Last Sunday morning as I jumped in the shower to get ready for church, my spiritual cup was as full as it was going to get that day, because I had just spent an hour in my chicken coop, communing with the baby chicks and God.
I have a friend who started hatching baby chicks as a way of coping with a great grief in her life. I made the mistake of going over one day to watch them hatch, and fell utterly in love. With chickens. Yeah… I know.
So I turned our old playhouse out in the back yard into a chicken palace, which now happily houses six baby chicks (frizzle bantam cochins, if anyone cares), two pullets hatched from fertile eggs from our local Trader Joe’s, and two blue-laced red wyandottes. Guarding all of them is the most magnificent rooster you’ve ever seen. His official name is “Puppylove”, because he sits on my lap and cuddles (you heard me), though Paul thinks he should be named “Thor.” (Our daughter calls him “Sully,” in honor of John L. Sullivan, the late 19th-century prizefighter.)
We have a wonderful children’s library in our community, and Paul takes our grandchildren Ella and Zion there on a regular basis to supplement our own collection of bedtime stories. He asks them to pick a couple of topics, and then they search the shelves for interesting books on those subjects. (Recent favorites have been animals and racecars. Guess which child picked which topic?) While he was awaiting their selections a few weeks ago, Paul spotted a big illustrated book entitled Big Bang, by Heather Couper and Nigel Henbest. It is an explanation of the origin of the universe (at least as understood in 1997, when the book was written) geared for 5th to 8th graders, and it looked interesting, so he brought it home for me. I have read it no less than 10 times, and my mind is still staggering.
According to the proponents of the Big Bang theory, the universe exploded into being from “nothing and nowhere.” (For my money, that fits nicely with the elegantly simple exposition of Genesis 1.) When the universe first appeared, it weighed about two pounds and was smaller than an atom. In a slice of a second so small that we can’t comprehend it, the universe ballooned into its present existence, and has continued to expand for around 13 billion years (give or take a month or so). The only reason matter developed is because for every 100,000,000 quarks and leptons, there were only 99,999,999 antiquarks and antileptons, and that little difference was enough to produce our entire universe. In a freaking fraction of a second. I have seriously sprained my brain trying to ingest these ideas.
We got a major second dose of awe and wonder about the universe a couple of weeks ago, when we saw a new 3D IMAX film about the Hubble telescope. Aside from giving a fascinating look at the history of the telescope and how it has been repaired over time, the film included a mind-boggling close up of a nebula that is a literal star nursery, and then a tour through the Milky Way and beyond, using images gathered by the Hubble. It was a breathtaking, emotional experience. “The heavens declare the glory of God,” begins Psalm 19, to which we would add, “and the Hubble telescope seconds the motion.”
So what’s this got to do with my chickens?
Sitting in my “happy place” Sunday morning, watching the baby chicks hopping around at my feet, I was suddenly overcome with what had to occur in time and space in order for these six tiny creatures to be exulting in the sunshine. I felt like I was on holy ground. I would have taken my shoes off except… well, a chicken coop is a dangerous place to go barefoot.
The point of this blog? I hope you might have a moment this week when the enormity of the universe hits you in a way that just makes you breathless. I hope you have a brief encounter with something that makes you just stop and bathe yourself in sunshine. I hope you stand still long enough to hear that echo.
You can find me in the chicken coop.
©Paul and Teri Reisser, 2010.
Teri Reisser is a marriage and family therapist and author of A Solitary Sorrow, which deals with the emotional fallout of abortion. Together Teri and her husband Paul have recently written Your Spouse Isn’t the Person You Married.