Sometimes I think I need a heart of stone to live here.
One advantage to living on a farm in the middle of nowhere is that you can sit on the edge of a bunk feeder in the barnyard at sunrise and cry as loud as you like. Nobody is going to bother you.
I had planned to put this photo and its story up this morning, along with some thoughts that have been randomly connecting in my mind. About Lucky 13, who we lost a week ago today. About my brother, who we lost over 100 days ago and who was here on the farm when the first lambs were born last year. About the fact that Snugglebunny (whose eartag is #13) gave birth to the 13th lamb this year and should I give her a name that includes "Lucky" or "13" or would that feel wrong.
About the usual things—love, loss, life.
More below. . .
I jotted down a few notes and headed to the barn at first light. I snapped some photos of Rose trying to figure out an empty water trough, checked on the occupants of the three bonding pens who were all doing fine, and made my way into the fenced barnyard. BB, as usual, was crying loudly for her baby. Several times yesterday I had found the itty bitty lamb tucked in various cozy spots, sleeping so deeply she didn't hear her mother's call.
I looked around the barnyard as BB continued to wail. And then I began to look harder. And harder. Soon I was peering into nooks and crannies she could not possibly have been in. I started saying "Oh no oh no oh no oh no" over and over as I checked the same places three, four, five times.
She is gone. Most likely a coyote sneaked in and snatched her up in the night. Or an owl may have swooped down and grabbed her. I have never had this happen. Never lost a lamb to a predator here, even when Alison left Beattie tucked under a fallen tree, half a mile from the barn.
But there is always a first time for everything. I cannot believe it, but then again I still cannot believe that Natalie, the last remaining member of my original 1995 flock, literally disappeared without a trace a year ago. We searched and searched for hours and found nothing. It is very difficult to kill and eat (or carry off) a full grown sheep and not leave a speck of wool anywhere. But obviously it can happen. This also occurred during my brother's visit, and he was absolutely crushed.
"It happens," I told him. "This is a farm. Things like this happen." But of course that doesn't make it any easier.
Gladys Taber, who lived from 1899 to 1980, was a wonderful columnist and author who wrote 59 books, including several about her life at Stillmeadow Farm in New England. In one of her essays, she explained how she believed that there are people from The Other Side who come over here and essentially help themselves to our stuff. There is just no other logical way to explain the disappearance of so many things, like a giant dog door that simply vanished one day from Stillmeadow.
I often think about this theory, as I find the whole idea rather charming. And as I helplessly walked the barnyard fence line yet again this morning, knowing in my heart I wasn't going to find that tiny, helpless, darling little lamb, a crazy thought popped into my head. Is my brother stealing my sheep?
Last week I turned away from Lucky 13 for the last time and nearly tripped over this heart rock. Many of you know that I have a growing collection of found heart shaped rocks. Most of them are lined up on a stone ledge next to the front door, where I see them several times a day. They make me smile.
This heart rock is different from all the others. It is big and chunky and has a large slit running through it. It sits slightly apart from the rest. It is Lucky 13.
Today I went looking for information about Gladys Taber online and learned that, "She continued writing up until her last days and left the following poem as her epitaph:"
When I am gone
I beg no fanfare;
Indeed I shall not be there.
So no tears need be shed. -
They will not bring to me
Rock Harbor sunset
On a burning sea
Or Amber's purr-song, nor yet
Wild geese waking me at dawn.
For I shall be dead -
Then greet the new day
Pretending I am not away.
I'm sorry Gladys, but I need to shed some more tears. I'm going to go back down to the barnyard, sit on the edge of that bunk feeder surrounded by my flock, comfort a grieving mother who is wailing for her baby the best I can, and cry for all that has been lost—even though I do have many hearts of stone.
4/13/06 Update: The mysterious loss of lambs continues. It is truly a shepherd's nightmare.