Sometime in the wee hours of Monday morning Delta kidded quietly for the first time. In retrospect, I should have put her into the maternity pen my mom came and cleaned out Sunday afternoon in preparation for the goats due to kid this week. Late Sunday, Delta stayed uncharacteristically close to my side – the only sign of impending birth – not compelling enough to earn her a spot in the secluded pen. So when I went to the barn for chores in the morning, I was shocked to see the tops of three tiny goat heads peer out from behind the hay feeder. I was shocked to see Delta standing proud and bewildered over her three boys. Shocked to hear their faint voices tinkle like bells above the rooster’s crow and barking dogs. I ran inside for Jeremy who took over chores while I led Delta into the pen with her babies, and it was immediately obvious that one of the three was born a little undercooked, either squished in utero or robbed of the nutrition his brothers received. Although alert, vigorous, and nursing, his hind legs were weak as if the hip bones were unfinished and not yet fused. I tried to steady his sea legs while he nursed, and his tail wagged furiously while he swayed and fought gravity. His heart was beating fast as he breathed heavily and worked much harder to be alive and just born than his brothers who snoozed peacefully in piles of hay.
Jer finally pulled me inside for breakfast, giving me a moment to consider the drama that must have unfolded while I snored through the night inside. How Delta stood alone in the barn, save for 10 goat and 4 dog spectators. Her pain unexplained, the process foreign. I thought about my own fears of impending delivery, anxiety that already has caused bouts of insomnia. I suppose that’s the burden of knowledge and proof that ignorance – when it comes to animal’s not knowing to expect pain – is bliss. Or maybe not. Maybe she understood a change was coming, surely she did as a sentient and relatively intelligent animal. Do they just accept these changes in ways we do not?
I’ve spent a lot of time with Delta and her crooked buckling over the past 48 hours. I’ve watched the way she hovers over the three of them and speaks in a new, guttural tongue she’s never spoken before. Now, more than ever, I am fascinated by the simplicity of baby animals nursing and the way it just sort of …. happens, while I go inside and pore over brochures about breastfeeding classes and weigh the pros and cons of certain breast pumps. I try to understand the weight and size, not of the body, but of the enormous spirit that is crammed into such a fragile, tiny goat frame. Despite rubber legs, despite a heart that beats too fast and hard, he has decided to work things out – to play even – head butting pieces of hay or my elbow, fighting imbalance and attempting a hop despite the obvious disability.
I find lessons here without looking, usually where I least expect them, and always from the animals. If you live where the world is slow and unconnected to arbitrary time tables, schedules, and rituals, some fundamental truths emerge: that bravery and strength are inherent in all the creatures who can’t rely on modern luxuries to survive.
That it’s probably inherent in all of us if only we unplugged long enough to trust our own senses without asking the internet for answers. I’m not about to go off-grid (I’m not that brave) but these small stories from the farm, these mini-dramas that begin, develop, and resolve without anything other than grit are gentle reminders about the importance of spirit – its size and strength and structure – not the body inside of which it resides.