With the mating season in full swing, the conversation on our Icelandic sheep breeders' Yahoo group has focused on lambing, market weight of lambs, hanging weight, and the fact
that yearling ewes are just as tender and tasty as lambs.
I can't even think of eating my sweet Marsha, or Matilda of the great presence and gravitas. Harvesting meat chickens was
basically OK, but these sheep are now people that I know. They are no less individual than you and me.
When I drove the first nail into place while building this mini-farm, I stopped and asked the same question: How will I handle the part of farming where you take a life? My answer was, "I need to give these animals the best life that I can, and the easiest death that I can." It is still the same answer, but I am beginning to grasp now the emotional universe that this answer lives in.
This stance is not callous; it is not unfeeling. On the contrary, it is a vast feeling, a love and acceptance that is larger than my heart can easily hold. It is feeling my heart ripped open (open!) so that I can honor the great cycles of death, rot, birth,
life, ecstatically, woundedly, as a celebrant, over and over again. It is being willing to become nothing in front of Life and letting the enormity of its ways sweep over without offering any resistance. It is an active surrender. Maybe it is courage. I don't know. Maybe it is the Great Mother teaching me.
Now that my bread dough is rising and the
curds for cheese are draining in the fridge, I will go out and sit with the
sheep, and visit the chickens. My family.... The four-leggeds will probably just
stay on focus with their mating while I sit.