When the rain comes, it takes my animals with it. Not always. Sometimes. But every time it falls steadily, settles in, becomes intent, an awareness of the harm it can do lies parallel to a thankfulness for its provision.
Every time dark clouds gather overhead, I worry. I fret and pray my little herd seeks shelter when the weather starts acting up.
And I fear they won't.
Because sometimes, they don't.
Sometimes I watch them sprint in from the falling sky and other times I see them continue to stand out in the storm. There have been times I've run out after them, times when I am soaked through and when lightening strikes overhead.
When they continue to stand out on the open prairie in the middle of a tempest. When it seems I am the only one aware of what comes later.
There are those occasions too when I do nothing to intervene. Those times I let nature take its course. And how very brutal nature can be, sweet and caressing one moment, bitter and spiteful and unrelenting the next.
And so it goes with the seasons here in the country, those times when I would love to enjoy the peace of water falling like manna from heaven, particularly on parched and dusty soil, or even on those occasions when it bullies and threatens in overabundance outside, making me feel safer inside for it. When a white world outside and a crackling fire within provides comfort. Or when when a hot orange bakes everything to a crisp and the shade of a ancient tree provides little relief but I have a tall glass of peach tea. And air conditioning.
But, alas, there is never a time when a livestock owner can completely relax in the provision of home, in each refreshing phase. If only I could just enjoy the wonder of it at all times! To bring my dogs in and hunker down, knowing the cats are under hay in the barn and the chickens are in their coop all snug. Perhaps then I could roll with nature's plan.
Goats are a game changer here.
And so, when it rained and rained and rained, cold, recently, all day, day after day, flash flood advisories in effect, I was naturally concerned. I tried not to worry. I prayed. And I thanked God for the gift of a high place on a hill, for hot tea and warm blankets, even as I scanned the horizon for signs that help was needed, that all were not hidden in shelters, safe.
When the storms subsided, I drove out across the long grass, slowly, my daughter Grace an extra set of eyes. There I found two aluminum Quonset huts under a foot of water, thick with mud, one goat languishing in a ravine close by, another in a copse of trees, long gone. Others still out on the prairie getting their fill of vegetation, cold and wet, weakness gaining. It appeared no attempt had been found to utilize the other, bigger hut on dry soil, natural prairie grass long inside.
My husband was out of town so all I could do was to ask God for help in moving those immersed huts by myself, without benefit of tractor as is usually the case. And somehow, miraculously, I was able to lift them up out of the mire and drag them to higher ground. I then loaded bales up in the back of the truck and returned to stuff those huts as full of as much straw as I could. I made a warm water electrolyte solution for the herd to drink, encouraging some little mouths to take it, and provided a medicated grain too, which needed no coaxing. I left the one already passed under the tree until my husband could return home and loaded the young, weak one up in the back of the vehicle and drove him down to the barn. I nestled him in warm hay next to his mother's stall.
And yet, he died in the night. Just like his brother did the following day.
Because there are some things I can't fight. Nature will always have her way.
The best I can do is respond to it, to keep fighting. For as long as I can. But one day, when I have decided I can do no more, when I've reached the end of it and can no longer bear the pain of keeping animals outside, of seeing the hurt, I will remember in the seasons. The struggle will always be there, mine or not. I will never again be able to lay my head down on my pillow at night and hear the rain fall, to know the sky is flurrying or blizzarding or baking or bleeding without knowing there are creatures out there that will suffer for it.
I will never be unmindful of all those animals I no longer have to try to save.
And, perhaps more importantly, I will never be able to drink a cup of hot coffee in the chilly air and not be mindful of all those who can't.
The takeaway will be that I will always remember to talk to the one who can. The one who assures me he knows, that not one sparrow will fall to the ground apart from him, the Creator, who knows the number of the hairs on my head, the number of hairs on each of my animals' hides, the number of drops in each rainfall. He is the one who makes it easier somehow. Knowing he loves and cares for them more than I is comfort for us all.