BOOK LAB: Depressed. Addicted. Suicidal.

At 20, she overdosed on sleeping pills in her mother’s cellar.

At 29, she drove her car into a river.

At 30, Sylvia Plath finally killed herself by sticking her head in an oven.

Think about that a second.


One night, she placed wet towels under the doors to keep her babies safe, turned on the gas, crawled in her oven, and died.





Umm . . . hold up, Jennifer.

What’s up with this sad crap.

More chicken stories, please.

Hang tight, dear reader.

This is BOOK LAB. Not Oprah’s Book Club.

We conduct reading experiments and write about them.

But also, don’t you think mental illness needs more attention?

Why do we only talk about it behind closed doors at 100 bucks an hour?

Shall we make a long list of people gone too soon?




Plath wasn’t an addict.

But people often use drugs and alcohol to quiet their screaming minds –thus ensues addiction, which — let’s face it– has a 50% chance of ending well.

Every person reading knows someone with crippling anxiety, mood or panic disorders. Someone addicted, depressed or bi-polar. Someone who committed suicide.

They say suicide is a coward’s way out.

I dunno. Selfish, maybe. But not cowardly.

I think it takes a lot of freaking courage to stick your head in an oven with two beautiful, babies sleeping upstairs.

Am I being flippant? God, no.

Depression and addiction run in my family.

I am privy to their quiet destruction and live in reverent fear of my own DNA. I am also a writer and extremely empathetic to the curses therein. But this isn’t about me. It’s about acknowledging this thing no one talks about AND paying respect to some authors who famously suffered and busted out some awesomeness anyway.

So I made it our assignment.

Read a book whose author was mentally ill, addicted, or committed suicide.

Was their real-life suffering evident in the writing, thinly disguised as fiction?

That’s what I wanted to find out.

Out of respect for these authors, I hope you’ll read on.black_line.gif


I chose The Bell Jar for no other reason except that Plath appears on every ‘famous suicide’ list, and this is her great novel.


Was Plath’s depression evident in her work?



The Bell Jar was blatantly autobiographical. So much, it was published under a pseudonym in England only. Her family –namely her mother — fought its American publication and The Bell Jar didn’t hit American bookshelves until 9 years after her death.

The book– basically about a talented, young writer slipping into insanity– blew me away. I was worried it would be depressing. But mostly I found it REAL and strangely refreshing? By page 3, I knew I was going to love it. There were SO many delicious little neurotic passages, I had trouble picking just one to share at Book Lab.

Here the main character, Esther, describes an unsuccessful suicide attempt:

That morning, I had tried to hang myself. I had taken the silk cord of my mother’s yellow bathrobe as soon as she left for work, and, in the amber shade of the bedroom, fashioned it into a knot that slipped up and down on itself. It took me a long time to do this, because I was poor at knots and had no idea how to make a proper one. Then I hunted around for a place to attach the rope. The trouble was, our house had the wrong kind of ceilings. The ceilings were low, white and smoothly plastered, without a light fixture or a wood beam in sight.

Sylvia, I respect and salute you, girl.

I’m genuinely sorry I didn’t read this sooner.

I give The Bell Jar 5 stars and promptly put it on Staff Picks at the library.


black_line.gifNedra chose this guy.


He gave us Blade Runner, The Minority Report, and Total Recall.

In fact, his novels and short stories are the most adapted sci-fi classics in recent film history.

This is Philip K. Dick.

And poor Nedra had to call him PKD so as not to illicit giggles. For all our intellectual pomp, we really are perverted 12 year olds. At least I am.

But I digress.

Back to Dick.

PKD was plagued by vertigo as a teen.There were also signs of schizophrenia and eventually, visual and auditory hallucinations, likely caused by drug addiction. He managed to keep writing even though hospitalized. And at one point described a “beam of pink light being transmitted directly into his consciousness” and believed this light a spiritual force which granted him access to esoteric knowledge.


Nedra chose this author because he’s universally regarded as a badass.

