Burying the Ewe

Marion was sick. No one knew what was wrong with her, but she was in pain and she had been in pain and she was not getting better.

It started when Avon had fed the sheep food that was too rich, and they got diarrhea, and then they got fly strike, when the flies lay their eggs in the wool moist from the diarrhea, and then the maggots burrow into the rectum. And some of the sheep had parasites, besides.

Marion had a prolapsed rectum, from the stress of it all Erika figured, but nobody knew what to do about it.

But a few days before a lamb had dropped its large intestine and they’d had to put it down, and suddenly yesterday Erika felt Marion was on the verge of the same thing. So she called Avon and Avon called Ted and Ted called his son Bill, and Bill said he’d come out and put the sheep down.

Erika interrupted her dinner and Jim’s dinner so that they could find Marion in the pasture and isolate her and get the horses and the other sheep away from her so that they wouldn’t be spooked by the gunshot. As though she could prevent the other animals from feeling Marion’s death. Like the horses, how Carita had called and called out to Cindi across the pasture when the bull was butchered.

As we were finishing dinner Bill walked onto the front porch. Bill had big eyes and tossled brown hair; he looked like my ex-husband, Tim, sweet and solid, if a little soiled.

The three of them walked down into the pasture and Vesper and I did dishes, and Gavin crutched himself into the living room to play the piano, slow and lovely notes that sounded nothing like an emaciated 25-year-old guy whose body is covered with tattoos and his leg in a cast from surgery on a severed tendon that happened when he broke the light fixture getting out of the bathtub in the tiny bathroom of his shared apartment in San Francisco.

I stood there drying dishes with a white cotton towel. The shot was faint but unmistakable. I caught my breath, my hand arrested in mid-wipe. Not a firecracker. Why do people say it sounds like a firecracker?

I didn’t know that I was listening for it until I heard it. A single shot, muffled by the close range of impact. a dividing line between what was and what is. A carved split second. Not even a loud one.

I stood frozen and in shock as though I didn’t know it was coming, as though I didn’t know who had just died. Could have been anyone. I knew the sound as though it were something I heard every day, the sharp distinction of it carried across the grass of the pasture, up the hill, through the trees, past the door and into the house to reach my ears. as clear as an ambulance siren cutting through the mix of traffic.

I have never heard anything like that sound. Clouded and muted by the wind and the earth and the distance and the sheep itself, the thick body muffling the crack, but I knew in my marrow what exactly that sound was.

Vesper said after a moment, “I’m surprised that Erika would want to watch that.” I looked at her. Vesper has total hearing loss in one ear and only 20 percent hearing in the other. “Did you hear that?” I said. She nodded.

I replayed the sound over and over, not believing how certain the knowledge of it was, holding my breath in hope that there would not have to be another shot. The drama of a small retort, packed, carrying so much weight.

All else of the day seemed trivial, mundane, bleary, a repeated worn record, before this. The entire day, my entire six months at the farm, condensed into that sound.

How does a soldier live with the memory of such sounds?

Slower now I kept drying the dishes. I fed Trevor, reducing his rations a bit because he’d eaten an entire loaf of bread fresh from the oven the day before and was still a bit sluggish. Erika came in. Her eyes were dry, her voice normal. “Lisa, could you help us bury Marion?”

I went upstairs, took off my itchy bra, put on another shirt and a jacket and some socks. went down and tied on my heavy farm boots. Sat on the porch and smoked half a cigarette before I went down into the pasture.

Passed the barn; Cindi and Carita looked at me, asking for reassurance, as I passed through the gate. Cindi even let me pat her nose, nuzzled me. I spoke to her in a soft low voice and loved her for the first time.

My feet were unsteady, as though my boots were the wrong size, as though the ground had been broken up by an alien ripple of fire and earthquake. The fields are so brown and dry right now. Heat cracking dirt and grass against July’s blue skies.

I could see Jim and Erika, at the wrong end of a telescope, standing there amid the oaks. A white lump in the wheelbarrow. Shovels, a pickaxe. The wind had picked up and the earth smelled like home.

I walked right up and touched Marion’s head. Her eyes were open, blank, her head sagging over the edge of the rusting wheelbarrow. A little blood ran from her mouth and her nostril. She was utterly still, but somehow I felt she was alive. Her energy hovered.

My hand on her head told me that she was not alive, for she was too still, rock still. But I was drawn to touch her head. I wanted to know death, touch it.

