Sunny’s Big Skip

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Yesterday I took Sunny, the little lamb of my heart, to the large animal clinic at the University of Illinois at Urbana. It was a big experience for both of us as we had never been to a vet that specializes in livestock animals. He had never been in a vehicle and I never drove a lamb anywhere. We took to the highway as an odd yet fitting couple under a cloudy morning. As we pulled out of the driveway I stopped shortly to put some grass in his basket to nibble on the way. I kept the music at a soft level and smiled when I looked over to see a long piece of grass being nibbled at the root and hanging out of the side of his mouth as we wheeled away. The cloudy light struck just enough in his eye to reveal their chocolate nature as they peered up at me.

Since taking him into my room in attempts to sustain and encourage his life to thrive we have formed a remarkable bond. He gets cozy on my chest and folds his legs underneath him, rests his chin upon my clavicle, and falls asleep making the slightest of breathy sounds. I have retired the notion that death is an option and have continued to love him deeply and nourish him whenever he cries in the night and day. I have been very pleased with his gradual improvements and caring for him is a practice in patience. I have never expected him to bounce up like a completely healthy lamb because that was not the start he was handed in life. He was handed a different set of obstacles from the beginning and so if I expected anything it was slow progress. I have been so happy to see him make improvements while continuing to research lambs, conditions they may be susceptible to, and illnesses that follow suit to the symptoms Sunny appears to hold. There were many markers of health which indicated positive growth; he had continued to gain weight, his eating had been more vigorous and steady on the bottle, and his lethargy improved bit by bit but in the most incremental of ways. The latter of which has been the prime point of my concern.

It worried me to see him gaining weight but remaining relatively still for most of the day. His joints appeared stiff and difficult to move. I began to wonder if he suffered from joint ill, polyarthritis, or a bacterial arthritis which would explain why he would get up, take a few steps, and lie back down. I have learned that some lambs suffer this condition, continue to gain weight, their joints become so stiff that it is painful and they remain lame while only getting larger. Sheep as such end up needing to be put down due to their illness. If caught early, however, a simple antibiotic treatment would prevent all of that. I felt the joints in the front of his legs which seemed to be slightly swollen and I wondered if he was in pain.

The veterinarian, students, and vet techs were all fantastic and knowledgeable. Upon entering the clinic everyone fell in love with Sunny immediately and fawned over him as they donned their baby animal cooing voices. I loved to show him to everyone as he shined so brightly and made everyone flourish with happiness. They would say, “Look at that little sprout of white hair! Little Sunny! Are you the sunshine?? You sure are!” and I would say, “I call him my little Sunshine Sprout!” and kiss him on the head. There was not one person that we passed who did not fawn over him and give him their special voice.

I brought a bottle and jar of extra milk for our road trip and brought it into the clinic with me as well in case the doctor wanted to see how he nurses. After bending his joints, feeling around, assessing his walk, watching him lie down after a tiring small walk, taking his vitals, and watching him nurse, an assessment was made. The doctor did not assess that Sunny suffered from joint ill, specifically because of the way he would lie down when tired as he would lay with pressure on the joints- whereas a lamb with polyarthritis or joint ill may lay to the side or completely abandon use of a limb. He did agree that Sunny’s joints did feel swollen, his gait was entirely stiff and guarded, and appeared to have more hampered movements of his front right leg. So, we ran some blood work to see what his vitamin levels are and how much colostrum he received from mom shortly after birth (I am still amazed that this can be assessed by blood work!), and to check for any other potential infections that may be occurring to cause his symptoms and developmental delays.

Sunny was given an anti-inflammatory for his joints and potential pain in the meantime while we wait for blood results. The veterinarian said that if he had inflammation and pain that was preventing him from walking, and contributing to his lethargy, that the medication would show immediate results within a day. I felt it imperative to write now to say that today has been Sunny’s first most healthy day which was filled with such remarkable vitality! Although he sleeps in a playpen in my room, I take him outside during the day to get fresh air and to give him the opportunity to be among his natural elements and walk around. Typically he will just lie in the grass, get up to take a few steps, plop back down, nibble around, and will not leave the area from where he was originally placed. It is as though you sat a turtle down, came back to check to see how far it had surfed 20 minutes later, only to find it moved a few feet. Today he followed me around the barn as I did chores! He would still stop to rest in little nooks as needed but he would get up and move around on his own and he would sometimes follow in a tiny gallop!

