The Most Wonderful Rite of Spring

Diana - Grafton, Vermont
Entered on April 23, 2007

Age Group: 30 - 50
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I believe that everyday life is filled with profound moments. They are all around us, and we only need to take the time to notice them. The recent change of season brings to mind one of my favorite instances of this wonderful phenomenon.

In the bleak, early days of spring in my town of Grafton, Vermont, a visit to the local sheep barn is a seasonal family rite. Parents stroll—their children loping around and ahead of them like happy dogs—to gaze at the new lambs bred by the Windham Foundation.

When my son Ethan was six, we made this pilgrimage as we had since they were toddlers. Walking across the pathway that links the village school to the sheep shed, we passed the purple sticks of the budding trees and the murky water of the fire pond, studded with dead rushes. We have fished there, captured bullfrogs, sailed paper boats, and taken water samples on school field trips, the sheep bleating in the background whenever they were outside grazing. As we walked through the field, the sounds of birds and the flowing water of nearby Saxtons River were music to us, a welcome replacement for the beep and scrape of the snowplow.

But on entering the sheep barn, that world melted away, and everything became muted and insulated. On that day the ewes were huddled contentedly around their crib, moving in tandem like a school of fish, rustling through the hay bed. They were the celebrities of the season, and used to our attention.

Although it seemed at first that very little was happening, the sheep barn was alive with activity. Swallows dove in and out of the rafters and flies moved through the air. Thinking that we might have food, the flock moved closer to us, poking their noses through the bars of the manger fencing and tilting their smiles up to greet us. We proffered a few straws of timothy and scratched their oily heads affectionately.

Then suddenly, to my right, a sheep moved away from another, exposing a ewe who was nursing an eager lamb. She faced the wall, oblivious to its satisfaction. It was then that I noticed the body of another lamb protruding from her body. She was having twins, the first just born and the other arriving now. Right now, as we stood in the sheep barn, quietly watching.

Within seconds the lamb was on its way, sliding rudely from his mother’s body and falling like a bag of wet clothes to the straw. Still, the other lamb nursed. The newborn staggered to its feet and began butting her.

Now there were two lambs, both trying to eat, and she shifted to accommodate them. Her instincts were impeccable. I was proud of her. And shocked by this, the most commonplace of miracles, the most wonderful rite of spring, happening right before me without warning and quite by accident.

Ethan looked up at me and smiled.

“We almost missed it, Mommy,” he said.