Old Teen Essays
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Article ID: 4513
Age Group: Adult
Posted: May 28th. 2001
Feeding Our Young
Greetings Witches, Wiccans and Pagans,
Still huffing and puffing from her sprint up the three flights of stairs, Wren refills her coffee mug and heads out to the porch. The birds and squirrels and fishies and turtles that live in and around the little pond are scoffing up their morning breakfast treats and Wren doesn't want to miss a minute of it. This week (There is always something new happening at the little pond!), the moor hen has been introducing her brand new chick to the big wide world. Judging from his reaction, he is obviously not quite sure how all of this is going to turn out as yet. He is still trying to figure out how his feet work.
For those of you who have never seen a moor hen ...well, let's just be kind and say that they are not the most attractive birds on the block. Dark, short and stubby and with a face assaulted by a bright orange-red honker of a beak, moor hens swim and paddle around like most ducks. It is only when they come ashore that one notices the final outrageous incongruity of moorhendom. Where webbed feet would appear to be called for, Nature seems to have made a serious design faux pas. For there at the end of yellow-green legs are these long spindly and flexible toes. Chicken toes. The toes of a chicken that never quite seems to grow into his or her feet. And at five inches high, the moor hen chick is looking down at his five-and-a-half inch toes wondering just who thinks this was a good idea. Perhaps someone will realize the mistake and issue a recall?
None of Nature's mothers (and occasionally the fathers chip in as well) could be more solicitous or caring for her young than the Gallinula mom. As the little chick lifts his big feet high-so as to avoid tripping on his own toes, we'd suspect- and minces along the shoreline, Ms. Moor Hen runs back and forth bringing tasty tidbits for her youngun. You see, Little Chick hasn't quite figured out yet what is and what isn't good food. He picks up empty fresh water clamshells and bits of trash which the sea breezes blow in from the lots across from the little pond. Wren has never seen Ms. Moor Hen roll her eyes at such innocent stupidity though. She just grabs a bit of what IS good for the newbie and patiently offers it to him. Again and again, she seems to say, 'No. Not that one, little one. THIS is what is good for little moor hen chicks to eat."
Watching the moor hens and their chick is both a touching and a poignantly sad experience for Wren. For she can't help but the contrast the feeding of the young moor hen chick with the increasingly non-motherly (or fatherly) treatment that most newbie Pagans receive from their spiritual elders. Unlike the atmosphere around the little pond, there is often a LOT of eyerolling going on in the chat rooms and message boards when our own Pagan 'chicks' enter the scene. Often told what NOT to eat, but seldom brought anything specific which would be good for their future growth, many Pagan newcomers (of any age) are apt to be left to scavenge for themselves. And should they happen to pick up what many would deem the literary equivalent of an empty clam shell (You know the authors/books that I'm talking about here.), the conversation turns quickly into a tirade about the emptiness of the clam shell-leaving the Pagan chick none the wiser about what WOULD be good to eat right now. Chicks need to be taught-better yet, they need to be shown-what is 'good food' and what is not. It is a time-consuming duty to nurture a chick. It takes patience. It requires a sacrifice of energy. It may take some rooting around to find just the right tidbit to pass along. It takes a mother's heart to patiently feed a clueless chick and it takes a father's selfless protection to chase away the egrets that are five times his own size (and with a bill as long and as sharp as the average athame) to keep a yet-clumsy chick safe. (These things have not so much anything to do with gender as they do with dedication and attitude.) So far it is the only way that Nature has devised to grow a healthy 'chick'. And somebody has got to be willing to do it.
Later on in the season, the little moor hen chick will have finally come to grips with his oversized feet and be able to find food that is good to eat on his own. Mr. and Ms. Moor Hen will then remind the not-so-little-anymore chick that it is indeed time to become independent and go about his own life. Perhaps to have little chicks of his own. But today is not that day. Little Moor Hen Chick still needs nurturing and protecting and to be hand-fed a few lessons on Life. Until he is ready, the moor hen parents will continue to gently admonish him when he makes a wrong tidbit-choice, will continue to show him by example how to walk with his new gangly feet and will continue to protect him from forces that he is yet unable to defend himself against.
As the dark, short and stubby Ms. Moor Hen once again rushes along the shore to bring yet another tasty morsel back to the little chick-who stands impatiently shifting his tiny softball sized body from one long-toed foot to the other-she is the epitome of all of the things that, through her example, he himself may one day become. And Wren is sure at this moment -at least in the eyes and heart and mind of one little chick- that no Goddess ever looked so beautiful.
The Witches' Voice Inc.
Moor Hen Photo: was captured yesterday morning (5/27/2000) during Wren's daily feeding freezy of the critters. The little chick's feet really ARE as large as its body is.... and YES, these ARE the actual Moor Hens that inspired the article just above (no stock footage 'round these parts eh?).
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