Just this weekend I said to a friend, “I hope to see the day where Sunny skips like a lamb in the pasture.” He said, “You will. Your love is keeping him alive!” That made my heart soar and buoyant with more hope as we fed him. Today was the day of Sunny’s great skip. He had a delightful little trot with momentum and gained speed. He rose energetically to follow me multiple times, wiggling his tail as he followed suit, and even braved the slippery tile of the living room to follow me entirely into the kitchen! I laughed because it delighted and surprised me to see him speeding behind me to catch up, moving with abandon of such lethargy I had been used to seeing in his movements. Simply nursing from the bottle used to tucker him out so much that he would lie flat on my thighs after suckling and immediately fall asleep. When the doctor mentioned immediate results should be seen if inflammation and pain was his issue, I thought to myself, “In Sunny-Time that means it will be at least 3-4 days to see any differences,” but after two doses of medication he is quickly becoming a spritely young fellow.

Today, Sunny turned an entirely new leaf. It warms my heart immensely to see him easing out of pain and growing into himself as a healthy lamb. The doctor said, “It seems to me that the persistent nursing and love has treated Sunny quite well, Mom,” which all felt so good to hear. I have cherished my moments with him in the rocking chair feeling in my heart that it was a special time for us, knowing that he would not always be so tiny, and knowing that in time he would be so big that he could no longer knee up on my chest, nor would he cry for me in the night to feed. He is sprouting before my very eyes and I savor exactly where we are, not wanting to miss a beat in his development. Sunny’s flowering hour is upon us. 

Love wins. It always does. Sometimes, it even gives us new legs and new leaves.  

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How The Body Tells A Story

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I woke up this morning bleeding at dawn as the sun crawled to the rooster’s crow. As my eyes roused, I realized I began menstruating in my slumber and so I went in search of underwear and absorbent supplies. “A good sign of fertility,” I thought, as I touched my tummy and thanked my body. Once the baby lamb saw my feet teeter from the bed to the floor, however, he began his moan of hunger which took over any primary response I initially had to take care of myself as I rose to the day. In the night when I scoop him up to feed him, I throw a towel over my shoulder which runs lengthwise down my body, sloping inches off of my shoulder, so that I can swaddle him snuggly making sure to secure his bottom in the towel in case he starts going to the bathroom as he nurses. I figure it might save me a few night gown changes in the twilight of a long evening. Before I could find any underwear I scooped him up the same way in a towel and got an extra one for myself, placing it under me in case I bled more as he nursed. He laid on my lap and took the nipple all on his own, suckling with vigor, and I told him what a good job he was doing, each day, getting better and better, “My little big boy.”  I told him that mommy needed a towel this morning, too. He sniffled in response flaring his top lip and rubbing his head under my chin. I kissed him over and over on his forehead rocking him as he sniff-sniffed. I liked us there as an animal pile in raw forms. I could feel his heart beating on my thighs as he snuggled his head below the weight of my breast.

We’ve not known all week whether or not he would make it, leaving me with no other option than dedicated hope and faith in nature, love, body warmth, loving words, and especially those of belief. He has not sprung to life hopping about like the other new lambs in the pasture and he has days of living ahead of them, but I remind myself to be patient. His first days were not easy. In fact, I would say it’s amazing that he is still alive at this point, and so his slow progress is rather victorious. His mother, Godiva, has had problems nursing her lambs in the past. This time around the story is similar and her kids were not getting the nutrients they needed. Over the weekend one of them died. Godiva and her surviving lamb were put into their own pen in the barn, but she still was not taking great care of her baby and he just lay in the straw in a little ball. She made it very difficult for me to bottle feed him in her presence as she lunged at me with her forehead after backing up to stamp and gain momentum. The little guy was then moved to a pen with the baby goats that formerly lived in my room. There, he balled up under the heat lamp looking only to sleep as the other goats were curious of his scent attempting to figure him out.  Then, that afternoon he came to the nursery of my room so that I could feed him more frequently and try to nurse him to better health.

