Friday, September 30, 2005

Jon and I want a house in the country, with a garden and a creek out back. Part of the land we will leave alone, let the trees do as they will. Part of the land will be pasture for our goats.

I have been thinking lately about why I want goats. That decision came about so gradually, I can't pinpoint the grain of a notion of a thought that started all this, that is the reason for the bemused smiles in our families' voices. I want goats as surely as I want to read, as surely as I will not willingly give up Pope. Animals and books are such a part of me, that I can't fathom a life without.

Annie Dillard keeps popping up in my musing, a stubborn pebble lodged in one's shoe. Her essay "Living with Weasels" has stuck with me for mainly 2 reasons. (You will have to read it, now that you are reading this posting.)

One is her simple proclamation "Weasel!" about a third of the way in. This isn't just the simple word, but the word that encapsulates the being of that particular animal. Think, perhaps, of Adam naming the animals in Genesis, of the power that comes in knowing the name of a thing. Whole books are built upon this power--the Earthsea books, for example. But I digress. What I mean by all this is that joy that comes in seeing an animal, that thrill in contact with another living being quite unlike yourself.

The other reason is this (in Dillard's own words): "I would like to learn, or remember, how to live. I come to Hollins Pond not so much to learn how to live as, frankly, to forget about it. That is, I don't think I can learn from a wild animal how to live in particular...but I might learn something of mindlessness, something of the purity of living in the physical sense and the dignity of living without bias or motive."

What all this has to do with goats, you can decide. I think I would be as happy living in a zoo as I am living here with just Pope. Laugh at my preoccupation or think about your own fondness for your pet. Sometimes I think that animals don't need us so much as we need animals.

Here's a link to the article.


dwain said...

Okay, I really must read Dillard. I have a copy of something-"Pilgrim's Creek" that I haven't touched, but I think I may, now.

I have to tell you that your post made me chuckle. Miah and I have a dream of buying a rural home with a wooded area, a stream in the backyard, an area for a garden, and sheep. Sheep, for Chrissake! Do I seem like the sheep sort of fellow? Five years ago, no, but now I want a damn sheep! I'm not sure if your similar dream makes me feel less insane or just less lonely in my madness.

There seems to be a movement toward the natural, though we of course bring all of the accoutrements of civilization and convenient living with us. I wonder if it's a generational thing; revisiting the 60s, perhaps? I'm sure that each generation sees the social lines as becoming more and more defined than ever, but I almost think that in our lifetime there will be a science-fiction-like demarcation of the boundaries between the futurists and everyone else. Dillard's quote is interesting because it implies a lack of interest in nature as anything beyond an escape, an odd notion considering our place in nature. Daniel Quinn's Ishmaeldeals with this hierarchism and self-removal from nature in a rather scathing way. You should check it out!


Laura said...

I think we can now both feel a little less insane. Personally I don't view nature as an escape, though I think with the way society is set up, we've forced nature to become a vacation for us (well, for those of us who like going outside, for that matter).
Now that I think about it, I think this problem of escapism is something I want to avoid, which is why Jon & I want land in the country. We don't want to get into sustenance farming, but we do want to be more in tune with nature, to look out the window and see our garden and goats and know that we had a hand in their development, that we know where food comes from.
Not the supermarket, but the earth, in all its dirty, wormy glory.
Are you raising sheep for wool, or for lambs? Jon & I think we'll start out with goats as pets, then possibly move into meat goats.