Dedicated to all valkyries, great and small.
In case you didn’t know, I work at a goat farm once a week. It’s amazing. Here’s a story for you.
Snowdrop and I met in January of 2016, not that long after she was born. She was a January baby – a surprise pregnancy after one of the bucks got loose. January, when it’s cold (see the snow?) and still working towards sunlight, is not when you want babies to be born. And, their farm mama L was out of town, too!
Snowdrop and her brother were born in the evening, and the next morning I was at the farm to do chores for L. L told me to make sure to check on the babies, so that was the first thing I did. Both kids (no names yet) were still not standing up and nursing, they were working so hard to stay warm (even in their little coats!). Usually they are on their feet and nursing in less than an hour, so this was worrisome.
I called L to let her know, and she told me to milk their mama and bottle feed them about every half an hour while I was there, until they could stand on their own and nurse. So I did, and after a few times I helped them stand up and find their mama’s udder until finally they were strong enough to stand and eat on their own.
The thing at L’s farm is, the goats name themselves. So, while all this feeding and helping-to-stand-up was going on, I was chatting with this lovely girl, asking if she new what her name was yet. Finally she told me: Snowdrop, for the first sign of spring.
(Snowdrops, so the story goes, are left blooming behind Brigid’s cloak when she walks across the earth on Imbolc.)
Snowdrop, well that totally made sense of course.
Being up there every week, I would check on Snowdrop to see how she was doing. She was growing great! And part of the job with the babies is to snuggle on them so they get used to humans. My favorite part of farmhanding, if we’re honest.
Well, as with most stories it seems, there is sadness. Snowdrop’s mama died suddenly of bloat several weeks after she was born. Goats are communal animals so they notice when someone is missing, especially a family member. A couple of weeks later, L said to me that she thought Snowdrop was not ok, and would I spend some time with her since we seemed to have a nice connection.
So, first I watched her for a bit. By then more babies had been born, but Snowdrop did not hang out with them. Her brother seemed fine, was hanging around with the other boys playing, but Snowdrop kept to herself.
I picked her up and carried her to a spot where we could sit for a while, and I just held her in my lap. She already loved being held by me, so she tucked her head into the crook of my elbow and hung out for a while, and then talked to me.
She missed her mama. She was lonely. She was a little too old for the babies, and the boys all played by themselves. She loved her grandma but she was still sad.
I snuggled her and scratched her chin and kissed her head, and told her it was normal to feel what she felt. When I told L later what I had learned, she asked me to spend extra time with Snowdrop for a while, just so she would have some special attention.
So I did.
I would come to the farm and call her and we would go sit in that spot. For several months we did this, actually. For a few weeks, I brought her rose anointing oil, for grief and healing heartache, and let her smell it and put a drop on her little nose. I would hold her and she would tell me how she was doing. Then…I started telling her how *I* was doing.
The funny thing is, you see, along that stretch of months I was going through some hard internal stuff too, working with some childhood grief, facing it. So I would tell her I knew how it felt to be a lonely kid and feel like you don’t fit in. I cried a little, and she would snuggle up under my chin. She’d cry a little, and I’d snuggle into her neck. We’d sit there with our achy hearts, appreciating the color of the sky or the moonrise or just being quiet together.
I think we healed each other.
Eventually Snowdrop (and I) began to feel better, but I would still come see her at some point during my farmhanding “shift” and hold her in my lap. Even as she got bigger, she still would sit in my lap and chew her cud for a bit and grin for a picture.
When Snowdrop was big enough, in the early summer I think, it was time to put a collar on her. L thought maybe she could wear her mama’s collar, for the symbolic connection, so I put it in my pocket and found her and we sat and talked about it for a while. I showed her her mama’s name (Beatrix) written in Sharpie and let her smell it and asked her what she thought. She didn’t have to if she didn’t want to, I told her. But she thought she would be ok with it, so we said a little prayer and I put it on her and she’s been wearing it ever since.
She’s a big girl now, a year and a half old, but she’ll still sit in my lap, even though she hangs off both sides, and chew her cud and rub her head on my chin. She knows when I arrive; sometimes even before I call her she’ll come out and look for me and give me a grin. Sometimes she likes to play a game of staying juuuuuuust out of my reach until she’s ready for me to pick her up, and sometimes she comes up into my arms right away. And sometimes she doesn’t want to at all and that’s cool too, because even goats get to have agency.
L says I’m her human. And that she has rarely seen a friendship like the one we have.
Snowdrop still pretty much keeps to herself, or just hangs out with her grandma. But apparently, she has a special place in her heart for me, and I couldn’t be happier. She’s my special girl. I’ve told L that if Snowdrop ever has babies of her own I’m coming to live at the farm to be sure I’m there when she delivers.
She is still a great healer of achy hearts (because my heart aches, constantly, anymore, but she keeps me soft and open and tender).
It’s true love.
How can you not love those ears? And that smile? Oh my heart.
One last photo for good measure, taken just a couple of weeks ago.