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The GraciePress Newsletter - How Nate and Gracie Coped with Their First Setback (9 to 12)

The GraciePress Newsletter - How Nate and Gracie Coped with Their First Setback (9 to 12)
Happy weekend, everyone! In this newsletter, we are sharing the next 4 chapters of our current writing project, a novel for middle grade and older readers.
So far, response has been very good and readers are enjoying the dual points of view: sections from Nate’s Journal and sections from the songbirds of The Living Library. You will notice that Chapter 9 and Chapter 10 tell about the same event from two different perspectives in such a way that the songbirds of The Living Library know much more about what Gracie was thinking and feeling than Nate.
Those of you who are long-time fans may notice that the name “The Worm Olympics” is no longer used. In real honest-to-goodness backyard chicken life, that is what we called it since it was the first thing that popped into my head, but I never felt fully comfortable with the name. The reason? The worms weren’t doing any of the eating or competing. They were simply being eaten!

Gracie was as happy as she thought she could ever be. She had not been separated from her best friend Bessie when they left The Feed And Seed Store. 
She had as much water and food as she wanted in the gray brooder box even though she usually had to wait for the others to finish first. Her feathers were coming in nicely and more evenly. Her new fluff feathers helped hide the lump on her side. 
She had time in the sunroom with Bessie to do whatever her heart desired, and what her heart desired was to dance. 
And best of all, The Big Scary Thing, who wasn’t The Big Scary Thing any longer, had promised he would learn her language and would take her to a wonderful place called Paris where she could dance on a real stage and keep her own promise to him.
She wondered if it would be possible for everything and everyone to stay the same, but few things do that, no matter how much we may wish.
The only thing that felt odd was how everyone seemed to be growing except her. She was the only one without the first pale pink bumps of a comb. She would be happy if that didn’t stay the same.
Soon the little chicks were big enough and the spring air was warm enough for them to all play outside together. Their new fenced-off play area was in the sunniest section of the backyard near the garage where Nate would be able to watch them while he built their coop and run.
Once outside, their entire world became alive with new colors, sounds, and sensations. There was warm sunshine to enjoy. There was cool fresh grass to eat. And there were bugs and earthworms everywhere! 
Gracie was overcome by the experience, and she began to run and leap into the air higher and higher. Surely this place, a wondrous springtime garden, must be the place called Paris. And she was sure he had brought her there, exactly as he had promised. 
When we first had playtime outside, everyone began hunting for a tasty snack except for Gracie. She began running and leaping like she had in the sunroom. 
She must have loved how the spring breeze blew through her feathers and how the grass was so soft for landing after each leap. The rug in the sunroom may have been nice, but springtime lawn must have been far superior after I gave it the first cutting of the new year.
The others didn’t stop scratching and pecking until they found a bug or an earthworm or to sing out, “CheeP! CheeP-er-ee. CheeP!” Maybe it was just the joy of watching them and my imagination at work, but each time my ears heard this, something in my heart heard, “This is the life for me!” I added the words and what I thought they meant to my reporter’s notebook.
But then one of the other chicks looked up and saw Gracie dancing and called out, “Hã-BröcK!” 
Everyone looked at Gracie. Some laughed including Lefty.
My ears did not recognize this new word, but my heart felt the pain of whatever it meant as Gracie tried to hide her face as she hurried to the farthest and darkest corner of their play area.
This was not a word that I wanted to add to my notebook. Whatever it meant, it was not a happy word, but I wrote it nevertheless. It was another clue to understanding the Language of Chickens.
As they returned to their scratching and pecking, Gracie moved out of the shadows and timidly walked to where I was watching over everyone. She hopped up onto my shoe as she had done before in the sunroom.
“Peep! CheeP!” she said.
She stood on her little toes and spread out her wings even more than she had done before in the sunroom.
“PeeP? CheeP?”
“Of course you can, just like you could in the sunroom with Bessie. It’s no different out here. You can do whatever your heart dreams out here too. Soon you’ll be outside all the time after I get your new home build.”
She hopped down and walked away slowly with a dejected look on her face. She went over to where Bessie and Mayflower were hunting and began to half-heartedly scratch the ground.
At that moment, I wished more than anything to know what she had tried to tell me. If I could understand, then maybe I could make it right for her.
If my heart had been able to fully listen, I would have known this was something only Gracie could make right for herself. I would have also understood Bessie when she gently whispered, “What you believe about yourself is much more important than what anyone else believes about you.”
My heart was beginning to listen, but there was still more for me to learn about the Chicken Language.
There was also more for Gracie to learn about facing The Bigger Scary Thing.
When it was time to play outside, Gracie watched from a distance and wondered if she would ever be able to dance again without the others making fun of her. 
She had not acted in a way that would hurt anyone else. She had only been carried away by the beauty of spring, a spectacular beauty that had to find a way out from her heart.
The others quickly made up a game that would become a regular favorite. It was the simplest game imaginable.
“Bah-ŸawK!” someone would say before snatching up an earthworm and running. Everyone would follow and hope to grab it away from the lucky chick. There was only one direction—forward! And there was only one speed—as fast as their little feet would carry them!
Each worm would get passed around several times. It took great skill to dodge and block and eventually maneuver into a spot where the winner could gobble it down. Soon I was calling out “Bah-ŸawK!” right along with my little Olympians.
