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#9 what’s not important about … goats?

August 19, 2011

There are people who have asked me why I don’t write about things that are ‘important’.

Important.  I only have this to say – as the world roils around us, I feel that it all is important. Without the dark there would be no light … and without the light I could not survive … the light and dark are symbiotic, I could not see color, nor could I feel peace without them both. And here, on these pages I choose to focus on what it is that brings me peace.  It may well be a journey to get to it, it may be through the beauty of our music or the sight of a doe and fawn tiptoeing through the morning mist or even a slog through something difficult to come to eventually find it, but that is the point of this blog. The journey TO the peace. The Muse.  Inspiration. ‘All The Little Graces’ could not have been written without the existence of not only the Light – the beauty of the Greek light and her sea, the people, the magic of all of the elements in perfect combination and the deep and resonant calm life on the island gift me with – but also of the other side, the dark, the ‘hard stuff’, the sadness and cruelty that is a big part of the life of animals on the streets, unfairness, the unwarranted and the painful.

It all comes to color and beauty in the end. If I can embrace the spectrum of color, existence, emotion, life on this planet, I can hopefully find the goodness, the peace. I can sing peace and write peace.

At this moment, my peace comes in the form of ‘goat’.  The animals do that for me, more than the Humans … take the form of goodness and peace. But here, perhaps it is the ghost of Pan, the half man half goat Greek God of nature giving reason to make me giggle?

Capra Aegagrus Hircus. Domestic Goat. Crazy 4 legged ruminates that make one laugh. And sometimes curse. We don’t eat goat here. We love goat. Well, we have learned to love goat. We sometimes do curse Goat, but more often than not, we smile and laugh Goat.  A few years ago we inherited two elderly spinster Nigerian Dwarf goats from neighbors who had to move away … Daisy and Posy, very intelligent, self-possessed sisters who had been raised more like Yorkshire terriers than goats. Paul built them a magnificent little house of mostly found materials, ‘Villa Katsikes’, Villa of the Goats. (“I could live in THAT” my more sarcastic friends say. Well, you are welcome to, one day. Right now, it is for the goats. And THAT could take me into a discussion around “Are goats NOT important?  Why not?  Is it because they are not human? Is caring not true, or righteous, if the caring is for the animals … rather than for the humans?” But I won’t go there, now.) Villa Katsikes is ‘barn red’ and has mangers for hay and a bucket of fresh water, a soft mound of bedding and a ‘scratching pad’ mounted on the wall because goats are very itchy beasts and will destroy everything in their path as they rub their way through their search for that perfect something to scratch upon!  Villa Katsikes has windows and doors that lock up to keep vulnerable creatures safe from coyote and lion and is set within the confines of a 60 foot round pen that I used to school Tempest in.  Some day it will be Villa Kotopoula, Villa of the Chickens. Or ‘Villa Pali Mousiki , Villa of the Old Musicians.  But for now it is the Villa of the old lady Goats.

villa katsi’kes

I’ve been graced by the companionship of horses, cats and dogs my whole life. Even cows. My deep, and darling, teachers, all. Never goats. These little creatures were new to me and after I naively offered to take them in they presented me with an abstract learning curve I’d not been expecting. I did expect to be able to ‘read’ Daisy and Posy, as I do all of the animals in order to sense more about them, but they were impenetrable! They just lay there in their stony holes pawed out of the round pen footing, burping and chewing their cud, mutant golden eyes half closed as if meditating on some great, vast within-ness  …  they did not respond to their names, and only followed me around, or interacted with me in any way, if I carried pockets full of goat goodies, little balls of edible goodness made specifically for goats that quickly became a currency as precious as gold.

They just … were.

Yet when not meditating the Caprian dimensions of ‘I AM HERE’, the girls could be heard uttering pathetic whispers, a soft bleating under their breath as they stood at the edge of their pen staring longingly in the direction of the place they had long known as home, the only home/people/horse/routines they had known for 10 years before coming to us …

This was their other meditation, the one on ‘I WANT to be THERE’.

