The Chickens and the Half-wild Heart

A group of chickens in the shade of a tree It’s been a few short months since the half-wild years ended. For two years Annie, Niamh, our dog Gunnar and I lived in the Scappoose/St. Helens area, a rural cluster of towns an hour’s drive out of Portland. We moved there to live on land; we moved there to raise a daughter away from the stress and grime and danger of the city; we moved there to raise animals and grow food; we moved there to know deep peace and let our souls drink deep of the song of stars and trees and hawks and dragonflies.

And after two years at two farms, we’re back in the city, having traded a field for a yard, a wild space for a domesticated grid. We didn’t make this decision lightly, and we made it for positive, proactive reasons: to finish school, both of us, and to partner with relatives in caring for Niamh. This is a step forward, not a retreat. But we did leave the wild place, which upon our departure Annie named the Big Green. It wasn’t that wild, honestly. We were just off the highway, and the second farm was bounded by a row of housing developments. But it was wild enough, wild enough to be alive, to speak to us, to breathe its breath through us, to make us feel that we were living on planet earth and sharing that life with other furred, feathered and leafy neighbors.

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And So We Fled

Hello, everyone! Annie and I have moved out to her family farm in Warren, OR. Yesterday we spent our first night out there, and this is the result:

And so we fled
And came to the farm house late at night
Parking on the grass
And flipping on lights
That had long lain dormant
And little Niamh giggled and ran through every room
And we followed, indulgent
Reluctant to break the spell

And walking outside
The stars loomed close
Hanging just above my head
Dancing, singing, shining
Through an atmosphere of peace
And I stood and stared
And all but kissed them

And Annie nursed the child
And the quiet stole our breaths
And we whispered in reverence
And Annie sang and the child slept
And later, so did we

And in the wee hours I alone awoke
Out of weary duty
And made the drive
Over that wide and tree-encrusted highway
Wonder-struck at the painted sunrise
That you only see out there
Where we have fled
But I bid it farewell and drove
My foot still smarting
Where I kicked the gate
In the dark, fumbling with chains
Chains that bind us still

Peace,

—Joel