A Scanner Darkly is about an undercover narcotics agent who finds himself addicted to the very drug he’s trying to eradicate.

“I chose this book because it was less sci-fi than his others, about this agent going undercover and eventually losing his identity to drug addiction.”


Did she like it?

“It was confusing to be honest. The main character plays two parts, split between two worlds, so it was hard to tell who was talking — which may’ve been the point. But Dick’s drug use is very evident in this book. I’ll also say his author note makes me want to read the book again.”

Drug misuse is not a disease. It is a decision. Like the decision to step out of a moving car. You would call that not a disease but an error in judgement. When a begin to do it, it is a social error. A lifestyle. In this particular lifestyle, the motto is “Be happy now because tomorrow you are dying.” But the dying begins almost at once, and the happiness is a memory. —– Philip K. Dick


A Scanner Darkly: 3 stars.

Dick was found unconscious on his floor and died five days later, having suffered multiple strokes. He was 53.

 Petra chose Leo Tolstoy.



Tolstoy was born wealthy and lost his parents at a very young age. He suffered clinical depression, which worsened as he aged. Reportedly obsessed with death, he was critical of himself for not having the courage to commit suicide. He wrote in one letter, “The possibility of killing himself has been given to man, and therefore he may kill himself.

Let me just go ahead and publicly admit I’m a super big chicken-weenie when it comes to Russian literature.

I imagine the likes of  Anna Karenina and War and Peace heavy tomes of depressing, icy darkness and always impressed when people read them on purpose.

But Petra really enjoyed her books.

Tolstoy actually wrote several short stories, so she picked two:

The Death of Ivan Ilych and The Cossacks.

Unknown-1.jpeg     Unknown-2.jpeg

The Cossacks is about a wealthy, young Muscovite who joins the Russian army in search of a more authentic life.

“Tolstoy wrote it in his 30s when he was still okay. It was autobiographical in that it was about a guy tired of society life,” Petra explained. “But The Death of Ivan Ilych, he wrote in his 50s. By then he was critically depressed and obsessed with death, which to me, was apparent in this book.”

The Death of Ivan Ilych is one man’s profound reflections on life when faced with his own mortality. It was written during Tolstoy’s spiritual crisis — the nine year period following the publication of Anna Karenina — which saw him give up meat, hunting and smoking, give away his copyrights, denounce his earlier writings as immoral, and embrace Christianity.

The Death of Ivan Ilych is considered a masterpiece on the subject of death and dying.

“I feel like writers are hyper-aware of everything around them,” noted Petra. “Every little thing is stimulus. It must be overwhelming.”


The Cossacks: 3.75 stars.

Death of Ivan Ilych: 4.5 stars.

Tolstoy died of pneumonia in 1910. He was 82.

Unknown-1.pngblack_line.gifOur next author ran a garden hose from an exhaust pipe through his car window and died, aged 31.

An envelope marked TO MY PARENTS  was discovered in the car, the enclosed note later destroyed by his mother, who never divulged its contents.

His mother also found an unpublished manuscript atop an armoire in his room.

That manuscript — sent to various agents over the next five years — eventually won The Pulitzer Prize.


This is John Kennedy Toole, most famous for A Confederacy of Dunces, posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Literature in 1981.

Emily had already read (and loved) Dunces. So she chose Toole’s only other novel, The Neon Bible,  written for a literary contest at the tender age of 16 (!)


The Neon Bible tells the story of David, a young boy growing up in rural Mississippi in the 1940s. Readers share his awkward, painful encounter with first love and meet his pious, bigoted townspeople.

“It’s kinda Southern Gothic, about quiet people dealing with isolation in a small town,” said Emily. “I definitely felt evidence of the author’s sense of loneliness. And the book ironically ends with a bang.

Did she like it?

“I loved it!”

The Neon Bible: 5 stars


Everybody doing okay?

You sure?

Okay . . .

Moving right along.


Raise your hand if you read Slaughterhouse Five in high school.


