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Ramblings of a Contemplative Goat Midwife

Julian is great with child, or children more likely. She is a skittish goat, partly on account of being an escape artist when she was younger, smaller and not great with child. She could scooch her way under just about any fence, and loved the longer grass, Columbia Star blackberry leaves, and apple leaves in Mark's well tended orchard. Mark, who maybe thinks goats think like humans, chased her down on the tractor once or twice--and on foot more often than that--imagining she would return from whence she came so he could find her secret passageways and block them. I blame her skittishness on what she learned of scary and unpredictable human behavior during encounters that were unpleasant for all creatures involved.

But maybe her pregnant self is simply inclined to be standoffish, which I completely understand in that my pregnant self was similarly inclined. Still, I will be her midwife whether or not she needs it (likely she will not) because being present for births brings me enormous joy.

What I've experienced, however, is that even standoffish goats want me to stay near once labor begins. Birth is a time for bravery, yes, but also an opportunity to let others tend and encourage, to rub jaws, withers, and shoulders, to ooh and ahh at how beautifully the laboring one labors.

Humans and goats are kindred in this way.

So today, in the hopes of renewing Julian's confidence in me, I mixed and baked a batch of oat groat, minced carrot, raisin, whole wheat flour, and molasses treats. Julian was the sole recipient of one when I found our herd of six grazing in the upper field, and she followed me readily into the milking room and kept me company as I sorted through the birthing bag, swept the floor, cleared cobwebs, and cleaned the cabinet and sink. I gave her a bit of extra grain and didn't mind when she found the treat intended for her mother and aunt on the counter and helped herself to it.

Just prior to hanging out with Julian I had wrapped up teaching a four-session course for the Companioning Center on journeying with questions that don't have satisfying answers. One student (all of them spiritual directors in training) talked about how their cohort had created a safe enough space to name doubts and explore questions, even if they were the only one in the room with their particular perspective. We spoke of our desire and intent to create and hold this kind of space for our directees.

I wondered, as I worked with Julian, at the gentleness of God who does the same for us. Not worried about our doubts, compassionate with our fears, gentle with our need for reassurance, God creates space for us to feel safe that we might be brave enough to challenge our assumptions, to forge relationships with new ideas, indeed, even to birth--as it were--new things.

Much is being written about this chapter of our human story, which is pregnant with potential. Yes, yes, we see and experience much unrest and upheaval, but this is also an opportunity for renewing ways of engaging differences and forging pathways through the unrest together. What if the scary and unpredictable could be explored in places characterized by curiosity and kindness? I need to extend to others who I am inclined to critique and judge the kindness and gentleness I extend to Julian, which is the kindness and gentleness God extends to me. Sure, the issues are complex and require good and careful thinking and disagreement and conversation. And maybe all that becomes fruitful if we can also remember that we are conduits of God's grace. Sufi contemplative Hafiz wrote about it this way in the 13th century: "I am a hole in a flute that the Christ's breath moves through. Listen to this music."[1]

Ahhh. Surely I have lost some of you by now! Somewhere between pregnant goats and flutes!

Take from this any bit that brings some lightness of being. Chalk anything else up to the ramblings of a contemplative goat midwife, waiting (perhaps distractedly so) in expectation for the birthing of beings moving and kicking in Julian's belly. I am eager to welcome these little creatures that God has gifted with existence and curious to watch how they experience the first days of their one precious life.

[1] Daniel Ladinsky. A Year with Hafiz: Daily Contemplations, 3.


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