On April 13 of this year at about 10:30 at night, my life was changed forever: these two beauties were born. I knew I ultimately want to live in a community with goats. I knew I have loved working with and learning about goats on Frugalbundance Farm since late last summer. I would revel in how cute, funny, and charming I often found our goats, and Jeanne would say, "Just wait until the kids are here."
These are Jasmines' daughters, Amanita and Jewelweed. Jasmine is special to me: the goat who challenged me when I first started working with the herd. I had to learn quickly how to keep myself safe from a charging goat. She took the most work to allow me to milk her, too. I used to have to count a few squeezes, stop and give her a raisin, scratch her chin and rub her face, and then bargain for twice as many squeezes, three times as many squeezes... I used to call her the math goat. She's also really pretty, a calico goat perhaps.
The night Jasmine kidded was my first time. Jewelweed came out first, little nose and front hooves leading the way. I was toweling her off and didn't see the other two arrive, Amanita second and their brother Juniper shortly after. I helped towel off Amanita, too - we wanted to dry them quickly because it was so cold that night, dipping down below freezing after a warmer spell. I was amazed how quickly the kids got up and started trying to walk around, very awkwardly. They and their mama were calling to each other, learning to recognize each other's voices. When I talked to the babies, they would come right up to me. "It's like they know you," commented our neighbor. They had heard my voice before: when I milked Jaz, I would say hi to them in her belly. I felt like I knew them, too.
It was a zoo for a while, kids staggering around on shaky legs, Jasmine going here and there, licking first one kid, then another, then my hands and face, then another kid, four of us humans trying to be helpful. Then suddenly the kids started dropping off to sleep. Jeanne and I slept in the barn that first night to make sure Jaz didn't accidentally step on anybody. Despite Jeanne's careful arrangement - you here, kids here, mama here, and me here - we each ended up with kids in our sleeping bags and I had Jasmine smooshed up against me with her head on my hip. I was in awe. Amanita was curled against my chest, and Jewelweed by my belly. At one point I needed to move Jewel, confirming that she does indeed have the loudest voice. I barely dozed all night, seems like every few minutes I reached over to make sure they were there: here a head, here the legs, breathing, yes.
For the next few days it was hard to be apart from them. I kept hearing in my head, "These are my goats." My mind would argue. I can't have goats! I don't have land. I'm not in the community yet with other people who want goats. My partner doesn't want goats! But my heart was quiet yet insistent. It was a big deal for me to admit I wanted them. It was scary.
Especially when I started realizing I needed to transition out of partnership with the man I had been in life and business with for the past four years, leaving me to start over with close to nothing, was it scary. "The South Moon Node is about releasing what no longer serves." I kept thinking we could make it work, that something else needed to be released for the relationship to deepen.
I stayed in denial until I couldn't.
Right around this time I learned my mom had breast cancer. It hit me viscerally. She assured me she was fine, that the surgery would be no big deal, they caught it early, etc. I arranged to come home for the surgery to lend a hand with whatever. It was a pretty good visit, all in all. The surgery went well and her recovery was relatively speedy. My mom is tough, and she maintained a good attitude.
At some point I talked about my goat dilemma, telling them how I'm looking for a new living situation where I can have these goats with me, how it's part of my eventual dream of living in community on the land. (I can't stay where I'm at; we don't have enough room in the barn to keep more goats.) Both my parents responded with something like, "Well, that doesn't sound very likely." And my dad followed up by telling me intentional communities don't work out, I'm looking for utopia, and basically something along the lines of, "Get real, kid." I was feeling particularly sensitive and easily discouraged that day. It was hard.
The next day some kind of miracle happened. My dad said, "I think I know a way you can find a place for your goats. You write a book. It's called Have Goats, Will Travel. Most of it is already written: it's your life up until now. You put an ad on Craigslist, "Have Goats, Will Travel," and you write the next chapter from there. Either you write it about whatever happens next, or you make something up."
That is my dad. That's the creative thinker I've hardly ever seen him allow himself to be. Also interesting is how close he comes here to how I actually live my life, and how I'm mostly reluctant to admit to my parents how I live my life. Yup.
To be continued...