Anna chose this guy.


Kurt Vonnegut died at 84 from head injuries sustained in a fall.

He had a grandfatherly reputation. But he suffered depression, PTSD, shocking fits of rage and temper, and also attempted suicide.

Vonnegut witnessed MUCH tragedy in his personal life.

His mother committed suicide on Mother’s Day, for example. That same year, Vonnegut was captured by Nazis during the Battle of the Bulge and sent to Dresden as a prisoner of war, whose job it was to collect and burn bodies.

This ordeal continually popped up in his work, most notably in the book that made him famous.


“My high school English class was divided in two,” said Anna. “Half read Slaughterhouse-Five and the other, a Brave New World. I was the Brave New World group, but distinctly remember the discussions about Vonnegut. That’s why I chose this book.”

Did she like it?

“I don’t know how he managed to combine war, spaceships, aliens, and time travel. But he did,” she laughs. “Knowing what he suffered at Dresden, I really did feel his deep well of despair. This book was very well done.”


Slaughterhouse-Five: 4.5 stars



Now finally,

this old sport.


F. Scott Fitzgerald, alongside wife Zelda, are THE poster children for glittering excess in the Roaring Twenties. In their Paris years, he and Zelda were drunk for days at at time, their lives a gilded blur of manuscripts and champagne, fueled by ego, and funded by Gatsby.

Tecla (our celebrity guest this round) openly admits she never liked The Great Gatsby.

“I tried and tried and tried to love that book. I gave it so many chances. But I just couldn’t finish it! Still. I wanted to see what I was missing. So I decided to try Tender is the Night, which took him TEN years to write.”


Tender is the Night is the tragic love story of a stylish American couple.


Sounds a little familiar.


“The husband is a brilliant psychiatrist, and his beautiful wife lives in an asylum. The main character spends a lot of time writing letters trying to make people understand what they’re going through. Zelda was institutionalized in Switzerland at the time, so the story directly reflects the Fitzgeralds’ downward spiral. Also, he wrote it on stimulants.”

Did she like it?

“I did. But I could only read it in small doses because it read like a 1920s movie. Still, I’d recommend it.”

Tender is the Night: 4 stars.

At the time of his death, Fitzgerald was reportedly drinking several pints of gin a day.

He suffered an alcohol-related heart attack in 1940, and died believing himself a failure.

He was 44.

Zelda perished in a fire 8 years later, locked in a room in her asylum.



And so it goes.

Mental illness is a silent creeper.

A shape shifter.

It cuts. Overeats.  Gambles. Takes pills. Drinks. Lies. Steals. Vomits. Snorts. Injects. Blames. Hides. Makes excuses. And lashes out.

I’m of the mind we’re all in this together.

So be aware.

And be kind.


To everyone

and everything.


National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Hotline: 1-800-662-4357




Q & A: Haunted Beds and HOW DO I CONTROL THIS ‘GIFT’?

Q: Let me start with: I’m not crazy.

I often feel other’s moods, and places or things that have a past. People call me when weird or bad stuff is happening in their life. And I guess that requires an explanation. My neighbor had a sister living with her and thought there might be a spirit or something in the house because her sister wasn’t sleeping well.

I don’t see spirits, but I told her I’d see if I could help ‘feel’ a presence and pray with her. I went next door, into the room she thought the spirit was. Truthfully, I felt like I was suffocating the closer I got to the room. It felt very heavy, like a struggling to breathe, and it got worse as I approached the bed.

I told my neighbor that something wasn’t right with the bed. She explained a child had died in the bed before, under suspicious circumstances. And I later learned the child had suffocated.

I’m writing you because I need advice on how to turn off the feelings/energy or whatever it is called. I work in the medical field and spend a lot of time in hospitals. If I can’t control it can you at least tell me how to manage it so I don’t get overwhelmed by people’s feelings/emotions/illnesses?

