Dance by the light of the moon
We did chores late tonight. So late that the goats were full to bursting. I heard their wails above the truck engine as we pulled up the drive. I fumbled with the door handle and sprinted to the house, grabbed the silver pail, tossed a bag of sunflower seeds over my shoulder and stomped towards the goat barn. I was nearly 2 hours late to fill bellies and empty udders. Tardiness is never justified on a farm, not when you’re reasoning with beasts and beggars. Not when the schedule you keep is based on biorhythms and sun cycles. Not ever.
I sat next to a man at dinner tonight whose relatives lived on a dairy. He looked at me gravely as if ready to deliver shocking news, “Did you know dairying is hard work? All I remember from growing up was that my cousins’ lives were hard, hard lives.” I nodded back with an expression of careful seriousness, marveling at the power of perception. He may have seen a hard life – but how did the cousins see their own lives?
It’s a thing I ponder.
What’s omitted here are the gritty details of life I try to erase for this audience. But there’s smudges of that story still visible beneath the words I’m writing, even if you don’t know you’re reading it. While details don’t matter, I will share that we’ve been struggling through some (non-life threatening, don’t worry, lovelies) medical adventures. For years. All of which have culminated these recent months – and into the next few months. It’s caused us to retreat a bit, socially, and the timing has been stupendously terrible, laughably ridiculous. Yesterday we broke ground on the dairy, and in two weeks I begin some tough medical treatments. Tonight we saw people I love whose presence (through no fault of their own) is painful right now due to the health issues. Times? They’re tough and thrilling. It’s confusing.
Back at home I fumbled in the darkness to unlatch the paddock gate, shouted towards the house Jeremy already disappeared into, “How am I supposed to do this WITHOUT ANY LIGHT??!!” since I realized he’d moved our single hanging lamp. Turned back to the gate and out shot Jolene who trotted happily to the milk stand, her tail wagged furiously, a joyous exclamation point off the end of her back. Sighing deeply, I eased down beside her on the little wooden stand that creaks more each day. Shut my eyes against the warm body that has smelled of hay, and dirt, and sunshine since the day I brought her home. Since the day she snuggled into my car for the ride from Amelia’s farm where she stared up at me bewildered by her lot in life, and I stared back, oblivious to the page in my own book that silently turned at that moment. Just like that.
I did not need a bare bulbed light fixture. The moonlight fell down strong, flinging contrasts I didn’t notice when I was too busy cursing towards Jeremy – or cursing at all the little demons that niggle my insides when things don’t seem fair. When I’m deeply afraid of the dark. Resting my head against the side of a goat still warm from the August day, I thought about the man’s comments at dinner. About the hard, hard life his family had chosen, his veiled warning about my own choice. It’s true that it is hard to live on a dairy farm – to live on any farm. Daily, there is a sense of futility alongside all of the fertility we coax out of the ground or the animals. Daily, we know we’ll have to cut some losses, then we will have to try again. Daily, we are happy to eat something we took from birth to burial. I do believe that the farmer is the eternal optimist.
Tonight I lean against an animal who feeds me at each meal, and I squeeze, squeeze, squeeze to complete a chore that is not a chore – that is not part of a hard, hard life – but is the tonic I take to see me through these hard, hard days. Here, it turns out I only need the moonlight, I only need the promise that tomorrow morning the goats will scream for milking, that food will be made, that the sun will be warm, that cycles turn with the season. It is stout medicine. It’s an eternal optimism. It is why, sir, I make this choice.