Medicine Woman Walking- Around the Ranch

Posted by on 02.23.08 | 3 Comments
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Since my last blog post (a month ago), I’ve caught spring in action on several occasions. She’s shy, but I was able to get just close enough to take some really amazing pictures. This farm photo shoot was my first spring activity of the year, not counting my awkward scramble up the icy side of Pilot Butte the day before. This hour I spent with the animals in the sun, and captured on camera, warmed me from the inside out.

They were shy around me at first, because I’m afraid they hadn’t actually seen me since before November, when I began to hibernate in my house and it was too cold to venture out to the barn. My dad is there every day, snow or sleet, but for three months I stayed inside with my two cats and house bunny, rescued from the barn just days before real winter set in. At night I would look out through my glowing kitchen window at the woolly sheep, huddled together and frosted with snow. They would look back at me blankly, with what looked like either dumb apathy or soul-deadening rage. I tried to make them understand that if I end up going to medical school in Wisconsin, which is looking likeliest, I will share in their pain. But they didn’t seem to take comfort in my words.

Last weekend, the sun seemed to finally break through the clouds, and I ventured out with my camera to make peace with the animals I had forsaken. Mostly because I wanted to see the three week-old piglets, and I needed to get some fresh hay for the bunny. The mama pig did not like it a bit when I crawled over her fence to where her babies practiced uprooting grubs in the dirt. The horses and sheep scattered when I approached, the llama lowered his ears, and I knew I had a lot of explaining to do. So I sat on a flat rock as close to the nursing piglets as I could, and after just a minute or two, mama pig forgot all about me, and her snuffly babies stumbled right over to me to proudly show off their filthy snouts. They clearly didn’t hold a grudge about the fact that I had been sleeping on a pillowtop bed instead of a bed of wood chips and frost. So it was tempting to just hang out with them all day, and keep avoiding the glaring bulls and skittish sheep, but eventually my heart filled to the brim with cute piglet warmth, and I was ready for my confrontation.

I would have to earn their affection. They wouldn’t give it to me senselessly and amateurishly like the baby pigs. But standing in the middle of the menagerie, they eventually warmed to my presence too. The goat stopped head-butting me when I scratched his forehead. The most outgoing of the baby bulls peeked out from behind his tree and licked an eye for me. He had mellowed since the summer, when I tried to herd him back into his pasture from the front lawn and he chased me back to the front door. In hindsight, it was pretty cute for him to try to be a bull, pawing the ground and charging. But at the time it was heart-stopping, seeing as he weighed about 700 pounds at birth.

Anyway, the highlight of my animal adventure, other than the frolicking piglets, was my time with the rooster, following him around while the turkey followed me, no more than a foot or two behind. The red-headed rooster would wait just long enough for me to get close enough for a picture, then turn and walk away. My favorite image is the one where he is turning the corner of the hen house, through the open gate. Somehow, this picture says a lot to me. First of all, there is no sense in chasing a chicken if he doesn’t want to be caught. I think I could probably learn to apply this to situations in my own life.

But after half an hour of slowly following this very dignified creature around several acres, I really came to respect him in a new way. Just like any other being on this earth, we cannot know where another is headed, or what they are looking for. We can only admire the walk they are on. And if they are clearly enjoying it, it would be wrong to get in their way or to hurry them up. And following on this rooster’s path, I enjoyed it as much as he did. Had I gone out for a walk on my own, I probably would have taken a very rational and boring path, either a circle around the whole ranch, or a straight line out to the barn and back, maybe pausing for a minute to admire the view of the mountains. But behind the lens of the camera, I could take it all in, rooster style. And the best part is that no one, chicken or woman, had ever or will ever again follow the exact path we took that day.

It reminds me of how parents describe those moments when their child allows them to see the world in a totally new way. When you see what is on the level of a three year-old, you’re amazed that you had never noticed it before. Well, for me right now, it’s a rooster and a protective mama pig. And I am grateful for the things only they could show me, when I finally ventured out to let them.

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