I tried meditation, but it seems to make it worse. Maybe I’m doing it wrong. All I know is that I have to be able to deal without it wearing me down. Even being in a room full of people is exhausting. I would appreciate any advice. Again, I am completely sane and I know how crazy this sounds.



Hi Sarah!

All this all sounds completely normal to me.

Spirit often tells us how they died by sharing a physical feeling. Chest pain if they died by heart attack, shortness of breath to indicate suffocation (like you experienced), etc.  But in your neighbor’s case, I think it was the bed you felt.

Is the bed haunted?


Allow me to share a similar story.

I recently spent the night with a friend –and for no reason– woke in the wee hours feeling very anxious.

I went to bed happy. But now my heart pounded. My thoughts raced. I felt fidgety. Most inexplicably, my fingers wanted to shred paper to relieve anxiety.

Eventually the feeling passed and I fell asleep, but not without confusion. I’d slept there many times without incident.

“My sister stayed over before you,” my friend admitted the next morning.

Same room, same bed. And yes, her sister suffered moderate to severe anxiety. And not just that —- she wadded tissues.

“I cleaned up before you came. But seriously, Jenn. There were shredded tissues everywhere.”

She also had a confession.

She didn’t wash the sheets.

Interesting, right?

So this isn’t about a ghost. It’s about energy.

The tingling well-being that spreads among people gathered in prayer.

The heaviness people feel in cluttered antique stores.

Or the tension that lingers after a fighting couple has left the room.

Objects carry residual energy, too. It’s science. Stand next to a campfire, you’ll feel heat. Technically, that’s thermal energy carried through electromagnetic waves, but whatever. Your hot skin proves the energy exists.

Energy can neither be created nor destroyed. It just changes form, right?

So whatever trauma happened on that mattress is still radiating in some form. In simplest terms, the sister felt it in one way, and you felt it in another.

Can objects be ‘haunted’?



(But that’s another blog entry.)

Onto your second question.

How to control.

Clearly you’re gifted, Sarah. And wise to seek a handle on this.

Hospitals are overwhelming even if you’re not psychic!

I won’t tell you what to do, because everyone is different. I can only tell you what I do.

You mentioned being a praying person.

I am, too. So that’s where I always start.

I pray for help any time I need it, and often out loud.

Prayer and meditation open us spiritually, so you just gotta be super clear about who you’re letting in.

Remember that scene in Ghost when all those spirits lined up to talk to Oda Mae?


The Spirit world is sentient. They hear and listen. 

So you literally have to ask for exactly what you want/need.

I have a widely-respected, professional medium friend who repeatedly asks Spirit and her angels to PLEASE not (visually) present in front of her because it would freak her out and then she couldn’t effectively do her work. And you know what? They don’t.

So before going to work, your prayer might be:

Dear God, thank you so much for entrusting me with this gift. But it really does overwhelm me sometimes. Please help me discern your will. And protect me from unwanted spiritual attention/distraction so I can do my best today. 

— and all beings not here for my greater good please go away.

(or something like that).


You’ll be absolutely amazed how effective this is, saying it out loud.

Go ahead.

Try it.

And remember to mean it.




I’ll wait.




Oftentimes you’ll feel an actual LIFT in the space, like a big air vacuum sucking out the funk. That’s not your imagination. That’s you taking control of your personal space.

Which leads me to your next point:

Feeling overwhelmed in a room full of people.


Don’t I know it.


Like a slo-mo chokehold, right?

I especially feel it in malls, clubs, and casinos — or any situation where people fill emotional voids by artificial means.


So (so!)  many people suffer this and don’t even know why. But it has to do with that energy we talked about earlier.


It is my unwavering belief that we have this ability to help others.

I suspect Healthcare called you for your innate ability to comfort and connect. It’s where you’ll shine the most.

So ask for help each day and let Spirit do their thing.

Then allow yourself to be a vessel through which divine guidance can flow.


And shine on, girl.

HealthCARE needs you.


love,  Jennifer







If YOU reading have a paranormal or metaphysical question, please send it to I’ll archive and answer as appropriate, when I can.