He is black with dense curls and loosened tendrils of white atop his crown which circles his left ear. The span of his face and bridge of his nose is much wider than that of a goat. His eyes are sweetly chocolate in the sunlight and his eyelashes are distinguished by their long drape against all other hairs which swirl. Little nubs of horns emerge among the curls. When I first brought him inside to nurse I would gently pry open his mouth with my fingers and insert the nipple which would rubber around and milk would spill out the corners of his mouth. Our first night together I stopped counting how many times I got up to feed him; his belly was so small and unaccustomed to taking larger quantities of milk that he could only take half an ounce at a time and I was impressed when he would take 1-1.5 ounces. That was the night of the full lunar eclipse, the Blood Moon. I wrapped him up in the towel and we would gander at the different stages and hues of murky crimson, contemplating the complexities and beauties of the universe in half sleep. Another milky awakening would disclose the moon’s dance arching the trace of a former star’s path and reveal a swollen umber russet. A moon moan later he would drink under a rosy illuminating surface. By 5 AM the sky began to clear to cerulean and the moon shined an effervescent white light which illuminated the spring snow anchored to the budding trees and glinting reflections down below on the pond. I laid him back down in his crib and was able to sleep for an hour and fifteen minutes before his next feeding and my departure to prepare bottles for the rest of the babies and spending time outside to care for the rest of the animal friends in need of food and water. The moment I was done with everyone else, I warmed his bottle, and brought him right back to the rocking chair for another suckle of sweet milk.

Each time I would feed him I felt pangs in my heart. His heart beat and blood warmed his body but his demeanor indicated the opposite of health. I felt my heart and mind riding the cusp of motherly love and self-protection. The desire to give to him fully was rampant but my worry for him rode my brain all the same, and as I held him I was realistic in accepting that his then warm body may not make it, and that maybe one of his night cries wouldn’t indicate a desire for food, but would instead expel a parting breath. The morning after the bleeding moon I took him to my chest in the rocking chair and fed him, picking the mucous from his eyes, and I sang to him, “This little lamb of mine, I’m going to see you shine…This little lamb of mine, I’m going to see you shine…See you shine, See you shine, See you Shine…” Warm tears welled in my eyes and I knew it was the moment that I was committed to the full belief in his life and that I would fully love him for whatever moments he would be here to let me try and help him out of the rocky start his life was grown with. People always think there is a great division between humans and animals and that the same things that comfort humans cannot be felt by animals, but I don’t believe that either. The warmth of an animal is the warmth of an animal, and the tune of one cry can still be felt by the animal with another cry. I remembered how warm my eyes felt when my mother sang to me as a child and I only hoped that inside his tiny body he felt comforted.

Godiva was not doing a great job of cleaning off the little lamb either, and so he smelled like a mixture of a newborn baby and clots of feces. I got a glass of water, towels, and wash cloths, and I laid him upon my desk up against my chest as I began to soak the soiled matting of his curls. I worked through chunks bit by bit, warming the crusted pieces with dabbles of water, waiting for the chunks to soften and then picking them out with my fingernails. I worked through his body this way and then towel dried his curls to make sure no lingering moisture would leave his body chilled. I never knew I could become so acquainted with a lamb’s butt, but there I was, sponging and picking at the little guy in an attempt to make him more comfortable. He has since peed on me twice and pooped in my lap countless times which I immediately take care of and dispose of. I accept all of his fluids, all of his smells, all of his baby lambness, and his little details swell my heart with their endearing nature.

Within a week prior I was driving around gazing at neighboring farms, daydreaming, and I came across a farm with white lambs grazing in the pasture. “I wish we had lambs,” I thought, mostly because I have never been graced by a lamb in my life – only adult sheep here on the farm. Within that same week we were surprised by the sudden and unexpected sprouting of lambs in our own pasture which indicated that one, or many, rams were not castrated properly. There have been many additional lambs born ever since. I see them out there bouncing around forming friendships with other newborn lambs, or skipping at their mother’s side over tree roots, coasting down a hill, and I know how young they are. They are younger than this little boy in my room. Their spritely enthusiasm makes me realize how much tender care this little guy needs, and gives me hope for the day I will first see him skip, should I be graced with that day. For now, we just take things not even day by day, but piece of day by piece of day, by peace of day.

