Monday, December 13, 2010

Reverb 10: Action

Action: When it comes to aspirations, it’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen. What’s your next step? (Author: Scott Belsky)

Keep writing. Everyday. Plain and simple. No need for any more explanation than that. And on that note, I'm switching to a more interesting prompt from Lisa.

What do you think about when you're milking the goats? What is your experience while milking? What do you see and hear?

Milking is one of those tasks that allows for some good thinking time, but it's tricky, because if I let my mind go too much, I end up not noticing when the goat is getting antsy and is ready to kick the pail. It's happened more than once. Believe me.

I milk in the mornings before the sun is up. I walk out to the barn with the pails in hand and open the gate. Sally always goes in with me and waits for me to move the stool off the stanchion. Lately she makes a beeline for the mineral bag in the corner of the barn and helps herself for a few minutes while I settle in. After she hops up on the stanchion, she dances around a little while I get the feed bucket out of the barrel. Once everything's in place, I sit down and go about cleaning her teats and checking the milk.

Once I've checked her out and I'm in my milking rhythm, I start listening to the sounds of the farm. Sometimes it's the surprisingly quiet sound of one of the cats chasing a bug in the barn. Often I listen for the birds as they wake and begin to sing in the morning. Always, I hear the busy scratching of the roosters and rogue hens looking for any little scrap of grain that's fallen to the ground from the picky goats who forage around in the bucket. I hear Daisy, our little doeling, bleating, trying to get my attention for one reason or another or just to hear the sound of her own voice. I hear the chorus of sheep off in the distance calling to make sure we remember to feed them.

There are no more beautiful sounds on earth than these things. Starting my day to this soundtrack has been one of the best things that's ever happened to me, and while it's tempting to let my mind wander and think about important things like how to use Facebook to market the seminary better, I often name the intrusive thought when I notice it and return to listening to the farm.

And I'll admit it here for God and of the things I hear is my own voice. I talk to the animals. I tell them thanks for the milk. I tell them that I love putting my face on their stomach as I milk. I apologize for having to spray cold cleaner on their teats. I tell them they're beautiful. I tell them that they're good girls. Silly, maybe but there's something about the intimate connection of milking that makes saying such things seem important, if not for the goat, then to remind myself that what we're doing here is a partnership.

What I see is the narrow view of the rear end of the goat, particularly the back legs and the teats tucked in between them. I notice all of the small pieces of hay and debris clinging to their udders and undersides and brush it away to keep it from falling in the bucket. I watch their legs for movement, hoping to avoid having feet in the pail. I see the milky white stream flow into the pail and erupt into a splash as it hits the side of the pail. I watch as the teats become limp and wrinkled once their udders are empty.

Once I'm sure of my rhythm and that my hands are positioned right to hit the pail, I see the cats exploring the barn, jumping up on the stack of bags of grain, then onto the counter, and finally up into the rafters. I watch as they circle the edge of the barn's ceiling looking down on me and the goat, and I pray that they neither fall nor jump when they get anywhere near the stanchion. Sometimes I see the new pups watching from the barn door, cocking their heads to get that curious sideways glance. I see the chickens searching, searching, searching on the barn floor for the smallest specks of grain.

And with all that good stuff to watch and hear, I still let my mind wander and think about what I'm going to do that day. Often, I'll plan my day or make a mental note of things I need to do or take care of. I think about projects at work or on the farm. If there's a problem we're trying to solve, I consider solutions to it. If I'm upset about something, I think about it obsessively until a rooster jumps up on the stanchion with the grace of a drunk trying to step off a curb and brings me back into the moment.

And always, always, I think about how incredibly grateful I am for this life and that it found me ready and available to live it....and then three goats crash the gate and come running in to the barn in a race to the stanchion and I'm back in the moment, sorting out who's supposed to be there and sending the others back into the barnyard to wait their turn.

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