The loudest I ever heard God was on a train.

Alone in the open doorway of an empty railcar with my feet on the platform, waiting for the last train home.

From a distance I must’ve looked sad.

A thin girl with bright orange hair.




My longtime ex-boyfriend and even-longertime ex-best-friend were five thousand miles away, but also right in front of me. Their ghosts had followed me to London, and wouldn’t leave me alone. Haunting. Mocking. Sneering. Glad I was gone.

I lit another cigarette.

It had all happened months before. The painful, drawn-out breakups. First with him, then with her.

Losing one was incapacitating.

Losing both was catastrophic.

I was a fucking wreck.

Crying in secret. Or sometimes in public when the wind blew a certain way or the wrong song came on. Their memories sliced through me with blunt scissors. And I was a dutiful masochist.

Rewinding and replaying my part in the tragedy over and over and over and over again. Smoking and drinking until every nasty thing they said about me was true.

(Not looking for sympathy, here. Everyone’s had a trampled heart. I’m just trying to set a scene.)

Bottom line? My well-being was drop-kicked and shattered. Splayed on the concrete at Liverpool Street Station, reflecting my very worst.

So that’s where my mind was that night. Grieving. Loving them. Missing them. Hating them. Cold fingers holding a cigarette, watching the clock, waiting for Christopher who ran off to get us a tea, my brain voice whispering things like:

You deserve being sad.

They were right about you.

And the same thing will happen with Christopher.

Because you–

And that’s when it happened.




So how do I describe this.



You know when you use a walkie-talkie,

and you push the little button to talk

and your voice blocks out all other noise,

and you can’t hear anything until you let the button go?

—It was like that.



My inner voice got muted like someone pushed a button.


something screamed.

But not a mean scream.

More like . . . interruption.

And it was LOUD.

So loud I jolted.

Then a






continued gently.

Completely overriding my thoughts.

Dear Jennifer, please stop.

I looked up.

You must stop. You made some bad decisions for a short time, and that really is all.

I looked around.


Everyone messes up. Everyone. It’s all about lessons. For everyone.  Are you listening?

I nodded. By myself on that train car in the freezing cold I nodded.

You are loved more than you know. You have learned. And it will get better. It already is. Now no more.

I looked around like a maniac.

The voice was IN my head, gentle but firm, and so very obviously not my own.

And here came Christopher, smiling, holding two cups of steaming tea.

“What’s wrong, darling, you been crying?”

I nodded.

“Something just happened,” I managed.

“Tell me.” He swiped my cheek with a finger.

I accepted the tea, stubbed out my cigarette then told him.

Clearly, two counts of Divine Intervention.

(The second miracle is that Christopher stuck around.)

My healing began that night. And I remember it with profound gratitude.

Not for God’s existence. But for his Everywhereness.

I wasn’t in church and certainly wasn’t treating my body like a temple. But He was right there, privy to my pain. Loving me while I was quite incapable of loving myself.

(Note: I use the He pronoun for simplicity; that’s not really how I define things.)

So what’s the deal. Why am I sharing this.


     1. Because this is what I write about: The Other Side.

 And 2. Because last year my brain got noisy again.

Not in my personal world. But in the world around me.

And I’m about to switch gears, because how do I recap 2016 in a tidy blog?

The deaths were . . .


— hard.

And not just the famous ones. I lost my beloved grandmother, too. And then election season. Sweet Jesus, election season. The only thing rougher than election season was being an EMPATH during election season.





Don’t remind you, right?

People’s inner psychos came out.

Somehow, someway, the word pussy wriggled its way into a presidential debate.


People shouted but didn’t listen.

I discovered some of my ‘friends’ maybe don’t like black people

certainly don’t like Muslim people

and definitely not gay people.

And wait . . .  had they always felt this way? 


I found myself on the defense for being white.

I scrolled past pictures of dusty, bombed Syrian babies and watched Mein Kampf grow a waiting list at the library.  A waiting list!


