I do know that hens are not human and humans are not hens so I make these remarks only out of my interest in the sociology of the hen coop, but I have found it very interesting what an effect situation has on hen personality. One thing I have learned from keeping hens is how very distinct each hen’s personality is, almost from the moment the chick hatches out of the egg. Fly was always a bold and adventurous chick who was likely to rise to her eventual position at the top of the pecking order of our flock, Orly was always more timid. When I brought Brownie and Wilma into the coop, I selected a pair of hens who would not be dominant, worrying that Orly, who was lame by then, would be bullied, but I also asked for hens who could take care of themselves, worrying that Fly might bully hens who were too timid. I was assured that these two knew how to stay out of trouble and would not cause any trouble themselves, and this turned out to be true. It took some time before Fly accepted them as part of a flock, and for some time she was only interested in following me around during the day, shooing the others away if they came too close, but before too long they were a busy flock of three, when they weren’t back in the coop with Orly. Orly retained her position over them in the pecking order, needing only to give them a sharp look for them to back away from her food. At first, only Fly followed me into the bush on our spider hunts, but eventually Brownie started accompanying her, always keeping a few paces behind and letting Fly have first shot at catching any spiders we uncovered. It was a long time before Wilma started to occasionally tag along, and I always felt she was tagging along after the other hens, rather than after me. I always loved the sound of the hen feet trip-trapping over the bridge into the bush, feeling like the three Billy Goats Gruff. They always sounded as if they were in a hurry. After the loss of the other hens, Wilma herself was left with me as her only flock and it was interesting how quickly she took up Fly’s position following me around, waiting for me to shift the logs to reveal the spiders, digging where I was digging, talking to me about her finds, calling to me from the deck when I was inside the house. Now we have the three little birds, Wilma is throwing her weight around in the coop exactly the way Fly used to and in a way Wilma herself had never done, giving a completely different impression of what kind of personality she has, as if personality were not innate at all but entirely situational. It does make me wonder just a little about human psychology, and almost seems as if it ought to be interesting to think about this question theologically as well, except that it isn’t being high status that brings people closest to God but being rock bottom, and it isn’t only one person at a time in a community who can be close to God, but whole communities that are religious together. But you’d expect the situation to be different for humans who are, after all, not hens. (And of the three little hens, who clearly have very different personalities even though they have been brought into the coop at the same time, Maude already seems to relate to me as person to person, friend to friend, looking me in the eye, talking to me, and liking to be close to my side, even though she is not yet the lead hen of the coop. Perhaps she feels like a lead hen because she doesn’t count Wilma, who is too far above her to be one of her peers.)
I was talking to my friend Anne the other day about not wanting family to read our work, and how freeing it is that they don't. I accidentally said this in an interview once and although Simon wasn't at the interview (not interested!) the brilliant Tara Black drew a comic of it and word got round, and back to Simon, that he wasn't interested in my writing and hurt his feelings a little bit. But I was thinking about the I, Clodia poems and how I imagined every poem as being not simply a poem but a move in a complicated game, directed always at Catullus, as I imagined his poems directed always at her, always intended as strategy, but always, also, likely to misfire, to be the wrong move, to be taken the wrong way. For me, it is as simple and uncomplicated for SImon to read my poems as not to, because they are not strategic moves in a game we are playing, there is no games-playing between us. He isn't entirely uninterested in my poetry but he has no hermeneutic interest in it, he doesn't have to work out what I am saying to him with it, because for that, we can talk to each other. There was a time, a few years ago, when I was lying on the carpet in our living room, and Simon was cooking in the other room, and I had the most profound sense of contentment. I realised I was in the position I spent much of my childhood in, lying on a carpet, listening to my mother in the next room, and I remembered what it was like to be a child and be able to play the most complicated imaginary games in front of everyone, with some pieces of lego, or with coloured pencils on a piece of paper, or moving little figures and objects about, knowing that even with the outer workings of your inner life on display you were completely private because no one was remotely interested. The child psychologist D W Winnicott called this feeling of profound safety being "alone in the presence of the mother." I think my mother was very good at being present without being intrusive, and it is this sense of being alone in the presence of the world I think I find in writing now.