A sense of wonder – she was alive, walking around on this grass, just a few minutes ago, and now she is dead in a wheelbarrow. I don’t see death so immediately, so up-close, in ordinary life. I think of the crowd of people gathered around the canal in Beijing when someone drowned. Of Ernst, my favorite cat, when I buried him in Discovery Park. Those moments had so much pain and fear for me. Now I feel no fear, only acceptance.

We dug in silence. At first all three of us worked, but as it grew deeper we narrowed to two, then one at a time, not enough room to avoid colliding our shovels. The soil is rocky, hard, then layers of clay so dense they struck like rocks.

I wondered whether they had to pay Bill for the bullet, for his service, but didn’t know how to ask, it seemed so crass. Erika read my thoughts and said, “Bill told us, ‘It’s just a favor one farmer does for another.’ I was so touched by that.”

Me too. Just a favor one farmer does for another. An understanding that to kill an animal you have fed and treated and tried to save is hard, even for a farmer, even for those whose lives ride continually on the cycle of life and death.

Aren’t we all farmers. all struggling to scratch out nourishment from unforgiving soil, praying for rain, sweating in the sun, eating well when we’re strongest.

We dig and pick and dig. Hard going; we have to dig around a wedge of boulder whose edges are past our abilities. For a moment I resent the hard labor of this farm, the way I always do, think of how silly it is to take such care with a single animal. How labor-intensive is this way of caring, how insignificant in the big picture, bucking a tsunami.

Jim said, “At least this is for a sheep. The pioneers had to dig graves in this soil for family members.”

To dig a grave for someone you love, who did not choose his death, even an infant, like the gravestones we have found on the property. A mother. A spouse. How long it would take to dig a grave twice as long and wide and deep as this one for Marion. How many hours of toil. cathartic, I suppose, in a way, digging out your grief.

The four goats were grazing nearby, I noticed suddenly. pretending not to notice what we were doing, but surreptitiously watching.

Trevor starts tossing a tennis ball at us. Annoyed, I stop and throw it to him anyhow. It bounces across the hard, dry pasture.

“I didn’t know they spasmed like that,” Erika said. “In the movies when an animal or a person is shot, they just fall over and they’re still.”

“Yeah, they do, sweetie,” Jim said. “if you shoot an elk in the heart, he’ll keep running until he falls over. if you shoot him in the head, he’ll die there, but he keeps twitching for awhile.”

I think of Uncle Dick’s descriptions, of our discussions about the flow of anxiety that makes meat taste bad if an animal isn’t killed properly. We still don’t know how we’re going to kill the chickens.

“I suppose the nerve impulses are still coursing through the body even when the brain stops,” I said, feeling far too clinical, wanting to comfort Erika.

The blood from Marion’s nose had congealed, thickened into a lumpy red yarn. Jim said the grave was deep enough. Erika said she wanted to wait another 15 minutes. “What time is it?” she asked me.

“8:35.”

“Will you please let us know when 15 minutes have passed?”

I nodded. They walked up to the barn to bring in the goats.

I kept picking and digging, slower now. Not making any real progress, but not willing to stop quite yet.

Trevor tossed the ball at me and it landed in the grave. I threw it far away and he brought it right back and tossed it into the grave again. He paid no attention to the sheep. He’s a retriever; I guess he only notices what moves.

I studied the blanket of tiny roots in the soil waiting to drink of Marion’s body, thought about the worms and the countless bacteria, the million things that would decompose her and draw life from her. Shorn sheep skin still full of nutrients. The green plastic tag clipped to her ear is all that will be left someday, to be found by some future pioneer, sifting upward through the ground someday when Jim and Erika are dead.

I kept looking up and smelling the breeze, feeling the earth in its strangeness, feeling the foreignness of the place, still in culture shock.

Twelve hours ago I was in Seattle, in my living room, with my hands on a friend’s heart, doing Reiki. She has pain in her groin and abdomen; no one knows what’s wrong. Blood tests, ultrasound, show nothing. her mind and heart are thirsty for the flow of Reiki. I moved my hands to her torso and it drank deeply; I felt the pain under my fingers.

Jim and Erika came back without my notifying them. “It’s only been 12 minutes,” I noted wryly.

Jim said I could stop digging, that the grave was deep enough.

“She had a good life,” Jim said.