Indecipherable, sad goats. Living, hungry, itchy lumps of burping, vast and bottomless sorrow … yet more beings to protect from the appetites of the wilder things, two more mouths to feed and even more to keep us tied to a schedule in our sometimes inconvenient lives. What had we done?   Administering worming paste and trimming dainty little cloven hooves were matters I quickly learned to attend to, and since Daisy had come to us with a mild congestive heart failure I also learned how, in essence, to torture a goat by wrestling it and then trying to get the poor thing to stay still long enough to medicate it; administering shots or pills, or drenches that I tried to get into her mouth and to trickle down her throat, but more often got all over both Paul and I, on clothing and in hair. So it didn’t help things that poor Daisy started mistrusting her new people almost immediately. She began to growl at me as only a goat can, and scurry to a more distant spot in the pen when she saw me approaching the villa.

“F### THIS!!” I announced loudly one day, covered in white goo and foamy, stressed-goat spit.

I suddenly understood that we all would live far more happily with the heart problem, and without these twice-daily torture sessions. Daisy was an old lady who had lived a good, long goat life and who deserved ease in what was left of it! So quality of life took over where responsibility/torture left off and she did just fine without the meds. It took close to a month for her to stop eying me with suspicion, though – but then things began to look up within this human-goat conundrum I had so willingly invited into our usually quite Zen life on the farm.

We eventually let the ladies out of their pen, thinking they would like to graze with Tempest and Molly. On that first day their gate was opened to the farmlet’s acres, they were absolutely bewildered – they seemed astounded that they were free and, blinking wildly, and hesitant as though stepping into a burning sunlight for the first time ever, they tiptoed into their new world …  But instead of nibbling young oak shoots or browsing the burdock erupting from the ground around them they headed, like robots, stiff legged and bleating in monotones to the fence-line at the back of our property where they stood for hours, keening for what used to be their home. Our currency, the goat cookies, suddenly lost all value … we could not get the girls to budge. Through the afternoon their unison bleats turned into a cacophonic chorus that we could hear rise and fall in distant waves on the breeze, and they only quieted with the coming of dusk. For some reason that was it, that was the last of their unhappiness, as if they had banished it with their strange song, some ritual known only by the goat-kind.  Like little toddlers exhausted by a particularly emotive day, dragging their feet and whining only a bit they followed us back to their pen for the night. The very next day they began to let us ‘see’ them. Personalities blossomed, fragrant with cheer and mischief. Daisy; the stoic independent, the thinker, the cat chaser, the ascetic who spent hours meditating in her little plastic dog igloo or alone on the farthest reaches of the property radiating happiness from the profound depths of her goat meditation … Posy; the quiet joker, always looking through windows – or under skirts – subservient to her sister but happiest closer to the house with the humans and the horses than out ‘there’ where there might be monsters and wild things. Often they moved in stealthy tandem, each other’s shadow, tinkling bell and clickity hooves giving them away, or they danced and chased … the clowns, the joy bringers, amusing sprites – light, like balloons filled with helium – these crazy little old ladies were just delightful.

It didn’t take them long to discover the true joys of foraging … the scrub shrubs and weeds, clovers and dandelions, oak leaves, acorns, burdock and blackberry.  And then they found … the roses and daisies, coreopsis and cosmos and lilac bushes … and in one day had re-designed our whole yard.

bluejay bush landscaped by Goat Inc.

a little trim here …

a little trim there …

It was as though the Alien Landscaping Company had been here and everything from the ground up to 3 ½ feet was carefully stripped and pruned to the goats’ liking.  But trading sullen, sad goats and a conventional yard for lively, happy pixies and a yard that is at the least, quite interesting?  … That was priceless.

