Spinning, Knitting, Crocheting, Organic Gardening, Living off-grid, and chasing sheep - because- I'm, like, NOT SANE!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

My heart is on the ground....

lamb 004I can't remember where I heard this - if it was a song, a story, or a person speaking but I do know that it has resonated with me too many times in my life. I avoid sorrow, I mean, who doesn't - but sometimes how we avoid something determines how it occurs. I fight sorrow to the bitter end, probably because I know that if (when) I succumb, it seems like a long way up that hill again...like looking ahead and seeing those times when you feel hollow inside but still keep trying to pretend all is well. So, for me as I am sure it is so for many, when I'm feeling sorrow, I can so identify with that feeling of being so entirely sad that you sort of feel like all your parts are outside of you, scattered around like junk in the yard.

Something terrible happened here yesterday. And while it is awful it is even more awful because I can't fully explain it which means I can't fully understand it which leaves most of it to my vivid imagination which means I can't eat or sleep and I feel this sickening feeling pretty much most of the time....which means the house is very quiet. Yesterday, we were having lots of rain on and off. We went ahead and let the sheep out to graze because they actually like the rain and it is well warm enough this time of year that they can handle getting wet. What they don't deal with well are 1) torrential downpours - especially the cotswolds who seem to get very turned around and distraught in pouring rain and 2)thunder - all sheep are afraid of thunder - it is a known fact on our farm that our german shepherd (Gypsy) detests the sheep for their flighty, fearful nature. German shepherds, if you don't know, are all about dignity. They despise animals who are weaker than themselves and german shepherds can handle just about anything. In fact, the only thing they are more afraid of than sheep is thunder - which will make them wail and cry like big ole babies. It will make sheep frantic - so they run without listening to their senses - which, for a sheep, is a very bad thing. Turns out, they are so flighty and fearful for good reason - it is their flight instinct that has helped this harmless herbivore evolve in spite of the many predators who seek it.

Around the late afternoon the radar indicated a good downpour and, it being almost time for them to come in anyway, we called the sheep in from out of the deeper pasture. A call, by the way, consists of either myself in a high, soft tone calling, "Sheepies, sheepies" and shaking a grain can or hubster calling them 'hey' and shaking a grain can. Notice that the grain can is the constant. Even with lush, green grass to tempt them, the sheep with come running at the sound of sweet, crunchy grain. They all did come running, except for 7 and her ewe lamb, "tink". Ya'll remember Tink and her terrible misadventure, doncha? I was working on the hooves orders inside and hubster came it to tell me that he was waiting on '7' and 'tink'. I looked at him in a way that must have conveyed what was happening to me - this feeling that just settled in and made me feel instantly queasy. He thought I was being dramatic and in theory I was. I mean, we all know that '7' is a straggler. Not a loaner by any means - she loves her herd. It's just that, well, she's slower. It takes her a little longer to come in often.

Still, I was worried and there was that troublesome 'feeling' so we set to looking for them. You can do alot of thinking whilst walking around in the rain shaking a grain can and looking for tracks. First, you might think of the dooming negatives like how you'll find these ewes if there is no scent for a dog to pick up (rain) no tracks to follow (again, rain) and no answering 'baaaa' to your calls (in this case the rain tricks you and your senses are so acutely hearing, feeling, over thinking everything that you're just sure you heard something over that way, no, over that way.....you are maybe in denial. You have chosen to focus solely on the tracks and scents and are fully ignoring that if they were hurt, and you were near, they would call for you. If they were lost and 2-4 people at a time were looking for them, plus many grain cans shaking for them, they would call out, "wait a danged minute, don't eat the grain, we're on our way!" think, think, shake can, shake can, walking in the rain At a certain point, you weaken and the denial shifts and you begin to let in the sorrow - you might wonder why the f*&% you even do this anymore. You might think it is all your fault. You might hate yourself for failing to protect everything you love. Mostly, you wonder if they'll still come home.

Later, when dark is coming on, and the reality that hubster will cover more ground faster and that you don't see so well at night lands you in the kitchen trying to be useful and make dinner and wash those lunch dishes so there's something to eat dinner on, you think more about that 'why am I doing this?' part. You might cry into your dishwater when you hear your answer. You do it because you love it. You love it because you love them and you believe in the magic of (wo)man caring for critter who grows magical hair that makes things more beautiful, more bearable, and more comfortable in this great, scary world. You do it because if you stop doing it, and everyone else stops doing it, there will be no more magic strings, soft wiggling noses pressed in your hand, no rhythm, no cycle. But, because you love - you are bound for sorrow some of the time and you can fight it all you want but it is coming. Churn, churn, bite lip, pace, shake can, try not to think....