Remind me what planet we’re on?

And just when we were in the home stretch . . .

George Michael up and died.

On Christmas.

S e r i o u s l y.

I said it on Facebook and I’ll say it again.


What the message is, I dunno. But it made me want to scoot my chair closer to God and listen to Careless Whisper on repeat. And also start writing a blog series about His everywhereness –something I’ve considered a very long time. 

Because I never found him in a building.

(Okay, there was that one time.)

Mostly I found Him hanging out where I was.

In the cracks.

On trains.

In lyrics.

Through coincidence  divine orchestration and intuitive nudges that wouldn’t go away.

But especially through people I met at just the right time.

Like my friend Emily, who writes about this stuff, too. Emily is the only other person I know (my age) who owns a kaftan. She also agreed to join me on my little God Tour.

And just yesterday when I thought maybe I shouldn’t write this — because hey– it’s personal, a complete stranger approached me and said “I just gotta tell someone.”

He was tall. Black. Homeless. A gentle weathered face like John Coffey in The Green Mile. And he smiled at me real big.

“I was so cold yesterday and feeling real low cos I didn’t have anywhere to go.” He closed his fists for emphasis. “I asked God to please help me. He guided me to a motel to get warm and stretch my legs and you know what? The lady there -I told her not to-but she ordered me a pizza.”

He started to tear up.

And so did I.

I recognize a message when it’s standing right in front of me.

“And this morning something told me to check my account,” he continued. “It was weird, you know? Because I haven’t had money for so long, but I did. I checked my account. And you know what? There was money in there. I couldn’t believe it. My old employer finally deposited some funds we been fighting over and now I can breathe. I can eat and get warm and I’m so grateful. God listens, He really does. Even though I’m homeless. I’m sorry, ma’am. Here I am, a grownup man crying. But I just had to tell somebody.”

So just in case

I had ANY doubt

 I should move forward with this . . .





Thanks for reading.

If you’d like to follow this blog, you can sign up for notifications.

See you in the cracks.




Beryl’s Chicken Diary. (End)

(This is the last entry!!)

Read from the beginning HERE.




100% chance.


It rained all night.

All morning.

All afternoon.

And it’s still raining.

Passing cars splash baby tidal waves and rain gutters pour waterfalls.

You know the sound.

The girls are huddled together, dry under the porch awning, waiting it out.

Not me.

The back garden is a thousand shallow pools, growing deeper by the second. And I’m running back and forth, splashing. Sinking into soft, fresh mud.


Carpeing this diem.

I feel the girls watching, a little concerned.


Some creatures hide from weather; others delight in it.

I am variety B.

And so are my humans, blaring Indian music with the doors open wide.

Sometimes you gotta act a little crazy to feel sane.

And today sanity is dirty feet, grey skies, wet feathers, and secure knowledge that I got first dibs on all the worm action tomorrow.




Is that Beryl in the compost?




roaches and biscuits


Heck ya that’s me in the compost!

Jenkins gave me the stink eye I was in there so long, but truth be told I’m feeling a little feisty.

Maybe because my toe’s growing back.

Simple things feel magic when they’re new again.

Like nesting and the weighty pull of a forming egg.

The natural order of things.

I like the word order. It means rightful place.

Like me on this roost next to my sister.

G’night, Beryl, she coos, her head against mine.

And we were just about asleep when Jennifer screamed so loud the girls shot up like toast.

But I knew better.

Either she saw a roach or popped open some biscuits, I explained calmly. My eyes still closed.

Then we hear a clunka shoe perhaps— and think we know the answer.

Wanda giggles first, then Jenkins.

Then me.

Then Babs, who never laughs at anyone.

Then we squished together.

The four of us sleepy.

The four of us remembering.

You know that sudden bursty feeling when all your happies come back?



A moment of silence for Mister Roach




the trill of pleasure


I made a brand new noise for my humans today.

A soft warbling trill from the back of my healing throat.