Daisy and Posy made us laugh a lot.  Each morning they sang a greeting to us when we first stepped from the house, much like the echo of goats giggling, and when alerting us to any perceived ‘danger’ they sounded as though they were farting with the ecstatic delight of a 13 year old boy … THAT in itself is worth whatever it takes to keep goats thriving! Some people know this about me – I’ve never quite grown up. So if in just the right company (meaning ‘another immature adult’) when the ‘alert’ sounded, over and over and over, I could be found on the ground, rolling in a heap of mirth with tears running down my cheeks. (Now truly, that is an important thing for us adults to do once in awhile!)

The ladies also loved children and ran back and forth along the paths with them like happy, curious dogs. We learned not to leave anything of any length on the clothesline to dry, unless we wanted it to have that frayed and used look that only busy and curious goats can provide. And to keep the garden gate closed. The barn’s feed room door closed. And when we chanced upon them both sneaking into the house one day, we learned to keep the doors to the house – closed. I took to keeping my own mane pinned UP, after Posy – in one short second of what seemed like sweet nuzzling – snipped a two-inch wide swath of 8 inches of hair with her scissor-like teeth. They followed us everywhere and kept us entertained with their mischief, their goat dances and cat chasing and their endless curiosity … and those brain bashing goat games, rising up on hind legs and meeting in the loud crack of a head butt. (They tried this with Djuna, but he objected.) They loved the horses and if not grazing alongside them, could be found somewhere on the property in the best of the cool, moist, shady spots … burping and chewing, meditating and smiling.

I’ve been blessed by the companionship of many, many dear four legged ones, and of all of those who have lived well into their elder years only a very few have left us in their own time. I absolutely hate the option to that particular grace – that final decision, to euthanize, never gets easier for me, though I am truly grateful to have the ability to even make that choice. (If only we could make that decision for ourselves should frailty and pain or a slowly disappearing mind overcome our own dignity and quality of life in our elder years.)  But the ‘when’ part of that choice is never quite clear enough to me. I belabor it, lose sleep over it and weep buckets of tears over it while my dear one may be suffering longer than is necessary. But when the decision has been made, I will hold my beloved in my arms, if possible, while they slip away …  and whisper my love for them, my grateful thanks into their ears before they can hear me no more. But then, there is the sadness. The dying is usually so peaceful and beautiful, a holy moment, like birth – it is the missing them that gets to me, that stays with me, a heavy cloak of grief. I am certain many of you also know this feeling all too well.

Daisy Goat

We lost little Daisy a few weeks ago. Her heart finally just gave out and it became obvious that we needed to help her along her way before she began to suffer.

I didn’t get to know her as well I get to know as a dog who has been by my side for 14 years, or a horse who has grown older with me for over 20. Perhaps losing her was a bit easier because of that. A lovely young vet came to the farm to gently euthanize her and we buried her in the back of the property, with Shorty, Nemo, Haley, Mouse, Fluffy and Lila … the Yuba River rocks atop her grave, her monument.

the light and the dark

Only Djuna showed distress over her death …  when we covered her with earth his great calm returned.  Posy just sniffed her sister’s lifeless body for a moment, and then raided the open feed room.

Something sweet seems to have been liberated in Posy with her sister’s leaving. She has a bright bloom to her we hadn’t seen before, as though she is always smiling or harboring a silly joke. She is freed now of some unseen bonds, perhaps a need to honor the unspoken hierarchy of sisters. She sings a joyous, tremulous hello when first greeting us for the day, absolutely cherishes Paul and would follow him to the ends of time and though, once let out of her pen for the day, she has the run of the property she’ll join Djuna and I in the barn/church for our morning’s service of grooming and mucking.

And … she has taught me goat tricks of her own design, in trade for pony cookies.

Rev. Djuna and Mz. Posy begging

… pay attention!

… and watch the Goat Dance

Surprisingly content here as an only goat, she lives her days browsing the pasture or yard with the horses. She has landscaped all she can, there is no more she can do, this year, to sculpt the flow of the yard, so when not nibbling the clover and dandies she’ll often be seen enjoying long, quiet spells of goat meditation, eyes closed, chewing her cud.

