Easter eggs

snow egg

Yesterday was the first snowy Easter I can remember. I went for a walk and found, among other things, a loose jumbly nest of sticks at the top of a Hercules’-club tree that cradled a small mound of snow, and not far away, an egg-shaped melt-spot on the surface of a rock, resting in the shadows of branches. Without meaning to, it seemed, I’d gone on an Easter egg hunt. It made me think back…

Easter morning when I was small
meant candy — the first since Halloween;
a gift or two, usually including a new kite,
which I would struggle valiantly to fly
in the mountaintop’s transverse winds;
& a half-dozen eggs I had helped
to dye myself, those that weren’t already
sea-green or blue because they’d been laid
by one of our Araucana hens. We used
all-natural materials, especially
onion skins, which imparted a yellow
or orange tint depending on how long
we left the eggs in the dye bath.
Wrapping them in ferns or tree leaves
made lacy patterns where the veins
lay against the shell. It was as if
we were enacting a dream of barnyard fowl
to return to the trees.

Somehow even knowing what we would find,
& despite the fact that hard-boiled eggs
can’t compete for taste sensation with a chocolate bar,
it was still exciting to paw down through
the green plastic straw — reused year
after year — & lift them out, bright & smooth
as pebbles on a beach. Cracking such an egg
was a solemn occasion.
It made us mindful, admiring the shell
even as we split & crumbled it, & underneath
the slick flesh no longer white, but onion-colored.
The last discovery then would be a bit
anti-climatic: the yolk a dark orange
as with any egg from a chicken that’s free to roam,
to bathe in the dust, & for whatever reason,
madly flapping in front of oncoming cars,
to cross the road.

In response to the Read Write Poem prompt, “Go green!” Links to other responses may be found here.

12 Replies to “Easter eggs”

  1. When I first saw the photo I thought, ‘how the heck did that giant egg get in that nest?’

    I enjoyed your memories of dying eggs, the Araucana hens, the description of the cooked eggs, the colors, the tastes.

    BTW, I’ve always associated the word Araucana with an indiginous tribe in South America. Were the hens from SA? Just curious.

  2. Christine: I googled them and got this Scottish site: http://www.araucanas.co.uk/

    According to them the type is originally from the Arauca Indians of Northern Chile. They also have pictures… and much grumbling about the carelessness of “modern breeders”. ;-)

    Dave: “madly flapping in front of oncoming cars, to cross the road.”

    Did you lose a lot of them that way? ;-)

  3. Although most of our egg coloring experiences involved the pre-packaged gaudy egg dye pellets, I do remember one year wrapping eggs in actual onion skins in some manner which made a neat yellow brown pattern. What a unique childhood you must have had. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Lovely, Dave, really lovely……..I envy you the childhood you describe, mine was so suburban, though still great fun. I might try the egg trick with my boys.

  5. I loved the descriptions of what makes eggs laid by you own chickens so special, so different from the kind at the store: the colored shells, the different yolks–and the chickens running out into the road!

  6. Thanks, all. The poem was a wee bit prosier than I’d prefer, but in the end it did strike me as a poem rather than an essay. Anyway, I’m glad this resonated with folks.

    Re: Araucanas, yes, named for the Indian tribe. But I found from Wikipedia that the birds we called Araucanas were actually probably fromthe unrelated Americauna breed, if not simply plain old Easter Eggers – the generic name for any chicken with the recessive gene for blue or green eggs. Ours were thoroughly interbred with the bantams, of which we always had a small number in addition to the main flock of Black Beauties.

    Re: chickens crossing the road, we never went faster than ten MPH on our one-lane dirt road, so I don’t think we ever actually killed any chickens, but it was weird the way a vehicle’s approach would trigger a panicked reaction to race across the road in front of it.

    Re: natural egg dying, if you want to try it, be sure to Google around first. I don’t think I’ve gotten any of the details wrong, but there’s probably a bit more to it than what I wrote. My memory is slightly porous. :)

  7. Other classic natural dyes besides onionskin: Beets (magenta/purple), and annatto/achiote (bright red-orange). There’s probably some way to get the green from some cooperative plant to dye, but I don’t know it offhand. Blue is famously a toughie, unless you have access to woad (or funky chickens). (Blueberry juice might work….)

  8. Hmm.

    Never wrapped that kind of dyed egg with evergreen ferns or veiny leaves. You did it right after pulling them from the pot? Or wrapped them up and placed them in the pot? Sounds like a thing to try with my children.

    Oh, the persistence of our wonderings at chickens who cross the road…

    “Chickens loom large.”

  9. David – Good suggestions. I don’t believe we tried any of those, but I know we experimented with some others – can’t remember which.

    marlyat2 – You wrap them before placing in the pot.

    It’s hard for me now to think about chickens in any cosmic sense without picturing a Gary Larson cartoon.

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