Yesterday, I scooped him up into a towel and a favorite woven blanket. I put his bottle in my big sweater pocket and a vile of lavender essential oil in the other. We lumbered down the stairs and out among the big hickory trees in the soft sunned grasses and lied down. His ebony curls absorbed the sun rays and he bobbled his head around and gummed at the grass and a dead leaf. I massaged him and we talked. I dabbled small bits of lavender oil into curls that could not be reached by his mouth, and as the oil dispersed into the air it was soothing. I lay on the woven blanket and I was glad that he opted for the natural element bed of grass, seeds, twigs, and the fallen half-life of the previous autumn’s leaves. We both took in the healing sun rays, the whistling birds, and the distant gobbling of turkeys. He and I stayed outside until it was again time for me to load up the other bottles with milk and visit the baby goats to nourish their bodies.

This morning as I laid him back in his crib and changed my clothes to begin the daily cycle of bottles and hay runs I paused at myself in the mirror and in mind. I have spent two lunar cycles here on the farm, and my body has followed suit with its own cycles of life. Above my underwear and crescenting above my hip are tracks of bruises which are all from tiny goat hooves anchoring into my body for stability as they nurse. Within these lunar cycles, they have grown and been nourished, cherished, and loved – the very imprint lies beside my belly. My thighs are peppered all the same with dark circles and knots from adult goats perching upon my muscles as they jump up to curiously taste my hair; others are from falls on uneven ground, marks where I have tripped over maple roots; some are from opening gates with my knees while my arms are full of hay; others have origins that are entirely unknown. There are calluses on the underbelly of my knuckles where the weight of water buckets hang heavy with friction. Standing there with red braids folding down my shoulders, amidst my second lunar cycle, listening to the lamb knee down into cozy post feeding comfort, seeing myself flecked with bruises, I was able to see a woman from the outside, mid-story, flower sprouting, some clearly maternal version. There stood a body that answered a call, and in turn, has gotten a world of meditations, teachings, comforts, insights, and an avenue to express unconditional love which boils from within. My work with animals and people is for life, and there is no way I would rather live, than at home in the world with hoof bruises as a mark of another creature’s nourishment. It is a cycle of giving so fair that I feel for the rest of my days I will spend nurturing such relationships – for the joy of the creatures, the joy of myself, and introducing that joy to as many others as possible. Animal stewardship consistently expands my heart and funds soulful contentedness. You pay duty to another creature to assist them through their point of path but what you receive in return of this relationship is multifold and “duty” becomes the wrong word entirely. Ah. The lamb is in my heart.

Animals heal us in myriad of ways and touch us across many spectrums. It is a truth I feel significantly and so I have spent many of my adult years learning how to bring more animals and nature into my own life and into the lives of those I love. The relationships and teachings of each are so rich that you do not find yourself begrudging lack of sleep when you find yourself nursing every 45 minutes to an hour, and it is how you find yourself picking poop out of lamb’s butt as it cries, and it’s how you laugh when it pees all over you.  Today my heart swells with what is known: that I am already a mother of many, and I am strong enough, and independent enough, to bare the bruises and glory of a homestead. This is my mother body. This is my life’s work. And each day the sun rises is another opportunity for me to dig my roots deeper and carve out the homestead of my future while I work at the one I am at now, in service to the animals and land, here at Antiquity Oaks. Beautiful dreams and plans coalesced this week in my heart and mind and I felt that glorious CLICK which comes along with my desire to jump into my next big plan of life adventure. Last night as the little lamb fell asleep yet again, sweetly tucked under my chin after exploring my face, my heart felt as warm as my eyes did to my own mother’s song as I rocked him gently into slumber.

I felt how glorious it is when you sway in a gentle moment of All Things Coming Together, just like the little constellation of hooves as a reminder on my side.

