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The GraciePress Newsletter - “PeeP!” Chapter 9 “How Gracie Got Her Name”

The GraciePress Newsletter - “PeeP!” Chapter 9 “How Gracie Got Her Name”
This chapter is one of my favorites. It tells how Gracie and the narrator are finally able to talk to each other, and yet that is only one of the “simple, everyday miracles” in this chapter. The other is shown in the chapter’s illustration. Friendship, like that between Gracie and Bessie, is the perhaps the greatest of all “simple, everyday miracles.”
Be sure to check out the special discount announcement for our fans at the end of the newsletter!

When you can talk to one chicken, you can talk to any chicken who wants to talk to you, and evenings are the best time for talking. When everyone was up in the coop for the night, Gracie would usually start a conversation with me. Then the others would join us or just listen.
Sometimes we would all be quiet together and think about what had been said. Chickens can be incredibly contemplative.
When there was barely any light remaining, one of them would begin to sing the others to sleep. Their new songs were more refined than the ones they had sung before. They were composed from their hearts with beautiful sounds reserved for their closest friends, and because of that, I always felt honored when they shared their secret melodies with me.
When I couldn’t get to sleep, I would go back outside and sit with them. Someone, usually Lefty, would ask very softly, “Who’s there?”
“It’s only me,” I would say.
Those who woke up would greet me and then fall back to sleep.
Nighttime is when chickens feel most vulnerable because they can’t see in the dark, but their most fearsome predators can. Foxes, opossums, and raccoons can snatch them away in the middle of the night. Rats can come looking for eggs, and mice can come looking for seeds.
Sometimes they would tell me about a noise they had heard. Noises in the dark are especially scary.
“It was probably a raccoon,” I would say because early in the morning, I often saw raccoons climbing back up into their ivy covered homes high in the trees.
“You don’t have anything to worry about,” I would reassure them. “I built your home securely, and I won’t let anything get inside and hurt you.”
With the stars and the moon above me and my chickens beside me, it felt as if there was nothing more I might need or want. We were a family, and it often felt as if they had done the adopting, not me.
Sometimes I stayed with them throughout the night until morning, and on just such a morning, Gracie got her name. The air was fragrant with honeysuckle and the wild roses were beginning to bud. 
As she moved down the chicken ladder, she pointed her toes and spread out her fluff feathers like the finest frilly dancing gown. She was ready for whatever joys and triumphs—or sorrows—the day held for her. Every movement was filled with grace. She could hear The Music Of The New Day with her heart. Then she let out that music through the way she glided so gracefully.
By simply watching her, I could hear that same music with my heart too. I did not realize it at the time, but while mesmerized by her movements, I had stepped into A Most Wondrous Place for a moment.
And so, I named her Gracie because, like a true ballerina, she moves so gracefully. Hers is the kind of grace which never calls attention to itself and simply gives all it has to give whenever it dances into a life.
She asked me once, “Will I still be Gracie even if I am unable to dance ever again? It could happen that way.”
“You will always be Gracie to me. That is your name, and I will always be able to hear the music of your dancing in my heart, even if you can never dance again.”
“I know. I just needed to hear you say it.” She paused as if relieved of a burden. “Dancing has been the only thing in my life that has ever made me feel as if I was more than good enough.”
“Gracie, it is not dancing so perfectly that makes someone more than good enough.”
“What is it, then?”
“It’s something you must discover for yourself, like how I must discover what A Most Wondrous Place means.”
“Can I tell you something else?”
“Of course, Gracie.”
“The Robin once told me that my life was for more than scratching and pecking and laying eggs. She said I was hatched to change the world. What does that mean?”
“You must discover that for yourself too. We all must. But it may have something to do with how you are the only one to hear nature’s music in your heart and then dance.”
It’s true. Gracie can dance without music, and we can hear the music in our hearts whenever we watch her. But the others would need to hear music with their ears to dance. Since the songbirds were not always the most reliable musicians, I brought out my old record player.
Lefty helped me examine all of its parts to make sure they were still good and working correctly. I added a few drops of machine oil in the right places, gave it a new needle, and even added a decoration from one of my elementary school Valentine’s Day cards. As silly as it may sound, I had saved every one of them at the very back of my bottom desk drawer.
The chickens were curious but extra cautious as they examined this new box with the electric cord attached to several long extension cords. The Emperor and The Empress usually preferred sitting together and just watching everything from a distance, but even they came over to get a closer look.
I showed everyone a record album, and they examined it carefully. It didn’t look like anything to eat.
“Is a worm going to come out of that hole in the center?” asked Lefty.
I showed them how the hole made the record fit onto the turntable.
“How perfect!” he said.
Everyone nodded in agreement.
When I turned it on, their heads moved to follow the record as it went around and around. As soon as they noticed the old record wobbling up and down, their hips began to wobble up and down too.
“This is a dancing machine!” said Lefty.
Except for The Emperor, everyone cooed at how smart Lefty was.
“Actually, it’s a music machine,” I explained. “And you don’t watch it dance. It plays music so you can do the dancing. Do you see this part here? It’s called an arm, and it has a little needle underneath.”
I lifted it up so they could see.
“That does not look like an arm. It does not have a hand or fingers,” said Bessie. “Why don’t you call it a wing?”
“That’s silly,” said Lefty. “It doesn’t look like a wing either. It does not have any feathers.”
“It is no sillier than calling it an arm,” said Bessie.
“Let’s vote on it,” suggested Rudy.
“We cannot just go around changing the names for things we did not name in the first place,” said Lefty.
“Let’s vote on that too,” suggested Rudy.
