Destiny, Manifest

There are those who believe you get what you believe you will get. It seems a bit too simple to be true, but sometimes I’m not so sure…

My son drew the picture that accompanies this post when he was six years old. We had moved here only a few months earlier, and had impetuously bought ourselves a handful of chicks at the local farm supply store with the thought “how hard can it be?”. My child had been through so much (as had I) when his father and I parted, and we were both in need of some light, some relief… Something to distract ourselves, to give us hope, to give us something to look forward to. Raising these tiny, adorable feathered creatures didn’t seem a stretch to us then – after all, we had lots of room, no neighbors close-by, and no one to tell us it wasn’t allowed. It was completely up to us. In bringing home those chicks on that April day in 2009, we embarked on an adventure that was of our own choosing. It was a vision that we shared – and one that we ultimately made real.

That was the day when our adventure began in earnest here at The Hillhouse.

A box of six tiny birds came home with us, and I believe them to have first lived in Elihu’s bedroom closet (truly I cannot remember, as we’ve raised hundreds of birds since that time). But that seems right. Soon thereafter they moved to the garage; that I do know and remember well. (Back then I had no idea how much waste these small creatures left behind, nor how their dander daily covered every nearby surface with a thin film of dust. One season in the garage left us with years of cleanup afterward.) Jump ahead on the timeline twelve years and we find ourselves true farmers, well-seasoned and experienced in the world of avian husbandry. From hatching to growing, treating and medicating ailments, finishing and even butchering. Over that time Elihu and I have raised not only many breeds of chickens (as well as our own custom hybrids hatched out right here in our living room) but we’ve also been a home to parakeets, parrots, pheasants, quail, geese, ducks and even homing pigeons (King Louis and his bride Lily were a delight; they’d accompany us in the air as we walked the property.) Suffice to say we’ve both learned a lot.

Shortly after we acquired our very first birds, Elihu drew a picture of a coop and a pen and twenty chickens. He told me that this is what he wished for. A proper coop with a proper run, and twenty birds. Without money to spare at that time, and only a handful of chicks, this seemed a highly idealistic dream that would likely never come to be. But within a year we graduated from garage-as-coop to a wooden shipping container which his father had brought us as a gift. Next, Elihu’s grandfather gave us an incubator, and so in late winter of the following year we stocked it with what we hoped were viable eggs. Turned out they were.

And then somehow a few years later I was able to commission the building of a proper coop, a right impressive structure that had the charm of a small cottage. And a few years after that I myself cobbled together a fenced-in enclosure with materials I’d either scavenged or been given. It wasn’t very pretty, but it did the job, and it seemed to bring a certain completion to the homestead.

One day, as I was looking out of the window at the pleasing site of coop, run and birds therein housed, it struck me. We had truly achieved the dream – the very thing before me looked exactly like Elihu’s drawing of years earlier (an image which had been affixed to the refrigerator ever since.) Even the gable of the roof – a design not terribly common to most chicken coops – it too was identical to the one in the picture he’d drawn!

That evening, when all the birds were nestled on their perches, I counted. We were up to exactly twenty. I counted twenty birds in the drawing. too. I noted the roof which Elihu had drawn, and the run to its right. Exactly as it was here, now, in real life. It was the exact same thing which Elihu had so dearly wished for all these years – even down to the same number of birds. But it hadn’t come on a lark, nor as a matter of luck, nor had it come overnight, certainly not, but rather it had been the product of a long-held vision, one which we two had shared and worked toward together. Yes, we’d hoped for this outcome on some level, but it had never been a specific plan.

The similarities between the drawing on the refrigerator and the sight outside my window had me a little stunned. Man, this kid was good.

Elihu has been fascinated with how things work since he was a toddler, and when he first saw creatures flying right before his eyes, he had to know more. It wasn’t a case of simply being enthusiastic; he was possessed by an all-consuming desire to capture the miracle and beauty of flight itself, and then to share it with the world. You could see it through his art, the books he read, the facts he collected, the birds he so lovingly tended, and then later in the craft of his own design which he built, and the videos which he painstakingly produced of those planes in flight. He has built hundreds of planes over the years: passive fliers, motored craft, wooden craft, paper craft. All of them can attribute their existence to our very first chickens.

Today my son’s love of flight continues. The world of aviation has provided him with adventures, educational scholarships, opportunities and new friendships. It’s all pretty remarkable. He’s gone from having a simple admiration of birds to choosing a field of study in college, one which will very likely provide an interesting career beyond.

A dream and a drawing made manifest. Who knows, maybe it’s all just part of his destiny.


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