The shreds of hope were falling hard by midnight when the alternate cycle of one of us driving around the back roads, stopping here and there to shut the engine off, roll down the window, and listen oh so intently for a sound that said, "help me, I'm over hear" and stiffening our jaw at the total silence that answered. No moon, no night creatures peeping and crawling, just a hot, humid, wet and oober dark night. Churn, Churn, bite lip, cry a little, turn the key and head for home.

Things looked entirely bleak on the other side of sunrise this morning. Of course, the reality that stood before us was quickly pushed aside every time the phone rang or we thought we hear that 'bah' of '7s' that sounded like she was blowing raspberries after it - in which case I would pounce on the phone - hoping it was a neighbor or the billionty people we've alerted in town just in case they got turned around in the downpour and were still out there somewhere or the mistaken sound of a bah that would send us all scrambling into the woods again to search for SOMETHING - a track, a bit of wool stuck to a bush - something. Then the reality mocks you, again. There are houses and roads in one direction from our field. In the other, there are hundreds (around 5 I'm told) of acres of woodland that turns into swamps and is a known route for deer and coyotes. Churn, churn, how can you churn like this if you haven't eaten anything all day?

For six years, we have lived here and maintained a sort of peace with the wildlife that inhabit those woods. We've tried to use only the land we need, and respect some routes of theirs that are vital to their own survival. We've not ever really had any problems, save for one year when we lost two chickens to a weasel that had taken up residence in a wood pile and those dogs that came around a while back. They were home all day yesterday and the dogs are secured to their yard. But there's that feeling, that thick, slimy feeling I got upon hearing that she hadn't returned with the herd. It's a feeling of sorrow so heavy that I tend to want to run from it.

Once, when thing one was a babe, I had that feeling. For the first few years of her life, she had these terrible fevers and, sometimes, seizures. I had them as a babe as well and we would later learn that it is a hereditary sensitivity to the dpt vaccination. How we would learn it was particularly brutal. By the time she was 2, I had sat many a night with her and her fevers. We'd seen every specialist we could find and, basically, it was determined that the best we could do for her was to try to break the fever (which, ironically, Tylenol does not help). So, I was practiced in applying wet towels to her heat centers, feeding her cooling foods, trying not to go crazy with worry, and singing to her (it kept her calm and still which was prescribed to break fevers). But, one day, hubster woke me and told me that she was running a fever. He handed her to me and for no reason that I could describe, I had this awful, dark feeling. I sent him to the local pharmacy right away and called her doctor. They all thought I was nuts but I insisted that something was different. And it was. Just as hubster pulled up in the carport, as I was singing to her, her whole body stiffened and she made this horrible sound and stopped breathing. Her heart rate slowed to a stop. I am a certified lifeguard and even took a refresher infant CPR course in preparation for being a supermom yet I could not remember a damned thing. How to position the head, how to breathe, how many breaths, how many pumps - it was all wiped from my mind. I called 911 and as hubster walked in I handed him the baby and promptly lost my marbles. All the way to the hospital, I sat there watching them respirate my baby, grasping to hope when her heart would resume beating only to cease again in what seemed like cruel seconds. At the hospital, one of the EMT's brought me a coffee and asked it I was okay. I started sobbing and told her that I felt I had failed some sort of test of motherhood. That I had failed to be able to protect her or to help her when she was in the most desperate need. I said, in earshot of hubster, "I don't think I'm cut out for this mama thing". She understood it all. She giggled and told me how once when her son had taken a hit with the bat at baseball practice and was bleeding she had panicked and forgotten she was an EMT and knew how to help and instead sat there screaming for help.

Later, hubster would confess that he thought it a very inappropriate sentiment for me to express when our daughter was clinging to her life in the next room. It is a difference we have always had. Not a bad thing, just something I've always known. One meets adversity with tenacious courage and one with total humility. One works it out of his/her sytem and one just takes all she can and then goes totally numb. It doesn't make one better, but it does make being there for each other difficult in these situations. Of course, if I need someone to share in my excitement over a project, or a partner in the crazy games of living independently, or a hug when I'm down, I have it in him so I'm not complaining. I'm just saying that, during these hours of excruciating waiting, searching, and ignoring reality - I have skirted that dark sorrow because I couldn't help wondering if I'm cut out for this mama-farmer thing. I give freely of love and wish to live no other way, though I am clueless as to how to do that without taking a few arrows from time to time. Maybe it will pass. Maybe time will mend it (and, yes, there is still a tiny tim inside me that is chanting, 'maybe you'll find them and they'll be okay and all of this will seem a silly memory') but, for now,everything feels a little heavier, a little duller - my heart is on the ground....