The sky is cold, the sun pallid behind clouds stretched thin, the goat I milk as white as this early fall morning, as white the mist that hangs suspended in ribbons close to the ground and wrapped around trees, as white as the milk that hits the pail.
As white as my heart is black.
Because for the four thousand, three hundred and eightieth time, the number of days I conservatively estimate I’ve been at this, I wish I was doing something else.
Because caring for goats is hard.
And milking them? Well, milking them is hardest of all.
Ask anyone who’s done it.
And anyone who asks me about it gets the long and short of it. Or, the long of it really. There is no short of it.
The rearing hooves.The stubborn minds. The never-ending impatient rush for grain. Wrestling and pushing and stampeding and trampling. Hooves on toes then skidded up arms below, horns on flesh and pride a thing in motion.
Especially when you are in a hurry to be somewhere else. When a lack of time is something understood by all and irritation consumes what is left, when it is gobbled up as fast as grain, as if it is the last kernel left.
And there's sourness splashed the length of me and in my eyes too, milky white rivers that join the sweat from my brow, stinging and blinding as the flies touch my skin, drinking what they can from me, and from what the goats have provided too.
And it's hot.
Sometimes colder than cold too.
When the wind blows harshly and the leaves are off the trees. When it holds back too, selfish and ungiving under the sun.
Then, sore backs and bruised behinds and twisted ankles and shot knees and calloused hands are nothing on dirty skin.
Or souls, dark and bitter.
Some of the time anyway.
But oh, the delicious milk for dark coffee, the white foam on black liquid, the way bitter is made sweet. There I drink hot, soothing redemption.
The reward in the fight, the contrast. So I wait in the black and white. Until such time as I find something else to be dark about.
But perhaps then I will find the white there too. It's where there are green summer fields and goat bells dance in the breeze and the fields are all covered in little white flowers.