“She suffered for three months,” Erika said, shaking her head. “She was in a lot of pain.” I think of how Erika told me in the car, on the way in from the train station, how it was near the anniversary of her mother’s death, and how traumatic these two weeks had been for her as a result. But that she’d awakened yesterday no longer feeling guilty, for the first time in her life. Her mother made her feel she was born guilty, and finally her mother let her go. it had been a rough year for both of them.

Marion was only a year and a half old. Her sister had died a bad death as well, her head caught in the V of a tree trunk, she strangled slowly because no one saw her. I thought of the sheep we’d rescued from the fence back in May, and wondered if it was Marion.

Erika asked us to hold hands over Marion for a moment. We stood in a small circle around the wheelbarrow. I don’t have the smile on my face that I usually do when we hold hands at dinner, but I feel life’s force floating within the circle, as strongly as I have ever felt it, like qi gong or distance Reiki.

I don’t feel bad. I feel the death and I feel okay with it, facing it with my eyes closed.

Erika squeezes my hand, I squeeze Jim’s. We break the circle. I lay my right hand on the sheep’s stomach. It is still very warm, remarkably alive even in its stillness, shocking that it still contains so much heat.

Jim and I move the wheelbarrow next to the grave and carefully tip the sheep’s body into it. Part of her rectum is outside of her body, a red blob that flops as she falls. The body rolls into the grave with the softest of sounds.

She lands on her back; Jim pulls her by the legs onto her side, and Erika adjusts her head to lie against the vein of the boulder we dug around. She looks like a lamb again, an Easter lamb in a Catholic painting, peaceful, only dirty and shorn.

We pushed and slipped the pile of dirt onto her quickly. In just a couple minutes she had disappeared. I stamped down the dirt with the back of the shovel and hoped no wild animals would try to dig her up. The mound was slightly rounded. I could find it again.

Erika was brisk. I barely heard her telling Jim what the next tasks were – something about the goat barn and the chickens. I followed them back but had to keep stopping. The spirits and the wind gave me pause again and again. I wondered how there could be all this death, the chickens waiting to be slaughtered, Bussie feeling lighter every day as she waits to die, all this death in the midst of summer.

In the field to the west, the machines were running loudly, collecting the grass to ship to Japan. The grass seed already gone for the bigger cash. The sound of the machine is relentless.

I make it to the gate. The horses ignore me this time, keeping their distance from the gate. I close the gate and stand looking west.

The seven remaining lambs and a ewe stood facing me. Usually they run from me, the wild photographer chasing them with a camera, but perhaps in the shock of the moment they’ve forgotten. They stood facing me and waited and looked without blinking.

I looked back at them, their open faces, expectant, not quite fearful. Me too? I rewound to the video of me in February, holding these lambs when they could barely walk, when they still had their long tails and baby-skin wool coats, how innocent my own face was, the joy of being at the farm, Tom’s voice narrating my pleasure and soaking it in.

Some of us choose how we die, most of us don’t. Did the lambs remember me, remember the first days of their lives just six months ago, remember anything at all? They stood and stared. For once, I didn’t know what to say to them, so I said nothing.

They stood and stared at me for the longest minutes. Then two of them butted heads, and the circle was broken.

I looked at them, at the horses, thought of Tom and Vesper and Gavin and my own body. We’re all going to die. Death is relentless. But life is relentless too. Fecundity’s power equals dark endings. The smell of the farm. Gavin playing a requiem on the piano.

Erika was folding laundry when I went upstairs to bed. I kissed her on the cheek.

“Thanks for helping, with burying Marion,” Erika said.

“No problem,” I said.

Just a favor that one farmer does for another.

Chasing the Chicken

We came back to the farm and loaded the bales into the barn, and then Erika asked if I’d help her get a loose chicken. Poor thing, it’s only a month old, and it had scurried under the goat barn and was way off in a corner.

So I got down on my belly and slid under the goat barn. No spiders or rats, apparently, and I tried to ignore the dirty old goat terds or whatever it was I was crawling around in.

There was no space to do anything but bellycrawl, and of course the chicken kept nervously moving further and further into a corner. I was trying to leave it a clear shot at the biggest exit, but it wasn’t getting the hint. I shook sticks at it, talked to it: “hey chickie, not that way, just move away from the wall, oh no honey you’ve got it all wrong! not that way! make it easy on yourself!”