 

Death on the Pasture

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There were two ladies at the homesteading conference on the way to the potato line with me who said, “Are goats always dying? She was talking about goats always dying so I don’t really know if raising goats is right for us.” In my mind my first thought was, “Well, that’s just part of it all…you have a homestead, you’ll have a lot of death.” My first week on the farm led me to a dying chicken who was egg bound with liquid seeping from her mouth, her breast still warm, her breathing slow. Her cause of death was revealed with a bloody egg which could not pass; her attempt at life was the end of hers. There was a dead baby goat that fell pale against a wall; we had only hypotheses as to how he could have died. His body was still warm but his baby body hung limp.

I was buzzing with life and inspiration during and after the conference. I came home prideful to do all of the animal chores, letting the family know they could go celebrate and eat together while I held down the fort solo. The sun was setting low and reflected the emotion vibrating within me, the clarity of being and the clarity of my direction forward. Questions were answered. Knowledge was stirred and passion discovered. Soul enlivened. Perspective gathered. Gratitude peaking. I was feeling at home in my animal body’s place in this world – feeling quite calm surrounding what Is. I was open hearted and minded, at peace in the pale yellow grasses as the stars began to curtain down the night.

I delighted in the view of the sun lowering behind the walnut trees. I gave extra flanks of hay to all of the goats as I would rather their bellies be overflowing than baring scarcity in the moonlight, crawling with hunger. We all made eyes at each other, my love widespread and direct, sharing my gratitude and appreciation for their very selves. I chunked in a flake of alfalfa in a feeder that is between the sheep and the goats. The sheep always love to gather at this feeder because they enjoy stealing bits of alfalfa which is missing from the simple grass they receive in their troph within their section of the pasture. I got one flake in and below the feeder was a dead sheep. Her horizontal eye was pale with a grey gelatinous coating. I palmed her belly to see how stiff it was. Ungloving my hand I felt the coolness of touch on the fat of her belly. I moved my hand to her heart and found warmth near her chest and shoulder. It had not been too long; the movements of her bending knees and limp neck also indicated a narrow amount of time since last breath. I tried to pick her up and fluid dripped from her mouth and the dead weight of her body proved too heavy to cradle in my arms and haul her to the barn.

I went into the barn to find an old sheet that I had used to help our ailing llama, Katy, to stand up. I dead lift her every day from her back end and hoist her back into standing position. Once Katy falls she cannot use her back legs to get up. She is paralyzed of sorts. On a bad day I lift her 6 times before the end of chores in the morning. When she falls it is like seeing a giraffe take a spill, or watching a foal walk for the first time, a baby deer, a baby cow. The difference is that watching Katy stumble strikes a grim feeling in the heart because her wobbling is not due to new tender steps. Her difficulties are born of an illness due to meningeal worm that she has not been able to heal from. I know she will die. And soon. But, I lift her and I hold her until she can get a steady stand, her back leg trembles against my palm, and I tell her I love her. I dig my hands under her bottom in a pile of pebbles and urine soaked straw and dig my heels deep and lift with my back and my core trying to make her vertical again. When I absolutely cannot lift her, I tell her that I am sorry. I am sorry. I place hay in front of her because she cannot make it to her feeder, despite how much she swivels that long neck or tries to scoot with her front legs. I think if all I can do that time around is to give her a snack to keep her content, then I have done my job, and I have loved deeply. Tonight her shadow on the wall looked like a child’s shadow puppet up against the plywood; the one where you rest your middle and ring finger on your thumb, while raising your pinky and your pointer. Cobwebs draped where her lashes might hang. The shadow looks like Katy the llama. When I help to bury her, I will rest knowing I at least loved her in the ways I could. I have honored her in her days.

I took her sheet which was already doused in the grit of care. I took the white cloth back to the field and lifted the sheep onto the sheet and proceeded to tell her I was sorry, too, and that I hope she slept well. I soothed her forehead and tried to relax her lid down over her gummy eye. The lid would catch but would only rise again. I folded her head down in a way a sheep might sleep, relaxed on its own.

Later in the pasture I thought to myself how much my initial impulse of thought in conversation with the ladies at the homesteading conference indicated a piece of healing surrounding the issue of death which has been looming in my brain and life experience repetitiously over the past year, aching deep within me, a fear. Part of my reasoning to farm and homestead is to lean into that fear instead of turning an eye – to more deeply immerse myself in the cycle of nature. I came not just for the beauty but the realities which are less soft in our world as well. I teetered my rubber boots through mud clumped paths and rolls of mole mounds, like caterpillars thigh wide cusping out of the earth.

