Wednesday, October 24, 2012

What Do Goats & Gratitude Have in Common?

              Have I really never written about being at The Ranch? 
Its real name is Harms Vineyard and Lavender Fields, and its a biodynamic farm where two of our favorite people, Patricia & Donald, live, and where we get to stay when they go away.
      Apart from the healthy abundance of grapes and lavender, plus fruit, olives and vegetables that are grown for their own table, there is also the magic. There is some combination of deep silence and marvelous energy that this land exudes - and the views! The curvaceous hillsides in their evergreen gowns, the far side of the valley with its sunset rose mountains, the steep trail down the hillside with its seasons of mud, weed, dry and leafquilt, the view across the vines,  the vines, and the pillows of lavender.

Donald Harms designed the house with its Mediterranean courtyard and Greek columns, built to coincide with the hillsides, size tempered by its soul-satisfying proportions - based on the Golden Mean and ancient ratios.

We feed the goats at night. That is if we can get the herd in the door of the barn and they haven't started a goat rodeo in the corral. It is warm and close and smelly in the small barn as it gets dark. Outside the moon shines, and the llama paces and waits for them to give up their goatly antics so he can be fed without having his feed gulped down by the goat brigade.
Not a Harms ranch machine!
      It is always quiet. The quiet is a presence and an absence. The presence of some magical power that is larger than mere visibility, and the absence of traffic, sirens, air traffic - all the things I usually live with. 

      This is the peace that all Americans outside cities lived in before the 20th century, in what was then a farming and ranching country. It is the machine that brought in noise and distraction, and it is the machine that eased a load of labor that could wear out or break a man or woman.
        A vacation means a rest from labor, and when I think of machines and labor, I think of the whole history of humankind gnarled with the problem of labor. The daily work of food and water and shelter, the forced labor when hierarchies formed and created grandiose structures, the forced labor of Great Walls and canals and roads and railroads, the slave labor of Greeks and Romans and Hebrews and Arabs and Mayans,  the forced brigades of empire, and the shameful plantations. And there is still the deadly labor of soldiering, where those without a clear future enlist to fight the wars of the Guaranteed.
      I know that Donald spends patient time distilling oil from lavender, and I have accompanied Patricia when she browses the goats, and those are blessed, fortunate tasks, as gardening is for me. These are the labors we choose, they are not foisted on us - not forced. And the labors I choose allow me to once again embrace gratitude, that goatish emotion that gets away from me, and doesn't always appear when I chase it, even when I'm at this beloved place.
     Gratitude, you are not in my control anymore than Lily, Petunia, Boey, and the rest of the Capra clan - you will just keep jumping out of nowhere, startling me with my sweet, relatively easy life.






  1. How lovely they have you goat sitting while they are away, Leah! I hope to be able to visit Patricia someday, and make acquaintance with the goats. Patricia tells me I'm a goat person. We'll see!

  2. We are really not needed - they simply do us a great favor. You would love this place, Smoky!