Just an hour before I’d been exchanging emails with an organization in DC about going to Tbilisi, Georgia to train journalists on election coverage. Important stuff: world politics, government grant money, freedom of speech, lofty ideals, a country on the brink of collapse. And now I was face down in goat terds, trying to convince a frightened adolescent chicken to move in a particular direction.

But at that moment I just wanted the damn chicken back where it belonged. It seemed as important as Parliamentary elections in a post-Communist country that most Americans think is a Southern state.

Chasing chickens, training journalists – what’s the difference, in the end?

In the end Erika loosened a board on the side of the barn where the chicken was and I chased it out through the hole.

Freeing a Sheep

One afternoon, some strangers pulled in the driveway and a young woman knocked at the door. “There’s a sheep that is stuck in the fence,” she said, distressed. I summoned Erika and we walked out into the pasture.

Way up by the road, sure enough, a sheep stood with her head caught in the crosswires of the fence. With all the new grass to graze on, this sheep thought the grass looked better on the other side, on the neighbor’s land, and she had wiggled her fat head through those wires, which are only about four inches apart. Her position looked impossible, not to mention untenable. She was panicky. BAAAAAA!! BAAAAAA!!

Erika, who is rarely annoyed, seemed irritated at this interruption of her gardening. “Oh, it’s a teenager,” she said when we got closer, with the exact tone of exasperation that any mother uses to talk about her adolescent child.

“You think you’re still a lamb, don’t you? You think you can squeeze through there?” she said to the sheep. BAAAA!!

We tugged at the sheep’s head, tried to straighten it out, talking soothingly to her. The sheep calmed down a little, stopped bleating and didn’t fight us as we pulled on her head and body, but we didn’t seem to budge her. Erika gave up and said, “I’m going to get the wire cutters,” but I was stubborn.

“You got your head through there, we can get it back out,” I told the sheep as Erika walked away. “C’mon baby, help me out here.”

I grabbed her double-thick wool on her side and her head, dug in my heels, and pulled hard. Her head began to ease back through. I pulled harder, and she slipped out, free, as I caught my balance. She left behind a square of wool-adorned fence as she bounded and skipped away, bleating joyously. Baaaaa, baaaa! Free at last!

I went back to the office, opened up my Outlook calendar for the day, and added to the afternoon time slot, “Got sheep’s head unstuck from fence.”

Splitting Wood

Of all the jobs I do on the farm, splitting wood is my very favorite. I learned how to split wood more than a year ago, and the lessons served me as well as a Buddhist retreat. Splitting wood is a meditation, a prayer. It’s also a gleeful accomplishment.

I always thought of splitting wood as a man’s job, picturing muscular lumberjacks who wield huge axes. Once, though, about 12 years ago, I was at a women’s gathering in the woods, and one of the women knew how to split wood. I could hear the heavy sounds of her work from a distance, and when she returned sweating with a pile of neat chunks of wood, I was very impressed. I figured she must be an exceptional woman.

When I visited the farm last January, Jim taught me to split wood. I elected to learn partly because it was a farm job that needed to be done, but also because I was in a state of mind to try something difficult. I always learn a lot by trying to do something that I’m really bad at – especially, anything that involves physical coordination. As a kid I avoided sports in large part because they didn’t come easily to me, and I was used to being good at book-learning that was so much a part of my identity then. So the skills of patience and perseverance didn’t develop much.

By the time I learned to split wood, at the age of 40, I had acquired a bit of patience, and from traveling I’d discovered the depths of my perseverance. And, as most of my friends and family know, I’m also just plain stubborn once I make up my mind about something. My first two-hour session was a near-failure, but toward the end the concepts began to sink in and were reinforced by some success. To make sure I had really learned it, I hauled myself back out to the woodpile the next day, stiff and sore from the previous day’s efforts, and went at it again. This time I proved to myself that I could really do it, and the satisfaction kept me out there for almost another two hours.

Yesterday, as I sauntered out to the orchard to attack the walnut and oak trunks we’d chainsawed, I reviewed the lessons from that weekend last year. My difficulty in learning to split wood was mostly because of my belief that it is a man’s job – that is, I thought it had to do with muscle and strength. So in my first attempts, I had gripped the handle of the maul (a long-handled axe) tightly and tried to push the blade through the wood, force my will upon a resistant object. Thunk! The blade simply bounced off with a dull sound, as though it were blunt-edged.

