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  • Julie


Three nights ago I wrenched Craig from a deep sleep with the sudden memory that a ram was to arrive at our farm on Sunday. And while what some have said is true, that the ram was not outside our door looking for a pile of straw on which to lay his head in that moment, I stand firm in that: midnight panics are meant to be shared with Partners in Sheep, Etc., and a spring brain isn't one to count on. Case and point: the arrival of Jerry the Icelandic Ram whose Muzzle Grows a Third and Surprising Face Horn had been relegated to the place in my brain where checking the mail and making sure Gus has clean pants on Monday mornings live. That dark hole is no place for a modern day triceratops.

Having never introduced a fully mature ram into our flock (never mind a ram in defiance of nature), we spent the past few days running through all the scenarios that existed outside of everything working out just fine. Who would sleep where, what would happen if, why this could go wrong and when. But then Jerry, too beautiful and weird for this world Jerry, died unexpectedly before he was able to even see the stall we had readied. It was sudden and without a clear cause; also the sort of thing for which one has to be at least modestly prepared. Animals, domesticated or not, are animals and with that comes an inevitable uncertainty.

Last year we lost more animals to predators than all previous years combined. It was a summer marked by sadness and loss. We had come to the end of trying to have another child and I couldn't stop catching flashes of red in the yard. Nothing felt safe. Craig's ducks, my favorite hen and her just hatched chicks, Gus's kitten. It didn't seem to matter what we did, this beautiful fox was always full of little things we loved; I was not. It laid a heaviness on us that hesitates to lift yet.

I remember my neighbor turning down his preteen daughter's pleading for a kitten a few years back, handing over the Reasons Why one collects in five decades spent living pressed up to the edge of these woods. It's hard- all of it -but especially difficult is accepting that uncertainty, that putting your faith in everything working out just fine while training one eye to the shadows. Our neighbor couldn't do it; I think I have to. It's the only way I get one foot in front of the other to march out of the hard season. We live in the sun, we watch for the shadows, we do our best.

After news of Jerry's untimely death had made it around the homestead, I headed to the co-op in the next town. Halfway there I pulled over for a Barred Owl on the side of the road. She was dead, perfect save for a weird twist of the neck and a small pool of blood under her beak. Isn't that just how it is? You can live your good life and still get knocked out of the sky by something big enough. There will always a fox in the woods and I suppose it's up to us whether we live our lives because of or in spite of that fact.



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