I've been living in Paonia, Colorado for almost the past 9 months. Yeah, that sounds about right for the gestation period this has been. One day I was doing one of those repetitive, artist-brain type activities that so deliciously occupy my monkey mind and pull me into the present moment, while gently mulling over what it is about this place that tugs my heart and has me wanting to stay. It was then within my mind's eye that I saw a vision of all the mountains that surround this fertile valley - standing as if living sentient entities forming a delegation to give me this message: "We'd like to have a word with you." And then it was gone, such a fleeting image it could be dismissed as just another thought, except for the lingering depth of feeling that accompanied it. My heart replied, "I'm willing."
It's been a slow unfolding for me to learn to listen to what the world is speaking to my heart. Somewhere along the line during what I call my "Vicarious Mountaineering" obsession, I wondered if the mountains weren't nudging me toward these stories and the questions they brought up in my soul. Something inside me whispered, "Yes." So I flowed with the go, so to speak. I am gradually learning how to trust my heart's path through the world, no matter how much it doesn't look like anybody else's. In fact, that's one of the best ways to know it's mine!
I've also been working with The Artist's Way course again since moving here. Layer upon layer this tool for recovery has helped me reclaim my own Life. Thank you! I can now claim my purpose as an artist, know it is important, and take steps to move forward more fully into the life created by my joyful participation. And pictured on the cover of The Artist's Way book is, naturally, a mountain.
Birthed out of this process of reclamation is one of my latest projects: my 2019 Peak List. I'm looking for climbing partners! Always, always in alignment with my heart's joy.
(Photos coming soon!)
We got up early in the morning to begin our quest. We wanted to have the whole day ahead of us, to go at a relatively leisurely pace, and to be prepared for any potential adventures, as both of us were unfamiliar with the mountain. We had scouted possible ascent routes earlier in the year, while snow still lay upon the ground from top to bottom, and we were leaning toward tackling the steeper North Face - ice picks in hand, crampons to foot, and oxygen masks at the ready.
However, by the time a day arrived that combined time, availability, and inclination for both of us, the snow and ice were long melted from the flanks of our fair peak, and we decided at the last minute to drive to the southwest slope, where my esteemed climbing partner had identified a known and safe route to the summit. Actually, we didn’t get going that early either, and we parked at the trailhead around 11:30 AM, in a quiet, hilly, suburban neighborhood. Gathering our supplies from the vehicle didn’t take long, and soon we were happily on the trail.
The conversation, I recall, was excellent. L and I have a way of playing off each other’s energy to become more and more animated and excited. We talked of thoughts and ideas; plans, dreams, and visions; books, movies, music, and dance. Of course we talked much about relationships, in true feminine form, with people, with the land, with the unseen… And we took in the world around us. It was a glorious sunny day, soft and alive with Springtime. It was Mother’s Day - I remember taking pictures of wild bouquets of red Paintbrush, blue Larkspur, and yellow Asteraceae in bright bloom to send to my Mom. Butterflies fluttered indulgently from flower to flower.
We accidentally passed by the unassuming summit at first, and were deep in conversation when we realized we were starting to head down the other side. “Oops!” We turned back smartly and located the highest ground we could find. Juniper trees shaded the gentle slope, thwarting my idea of a stark, barren summit pose photo - flag blowing in the harsh wind and goggles caked with frost. Alas. But we did snap a few photos and sign the summit register, basking in the glow of our achievement. I sang my Mountain Song three times, as is my custom. Then we wandered a short ways away and sat down for a rest and a snack.
We each took some solo time to be with the place and offer what we had felt moved to bring as gifts. Before we set out I had focussed my attention on this mountain to ask what might be appreciated. I had written a draft of a poem, intending to rework it up there, but it turned out I didn’t bring a pen, and it seemed better for the purpose anyway in the rough form it came in. Yet again circumstance dictated what the mind may have tried to force another way.
I also had a hunch this mountain wanted something made by my two hands, which I would be led to make once I got there. After sitting for a while in contemplation, I stood up and walked in openness. I found some clay that only needed some liquid from my body to become a modeling compound, added a bit of plant fiber and carried it with me, allowing my hands to form it as I went. Soon I came to a gorgeous Juniper skeleton all turns and twists and exotic, flamelike projections of trunk and limb. It gracefully reached out a hand to receive my tiny sculpture. I admired the effect for a moment and considered taking a photo, but this piece was for an offering. “This is between you and me.” And I left it to the Wild Beauty That Surrounds Us At All Times. My heart felt peace.
