Friday, December 08, 2006

1,2; Red,Blue; Deja Vu

Much of the past two years could be described as resolving dichotomies or juggling pairs: new-old, real-virtual, here-there, light-dark, town-country, and even the biggest of irreconcilable differences: life-death.

I have not been in virtual space for nearly two weeks because my real world was too full of new words for my mind to be able to pick the right ones to march across the virtual page. In keeping with the creativity inherent in slicing through paradoxes, I need real quiet to build a virtual conversation.

The farm was recently jerked out of its settling in for the winter equilibrium with the sudden death of an animal. It just dropped dead of a heart attack when being moved from one pen to another. That was a blow to everyone. It is an economic loss, of course, but far more concerning is the shock to the sense of stewardship. These animals are given to us in trust. We look after them. As she has so often done for me, Wee Calfie helped to cheer Morris up. As he stood by one of the pens, she came up to him and gave him a little nudge and he reached out and scratched her shaggy forehead.

The next day our stockman spotted two sterks (young cattle--between calf and adult, kind of adolescent) that were "no' right." One was red; the other, blue. Neither animal fits the bill of a true Crayola scarlet red or ultramarine, but if you saw them you would definitely be able to say that one was reddish and the other definitely blue-ish. If they were school children, you would have no qualms saying "Yes, you can stay home from school today." They were lethargic, feverish. The vet came and dosed them with antibiotics and took their temperatures. We moved them to the quiet byre where the dun-coloured heifer spent her convalescence*.

When I came home in the evening, Morris asked me to go with him to look at the sterks in the steading. I moved slowly along the edge of the byre so as not to disturb them. I can see that Red is breathing roughly and has the bright eyed look that comes with a fever. Blue's breathing is OK and he rises easily to his feet. Morris opens the gate between their well-strawed bedding area to a pipe in the corner. He runs water into a large tub and both animals come toward it eagerly. "Sometimes when cattle don't feel well," he explains, "it can be too much effort for them to push the tab on their water bowl."

He watches them with a practiced eye and I watch them carefully not sure what to see. Blue ambles out the gate and down the corridor. "Where is he going? Do you want me to bring him back?"

"He's looking for his pals. No, no. Let him go. They'll come back to the nice bedding area when they are ready."

I am distracted by our own resident former orphaned barn kitty now self-styled court jester, Solomon. He follows me around when I go out and comes to the kitchen window to remind me to bring breakfast or dinner or snacks. He usually watches from a safe distance when I am with Morris or wearing my Wellies, whose thick soles and clunky shuffle look like trouble to cats. I don't think he has been back in the barn since he moved to the dairy maid's cottage, but he has followed us right into the byre and is rolling and purring and behaving in a way that he cannot be ignored. So I pet him and then bundle him up into my arms to get him past the sterks who look very large compared to Solomon.

Where Solomon leads, Sheba and Nomie usually follow, at a safe distance from beneath a parked car or behind a bush. From timid, orphaned, half-starved kittens they have grown into local royalty. Even Morris has been charmed by them--in part, no doubt, because he now believes what I have said all along: all cats remain predators. Morris has seen them in action and so is willing to accept their uncharacteristically cheeky behavior as long as they continue to fulfill their duties on rodent patrol. Everyone works on a farm. I drop Solomon back onto the ground just outside the kitchen door and as I do so, Sheba and Nomie make their appearance. I pet them all before I go inside and they go looking for mice in the garden.

In my town life, I was enrolled in Energy Efficiency training in Glasgow, about 8 hours drive south of here. I was so excited to think that Glasgow was far enough south to give me 10 more minutes of daylight that I overlooked the fact that it usually has more rain even than we do. Fortunately, my colleagues and I had great weather and I got not only my ten more minutes of daylight but also the lights of a big city. I learned, among many other more useful things in three days of training, that a cat, on average, generates about 11 watts of heat.

Since I last sauntered through this virtual landscape, I turned 60. It is more significant here than in the US because I am, over here, now officially of pensionable age. I can get a senior rail card, a free bus pass, and maybe a little bit of a pension. All that is fine, but the gratifying part of this birthday was just how many people genuinely wished me well. My work mates and friends and family on both sides of the Atlantic sent cards and took me out and bought me lunch. It made it easier to be 60 and to be here.

