It was a squall, to be sure. Fast moving and furious, the rain came down in sheets seemingly AT you, filling the roads with rainwater that was easily ankle deep in minutes.
The lightning in the sky above flashed through my windshield fantastically. I do love a good storm.
It wasn’t safe to be out on the roads, really, but I did not feel scared returning home alone from a dinner out, driving through jungle-hugged dirt roads in such dramatic weather. I grew up off-roading. My first car, and most of my cars since, were stick-shift muscle cars, heavy and challenging and ever in need of maintenance. During the winters, my family drove jeeps, bajas, and quads through the mountainous deserts of southern California.
While the Nicaraguan terrain means that the rainy season turns roads into rivers, the truck I own now is built for it. I drive a 2002 Toyota GX Land Cruiser diesel 4×4. Half the engine was rebuilt just before I bought it, and I have repaired pretty much everything else under the hood since. The brakes work, the shocks are holding out, the clutch was just replaced and the tires are good. While those who are unfamiliar with careening down rural, pot-holed roads might crap their pants on some turns or dips, I know how to drive my truck.
Plus, I have an emergency kit and numbers to call if something goes wrong, which, actually happens all the time out here.
Anyway, happily maneuvering my way through the storm, I slowed to about 15 kph, leaned over the steering wheel to better see through the windshield, and turned up Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Through the pelting rain and rising flooded roads, I couldn’t see more than about ten feet in front of me. My headlights lit up the surrounding fields and forests that closed in the road. In some places, these were the only indication of where the road ended and a ditch began.
Branches littered the road as the wind broke them from the trees. I could make out the occasional farm animal shouldering the sides as I drove slowly, the rain letting up not at all. The dirt road widened then, and slightly curved left. I could see about 8 wet cows, standing close to each other, taking a beat down from the storm.
Up ahead just past the cows, I could see something protruding up from the road amongst the debris. Not quite the center of the road, but if the road I was driving on was marked into lanes, then it would definitely have been in the middle of my lane.
As my brights illuminated this thing rising from the road, I realized the thing in the road was a chicken.
Standing straight up, as tall as a chicken can stand, he stood still. His small head sunk into his soaked-through feathers, and his round eyes widened as my headlights lit him up. His yellow beak poked out, distinct from the red and brown coloring of his little soggy body. He just stood there, exposed, in the middle of the lightning, wind, thunder, and heavy rain. Even as my truck came closer, he didn’t budge.
I swerved easily around him and continued, almost home. What are you doing, little chicken? Your farm is just across the street. There is shelter for you right there.
I laughed at him and glanced to see if I could spot in him in my rear view. Stupid little chicken. Does he think he is a cow? Where were his chicken friends?
Actually, I began to think, he is probably scared shitless . . . standing out there in the pouring rain all alone, genuinely struck with fear.
Did he even realize? In just 5 seconds he could have been safe, off the road, and under a roof. He could move those little chicken legs just a few feet and find shelter, and probably other chickens. Just go!
I began cheering for him in my head.
Cross the road, little chicken, it’s what you’re meant to do. We all know it. You need to get to the other side. It’s your calling.
Follow your calling, little chicken!!
I don’t know how long he would have stood there, drenched, too frightened to move, awaiting whatever terror descended on him next.
As I turned down the final, pot-holed flooded road that would lead me safely home, I started to think about how often we also find ourselves frozen in fear.
Our storms rain down around us and, unable to move, we just take it. Even though in moments, we can make a decision, and confidently change our surroundings from one of exposed vulnerability, pain, fear, discomfort – name your grief – to one of safety and calm. A place where we are not alone.
It only takes a clear decision that inspires us to life-changing action.
But for different reasons, either the fear of the unknown, the lack of courage, or choosing the devil we know, we stay in a place of harm.
Often, we don’t know what decision to make because we can’t see through the rain. The suffering is paralyzing, and instead of making a choice to move in some direction, we just sit still instead. We wait. Not realizing that safety is so near.
I can’t help but feel that if we all paid more attention to our intuition, the weather might not be so bad for us.
Deep down, we each have a calling. If we are aware enough to lean into this calling, we might save ourselves pain, confusion, and so much unnecessary battering.
It is a brave decision that calls for us to trust ourselves.
To make a purposeful shift in some direction through the storm, even if it means we might need to run through the storm alone for a time.
As I arrived home and shut down the engine, I wondered if that little chicken was still standing in the road alone while the storm rained down on him.
Or, I hoped, did he finally reach that glorious moment of truth?
The moment of clear-sightedness and realization that inspired him to pick up those little chicken legs and finally, soaked through and having had enough, finally muster his bravery?
Did he tap into his calling and cross that darn road?