My farmer friend shakes his head and says I must miss the city noise. What he is referring to are the guinea fowl who take residence at Echo Valley.
I was told the guineas would eat tics -- and that was good enough for me. Twenty-four baby chicks came June '04. The tic population diminished substantially, and the amusing and profound study of guinea hen activity began.
I don't hear them, or rather I hear them and can recognize their talk. They warn of intruders wild dogs, coyote, the mail man, someone in red. They call each other to let them know fresh bugs are available, then thrash each other to get the best morsels.
They call to those not yet in the barn at night. Get in here NOW.
And I have learned to not dismiss their frightened chatter after losing one to a night prowler.
They care for one another.
They teach the chicks to follow and to stay close together. So much that we mimic the guinea dance - shoulder to shoulder - as they move about their day.
As they mature, off they go in pairs or bonds of four to eight exploring and looking for a place to lay.
Guineas prefer to rest in heights. The ones who don't make it to the barn at night will seek refuge in the trees. I have found they lack night vision, and if on the ground are very easy prey.
Yet, they must lay their eggs on the ground, and lay they do. Nearly thirty eggs will be sat on for nearly twenty-eight days. With daytime guards to protect them, the mothers sit. And sit. Alone at night, I have found them incredibly brave and fierce as they encounter numerous threats.
I have found them to be the very generous parents. One "Mom" covers eighteen chicks under her "skirt" to protect them and keep them warm all through the night. Never moving.
I watch them and realize I am smiling. I don't hear noise. I am learning about community, and they are fine teachers.
We now have twenty-three chicks, and eighteen adults.
Bring ear plugs.
As we go forth, there is one more acknowledgment, one large 'Thank You' to the person who has been and remains a champion of the heart. To someone, who for the past thirty years, has reminded me of the sweetness of life, has encouraged my discovery, and has helped me choose clarity and freedom, over confusion and doubt. May his message continue to ring out, inviting all to the discovery of the heart, to the peace within.
Thank you, Maharaji.