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Washington Voices

Front Porch: Chickens, chickens everywhere

Thu., April 24, 2014

Have you ever noticed that if you have an experience, learn of a diagnosis or go someplace, that particular thing suddenly is everywhere? The previously unknown or not-much-thought-about now becomes ubiquitous.

My husband was in Chicago recently. When he came back he noticed that every car ad on TV or picture in a magazine or news event seemed to feature Chicago. A long time ago a friend explained her daughter’s rather anti-social behavior as attributable to Asperger’s, a condition I had not heard of at the time. Right after, it seemed that just about every magazine or study featured something on Asperger’s.

What’s with that? Sure, you could argue that having been somewhere or learning about something attunes you to that thing, so armed with the new information, you’re just picking up on what’s always been out there.

Maybe, but I think there’s more at work here. Let me explain.

I just returned from a terrific vacation in London. I saw and did everything English that I could in the time I was there. On the very first day, there I was in Trafalgar Square, taking it all in. I was surrounded by those famous white lions guarding the statue of Admiral Horatio Nelson, the fountain, the National Gallery and the wonderful white statuary atop the assorted plinths. So I handed my camera to a fellow tourist and asked her to take a picture of my son and me with all that in the background.

When she handed the camera back to me, I took a quick look at the digital picture, which was pretty devoid of color, what with all that stone. Except there in the far corner was a blob of color. I turned around to look to see what it was.

There are four plinths in the square, three of which are topped with permanent statuary of military heroes. The fourth had been left empty since 1840, until in 1999 it was decided to place temporary statues there for 18-month stints. In July 2013, the sixth work to be displayed there was mounted – a 15-foot-tall, bright blue chicken.

I’ve been writing about a certain feral chicken for several years now, and since I began doing that, I’ve been haunted by chickens. No matter where I go or what I do, somehow a chicken appears – maybe on the cover of a menu (not so unusual) or standing by the side of the road in an urban area as I drive by. But there in crowded central London’s Trafalgar Square – c’mon, there is something to this beyond chickens floating about in my consciousness.

This particular bird, a cockerel done by German artist Katharina Fritsch, plays into the British sense of humor. Much has been made of the word cockerel, probably not appropriate to mention here, and the blueness of it and the fact that it is the unofficial symbol of France, surrounded by statues commemorating victory over France. Very fun, but very incongruous for that location, you’ve got to admit. But there it was in my line of sight.

While traveling about London with my son, he asked about someone he knew as a child. That person is the youngest brother of my son’s boyhood best friend. There has been a lot of pain in that family, so it was kind of him to ask about the sole surviving brother. I said I hadn’t seen the young man in more than two years, but I’d make a point of checking in with him when I got home.

So home I got, but I also got busy and hadn’t followed up yet. After a few days, I had some business in Cheney and stopped to have lunch with a friend. I heard my name being called out from across the restaurant and looked up to see that very same young man striding toward me.

As it turned out, he had decided to leave his job two years ago and earn a second degree, this time from Eastern Washington University, in a field he much preferred. Much happier now, he was about to graduate. We had a great conversation and I reported it back to my son.

The chicken in London and the man in Cheney. I mean a big blue chicken (why not a toad?) and an accidental meeting with someone recently inquired about in a location where I had no idea he dwelled. OK, this isn’t spooky or otherworldly or anything, but I do suggest that these were not experiences that could have been anticipated or were even logical to the time or place.

Sometimes I think maybe the universe is listening, and with kindly intent. And sometimes, blue-chickenwise at least, it has a pretty terrific sense of humor.

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