Like a plethoric burning martyr, or a self consuming misanthrope, once ignited, the whale supplies his own fuel and burns by his own body. Would that he consumed his own smoke! for his smoke is terrible to inhale, and inhale it you must, and not only that, but you must live in it for the time. It has an unspeakable, wild, Hindoo odor about it, such as may lurk in the vicinity of funeral pyres. It smells like the left wing of the day of judgment, it is an argument for the pit.
The Try-Works, Chapter 96
The office room is filled with a most foul smell. It smells like the left wing of the day of judgment, and yet it is not the smell of death, but of brooding life. When I was young I would stroll through fields, humming symphonies concocted in my head, dreaming of the day I would ride a white horse bareback while playing the flute. It was a vision free from the realm of any bodily fluids. I did not dream then, or in any later versions, that I would, before I finally succumbed to death, have up close and personal relationships with the vast landscape of excrement which I have. I never was a fan of biology’s danker side. And yet, a dozen cats, several dogs, three babies, three fish tanks and countless chickens later, I have grown old enough to realize that life is filled with shit, and one of the most potent is the once a day release from the bowels of a broody hen. No, I take that back, the worst smelling is the dogs because they have no qualms about eating a freshly discovered carcass in any stage of decay, but my hen, whom in many ways resembles a bedroom slipper, can definitely clear a room.
On February 8th, Idun did not get off the nest at sunset to join the others in the coop. I brought her inside and set her on five fertile eggs (not her own). This places the hatch date at March 1st. It is an addiction—this business of incubation. I have given myself an out on this one (her fourth brood), as I have offered to loan her out to a local Montessori School in the neighborhood. They wanted to start their own flock and I figured this way the children can watch how hens are hatched in nature. You see, this time I’m not doing for me. I’m doing it for the education of children. I told Idun she has a “Visiting Scholar Gig.”
The school responded most enthusiastically to my offer . . . three weeks ago. One week ago I candled the five eggs and each and every one showed promising signs of development. Sitting on the basement steps cupping the egg over a flashlight I watched the small pulsation of a heartbeat. I wanted to be sure I didn’t pass unhatchable eggs to the children, but now, I have seen the heartbeat and there is something to that.
I keep checking my inbox to see if the school has responded to my e-mail that Idun is ready for her visit, but so far, no word. It is a dangerous sign that this has sparked hope in me. In my head I’m unintentionally counting down the days until the hatch (ten. . .ten days).
This post really isn’t about Moby-Dick, it’s about my tiny Norse goddess, and an addiction of mine regarding poultry. There is much I could say in relation to the quote—especially from the environmental angle. I could rant about Rick Perry’s philosophy that we need no EPA because businesses will regulate themselves—about how as one is driving into Dallas the shiny glass office towers of downtown are shrouded in a yellow brown smog. How our summers are drawn out days of level orange and level red ozone alerts. This is Texas and we supply our own fuel and burn by our own land’s body. Forced to breathe the air we have polluted, the stench of it.
I could also tangentially rage about Rick Perry’s legislation requiring a woman to undergo a sonogram and hear a full explanation of the details before exercising her legal right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. It’s a debate I am not ready to wade into here, though with my little Idun set in her determined course she has me going there.
The flashlight illuminating the system of veins spreading out along the inside of the eggshell, out from that dark pulsing center. A heartbeat, even one so small, can break a heart. While the men stand on the outside and see the day of judgment and the argument for the pit, I hold that egg and think these politicians, these men and their laws—laws? They could never know, never know a mother’s heart. Life is not just a word. Neither is choice just a word. What a small moral compass can so succinctly confine and define these intangibles.