Hope Full in February, the Honest-to-God Cruelest Month

Going on about the weather is trite when the weathermeisters natter on. But when I have to get up at 3 am to check on the lambs, it is not. Verily it is not trite. In fact the past week has been an exercise in the depressive grinding of its miserable self down onto me and mine. I am reminded of our first year as shepherds. We damn near slept with the sheep that year with a copy of Ron Parker’s The Sheep Book at the ready. W still needed to sleep so there was a three hour window of time very early in the morning when we were not there.

Of course, you anticipate the teller of the tale, “And that was when the ewe had her lamb.” I neglected to tell you that this was as cold a day as Kentucky had seen… ever. My wife and I both went to the barn and saw the lamb in a cold puddle on the ground, not so newborn. Nothing could live through this, I thought. Then we saw the faintest movement of a slippery pink tongue. No, it was alive! I tugged the ewe lamb from the ground. It wouldn’t budge. Without thinking I grabbed a grubbing hoe from pile of nearby tools dug up the ground around and underneath the lamb. My wife bundled up the baby along with clump of attached frozen manury ground and raced to the house.

Our deep shepherd-y reading had told us that a frozen lamb sometimes responded to a warm submersion. I filled the sink and without much hope we dropped in our little lamb-sicle. When she hit the warm water, she let out at a hot gasp and her whole body shivered and quivered into gear, alive in a warm sheep shit stew, stinking and alive. Even in the worst of times we remember this hope filled moment. The lamb went on to bear her own lambs and you would never know she had ever been nearly frozen except for the tip of her left ear that drooped only a little from frostbite nerve damage.

Today I feel the need to share a video that is also an “ante up” into the near future. That’s what hope is, right? It is the ante in the great and infinite  poker game of life.

We grow some of our own plants for the spring garden. In the video you see tomatoes and peppers and flowers. It really is too early for the flowers, but we will probably put them in a low tunnel of plastic to protect them outside. Seeds and trees are the great feedforward electromagnets that power my engine. We plant them and they pull us toward their emergent future. They give us an anchor there, a sense of the inevitable. Yes, the time will come when these plants will be grounded and that future ‘grounding’ is what fill me with hope.  That and a little feedback from the past that says to me like Theodore Roethke says below–trust in the emergent driving force of the seasons and nature.  We are all cuttings.


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