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Sunday, March 07, 2010

remembering a time of grace

only that's not the word I want. Something less celestial and more down-to-earth -- most definitely the opposite of the silence of the lambs.

A zillion years ago when my friend Rosemary (really my sister's friend, but I could borrow her) was alive, but sick, I went to England take care of her. It was early spring and she wasn't up for much---she was being zapped by radiation at the time. My job was to hang around the house and....umm...hang around. I cooked food I ate and she didn't. She didn't complain and mostly wanted to be quiet and listen to books on tape.

Not very difficult work for me.

She lived in the country in a house called Dairy Cottage, one of the greatest spots in the world. Her house was walking distance from fields, sheep and barns. We're not talking about the wild uncivilized country we get around here. Her world had mud and artists but was still a tidy place. I bet it's now all suburban--then it was country just next to a village.

I visited that part of the world about five or six times in my life--that time I was lucky enough to show up at lambing time and her neighbor, the lord (he really was a lord, though I can't recall of what. I just remember his first name, and his ex-girlfriend's name), was kind enough to let me gawp at the sheep up close.

As Rosemary pointed out, there is nothing in the world as enchanting as a lamb. It was exhilarating watching those lambs, just hours after birth, enjoying life as much as they did. Sheep seem stupid and lambs might well be one of God's dumbest critters, I don't know -- but they seem more than cute. They were alive and kicking in a way most of creation can only watch and envy.

Anyway. I had a couple of weeks with Rosemary. We did some lamb-petting. I got to spray-painting one or two. I did what I always did there, nothing much more energetic than tromp across fields, before I scraped off my wellies and headed back to the US.

I was in the airport at Boston, going through customs, when the woman asked me what I had to declare. I made some dumb joke about declaring the mud on my boots. Oops. Mistake. I had to be directed over to the guy in charge agricultural bushwa.

The guy asked me about the mud and farmland. I said something about I'd spent the weeks watching lambs being born. He'd been in automaton-bureaucratic mode but at that he looked up and smiled. "Oh, I've done that. There's nothing better in the world. Nothing better." And in that sterile airport we were both back in the country. That shared moment was almost as memorable as the time with the sheep.

My boots, by the way, really weren't that bad. I just was having trouble letting go of spring in the English countryside, that particular countryside, anyway.

I didn't get to see Rosemary or Dairy Cottage again. It wasn't long after that she remarried, a man I didn't know. And then she died a few years later. I haven't been back to England. I'm not sure I want to visit again because that spot and Rosemary were too important.

But I got the lambs again today when, not so far from downtown Hartford, I drove past what has to be the most pregnant sheep in the world. I wanted to get out and wait to see what would happen next. Yay for predictable and enchanting baby sheep still out there even if my connections to them are gone.

3 comments:

  1. That was a wonderful and touching little story. I like to keep my own "sheep moments" close to me as well. :)

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  2. Nice work, thanks again for sharing such an informative ideas., well thought out and written. Thank you

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  3. What a sweet memory. It evokes Dairy Cottage for me. Bob Hanbury was a squire, I think, but not really a lord. Could be wrong, of course...

    Thanks for bringing him and the place back for me. And the lambs, of course.

    Nan

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