We will hospice her here to her end too, Posy, the gentle being who makes me smile. Who makes me laugh and brings me peace. And that is Important, to me.

24 Comments leave one →
  1. August 19, 2011 3:12 pm

    Makes me want to have goats, too! I was very glad to see this in my inbox today. It seems like a long time since the last one.


  2. August 19, 2011 4:52 pm

    I just love sharing your experiences through your journal writing. Never having kept goats, I can only imagine (but rarely do) just what it might be like having them on the property. What’s “important” is for us to keep our sense of wonder, our curiosity, our sense of humor, and never lose our capacity for astonishment because the world is a very astonishing place.


    • August 22, 2011 1:32 pm

      Thank you Dolly .. sometimes it is hard for me – as it is for any of us – to sense the wonder, but it is there is the smallest details. Perhaps we just need to allow ourselves to see, right?


  3. August 19, 2011 5:01 pm

    Sad people, I think, people who are sad, lacking joy, are those who can’t see the importance of these stories.


  4. Jenny permalink
    August 20, 2011 2:16 am

    And once again, thanks to your delightful writing, laughter through tears. I treasure these notes dear Eleanore, thank you. xo


  5. dawn permalink
    August 20, 2011 4:20 am

    I love goats and your writing. These ARE the important things.


  6. Dana Sherwood permalink
    August 20, 2011 3:05 pm

    cannot imagine that anyone would tell you that you do not write about what is important! you write about caring, openness, and love…….. to me these are important!


    • August 22, 2011 1:28 pm

      I understand that we each have our feelings about what is important in and to our lives … i’m just happy that it’s the animals that figure so largely within that paradigm in mine! thank you Dana.


  7. Gergana Dimova permalink
    August 20, 2011 3:10 pm

    Well, those people have just read the wrong book or article . . . And no one has asked them to read yours if they don’t understand them. . . “Every train has it’s passengers”. . . .


  8. August 22, 2011 1:00 pm

    Beautifully written Eleanore.


  9. August 23, 2011 8:57 pm

    Beautiful piece, Eleanor. Tactile it is so descriptive, and reminds us in so many ways of what IS important. Politics is gossip. Living life in one’s full goat-ness or cow-ness or human-ness is the ultimate expression of purpose and hope.


  10. richard permalink
    August 30, 2011 6:49 am

    Dear Ellimou,knowing u personally ,i enjoy your style of writing,cause IT IS you!
    I like the mixture of beeing funny,hilarious ,thougtful,deep and beeing down to earth,and ,beeing able to be silly at the right time!!
    Right on ,like us old hippies say! :-))


  11. Cindi Buzzell permalink
    September 15, 2011 1:28 pm

    My dear sister of my soul…..I as you have had the great pleasure to always have been graced and blessed by those wonderful animals spirits that find us…..they give us joy, peace, serenity, laughter and tears.
    Truly we are blessed:-) And I am glad that we never did “grow up”!
    Cindi, Tido, Millie, Kokie,and the “ladies”… wonderful chicken friends!


    • September 15, 2011 2:35 pm

      thank you, dear Cindi … 🙂 Yes, you are a kindred spirit, and I am sure that my experiences echo your own. 🙂 We are blessed!
      Much love to you …. Eleanore


  12. kate bennett permalink
    October 3, 2011 5:44 pm

    This was so lovely, thank you! I especially loved this-

    “The dying is usually so peaceful and beautiful, a holy moment, like birth – it is the missing them that gets to me, that stays with me, a heavy cloak of grief. I am certain many of you also know this feeling all too well.”

    So very true & beautifully expressed. I love goats, spent a few years caretaking & herding them in the mountains with the experienced assistance of my Australian Kelpie herding dog. Loved the spring when the babies were born so much. A field of running jumping & usually falling over baby goats was the most joyous experience. Such silly wonderful creatures!


  13. November 29, 2011 11:26 am

    I suggest adding a facebook like button for the blog!


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