My daughter and grandson reached across the Atlantic with a card from Oxfam saying that 50 trees had been planted for my birthday. It was a wonderful present. I like to think about those trees growing up somewhere they can make a difference--their toe-roots holding on to fragile topsoil, their green leaves swapping oxygen for CO2, and a scent, or just a friendly touch of green saluting passersby.

Deja Vu nearly swamped me when I filled in for other members of the community association where I work at an all day conference on the arts. The presenters were earnestly making the case for the economic value of the arts. Nearly a decade ago in Indianapolis, I had again filled in for a colleague at a similar event with earnest presenters, arts organizations, and some sturdy funding agency representatives trying to have a useful discussion about the way forward with the arts in the community in a time of limited funding. If not for the Scottish accent, I would have believed that I had fallen into a time warp.

As if to ensure that clothes from my former life got a proper airing, my brown suit, taupe basic pumps, and I then went to a series of presentations on microrenewables at a research organization associated with the local college. I am, nominally, one of the presenter's 10 student researchers.

Today was a day of catching up with farm life and our social life. We went into town, did some errands, and met folks and had coffee and then lunch and then more coffee with other friends. No brown suit and pumps. When we turned into the farm road, we were greeted by half a dozen breakaway sheep. I don't know what makes sheep go walkabout. We herded them back along the road with the Volvo. I hoppped out to open a gate to the field where they belonged and then backed away so that they would not be put off going back to where they belonged but close enough to have enough time to keep them from the main road.

The leader of the band came halfway back to the open gate but tried, instead, to leap over or through the drystane dyke--the 3 foot high stone wall. After beating herself up against the rocks for more times than you could imagine even a sheep would try, she wised up and led the group through the gate.

As it turns out, she knew more than I gave her credit for. I thought she had squeezed through the side of a gate until Morris pointed out a gaping hole in the stone wall below the gate. Her persistence had previously been rewarded although why the grass on this side of the fence looked greener to her band of tearaways remains a mystery.

With the sheep tucked up, we settled into trying to tie up the loose ends of accounts and Christmas cards and all the details that need to be tied up so we can be away for a month. Nostalgia hit me a couple months ago and among other things, I wanted to see the Christmas windows in Marshall Fields--I know that it no longer is called Marshall Fields but in my mind's eye it is Marshall Fields and I am sure that if I ask directions to it or tell a taxi to take me there, they will not say, "What do you mean?" Place names change slowly. I need it to be Marshall Fields just this one more time then perhaps I'll be ready to move on.



*The dun coloured heifer is OK. She was put in with the calves and was very pleased with the company.



7 Comments:

At 11:17 PM, Anonymous ampiggy said...

Me, you. Glad 2 have U back.

 
At 1:26 PM, Blogger landgirl said...

Oh,Miss Piggy, you are a treasure. You are never far away from me, really, are you? I thought about you when I almost stopped blogging.

 
At 6:16 PM, Blogger The Curmudgeon said...

I too am certain that if you ask to go to Field's the cabbie won't ask for clarification. Except maybe Michigan Avenue vs. State Street.

I've read, but I haven't noticed because I've only been by there a couple times (it's out of my way), that there are protesters there each day trying to keep people out of the Macy's....

 
At 9:57 AM, Blogger landgirl said...

Oooh, protesting what? I don't have to go in to Marshall Fields (I refuse to use the other name) but I need to see those windows. I hope I can do that without having to cross a picket line or anything. I like to respect people's rights to protest even if I don't share their opinions or think that anyone listens any longer. I have a fondness for the bill of rights and that American sense of a handful of people with enlightened self interest reshaping the world. Am I just getting sentimental as an ex pat?

 
At 5:24 PM, Blogger The Curmudgeon said...

Protesting that it's Macy's....

 
At 3:07 PM, Anonymous ampiggy said...

I think of you often and check your blog even when I have no reason to think there's a new entry. I read the comments. I'm glad I helped you not to stop. Many others read your blog too, who don't stop to leave a swatch of cloth.

L.S. Ayres is no longer, either. It's Macy's too.

 
At 3:40 PM, Blogger landgirl said...

Oh, Curmudgeon, I don't know what is sillier--my failing to realize that the protesters were protesting the name change or the trivialization of protest. Am I out of touch because I've been out of the country or is that a silly use of protesting?

 

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