I went outside to find Hecate sprawled in the run, motionless.
My rooster had been alive the day before — the crowing had been an audible announcement of that. There was no sign of trauma, of attack, of illness. In some ways, my rooster looked like they were taking a peculiar nap. It was the stillness and the dirt over their body that gave away reality.
Finding my rooster dead was one of those truths that hit like a belt against skin — a quick sting that I first thought would be the worst of it. I even went inside and quietly cleaned the kitchen, went about chores, wondering what the next step should be. It was only when I said the words out loud did the welt from the blow emerge.
I told my husband Hecate was dead and promptly started crying.
Like so many times before, he stepped in to save the day. He found a large shoebox, he went at the frozen, root-filled ground with a shovel and pick-axe, and helped me bury my former pet. Buried them right next to my guinea pig, with a marker with their name on it and everything.
I tended to the remaining flock — Athena, Calliope, Demeter, Tyche — and I said a few words to and about Hecate. I thought of the last time I picked up Hecate and I thought of how little Hecate was when I first got them — how I nicknamed them Phantom because their marking looked like the perfect Phantom of the Opera mask.
And my heart just hurt.
After Persephone died, I had made the firm decision to keep Hecate — to accept the inevitability of the hen that wasn’t a hen, and their place in my life.
But that firmness was shaken up. The crowing was quickly becoming a problem, and I feared the other shoe dropping and a neighbor filing a complaint. I’d wake up to crowing sessions that would last for an hour and I’d try to tell myself that they were sounding the alarm against a predator.
(And after the fox attack, who was I to judge their hypervigilance.)
Hecate was sweeter than most roosters, but that’s a low bar to clear, with plenty of space left over for misfortune. They still literally got between me and the hens, and had taken to biting me hard if I dared let a hand linger in the run after feeding them or checking their water.
My resolve was weakening and I was starting to research sanctuary farms.
So the feeling I had on that couch next to my husband was a bittersweet one. I cried over the loss of something I had loved, but simultaneously felt the weight that the complications that accompanied such a love lift.
I’m nothing if not one to notice the metaphor, the parallel lines my life creates.
“I want to stop being the person that has to have things hit rock bottom before I do anything about it,” I tell my new therapist. She asks what I’m hoping to achieve and I tell her what I want changed.
I’m tired of this reoccurring theme, one that pops up in all areas of my life — waiting for things to get so bad that I say, “Even I don’t deserve this.”
And perhaps that’s the biggest problem, with me. Perhaps in that lies the answer to why I keep repeating the same patterns, over and over again. I am reserved with who gets access to the parts of me I don’t readily give out to the world — but once the threshold is met, the bar becomes a low one to clear, with plenty of space left over for misery.
I don’t seek out mistreatment, but dealbreakers become “I can deal with it.” Things that should set off alarms go undetected because it runs too closely with the messages my demons give me.
And that’s part of the reason why I’ve decided to devote 2021 to healing from the wounds 2020 gave me — as well as what echos it created with the past, and all the ways I want to be different for the future.
Hecate made life complicated, but I met that complication headfirst and headlong. I lead with my heart and I lead with love. I saw it through to as far as I had it within my control. I stuck with it until the bitter end. And I take solace in that.
Perhaps that’s the other reason I let situations get so laughably bad before I do anything about it: so I can look back on the wreckage and say that I did what I could, for as long as I could, to hold the walls together.
But that’s the balance I’m hoping to create in 2021: to know how long to ride the train, when to devote myself to the journey and when to step off the train before it goes completely off the rails — and to understand I can’t will anything to stay on its tracks.
I can find solace on the station platform, too.
The energy is different with Hecate absent.
They had been a good leader of the coop — ruling the literal roost — and it had stopped being my pantheon of Greek goddesses and had become Hecate and Their Hens. But now, the remainder of my goddesses flock in a different way. And I approach them in a different way. I see them like they’re baby chicks again, and I’m back to being their mom. The energy is different. And I feel bad saying that the energy is better.
This is a new chapter, for all of us. We are both a little tender with these new changes. Things that filled spaces — no matter what energy it brought with it — are gone and we feel those holes. But I see Athena taking on the role of leader. I’m watching Calliope blossom when before she was content to the corners. Tyche continues to be my baby and Demeter has grown into herself. We are maturing, we are evolving.
We are learning to close one chapter and start up another, on these new sets of train tracks.