A few months ago, our lives became infinitely richer when the goat came to live on the ranch. In the time since he's been here, he has gone from being a somewhat indifferent and skittish personality, to...well...
...basically he's become a dog.
In taking a cue from his new best friend, Gidget the Border Collie, he has learned the best way to communicate with us. Often he will nudge or nibble, but mostly he uses his feet. Whenever the dogs want something...more petting, more snacks, more more more...they will gently paw our legs, or put a front leg into our hand. The goat has taken a page from their book.
Yesterday, he went on a walk with my daughter and I, down to the bottom pasture where the miner's lettuce and mustard flowers grow tall. It's been our go-to destination for the past few weeks, and all we have to say to entice him now is "Come on! Miner's lettuce!". He ambled over and followed our small herd down to the soft patchwork full of ladybugs and shepherd's purse. It was a particularly nice afternoon, and a quiet descended over all of us...my daughter was playing with a puddle, I was meditating, and the goat folded his legs under him and sat with eyes at half mast, chewing his cud.
After a while I sat next to him, offering ear scratches. Eventually his eyes popped open and he slowly stood up. He glanced at me, down at my outstretched legs, and gave my foot a soft nibble. When I remained sitting, he put his hoof gently on my leg. When I still didn't stand, he looked at me pointedly, then "pawed" at both my legs. Getting the message, I stood up, and with a lively skip in his step, we all continued on our walk. Later on, it was the same. Hanging out by our house, we were sitting together again when he got up, pawed at my legs, waited for me to stand, and then led me over to the front door. It was as clear as if he had said it outloud.
"It's snack time". He trotted inside and was rewarded with a few slices of bell pepper.
Some days I feel as if my time is spent satisfying the appetites of peckish creatures. My daughter needs a before-breakfast-snack as soon as she gets up. After the coffee is made, it's outside to leave offerings of peanuts for the crows. The maccaw that lives in a cage adjacent to our yard opportunistically schemes for a peanut of her own, and always calls out with a sugary "Hellooo", so she gets one too. Then it's back inside until one of the farm dogs rambles by and stops for a drink of water at the bowl by the front door. We welcome them inside for cheery good mornings and pets and perhaps a bone left over from broth making. Later on in the morning, the resident scrub jay stops by and squawks if there aren't any more peanuts left.
As a gardener, I plant enough extras for the earwigs and snails. (I tried eradication and being stingy and wound up with no food. So now I plan on their arrival to my green restaurant and there always seems to be enough.) I feed the microorganisms with compost tea, the plants with manure and on and on it goes, a thread of nurturing throughout the days, the warming soil taking and giving, hunger sparked, satiated and sparked again.
With the arrival of early spring, the incidents of road kill have increased. Mostly skunks, loping through the night in their hungry quest for food and mates, caught in confusion and short sightedness by the bright lights that bear down on them. Just in the past two days I have moved both a small doe and mother raccoon to the side of the road, their own hunt for love and life ending abruptly. The ever patient Turkey Vultures barely stepped aside as I dragged the carcasses off the road. Everything is looking for snacks of one kind or another, sometimes the literal or metaphorical hunger drives us into unfamiliar terrain or danger.
I meditate in the morning and find this to be good for the munchies of ennui, body and heart satisfied as I wind down out of my head and reign in the seat of my soul. Recently I was nearing the end of a 20 minute snacking sitting sesh, and was resting in the silence, when suddenly a blue and white shriek pierced straight through. My belly and chest became filled with bubbles of joyous laughter. The scrub jay had landed on the fence outside and was yelling about the lack of peanuts. I laughed because in that moment it seemed to perfectly express the Crux of Things. Animals wanting snacks. All of us, throughout our days, looking for what we need, being driven by desire and longing. Sometimes it's just the mid-day cruz through the kitchen, making coffee or a treat, sometimes it's the application of lipstick before the club, hoping to attract another. It's there in everything we do, from eating to dating to war to putting our family in a small raft in a mediterranean sea...all of us doing whatever it takes, in varying intensity and form, to keep the wheel of life spinning around.
The thread of connection between hungry scrub jays and the Syrian refugee crisis might seem thin, but to me the level of response is the same. As I come into relationship with the beings around me, empathy for other follows naturally, and leads to selfless giving. I feed crows, snails, goats, because I see their longing and desire as my own, with no differentiation, and it is the same with people. I still get to have boundaries (ok goat, time to get out of my house) but I can respond compassionately and most often that looks like reaching out my hand...literally (feeding plants or moving road kill) or metaphorically (having hard conversations or advocating for political change)...and saying...
I'm here with you and so is my heart. And sometimes...It's snack time.
After all, who doesn't like snacks?