Saturday, February 06, 2010

A Snowy Day and a Lost Sheep


As I write, a historic snowfall is showering upon our valley in northwestern Virginia.  Over two feet of snow covers Shirefeld.  My husband and I awoke early, enjoying the childlike happiness of snow, and discussed our plans for the day. Reading books by the fire, perhaps even poetry, after a few chores were done: those were our chief goals.  After praying the family rosary around the fire, my husband decided to check on our small flock of six sheep and two llamas.  He was thanking God he had picked up a large roll of hay Thursday for their small stable beneath our chicken coop, so they had both shelter and food.  To his surprise and concern, none of the black-and-brown hair sheep were near the stable, though the llamas were there, chewing placidly.  He saw the sheep in the far reaches of the pasture, and they were stuck in the heavy snow.  Quickly he floudered across the heavily-laden field and started driving them back to their stable.  They were struggling in the snow as they made their way back to the stable/chicken coop.  But then he counted them, and to his dismay, he realized there were only five.

I had come outside to look at the picturesque falling snow and heard his shouts.  Soon the family and our two boarders were mobilized and out to look for our lost sheep. I confess my feet froze first so I went back to the house, but my husband, our eldest son, and our boarders continued to slog through the snow, poking at strange-shaped drifts, looking fruitlessly for tell-tale tracks and trying to think of why the sheep might have wandered off.  When we realized it was one of the pregnant females, we began to lose heart.  Surely her condition had lowered her resistance to the cold weather.  Why hadn't the sheep stayed in their stable where they were safe? Why had they chosen to wander instead? I'm sure I wasn't the only one who asked that, as the snow continued to fall and the lost sheep was nowhere to be found.  My husband said he kept asking himself why he hadn't checked earlier: why he hadn't moved the sheep to the more sheltered second chicken coop?

My husband, feeling like the worst of shepherds, was despairing, but continued to try to imagine where the lost sheep could be.  He set Caleb to poking around one of the pasture lanes nearer the house with a shovel, in case the sheep had tried to find shelter there.  Meanwhile, he and our boarder Elizabeth (who fortunately had raised sheep with her family) tried to puzzle over the sheep's disappearance.  Though sheep are notoriously lacking in intelligence (no compliment was intended by Our Lord when He called us His sheep), they tend to remain in their flock, and their guard llamas usually carefully keep the herd together.  Perhaps, said Elizabeth, the sheep was about to begin lambing, so she went off by herself to give birth in a more secluded spot.  She suggested that they search for a sheltered place far from where the rest of the flock had been found - around the pond and the northeast lane furthest from the house and the stable/chicken coop.  So she and my husband started wearily trudging across to the other side of our five-acre pasture.  On one side of the pasture is a lane where my husband keeps the sheep when he needs to isolate them.  It was overshadowed by snow-laden branches.  No sooner had he reached the lane and climbed the fence than he spotted -- not one sheep, but two!  A newborn lamb was standing at his mother's side.

Great was the rejoicing!  Inside, those of us who had lost hope were greeted by a happy child messenger (our eldest son), shouting the good news: "We found the sheep!  And there's a baby sheep too!" I rushed outside to greet the spectacle of our boarder, Elizabeth, returning to the house, cradling a newborn lamb in her arms, and my husband wrestling to carry a full-grown snow-covered struggling mama sheep across the pasture.  Not as statuesque as the pictorial Good Shepherd, but the image brought to mind a shepherd who had truly laid down his life for his sheep.

The rest of the day was spent converting our garage into a sheep nursery so that we could have mama and baby out of the weather.  (We moved the other two pregnant sheep inside, just in case.)  And Andrew called our friends who had been praying for the recovery of our lost one, and was delighted to be able to repeat the words of that Scripture that will always have deeper meaning for us now: "Rejoice with me!  For the sheep I had lost has been found." - plus one!

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Random Moment of Beauty: Putting Away Christmas

A glorious juxtapostition of my birthday and the clearance sale at Wal-Mart meant that my mother and I brought home armfuls of glass ornaments, tinsel, cranberry wreaths, and colored lights for around $30, and guests at my 40th birthday party spent their time decorating our Christmas tree.  We neglected to get ornament hooks, so paper clips were happily pressed into service.  And come Epiphany morn, our well-worn Christmas tree was ever more resplendent.  I believe we have discovered a new family tradition!

Perhaps envigorated by its new garb, our tree remained fresh and green, barely dropping a handful of needles through Candlemas.  We spent the second day of February playing medieval Christmas music at full tilt and taking down decorations.  Boxes that had delivered gift pears to my parent's house were repurposed as sturdy boxes for the glass ornaments that had survived the twentysome days of Little Christmas.  I seldom buy them, given their price and delicacy, but in the happy coincidence of my birthday with Christmas clearance, I think I have discovered a new way to incarnate the celebration of full Christmas season. Pass it on!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Last Day of Little Christmas 2010

The plans I had made to post more about Christmas were curtailed by our son Thomas' developing diabetes over New Years.  After our time in the hospital, we have spent most of the rest of Little Christmas adjusting to life with a young diabetic.  But as per tradition, I wanted to post at least one photo of this year's Nativity scene to thank you all for reading and for your prayers.
Blessings upon your New Year!