I thought the crowing rooster was just part of the vacation ambiance. And the wild chickens provided photo ops just about everywhere we went. Quaint, we thought. How laid back.
The rooster crowed so incessantly that eventually he just became background noise to the crashing surf. Neither bothered us. But then, we were living an idyllic week on the Hawaiian Island of Oahu. Bother? Hardly!
In the strange way life has of connecting the dots when I returned home to Canada chickens continued to cross my horizon, although I wasn’t so much hearing them as hearing about them.
It seems there’s a bit of a chicken controversy spreading across Canada. City people want to keep them in their backyards but civic authorities are not so sure it’s a good idea.
In Calgary, Paul Hughes one man is staking his case for a backyard coop on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as the United Nations Right to Food policies. Paul Hughes wants to enshrine his right to collect eggs from his own chickens without having to start a farm on the outskirts of the city.
In Toronto, one woman writes a blog, called torontochickens.com, to keep all interested parties abreast of civic chicken controversies. She, and others, keep chickens somewhat secretly (no roosters, they’re a dead giveaway) and press their case to change city bylaws somewhat covertly. They offer anonymous news interviews so the chickens have a voice but remain in their own protected custody.
It all seemed a bit funny to me at first, and hardly of interest. But, now, I’m beginning to actually side with the chicken owners. And not just because I like the idea of free range, locally owned chickens that produce an abundance of eggs for their owners and neighbours.
I like the idea of backyard chickens because it speaks to me of a more laid back, relaxed society. It may be that the cool ocean breezes of Hawaii are still wafting through my soul, but Toronto seemed unnecessarily uptight when I returned home this week.
Hawaii, on the other hand, is one of the most relaxed places I’ve ever visited.
We were driving through slow, supper-hour traffic in Honolulu one evening when the car in the next lane caught our attention. The driver was playing his ukulele as he moved with the stop and go traffic. It’s one way to combat road rage, I suppose.
We were constantly amazed by the pick-up truck passengers who rode not in the cab, but in the truck bed itself. That’s been outlawed in Canada for years, but in Hawaii we tracked dogs, children, men and even a grandmother as they sped along, hair blowing in the wind, arms languidly draped over the edge of the truck.
Motorcycle helmets are few and far between on the islands. People, children included, swim and surf in waves that toss you around like bowling balls (I know, I tried it).
Everyone wears flip-flops, even in the fanciest of restaurants. And there are no scent-suppression signs anywhere to be seen. That would restrict the wearing of fresh orchids in leis, which, even the fanciest of restaurants welcome along with the flip-flops. (I know — I dressed Hawaiian style from tip to toe while I was there.)
I actually brought my lei back to Canada with me, hoping the agricultural rules would not be so tight as to disallow fresh flowers. To my delight and surprise, the Canada Customs agent gave me the nod when I told him about my lei. The flowers are fading, but the scent lingers.
As does the memory of Hawaii and its gentle ways.
Two days into our vacation our next-door neighbours invited us to a party on their lawn. It’s the Hawaiian way, they assured us, when we protested that we couldn’t possibly just show up at a party for people we didn’t know.
So we ambled down the beach and indulged with them in an afternoon of eating and conversation. We feasted on pickled crabs, stewed taro leaves and a cool, refreshing coconut pudding.
There were various chicken dishes on the menu, too, which we ate while trying to ignore plaintive sound of the crowing rooster next door.
I’ve done a little research on chickens in Hawaii and it turns out there may well be too many of them running wild. In fact, Hawaiians trap chickens when too many end up in one place.
But in the laid-back Hawaiian way, any healthy trapped chickens are given away so people can roast them for dinner. I have a feeling that in Canada, we’d never do that. We’re just a little too uptight about our food laws.
It’s not that I want things so relaxed that public safety is at risk. But I do wonder sometimes, especially when I’ve just enjoyed the ease of a place like Hawaii, if we might not relax things a little more here in Canada.
We could start with allowing backyard chickens.
Lynda MacGibbon is a transplanted Maritimer living in Toronto. Her column appears on Fridays in the Moncton Times & Transcript newspaper. Contact her at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @lyndamacgibbon