Monday, August 31, 2009

And So It Goes

I don't like to write sad posts, which I suppose is why there are sometimes big gaps in my writing because something sad happens and it consumes me and I just can't fake it and be all cheery or think of something else to write about. And somehow, I think that my story, the one I share here in this blog, wouldn't be complete without this sad story. And I am sad today. Very sad. It has been a sad year, actually. One that has me pondering. There has been lots of death. It started with the death of my grandfather in January and on it has gone.

I had company for 6 weeks straight with one 24 hour break in there from the time Sarah arrived on July 17 to the time that Caleb left on August 27. During that one 24 hour break, my sister-in-law, Delanie drove away and an hour later, Bjorn died. My neighbour and landlady had sprayed her fields with an 'organic' weed killer to kill her burdock. It is extremely toxic but supposed to be safe after a certain amount of time. It was supposed to be safe that day so I let my sheep out. I tie up the adult sheep but the lambs wander close by. I noticed Bjorn on the edge of that field. Just hours later he was dead. I found him just after he died - still warm and limp and unbelievably dead. In 10 days he would have gone to his new home in Horsefly. I suppose I should have sheered him after he died - his pure white wool was like gossamer. But I couldn't bare it. It was the most I could do to write to the people who had arranged to buy him and tell him he had died.

Then last week a bear came one night. He ripped open my chicken tractors (which in previous years he (she?) has ignored completely even when full of meat chicks). He flipped over the one that held my two mother hens with their 4 chicks (I sold two already). My two hens died defending their chicks - 3 of whom survived. They also slashed up my big tractor and killed 2 of my young pullets. They killed 5 chickens - my two most valuable hens as they had proven to be effective brooders and good mothers. I woke up Sunday morning to the carnage - chunks of feathers and one black foot.

I herded the remaining 4 pullets and the 3 chicks into the big coop. Miraculously they have managed to integrate painlessly into my flock. Marigold and the hens have accepted them and they are all thriving. So there is one miracle.

Then there is Freya. She hasn't been well for awhile. She had a persistent cough so I dosed her with penicillin and then dewormed my whole flock. She seemed to be making improvement. The smoke this summer has been hard on her and yesterday the smoke lay like fog in this valley. Yesterday morning she didn't come when I fed the sheep some hay. I went to rouse her but she staggered along. I dosed her with garlic balls and slippery elm throughout the day and she seemed to be improving. But she died last night. I suspect it was a combination of things that killed her. When I first got her, she got pneumonia from the stress of travelling (shipping disease). I tried to cure her naturally and I think I left it too long or wasn't aggressive enough. In those days she was very hard to catch! In the end I got antibiotics which cleared up her coughing but she had been coughing for several weeks by that time. I was ignorant and naively hopeful. I think her lungs were weakened by the whole episode. She has struggled this smoky summer. And then she was a very good mother and gave her all to Bjorn. She was thin. I think she was depressed after he died. I suspect she would have been depressed even if he had lived but left our flock. She was a fierce mother and never far from him. Then with all these stresses on her immune system, I think she was no match for either worms or a strep infection. Probably worms. And although I did deworm her, I think they had too big a hold on her.

I love my sheep - my wee flock. I know them even by the sound of their baa. They are the first thing I think about each morning when I wake up as I search for them through the window. They live just across the driveway from our house, not in some distant field. I know their patterns of behaviour, their personalities, their likes and dislikes. Freya took a long time to trust me but when she trusted me, she did. If you visited, she would not be at the fence begging for a pat like Renauld or Draga unless, perhaps, you had apples. She was sweet and independent and wary. And she had the most amazing fleece. I loved her. Zeus laid with her body all night and this morning before we buried her, he freaked out if anyone went near her.

And I am very sad today. I am grieving. Last night I lit a candle for her and wrote for 3 hours in my journal. Here is an excerpt from it:

"... Good bye sweet Freya - Goddess of sheep. Good bye. May your sweet sheep soul pass speedily into the love and joy that is the essence of all life. Good bye sweet Freya.

"Freya let me die with you. Let those parts of me that no longer serve me go with you into your sheep's Valhalla. Let my fears and doubts go with you there to be transformed.

"Freya, my love. Freya my sweet sheep. Rest in peace and prepare for your next life. Come again to me in the spring. I will watch for your face in the faces of the lambs. come healthy and whole again to me. I will look for your eyes. Come live with me again, Freya.

"Good bye Freya, my sweet sheep. You served me well. You were a good sheep and I loved you. You were everything I wanted. You were perfect.

"Good bye Freya, my wee sheep, my little lamb. Good bye. Go knowing you fulfilled your purpose here and I am grateful."

Maybe I am dramatic. Or at least I think that some will think that. All this fuss over a little sheep. However, my sheep are more than functional to me. I know them and I love them. They are my pets, in a way, too. And I believe that all things are connected. I don't think it is any coincidence that there has been so much death in my life this year (although I am looking forward to January 1, 2010!). I don't believe in a thoughtless, accidental Universe. I believe everything happens for a reason. In many ways this year has been a stripping away. A stripping away of false friendships, of habits that don't serve me, of fear and doubt and self-recrimminations. I feel myself pruned, pumiced. It has been a year of great introspection, of realizations, of growth under difficult circumstances. I feel pushed inevitably to the threshold. As I also wrote in my journal, "It ends here. This is the last death. From here, I rise anew... I am here to start again. I let go of what defeats me - my doubts, my fears, my self-recrimminations. I am 'born again', fresh this day. My past is dead. My old self is gone... I am at a threshold. The window is open. Will I go through it? I am. I am going through it. With ease; with love; with Freya and my mother hens. I am born again."

Perhaps I am weird and dramatic or even ridiculous. I'll leave that for you to decide. But this is who I am. This is how I think. This is how I live my life. Last night my wooly friend died. I believe we were/are connected. I believe that in her death I have the opportunity to die, too. To die in the sense that M. Scott Peck talks about in "The Road Less Travelled", when he talks about how sometimes our old self needs to die and we are reborn. So far this year has been one of death and rebirth to me. My journal is full of these serious kinds of thinking. I feel like I am being cleansed, pushed. It is time to be me. I believe we can let life happen to us and say she is just a sheep - livestock - and she died because she was sick and perhaps had some longterm issues with her lungs. It is just nature and nature had its course. It has nothing to do with me or my soul. But I think that, if we want, we can grab life and make it meaningful - find in it the meaning for our souls.

And what is in a name? Check out these references to the myths of Freya who was the Great Queen Goddess of Norse mythology. Notice this one where she tried everything to save her son, Baldr but she forgot mistletoe and he was poisoned. Interesting, eh? Here is a more complete synopsis of Freya's myths. Next time I find my little Freya's pale eyes, I will name her Eir.

There you have it: all my grief and sadness in one post!


katie said...

andrea! that is soo sad! i can't believe so many of your animals have died. i would be grieving too. i hope you do have the rebirth and transformation and a break from death for awhile.

Andrea said...

Thanks, Katie!

Laura said...

yes, very sad. your poor broody hens and sheep!

Niqi said...

My mother has her own petting zoo too - and some raccoons and bobcats attacked, killed and ate her rabbits, some of her chickens and roosters , some ducks, and scared the rest of them. She treats them all like family and knows them each by name. She gets bears around too - but luckily non of them got into her coops. They finally put up a fence around the whole thing instead of just the fences around the coops.

I understand what you are going through.

Andrea said...

thanks, niqi! and I'm sorry to hear about your mom.