When they look it up on the Google, they’ll find it means

thank you.

I’m happy

I love you.

And life is good.




My name is Beryl.

I’m a beautiful lady chicken.

And I’m gonna 

I made it.


3  weeks later, Beryl re-established her dominance.






Thank you for reading my diary, people humans.

If you like it, I hope you’ll share because that helps Jennifer, who’s pretty okay sometimes.

I wish you the very best things in the world.


love, Beryl

Beryl’s Chicken Diary. (9)

Read from the beginning HERE.




a chicken called Wanda


Tonight I’m in Ollie’s old bed, watching Sophia play.


Her room is way better than the bathtub. There’s so much to look at!

Twinkly lights, gilded peacock wallpaper, bits of yarn, rainbow pens, swirly fan, picture books, Pokemon cards, soft poofy animals, spray bottles, potions, lotions, and plastic baby humans with frozen blue eyes. I could go on!


I slept in here the last two nights. This vintage doll bed makes a nice, comfortable roost. And I’d just closed my eyes when Jennifer snuck in and grabbed me.  Arrghh this human!

“Come on, girl,” she said. “It’s time.”

Time for what?

She carried me to the back door.

What was she doing?

The door creaked open to stuffy night air.

Where were we going?

We crossed the yard and entered the coop where Jenkins, Babs, and Wanda huddled on the roost.

Wait. What—

Jennifer squeezed me tight then kissed my head before placing me next to Wanda. The girls twittered in confusion.

“Be nice,” she warned, mostly to Jenkins.

I wrapped my toes tight around the roost.  Wanda looked at me then scooted as far away as she could, acting so put out my own dang sister pulled that silly hen under her wing.


If Wanda ever wonders why she’s the weakest link, I’ll remind her of that moment right there. Missus Jenkins stuck her neck out to examine me, but with two hens between us there wasn’t much she could do.

Thirty minutes later, Jennifer found me quite happy against the wall. I would’ve preferred snuggling next to Babs, but the fact I’m up here without incident is good enough for now.

I can’t believe I’m out here!

Rustly leaves.

Distant traffic.

Late night tv illuminating dark windows blue.

Bugs swarming yellow porch lights and Ollie, fwapping through the cat flap.

You’ve may’ve heard chickens have short memories —it’s true.

I’d forgotten the night.

The girls coo softly.

A neighbor dog barks and another answers, far away.

It smells like safeness.

It smells like home.

Did you know that crickets sing lullabies?

They do.

They sing about moonbeams.

I close my eyes.




the glass divide


At first I was confused.

The cardinals woke me up.

Then feathers.

—warm at my side?


I opened my eyes to Babs, right next to me.

Sitting quiet and pretty like she does.

I made Wanda switch places, she said.

The backdoor screetched and out flew spaghetti like clumps of sticky worms.

Wanda and Missus Jenkins bolted for the porch but me and my sister moved slow on account of my toe.

Ready? said Babs, helping me down the ramp.

I could tell Jenkins wanted to bully me but I also knew she wouldn’t, if that makes any sense.

I paused from eating then stepped back a few paces, trying to look inside.

The window’s up high so I backed up some more.

Until I can see her.

I see the web first.

Then there she is.

Staring down at me, too.

Her old face still.

We locked eyes for a long time.

And right then I learned silence can be very, very loud. And if anyone executes a requiem of feelings with their eyeballs, it’s that spider.

I, however, do not posses that skill.

I never took time to speak to you, spiderlady. I’m sorry.

I relayed this by stomping my left foot and tipping by head sideways.

She stared into me, her eyes symphonic dewdrops, and I knew she understood.

So then I willed her peace and whatever love she needs.

And flies, I added, quickly. Lots and lots of flies.

She turned away and I returned to my noodles.

Now don’t quote me.

But I think spiders smile on the inside, too.









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Or maybe just show someone that pic of me and Babs. 

People don’t need big, expensive reasons to smile.

love, Beryl


Beryl’s Chicken Diary. (8)

Read from the beginning HERE.






