As we move deeper into this season of darkness, I have observed that my own impulse to cozy down into an early bedtime is mirrored by the mood of the chickens. Starting in late summer, the girls put themselves to bed earlier and earlier every night, following the earlier sunsets, and these dark autumn mornings they look at me like I’m crazy if I open their door too early–“Why would we come out into all that cold, wet darkness, thank you very much?” In the summer, my housesitter wondered about corralling the hens into the coop at night, and I told him not to worry–“They put themselves to bed at 9:00, and you can just close the door.” A week ago we left the chickens in the care of the same friend. “9:00, right?” he asked, Oh dear no, now they go to bed at 5:30! I love how their little bums look, all feathery, settled in to roost for the night. And I love following the seasons in Chicken Time.
Unlike the chickens, I am happy to wake up in the early morning darkness, and enjoy a couple of hours alone in the quiet before my sweeties get out of bed. This week I am using these little intervals to re-read the beautiful book Slow Time: Recovering the Natural Rhythm of Life, by Seattle writer and teacher Waverly Fitzgerald. Waverly explores the natural rhythms of our bodies (circadian, ultradian), and the earth (day, moon, season) alongside the human-constructed notions of time (minutes, hours, weeks), and suggests ways to reclaim a more natural, peaceful, satisfying relationship to the pace of our lives. I find her work particularly relevant to my own project of cultivating a sustainable household in an urban environment. Many of our home practices–growing food, keeping chickens, raising an unhurried child, don’t fit into the rush of a 40 hour work week. Waverly’s book offers both understanding and practical suggestions for working with the flow of time in our lives. Just reading the book calms me–a perfect companion for deep autumn musings. Also see Waverly’s wonderful ezine, Living in Season. She hasn’t actually mentioned Chicken Time, but I’m sure she would approve.