i have always loved this painting by magritte, in which the hen herself seems to be asking "which came first?" i came across a picture of it last week, only a day after my own red hen inexplicably expired. i found her on her back with her wings splayed out and her head turned restfully to the side. from a distance i thought she was sunning herself. there had been times in the past when she was alive that, from the way she was splayed out sunning herself, i thought she was dead.
she had laid an egg only the day before. some people don't know that hens lay eggs whether there's a rooster around or not. i remember reading that back around aristotle's time they thought that hens were "impregnated" by the wind when they laid eggs without roosters. the egg is certainly an object worthy of this kind of contemplation. when my hens first started laying eggs i was contemplating them plenty. then, like everything else, i began to take them for granted. but now, with only one hen who lays eggs now, i'm remembering their value. buying eggs in a carton robs you of the delicious experience of carrying them in your hands from the laying boxes into the kitchen. they feel like the most exquisite treasure in your hand if you pay attention.