-Rex

I belong to a group of current and recovering non-profit directors who hang out together on line, offering vent space, advice, and the occasional sharp critique of work, family, and life in general. The group is nicknamed T-Rexes, because they are fierce and get shit done and have awesome roars that strike terror in the hearts of their enemies, but they also have seriously limited reach.

It’s kind of a metaphor, see.

Anyway, one of the highlights of the group is our annual Chriswanzakkah Yule gift exchange. People plan for months in advance to find the perfect presents for this ritual, which has two facets. You can do the holiday of your choosing between Dec. 16 and Jan. 7 (there are myriad depending on your nationality and religion) and/or you can do the Advent Calendar exchange.

Advent also got some face lifts/fractured folklife repurposing. Last year one of the team was going through a tough time, changing jobs in difficult circumstances and moving unexpectedly out of a beloved home due to divorce and family troubles in mid-December. So I made her a “First 24 days in your new home” Calendar, full of silly stuff like a dinosaur pillowcase, some cooking herbs to restart her kitchen puttering, and a stress gun that shot teeny wee rainbow balls. (Fill in your own metaphor.)

For my gifts over the years, I’ve gotten a gin calendar from Beth, a sweet note about being a strong person for others from Joyce, and for a gift one year Ben sent an exquisite antique Blue Ball canning jar. I’ve also had yarn made from leftover saris from a non-profit helping women out of difficult marriages in India. And a small silver T-Rex necklace, which I wore the day I had to stand up to a bully about a sexual harassment policy. And the day I protested a detention center. And the day I wasn’t sure my mom would make it out of surgery. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, clutching my tiny silver T-Rex and remembering the group who has my back when the very air feels toxic.

This year, one of the Rexes was told by her husband that he hadn’t signed on for a lifetime commitment to her and the kids, based on the fact that one of the kids would always BE a medically and emotionally needy kid, and therefore he was walking away. And by the way she needed to support him until he changed jobs.

Of course we burned him in effigy, but we also sent her a 21-day Ex-Vent calendar (because it takes three weeks to form a new habit) so she could open the chocolate, jewelry, and practical household tools day by day with little notes of encouragement. After a quick note of thanks to Margaret, the Rex who had sent me the wee silver Tyrannosaur years before, I gave it a kiss and a prayer and packed it up for “Sue.” She sent a lovely note to the group saying how much she appreciated the support.

Amy was the name I drew for this year’s Advent exchange and I handcrafted a calendar of five categories: homemade soap, kitchen herbs from our garden, crocheted cork ornaments, plastic dinos in party clothes, and Really Bad Swag collected from conferences over the previous year. In a quick note of thanks, Amy sent me back a small present: a tiny gold T-Rex necklace in every other respect exactly like the silver one I bequeathed Sue.

When I clutch my little gold T-Rex, I can hear the roars of friends who know me and what I can do–and are counting on me to do it as part of the team, each in our myriad ways fixing the messes in this world, one non-profit director day at a time.

Chicken Hawk Down

Jack and I lost our first chicken to the hawk that’s been circling since June. When it first attacked, we drove it off because we happened to be in the yard. Then we put up gauze strips to blow from the trees, reflective tape on the clothesline, a mirror atop the coop so the hawk would see another bird if it dove there.

We counted on the natural cover of trees, shrubs, and the brush pile to keep the chickens safe, and we set out two plastic owls, which we moved every day.

For awhile. We saw the hawk occasionally, but as the chickens grew calmer, so did we. Things got relaxed. In November, a headless dove left outside the coop door overnight gave a godfather-esque feeling to the warning that it was quiet, professor, TOO quiet.

I was gone for a week. The weather was bitter cold. The shredded gauze tangled in trees, the reflective tape fell down, and the owls were buried in snow.

“I can only find three chickens,” Jack said last night. This was not super unusual. Sometimes the one the others picked on most decided she’d prefer a tree roost. We acquired two banty girls just a couple of months ago from my parents–they took up residence under their holly bush–and those two prefer tree roosts, so we didn’t worry too much.

This morning, though, when Jack took hot breakfast out, she didn’t appear. (Hot breakfast for a chicken means replenishing the heated water bucket so they always have access to water.)

He shook the grubs jar, a sure-fire treat draw for all the backyard birds. Nope.

I knew what had to be done, and sure enough I found her several minutes later, looking very like a patch of unmelted snow. She’d attempted to take cover under a bush, but the hawk dove right through the thin winter cover. I doubt she had more than a moment of fear before it was all over.

We left the body because, put bluntly, now the hawk will pay attention to the easy pickings for a couple of days. That’s how long it will take our new handy dandy portable chicken run to get here. Think chain mail tent. We know the girls will love it, and we won’t feel this sense of guilt again.

People with farms accept losses, yes. These girls are, as Jack says, pets with benefits. We like the eggs, but we like the girls more. So we’re accepting full moral responsibility for their future safety.

And you know that circle of life thing, we accept that all creatures have to eat? Yeah, no. If I could catch that hawk, I’d kill him with my bare hands. I’ve thrown several rocks at him as he waits in the tall tree beyond our fence. Too high, my aim is too bad. If only vibes could kill. Circle of life, my tail feathers. Die, you bastard.