Eventually, Bessie convinced Gracie to join them, and Gracie discovered she had another gift besides dancing that the others truly did appreciate. Because she was so light on her feet from running and leaping, the earthworms could not tell she was sneaking up on them.
Lefty was never as clever. He would always make a lot of excited calls and sounds. Then he would stomp off to his favorite hunting spot, making a great show of himself. Everyone knew where he was going and what he was planning to do—especially the earthworms. 
Gracie always found more worms than Lefty, and she usually found the longest worms too. Gracie and Bessie also kept more of the earthworms they found because they were a team. They would not say “Bah-ŸawK!” like the others did to announce their discovery. They only gave a very low “Bah-” as a secret signal to each other. If you weren’t listening for it, you would miss it. Then they would snatch the worm up out of the ground and flip it back and forth, leaving the others unsure who to chase.
Over time, the others forgot about what had happened that first day outside, but Gracie never did. Having them laugh at her had become The Bigger Scary Thing for her.
There were times when none of them could find any worms to use for their game. When they saw me take out the shovel, they would line up at the fence in anticipation. They watched in awe as I dug up a fresh batch of worms from the compost pile. Their eyes grew big, and they peeped and cheeped with delight when I said, “Bah-ŸawK! We have some, and they are whoppers!”
To them, I was the greatest worm hunter of all time, and they always seemed surprised that I never kept any of the earthworms for myself, not even the fattest.
Just as “Ÿawk!” had become my favorite Chicken Language word, “Whoppers!” soon became their favorite People Language word. “Who wants to play outside?” was a favorite question for all of us because we all did.
A day hardly went by without at least one round of their game. There was no keeping score. None of them knew how to count. 
My little Olympians would run and play until they were completely exhausted. Then they would flop down on their tummies with their wings spread straight out and take a nap. This was what I called “going splat.”
Once they had finished playing their last game for the day, I would gently pick them up and return them to their brooder box for some dinner and a warm night of rest. To me, it seemed they had all they could possibly need with their friends and a world full of wonders.
But there was something Gracie needed far more. She needed to dance.
Once the spring season of the earthworms was over, Nate began to notice Gracie was spending more time to herself. He went to her and sat on the ground with a library book and his reporter’s notebook. 
“Gracie, I have been working on listening with my heart just like you already listen with your heart. What happened that first day out here in the garden was because you thought I had taken you to Paris like I promised.
“The others making fun of you was my fault, not yours. I should have told you and the others I was taking you to our backyard garden. It was my fault you thought it was Paris.
“Gracie, I found a book in the library about Paris, and I made some drawings from it so you will know for sure you are in Paris when we get there. This first drawing is of the Eiffel Tower. You know for sure you are in Paris when you can look up and see the Eiffel Tower.
This next drawing is of the Palais Garnier, it is one of the most beautiful buildings in all of Paris, maybe in all of the world. It definitely has the finest stage where the best dancers perform.. 
“Paris is so beautiful they call it The City of Light. Can you imagine that? A city made of light.”
“Ÿa(h)-bwük?” she asked as she looked up at me in amazement.
“Most definitely Ÿa(h)-bwük. I’d better write that down so I won’t forget.” 
Then I showed her the picture of the grand staircase of the Palais Garnier. “That’s where the audience goes to get to the best seats to watch the best dancers, and I will be going up those steps to watch you, Gracie.”
She tapped the drawing lightly with her beak and said BruK-Ä-BwawK!”
“It sure is BruK-Ä-BwawK! Anyone can see that!”
Then I showed her the picture of the stage of the Palais Garnier. “That’s where the dancers perform.”
She tapped it lightly with her beak and sang emphatically, “BruK! BruK-Ä-BwawK-er-ee!”
“As BruK-Ä-BwawK-er-ee! as can be,” I said. “And we are going to do everything we can to get you there.”
“Gracie, it’s not always easy for me to chase after my dreams because that’s when I find out if my dreams will succeed or fail. But this dream is different. It starts in this garden and it’s one that you and I share. Somehow this dream will succeed. I just know it. If you don’t give up on our dream, then neither will I.”
“There’s one more drawing. It is what I dreamed last night. It shows the two of us dancing together in the streets of Paris with the Eiffel Tower in the background.” I turned the page and Gracie looked surprised as if she had seen it before. “Drawings are like dreams on paper. They let you do things you would never be able to do any other way.”
And then, unknown to the two of them, the smallest of wrens who had been watching and listening from the azaleas flew off to share all he had heard with The Robin.  
Just For Fun…
I couldn’t find a way to work this fun fact into the story without it seeming out of place, but it’s so interesting, I had to share it with you! It’s an interesting Eiffel Tower/Parrot connection.
Fun Fact: During World War One, parrots where kept at the top of the Eiffel Tower because of their superior hearing. They were able to detect approaching enemy aircraft 20 minutes before a person could.
And I have to add too that if any of you are looking for a Paris/Chicken connection, here’s an article for you! Marguerite and her chicken may find their way into future chapters, but we have to get Gracie and Nate to Paris first!
Walking Your Chicken Around Paris in Style: A Pictorial Guide
Until Next Time…
We hope you’ve enjoyed this read through our current project. I appreciate any and all feedback because I want to make the best story possible for our readers and for my chickens!
Thanks so much for reading!
John, Gracie, Bessie, Blanche, Pearl, Emily, and Amelia
Did you enjoy this issue?
J.R. Spiers (with help from Gracie)

The GraciePress Newsletter brings you the latest news, stories, illustrations, special offers, and free gifts from Gracie, Bessie, Blanche, Pearl, Emily, and Amelia. They are the inspiration behind all of the books published under The GraciePress imprint.

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From A Small Backyard Garden and A Most Wondrous Place in Portsmouth, Virginia