I was beginning to think I would never have a chance to show them what the record player could actually do.
“Look at that!” said Rudy. “There’s something that looks like a chicken’s beak under it, only smaller and sharper.”
Suddenly, everyone had forgotten about whether to call it an arm or a wing. Everyone wanted to see the part that looked like a chicken’s beak.
“That’s called the needle. When I put the arm with the little needle on the record, you will hear a song.”
Everyone leaned in to get a better look. As the song began to play, everyone jumped back in amazement.
“There are songbirds in the box,” said Bessie. “Quick! Let them out! It sounds like there is something else in there too. It might be trying to eat the songbirds!”
“It’s not songbirds,” I explained after calming everyone down. “That’s a flute you’re hearing and some other musical instruments too. Flutes only sound like songbirds. People make musical instruments that can sometimes sound like things in nature. Songbirds make the best songs, and so people want to try to sound like them.”
Everyone nodded knowingly.
“It sounds like dandelions to me,” said Gracie. “Like dandelion seeds spinning around and drifting along on a cooling summer breeze from the river.”
“Dandelions don’t make any sounds,” said Lefty, and everyone except Gracie agreed with him.
“Why don’t you show us, Gracie?” I suggested. “Maybe a dance can let us see what you hear when you listen to dandelion seeds with your heart.”
I lifted the record player’s arm and started the song again, and Gracie showed us exactly what she meant.
When the song and Gracie’s dance ended, the other chickens flapped their wings in approval.
“That was brilliant!” said Lefty.
“Well done,” said The Emperor and The Empress who had been quiet until then.
“I could see the dandelion seeds in my imagination!” said Bessie.
“I don’t think we need to vote on it at all,” said Rudy.
Gracie did her very deepest ballerina curtsy.
“Is the song really about dandelion seeds?” asked Lefty.
“It is a very famous song called ‘The Waltz Of The Snowflakes.’ Even though you’ve never seen snowflakes blown by the winter wind, I can assure you they look very much like dandelion seeds spinning around and drifting along on a summer breeze.”
“Would The Record Player mind if we called our dance ‘The Waltz Of The Dandelion Seeds’ instead?”
“Lefty, are you sure that wouldn’t be changing the name of something we didn’t name in the first place?”
Bessie giggled.
“But I think The Record Player won’t mind. It simply enjoys having a chance to make you happy. Whatever you call the songs and the dances you make up will be just fine.”
“When we dance, I’d like to be the wind that blows the dandelion seeds,” said Lefty. “Is that okay?”
“What do you think, Gracie?”
“I think here in this garden we can do anything our hearts dream,” said Gracie. “It is what you have told me. It is part of what makes this A Most Wondrous Place.”
And so, I began to make regular trips to The Thrift Store in our neighborhood to find old, classical record albums. The chickens asked me to play some songs so many times, it seemed as if the records might wear out. But if any of them had, I would have found another copy and another still.
Sometimes I would find an album with ballet dancers on the front cover, and Gracie studied the costumes and scenery very carefully. I knew it wouldn’t be long before she would want to add those to the little shows they put on for me.
For their shows, I would play their favorite songs, and they would dance whatever their hearts dreamed. It never mattered what the picture on the front of the album was or what the titles of the songs were. They had their own interpretations, and that was fine.
“You do know,” said Lefty, “It would be possible to add something to the arm with the needle that plays the music. Then we could use our beaks to move it, and we could play our favorite songs for ourselves. We could do it without having to bother you in the audience.”
Lefty had always enjoyed figuring out how things work, but My Best Little Buddy’s suggestion was likely much more about him wanting to be in charge of The Record Player than it was about not wanting to bother me. But he had ask.
“I know. But I like doing it.”
“If you are not sure how, I can help you figure it out. I do understand how these things work. I have studied them.”
“You are very smart, Lefty, and I know you would do an outstanding job without scratching any records. But it makes me feel like I’m taking part in what you enjoy when I work The Record Player. I can’t do the dancing part like you. I have two left feet.”
Bessie came over to us. She had been listening and looked as if she might cry.
“Is that why you always wear shoes and socks? So no one will see you have two left feet instead of a left foot and a right foot?”
“I guess you could say that.”
“Well, it’s not your fault,” she said. “Things like that happen. You must have just hatched that way. No one should blame you or make fun of you for it. Certainly, none of us would.”
Lefty patted my knee with his wing.
“Don’t feel bad,” he said, trying to console me. “You have two left feet, and I have two Lefty feet.”
And for some reason, we all thought that was the funniest thing we had heard in a very long time.
Those really were some of our happiest days together.
Just So You Know…
We have trimmed down the content in our newsletter since we first started sharing chapters from PeeP! While the extra content was valuable for some readers, the time involved creating it was exhausting with other projects and life things going on. We do hope you’ll hang around and keep up with the free chapter reads though!
Special Announcement for Our Fans!
Amazon still has our book A Most Wondrous Place to marked down, but this week it’s under $8.00 rather than the previous amount under $4.00. That’s still a great savings on the $12.00 list price. If you’ve been waiting to get a copy of this 64-page book with full-color illustrations throughout, there probably won’t be a better time than right now! Keep in mind that this is an Amazon deal, not one that we have control over. (They are likely clearing out some inventory for which the chicks and I have already received commission.)
A Most Wondrous Place: Spiers, John, Spiers, John: 9781736633809: Books - Amazon
A Most Wondrous Place on Vimeo
A Most Wondrous Place on Vimeo
Next Week: Chapter 10 - “The Living Library”
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Thank you for reading!
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