On my walkabout to rejoin with L, a hummingbird came to greet me with curiosity, hovering a couple feet in front of me for a few moments suspended, eye to eye. Swallows were dancing through the air on the South Side in seeming joy at their own movement in space. I felt included in their play as they swooped and flitted in grandiose arcs all around me.
I saw a look in L’s eye that told me more than words could that her solo time had been good for her as well. I read my poem aloud with our human ears for witness and buried the biodegradable paper beneath a tree.
With a last parting gratitude we started back to the world of people.
Photo credit: all photos of me, the Junipers with mountains in the background, and the flowers on the left all taken by Laura Zick.
(Made summit on 01-24-2019)
For my first stunning feat of daring adventure on my Peak List I chose to summit the first peak I see now as I raise my gaze from my page steadily upward past the crawdad shell on my windowsill nature altar, past my blue Toyota Echo, past the "gun" spraying ditch water out over paddock 2 in the goats' pasture, some Cottonwoods, a distant cherry orchard, and a stretch of yellowing grass: our beloved "P" Hill (AKA Cedar Hill), its P for Paonia turned to my left toward downtown at an angle that looks like a white smudge from my vantage point. It's the closest peak I see from my tiny house, the most in-focus amid the summer rain that's falling now and obscuring all the mountains in my view to varying degrees.
The feat of this ascent was perhaps not so much in the climb itself, as in motivating my chosen human climbing partner to undertake it. N is a self-professed lover of yoga, dance, and some other forms of exercise, but a hater of hiking of any kind, particularly uphill. Also, it was winter at the time, so at least one of my peaks was climbed under cold and snowy conditions. "Wear boots," I told her, though for the record I failed to take my own advice on that score. As you can see in this photo. It's ok, though. I'm tough.
We drove (yup) to the cemetery on the southwest side of the mountain and parked at the bottom of the last bit of road (yup) leading up to the summit. There was a good bit of snow on that last bit of road, and it was satisfyingly steep, though not terribly far. Unless you're N. Then it was very, very, very far. She did, I believe, complain piteously almost the entire way up, as I had been duly warned she would do. She was, however, smiling. I suspect she may have been sneaking some fun-having along the way.
After a herculean struggle up slippery slopes trodden only by a couple of brave souls before us, we arrived at the top. "We made it!!!" We cried. We had to wade through thigh-deep snowdrifts to gaze out over the Paonia downtown. N's spirits were considerably brightened even beyond the fun of grumbling up the hill. She positively glowed.
As we were admiring the view, a sprightly little willy-willy of a wind funnel bounded up the hill toward us, stopping just feet from where we stood, as if to say hello. Clothed in sparkling snow, it could hardly be called a dust devil. N expressed our mutual awe and wonder by exclaiming, "What is that?!?" with emphasis at least seven or eight times. I could only grin.
We then made our way over to the two picnic tables (yup), where I sang my Mountain Song to set a tone of reverence, and then endeavored to fulfill what I felt the mountain was asking of me as an offering. It asked me to describe what I saw from there through my human eyes. Somehow it seemed that my seeing could enrich the mountain's "seeing", could enhance its slow knowing. I don't know for sure, but I did my best. It certainly awakened me further to my surroundings, to pay closer attention to all I could see from there, how much there was to see and notice from there, and how much I tend from necessity to overlook. My inner map of how things are connected was strengthened. I felt how my human way of seeing and knowing is only one tiny way among many, but none-the-less bright and magnificent for all that, and I was struck that a being like a mountain might possibly be interested in what I saw.
N and I sat in the sun at the picnic tables and talked for a while. The snow had melted and refrozen into cylinders dropping through the holes in the metal of the table tops. From below it looked weird and interesting. Our conversation took a turn to the depths, tracing childhood trauma evoked by current relationships and our desire to hold and heal our inner children. I felt gratitude to feel the safety of revealing deeper aspects of ourselves in our budding friendship.
We did snap some summit photos to show we had been. "Now, N, you can say you climbed a mountain!" It was relatively painless, wasn't it? Perspective was gained - in the heights and the depths.
My Peak List had begun!