This morning I flew out of the tub and waited by the back door. Jennifer smiled super big then let me out with some fresh water and last night’s macaroni and cheese. Ollie came by and sniffed so we shared it. Then we laid in the sun for a long time.

IMG_7167 (1).jpg

The other girls watched us, huddled by the gate.

I know what they’re thinking.

They miss the compost.

Well, tough.

I miss my toe.




the most beautiful sister in the world


Jennifer unlatched the gate today, letting Wanda in my side of the yard. I know why she did this. She wanted to see how Wanda would treat me. Ollie and I watched her skirt around the gate, looking for a way back in.

Silly hen.

You could tell she wasn’t comfortable being separate from the others —-until she realized the compost was hers for the taking.

She ignored me completely.

Then Jennifer shocked me.

She let Babs in.

Oh dear.

I stood and watched my sister, super nervous.

My wounds aren’t exposed, I thought. 

Nice, hard crusty scabs. Both eyes open.

My feathers and comb need to grow back but I’m still the same ole Beryl, minus one toe.


Babs bypassed the compost, headed straight for me, her expression unreadable.

Please Babs. 

I held my breath.

Please don’t hurt me.

My sister crept close.



She paused in front of me, cocking her head sideways.

Please don’t hurt me, sister.

I stood real still.

She raised her neck and I cowered low.

But when I opened my eyes, my sister pecked dirt between us, wiped her beak on the ground, then walked away.




See that? I told Ollie, watching Babs settle in her favorite breezy spot by the A/C unit.

She didn’t peck me. 

You can’t see chickens smile. But we do.

We smile on the inside.

She didn’t peck me.










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When you’re reading about me, you’re probably not worrying about the news.

So that’s good.

love, Beryl



Beryl’s Chicken Diary. (7)

Read from the beginning HERE.




Jennifer put me outside for a long time today.

I don’t want her to forget she’s a chicken! she declared, which is the dumbest thing I ever heard.

If she spent ten days outside, would she forget she’s human?

Christopher says she never forgets anything, so I guess the answer is no.

If you’re wondering how I managed outside safe from fair-feather Jenkins, I’ll tell you.

Alongside our coop, Christopher built a wire fence with a swinging gate that when closed, divides the garden in two. 


He said it would protect half the garden from our appetites, whatever that means — but I say it was a fortuitous decision considering my current predicament.

Jennifer closed the gate so I was separate and safe then put me on the ground.

O frabjous day!

The sun felt delicious on my air-conditioned feathers! I walked a little funny on account of my missing toe, but sinking my nails in the hot dry dirt —well— that’s a beautiful sensation I barely have words for. Maybe a toaster feels the same when it’s plugged in.

I took a long dirt bath to clear away mites, picked around the ivy, then sat on the porch next to Ollie, the old lady cat my humans adopted a few months back. Ollie remembers I’m me.

Together we lay in the sun and I feel safe.

Let’s count bees, she suggested.

So we did.


I like Ollie.

She’s chill like that.

P.S. My feathers are growing back!

Yay me!



movie night

I have a new routine!

Jennifer puts me outside in the morning with my own food and water. Sometimes I make eyes with my sister through the wire fence. I’m not sure what I’d do if she pecked me, so I’m happy to be over here and remember the good ole days.

I can still love her from far away.

Look at my sister. Isn’t she beautiful?


I used to look like that.

I’m used to being alone now, though ‘alone’ may not be the right word. Ollie keeps me company outside. And humans keep me company inside. At night, Jennifer wraps me in a towel and holds me against her chest.

Sometimes we watch movies.

Last night we watched The Revenant.


That bear scene reminded me of you-know-what.

My toe looks funny but it doesn’t hurt anymore. Christopher put a plank of wood over the tub so I can perch if I want to.

Did I tell you both my eyes are open now?









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What did the Mexican farmer say to his hens?





O lay!





(Am I too hip for the room?)

love, Beryl