My heel rolled into the softness and I thought of the peace I felt about death, thinking of the sheep’s eyeball and how I could not get the lid to shut. I looked out among the chilled sunset behind naked rows of a walnut grove and thought of the eyeball dancing above the trees, spirit of the sheep. We have to accept this body which fades but we can always love the essence that is a soul when we know it and honor it; how our minds and hearts can enliven that, how we never have to let anything become completely dead, though we must simply learn to let go. Over, and over, and over again. We will get better with it in time; it will destroy us some of the time; we will feel it more difficult sometimes than others; we will repeat patterns and let lessons fester until we truly learn from them; we won’t always get a chance to fully heal from things, or understand them, but yet we still have to let go.

A beautiful component of death is that our physical selves, our meat and our bones, are recycled back into the earth as we pass. I honored her spirit in the field while also accepting that I took her into the barn office because she is going to become nourishment for our sweet guardian livestock dog, Lucy. The spirit of the sheep has passed and its eyeball was roving elsewhere, but her meat will become part of another creature and sustain her life, too. Lucy honored the sheep already; when others gathered nearly tromping over the sheep to get to the alfalfa, she roared and told them to all get away. She knew what I was doing, it seemed. Lucy knew it was a moment of honor, and she chased away those who were not echoing the sentiment. Last weekend Lucy hovered over a newborn baby goat that was rejected from its mother, and she hunkered down over the kid in protection and care. Birth occurred just on the other side of the sheep fence, not even a full week ago – she was harboring life. And tonight, as the sun faded and the stars crawled, she alerted and honored death. It will cycle through her and give her longevity. Until she is physically gone, too.

I wrapped up the sheep and tied it so that I could pull her through the field and to the barn. I sailed her through the muddy patches. We coasted on bumps. We dragged on through the mole mounds and caught on the linoleum when we finally arrived to the office. I opened the sheet again to try once more to close her eyelid, unsuccessfully, and so now she sleeps peering. My high feelings fell somber, but with acceptance. It is part of it all.

I had to continue on. Many other living mouths were hungry and many more eyes were enlivened and in need. I treated the pigs to some whey byproduct of making mozzarella. They squealed and ran around the mud castles with white whey beards and snouts. Corn and oats peppered their noses as they chortled through the field; all was right in their world. In this way, you continue to care. It is important to keep caring, to not let your care die. You accept you cannot care for that particular eye any longer, but you turn to all of those that you can, and you do, and you let it fill you with joy and you let yourself feel the vastness of different types of joy. Even in the face of death, you find the smiling pig.

I struggle at times because my heart is so open and I pour it out to those who cannot accept it, do not want it, and my impulse is to withdraw my care as though my emotions have been spilled into a gelatinous eyeball. These days are teaching me to wrap that heart up with the same honor, let go, and let that love cycle into a new heart home for another who is robustly waiting to receive and reciprocate. When I speak my heart, living and loving with intention, it is the way I honor a life which neglects regret. Despite the pain of love fallen pale, or finding a cold body in the pasture, I would always rather honor my truth my giving my full self than to fall silent, unmoving, apathetic. It is within me to quilt what has fallen and thread anew in the life cycles which prove themselves throughout every grain and body of nature.

I came in to nurse my babies, scooping up their little bellies which have grown over the week. Their contentedness and health is a source of my pride. Little Maya makes a gentle snorting breathy sound as she nurses, as though she will never tire from suckling and each pull of the teat is as good as the last. Her doe eyelids flutter downward, contented with the warm milk, and I kiss her behind her eye and before her ear as she eats. I pick up Louie and watch him reach hungrily for the teat, his mouth agape and gumming like a turtle reaching for cantaloupe. He sucks vigorously and I kiss him all the same. A tail wiggles between my breast and armpit, another flicker in thanks of nourishment. It is part of it all. Their towels went in the wash and I replaced their soiled crib towels with fresh warm ones to nest in for sleep before they would wake me in the night for another nip at the warm milk.

