Being as Clara and Hazel's due dates are nearing (!) we have the camera in the barn turned back on. Sometimes, during cold nights in particular, the two nestle beside each other, Hazel's head resting on Clara's body. They are friendly enough with each other, grazing always in proximity to each other, but this expression of companionship touches a deeper place for me, as surely it must for them. They draw on each other for warmth, maybe for comfort in these days before birthing babies, maybe even in friendship. It could be so.
Besides visiting them a couple times a day to let them in or out of the barn, feed them hay and refresh their water, I'm spending more time massaging their backs, heads, ears and jaws. They stop chewing their cud mid-chomp, their eyes almost close and they become motionless. I imagine this as goat-speech for contentment.
Hazel is no longer skittish with me, and lets me sit behind her on the milking stanchion and brush her hind legs while she eats grain. After a Very Rocky start to our relationship last year, I wrote that I hoped she and I would establish a milk-stand worthy one over the course of this year. While that remains to be seen, that she lets me put my hand on her belly and feel her babies move seems a sign toward accepting my presence and intrusions.
But mostly I wanted to write about the spotted towhee that also considers the barn a home. This morning the camera captured her feeding on bits of grain in the straw after the goats had headed out to the field. She knows me well enough not to panic when I come into the barn, momentarily blocking her escape. I don't see her every day in person, but now that we have the camera I notice her several times a week.
One recent night before bed I saw a black wad of Somethingness in the camera nestled beside Clara's hind quarters. Clara had settled her hugely pregnant self in the straw, but was not yet sleeping, just contentedly chewing her cud. (Pause for goat anatomy lesson: Goats carry their babies on their right side and all four stomachs shift to the left. We joke that Clara is growing 12 babies, but imagine 3 or 4 are more likely. By contrast, Hazel is much smaller and looks to be carrying 1 or 2. However, looks can be deceiving. Time will tell soon enough.) I zoomed in on the wad and thought I could pick out two bird feet and a beak on the camera's zoomed in fuzzy mass. Mark and I watched it settle and nestle right into Clara's flank, unafraid of being smashed in the night.
Is this sharing of bodily warmth somehow sacred?
As I put my own self to bed a thread of contented belongingness connected me from my space in the house to theirs in the barn.
Surely Clara knew of her presence. How could she not?
I wondered how many nights they slept with each other as company and remembered Mary Oliver's poem, "In the Storm."1 Oliver writes of tiny sanderlings during a wild windy snowy storm taking shelter behind ducks who willingly created a feathered hedge and let them crouch there, and live. For an hour they crouched motionless before being blown out over the water. But they made their way back and again took shelter behind the ducks' feathered hedge.
Oliver asks her reader if they believe her story. She concludes with:
Belief isn't always easy.
But this much I have learned--
if not enough else--
to live with my eyes open.
I know what everyone wants
is a miracle.
This wasn't a miracle.
Unless, of course, kindness--
as now and again
some rare person has suggested--
is a miracle.
As surely it is.
Kindness comes from the word kin. Oh that we humans could be as kind as goats and ducks--to our own kin who are like us, and also to kin who are not, and to kin who are as different from us as a sanderling to a duck and a towhee to a goat .
Mary Oliver (2006), Thirst, "In the Storm", Beacon Press, 62-64.