Jim demonstrated again. “It’s not about strength,” he said. “You let the momentum of the maul do the work for you. Let go with one hand, slide it down the handle as you swing, and follow through.” He swung, and the wood flew into two pieces – “ka-CHUNK!”

His explanation sounded suspiciously like other instructions I’d gotten for sports and working with tools. I just don’t get the physics of hammers and footballs. Before I learned to split wood, it was only in the most abstract way that I understood leverage and momentum and the power of shifting weight.

But I trust Jim, and I imitated his movements. It was very hard to make myself let go with my right hand enough to let it slide down the handle fast enough. Once I did, though, the maul could do its work. Momentum forced the energy down to the blade, peaking just at the point of contact. Thud. The blade sunk into the wood – a little.

The third step was more abstract. “Aim the maul at this edge of the wood. But think of your real target as the ground, all the way through the wood,” Jim said. This led me to backslide into my belief that I should push the blade through the wood. And sometimes, intent on the edge, I missed the wood entirely. Thunk.

“Let it swing. Let it go. Just think of the arc, not the wood.” Thud.

This went on for some time. Only occasionally did the blade make it partway through the wood, and then a couple more blows were required to complete the split. Jim was incredibly patient, but he could see I was getting frustrated, so he left me alone to work through it. Thud, thunk, thunk, thud, crack, crack, thud, thud.

Finally I got mad. Not exactly at myself, or at the wood, but mad at the energy this was taking. In a blind fury I fairly threw the maul at the wood, at the earth, at anything that resisted me, with a loose swing, not caring what happened.

Ka-CHUNK! The wood flew apart as though it had always been two pieces. No effort at all, really.

Wow. I was impressed. And hooked.

It was not, I realized, my anger that gave the blow enough force. It was because I stopped thinking so much. I gave up the fine points of technique, which by then had woven into my subconscious, and let go of that tight focus on forcing the wood to let me have my way with it. The anger freed me to go into that blank state of mind that, as it turns out, is a good one for splitting wood. Once having learned to adopt that emptiness, I didn’t need to be angry in order to split the wood. I expended far less physical effort, and the easiest swings of all were those that ended with “ka-CHUNK.”

Yesterday, remembering those lessons, I split with ease. I have learned to give a tiny jump as I bring the maul down, for a little extra momentum, but there is no strain, just a smooth motion that continues right through the wood as though it were not there, stopping more or less softly in the dirt. It’s only when I forget and try to muscle the blade through that it stops cold on the surface of the wood, and that abrupt halt is what strains my body more than anything, makes me sore the next day. It’s much easier to actually split the wood than to strike it, for there is no resistance when you hit it right. That’s how Vesper, who is only about 5 feet tall and petite, split wood until she was nearly 70. (When I asked her who taught her to split wood, she seemed perplexed and said, “Does anyone really have to learn to split wood? I guess I’d watched my father do it so much that it just came natural.”)

There are finer points to this woodsplitting craft, of course. One has to watch out for knots, burls and branch connections, which will stop the flow of energy splitting straight through the wood grain. Technique fails when I hit one of these spots. So it’s best to study the wood a bit while setting it on end, look for the points of resistance. That done, it’s possible to halve a trunk piece in one blow. I’m not quite at that level; it usually takes me two blows or three to halve a trunk, and if it’s too big I carve off pieces from around the edges first. But that can be just as pleasant, whittling away, like slicing a roast. It’s also delightful to work with thick branches, which can be cleaved into two perfect-sized pieces with one blow. As I make decisions about the size I’m aiming for, I think about our three woodstoves and the people who will handle this wood – here’s a big chunk for the overnight low-damper burn, here’s a small piece to get the coals started again in the morning, here’s some medium pieces that will be easy for Vesper to handle.

People often think of splitting wood as a fine outlet for aggression and anger, and I suppose it could be. It helps me the way any exercise does in releasing pent-up negative feelings. And I admit that when I’m wrestling with a particularly knotty piece and resort to cursing, the wood is always male and my comments sound a bit like sadistic pornography, as in “C’mon, you bastard, give it up!” or “You son of a bitch, you WILL come apart!” But I don’t picture anyone’s head under the blade, or think hostile thoughts against named foes while I’m splitting wood. It’s just me and the wood and our goal, and the more I relax around that, the better it goes.