As I put them down for the night they each took one more suckle at my chin. Despite the death before me in the night pasture I felt my swelling love recycle anew for the little babies at my breast, feeling at peace that there is a place for me here and now to pour from me that of which flows as generously as the sap from our neighboring maples.

Cicada’s Birth: A Freckled Smile and Honey Doe

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The first week of spring granted us diverse weather ranging from glinting morning snowflakes falling briefly in the pasture’s morning sun to days warm enough to melt the ice cap of the back pond. The temperatures were perfect to encourage the sweet sugar water of sap to flow generously from the maple trees and we hounded across the creek with our collection buckets in tow, clinking with our stride. Tender baby greens unearthed themselves in the fields with sheep quick to their nipping. Oak buds began to unfurl themselves on the tips of branches, like opening age-old roses. Worms reveled in the moist, unfrozen soil from underfoot. The geese were found necking and whirring their feathers in impressive displays upon the newly melted pond waters, and when the dogs ran free together watching in the distance they could not help but to jump in and join in the celebration of the seasons turning and new life occurring. Glimpses of spring that all had been awaiting hung in the air, lingered in the fields, and enlivened the grey gold fields. It was only a matter of moments before we would be inviting Cicada’s new baby goats to the farm along with the arrival of spring.

There is a song among the pasture when all of the animals know our arms are full of nourishment that is meant for their mouths. It is the chatty hour of the evening that is reminiscent of dawn when the gentle beasts similarly speak out knowing our heads have risen from our pillows for the sole purpose of tending to their bellies. They belted demands for fresh alfalfa and nipped my shirt as I made way to their feeders while some stole sprigs as I walked.

A chill was in the air as dark clouds rolled through the lands sipping up the last moments of sunlight quite quickly. I hustled the hay and water to animals in an attempt to quell their needy song while we were still afforded light. As I noted the turn in atmosphere an earnest roaring bleat rang across the field, perking my ear back towards the barn. It was a serious cry out of typical, known harmony of the hour. “It must be Cicada’s time,” I thought to myself. My arms were full of hay for the bucks across the pasture and I debated whether I ought drop the food at my feet and flee to the barn or if I had time to deliver dinner to the bucks. I rushed to the bucks and bolted back to the barn against the wind and met Cicada in her birth pen where she was found bleating in between vigorous laps of water that had released from her body with her great warning cry.

She wanted each taste which dripped upon the straw. Cicada would alternate lapping the moisture and nesting in nuzzled golden straw. Between the tastes and the lay came a definitive time to remain lowered though there was nothing leisurely about her labor. She bleated amply and forcefully, her belly contracting as she belted. Cicada pressed her knuckled knees and embedded her bottom hoof into the straw, digging for strength as she moaned. Her tongue flapped to the right outside of her mouth where it hung with wild eyes. I praised her strength while palming her cheek for comfort in short smooth strokes. She suckled my thumb and sought residual juices from my fingers and I only hoped it brought her comfort as my heart reached her face through touch and tone.

The force of her hoof was a digging pull from her core which unfurled two creations from womb warmth to world warmth. The breath of spring she harbored was emitted from the flaring nostrils peeking from her very living body. It was an oak bud opening; the baby was a mirror of the world in transition as it journeyed slowly, catching with its girth, from her body. Cicada’s disposition was a force unto itself, filled with a burning yearning of direct intention to fulfill the task of giving life. Her body had been long at work for days cultivating the miracles which lied within. Each bleat of ardent intensity was an echo of life, of transition, of moments spiraling anew, while readied life stirred still deep in her belly. Cicada’s brow furrowed with tired strength but sustained vigor to follow through on her lively duty.

Days leading up to her moments of life pushing I would feel for tender or stone ligaments just before the outward flicker of her tail. My fingers would search for indications of how many days may be left before her great pressing. My hands would rest on the soft side divot curves of her belly. With kids womb roving under my palms my hands wondered, “How many hearts beat below my tips?”

