What’s Happening Now
I lost two goats yesterday. They were new enough to me that they didn’t even have names yet. I thought I had them penned securely, but I was wrong.
Fortunately, a neighbor found one of them and returned him to me. The other is still at large.
As I type this I feel so guilty. Guilty that my fencing wasn’t secure. Guilty that I let a goat out into the wild to fend for itself. I feel the worst, somehow, about not having given them proper names.
I’m processing my feelings and making decisions about how to care for my one remaining still-unnamed solitary goat. I talked to a friend who has livestock, too, and we shared the truism that where livestock is concerned shit happens. Always. Shit is always happening.
And I keep re-reading this piece I wrote back in 2011 about how caring for others always brings these inevitabilities. Shit happens, yes. But also, isn’t is wonderful that shit is happening?
Maybe you don’t have livestock or children or pets, but if you have friends or a job or family maybe you can identify with this, too.
What’s Happening Now
(Original post May 16, 2011)
There’s a particular type of experience that comes with having a caring relationship with animals, whether they’re people or non-human animals. It’s the experience of having one kind of plan for your day, and then something happens with the animal and your day goes in an entirely different direction.
This happens with friends. You think you’re about to sit down for dinner, but your friend calls and is stuck an hour away with a flat tire and can you come pick them up? Well, yes, of course you can. It doesn’t much matter what your plans were, this is what’s happening now, because you care about this person, and that’s just the way it is.
It happens with children, of course, to a grand level. You think you’re going to have one kind of day, with these plans and those plans, and then your baby has a fever and what you’re really doing is rocking in the rocking chair and singing to your baby for the next 48 hours because they are miserable and that’s just what’s happening now.
And I didn’t realize how often it would happen with farm animals. A couple of days ago, I had just helped out with the sheep and fed the pigs and done something in the garden, and I was hot and tired. I declared that I had to go inside and rest.
On the way in the house, passing the chicken coop, one of the broilers was dead. This was not completely unexpected. The breed of broilers we have don’t live very well very long, and they were near their expiration date. It was really hot outside, and Joshua and I had speculated that they might have problems with the heat. So, this chicken wasn’t ill or diseased in any way. It just dropped dead, and it had only been dead a couple of hours at most, which meant it needed to be processed and put into the freezer.
So I was hot and tired and sore and “had to go in”, but this was what was happening now. There’s just no questioning it.
On other days, things are going along smoothly, in their routine, and then the sheep have escaped or the pigs have escaped, and what’s happening is that they have to be rounded up again. We have a perimeter fence now to help with this problem, but it’s still going to happen now and then that animals have to be wrangled back to their paddocks.
Or in the simplest, tiniest scenario that happens around The Wallow, you think you’re about to do (whatever), but what really happens is an adorable kitty cat begs to be picked up and what’s really happening right now is you’ve got to dole out some serious kitty love.
These things are just part of what it means to care for another living being.
You’re not in charge anymore. Things aren’t always on your schedule. The universe inside your head that plans for what’s happening next isn’t always the most important thing.
It’s tempting to react to these situations as annoyances. I mean, chasing sheep around the neighborhood isn’t my favorite activity. But the truth is that it doesn’t really bother me all that much, because it’s so matter-of-fact.
This is what’s happening.
There’s no choosing or bitching or getting out of it or wishing it was different. It just is.
These are my sheep. Of course I’m going to help get them back where they go.
These are my chickens. When it’s time to process them, it’s time to process them.
This is my cat. Of course I’ll love her when she needs it.
This is my friend. When they need a helping hand, of course I have one to give.
Rather than being annoyed, I find these situations almost joyful. Priorities can be tricky. Knowing what you want and what you care about can be hard to figure out sometimes. These moments provide a certainty. These are the moments that make it crystal clear what matters and what doesn’t matter. And that certainty itself is valuable to me.