My new insight yesterday was that I had to aim by not aiming. When I try to keep my focus on one small, specific point, I either miss entirely or the wood will not give way. What works better is this: As I raise the maul I look at the point I want to hit for only part of a second. When the maul swings, my focus widens considerably to take in the whole piece of wood and everything around it. I concentrate on the idea of the wood splitting, as though my eyes were shut, and then the blade hits exactly where the wood will give.

I am still amazed that this works, but it consistently does. When I aim too narrowly, too superficially, inevitably I fail and the wood resists like a stone. When I merely note the point of contact and then give my body over to the ultimate goal, picturing the split wood, inevitably the wood falls apart cleanly, as though the sap had shot through the grain to separate the cohesion of the cells. The wood seems willing, almost happy, to be split, and we are working together for a common purpose, as though to fulfill the destiny of the wood.

I think of this as I do office jobs, research, and planning for the farm. I hold the big picture, the dream, in my whole body and soul, and let my brain, fingers and limbs find the way to do the actual physical tasks.

And oh, the satisfaction of the right swing, the sound of “ka-CHUNK,” the sight of wood flying off in two pieces. And then the reward: casually picking up a new piece with one hand and tossing it behind me, without looking, into the growing pile.

Feb. 21, 2001

Birthing the Lambs

Diggery Do (aka Sweet 16) would not leave me alone. Erika calls her the great mother.

I walked into the pen to watch the lambs being born to Velvet, and Sweet 16 came right up to me, dug her nose into my crotch to smell me, and then stood sideways tight against me. I hadn’t really petted a sheep before, so I wasn’t sure what they liked.

I dug my fingers into the thick wool of her head, and pushed my hands down her spine, thinking that any pregnant female enjoys a backrub. She stood still, and I felt her loving it.

She is huge with pregnancy, it must surely be at least two lambs, for she is as wide as she is tall. I tried to do Reiki on the sides of her belly, and that made her breathe heavily, as though she were in labor. But she stuck by me. Whenever I moved away, she followed and pushed up against me, as though to say, “Don’t you dare leave my side!” So I kept massaging her and talking to her, feeling the pressure of her as an insistence of my own animal nature.

Meanwhile Velvet lowed and lowed, kept turning her head to see if the lamb was there yet, while Avón and I urged her to push. Finally she expelled the sac, and then she crouched to push.

When she stood again, Avón decided Velvet needed some help, so she reached her hand into Velvet and felt for the lamb’s legs, which weren’t in position. The best position for delivery is front feet first, straight out, with the head between them; this lamb was turned, so Avón straightened it and pulled the legs out, then the body halfway.

He just plopped right out then, and began to breathe right away. Velvet began cleaning off his legs, so Avón took a rag and wiped the mucus from the lamb’s nose and mouth.

Within minutes he was struggling to stand, got his back legs under him first but then couldn’t seem to unfold the front legs or coordinate them with the back. He sniffed around and suckled at her ears.

As Velvet finished cleaning him, she began to push again, and Avón hurried to assist again. This time the lamb’s front feet were first, but were folded back at the knee, making him too wide to come out with the head between. Avón stretched his legs out and he delivered easily.

Velvet cleaned his head first, with Avón’s help. In the meantime Lamb 1 had gotten to his feet and was desperately searching for a nipple. Lamb 2 got to his feet almost immediately; it was clear he is the bigger and stronger of the two. When I left, my feet getting cold, Avón was helping them both to find their way to the nipples to nurse.

The smell of the hay and the sheep’s wool was all so pleasant and easy, the feel of the thick wool under my fingers, the lambs gamboling about with their soft wool and gangly legs and cat-like bodies. The air was thick and earthy, and quiet, muffled by straw. There was a great, vast ring around the moon this night, a white perfect circle like wool, marking the earth’s dance and worship of the moon.

I was so excited when Avón summoned me to see the birth of the lambs. But it was a strangely flat event for me, in many ways. Was it the intervention of humans, the setting, my emotional jetlag in general, that kept me from crying?

Then I decided that the truth of it is simply that it is an ordinary event. Birth happens every day, every moment, not just animals but people.

I felt somewhat disappointed that I did not feel a rush of emotion, to see this new life begin, but the event is very commonplace: a sheep gives birth to a lamb, the lamb begins to breathe, the mother cleans it, the lamb struggles to its feet and finds the nipple and begins to nurse. Such things happen all the time.

But this ordinariness itself is the cause to celebrate. The fact that life begins anew over and over is comforting, the antidote to its partner of death, which also happens all the time, over and over.