Wednesday, April 05, 2017

A Barn of One's Own

As published in the Citizen-Record newspaper on Wednesday, April 5, 2017, by Sara Jewell.

Ever read or see or hear something that spoke to you so much, grabbed your heart or your imagination so completely that you never forgot it and because you never forgot it, a part of your brain is always searching for moments like it?
When I heard Harry Thurston, of Tidnish Bridge, read his poem, “Revelations”, many years ago, I went home with a longing for that moment he describes when he goes out to the barn in the morning to feed his bullcalf: And as I always do/I get down on my hunkers/to watch and listen/to him feed awhile.
The image that follows has haunted me: His snout flecked/ with the grain/he looks up, sees me/slumped down – asleep.
That’s it: the peace of a barn and also the contentment of living with livestock.  
The longing it induced in me has absolutely nothing to do with the theme of the poem; the picture painted by Harry tapped into a then-secret longing of mine to be a farm girl, to have barn chores and the care of creatures who are simple and unpretentious, who speak their own special language.

That’s how I ended up with a flock of hens shortly after moving to Nova Scotia, and we’re into our ninth year of keeping chickens. In the beginning, we used to go out to the coop and sit on the bales of hay and listen to the hens clucking. It was very peaceful. The sound of the hens, the hush of the coop, the smell of the shavings and poop.
Over the past ten years of living here in Nova Scotia, I’ve come to love the smell of a barn. Not just the hay smell and the animal smell but the manure smell, too, all of it swirled in together into an olfactory overload of life and labour and, for me, longing.
Longing for a barn of my own.  

So when I heard Theresa Wood’s voice on the phone say, “Hi, we have baby goats if you want to meet them,” I couldn’t get to their barn in Mount Pleasant there fast enough.
Baby goats? Are you kidding me? Tiny, cuddly, sweet-smelling kids no older than a week, some just a day old. There was no way I was falling asleep inside that barn, not even with a warm baby goat snuggled into my arms as I sat in straw that smelled of goat pee and goat poop and listened to the docile mamas chewing hay while keeping an eye on their newborns.
Theresa and her husband, Mark, are friends from 4H and they’ve indulged my longing for farm life with an open invitation to visit the goats any time I want. So this past Saturday, after a week so busy it bordered on overwhelming, all I could think about was going to the barn “to get down on my hunkers to watch and listen”.

When I left an hour later, there was goat spit in my hair, a pee stain on the right knee of my jeans, the pungent smell of moist straw in my nostrils, and a goaty reek on my hands. There was peace in my mind and happy in my heart.
A moment in the barn was just what I needed.

Briar wants to play, Frankie wants to snuggle. Poor me, stuck in the middle!

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