With her warm breath bleating a fog forward into the hand upon her cheek my tips knew this was the time those curious moments would reveal themselves with each generous push, with each dig of the hoof into straw. I submitted happily to each fluid, to the shared company of her earthy bed of straw, and felt the joy which came along with witnessing her birth and seeing her through in a time of need. I was aware that her strong animal body would likely not need me at all but I was soulfully happy to provide any assistance at all from kindness in tone or a thumb to suck.

After she labored gratuitously the first baby remained sustained in space. Soft hooves were pointed and ready, showing. Nesting atop the pale white hooves was the baby’s nose of nostrils gently flaring with its tongue pressed outside of the mouth much like his mother’s as she pushed heartily. The cusp of his eyes were still hidden and shelled from within her. It was determined that the child within was of great size and her laboring efforts may benefit from assistance for the amount of time she had been wearily pushing. We positioned her birthing body forward towards us in the bed of straw for ease of access to help pull the kid. Her generous mucous allowed for fingers to slip near the pointed nose and hooves to pull alongside her push to fully release the kid from the great womb to the great world.

What had just been peeking was now fully unearthed from her body and before us was this beautiful slippery buck enveloped in a coat created from within his mother. We wiped the buck’s nose to invite full breath and Cicada began to lick in as dedicated a fashion as she previously lapped her straw bed. She murmured a bleat just for him and he made incantations back towards her, and so flowed the beginning of their pastured song. He came into the world speckled with dark spots and one prime black freckle on the tip of his nose. A dark line followed the curvature of his lip traveling upward in reach of his cheek and so he was born with an embedded smile which we amorously reflected back towards him as we welcomed him and held him to our hearts while drying the newborn buck.

There was still life rousing and rumbling within Cicada which caused her to pause in her pursuit of fully cleansing her first born with her tongue. She fell again to her pleasant nest and with fervid force hoofed heartily into the straw. Unlike the clear, thin membrane encapsulating her first born, her second baby began to show in a thick, veined sac. My fingers caught hold of the pointed hooves and nose and pulled again alongside her vehement presses to release the life within. The baby slipped out into my hands completely enveloped in a reddened marble of fluid and membrane. I pierced the amniotic marbled sac with my fingernails to quickly wipe the nose of the baby, inviting a great breath of life. She breathed and sneezed while Cicada hummed a unique tune to her new little girl as she licked her new baby with pride. Cicada’s bleats became gentle and subsided towards a more soothing and contented tone. Our cooing was a welcoming tune among the oaks which carried lovingly into the spring air and fell before the new little family ambling about in the soft bed of straw.

Cicada’s little doe was not speckled like her brother. Instead, she came to us as a smooth pale honey with a dorsal stripe like a fine braid of darkened autumnal straw which followed down her tail. Her blue eyes rang bright against her golden grey body which held the tone of the half-life winter-spring fields. Her nose sloped gently downward with her face, too, clad with a simple smirk. Her ears hung slightly downward and velveteen in need of more colostrum and lively moments before rising to flower their full perk upward.

With Cicada’s placenta beginning to pass so did the hubbub of the new birthing mother. Some went into the house to finish dinner, others carried on with chores or settled into their evening routines, and I just remained in her fair straw bed of life lingering in the moments that just passed and enthralled in the moments that continued to be. My hands were removed from the kids and I was pleased to simply sit quietly among her and witness her life as a mother.

Cicada’s spotted and honey babies only needed to be introduced to her teats a few times before hunkering down on their front knees to nip at a taste of their mother’s life building, nutrient dense colostrum. I sat near them with eyes invigorated and warm from the grace of life which surrounded me. I reflected on the two hooves that first had shown themselves, the tiny tongue limp, the flaring nostrils, the baby born in marbled fluid, and the soaking wet fur that would soon show itself as soft and distances away from grown coarseness which comes with age.

I recalled Cicada’s warning cry that our horizon of life was soon to change with the addition of two more lively spirited creatures. With the skies completely darkened I could hear the pasture of animals had changed their song which came with satiated appetites as the evening closed in – the silence of a gratified field. Cicada chirped to her newborns and as they ambled about necking one another in celebration outside of the womb they echoed back to her. I whispered my own welcoming chimes and then fell silent as I watched, completely enamored with the joys which come with living, and witnessing the miracle of life, my first birth, occur before me.