Not to poohpooh any goat’s sexuality, I thought to myself, in exactly those words, but this noise is really just too much.
Gerald and his paramour, Gabrielle, finished mercifully quickly, and as I removed the pillow from over my ears at 1 a.m., I added the above sentence to the growing list of things I never thought I’d think or say out loud.
When I first moved to Israel 15 years ago, I wore long wrap around Indian skirts, and had a loose policy concerning footwear. My hair hung in tangles to the small of my back and I liked to drink cheap arak with my newfound tribe, warm in the comfort of having found them. I told anyone who would listen that I was going to be a shepherdess.
Eventually though, I started wearing shoes again and got mired in Life and all its attendant details, both mundane and holy.
I resurrected this dream when I left the city and moved to the Ella Valley. I have drifted through different moshavim in the past seven years, flowing through many variations on the themes of home and Life.
But for the past four years I have lived on a piece of agricultural land with my tribe of people, and with a herd of goats, flocks of exotic birds, a ridiculous number of chickens, bats, a white owl who comes to stand guard every night, a pack of dogs, a pond full of frogs, sometimes rabbits, a cat, sometimes hamsters, and a donkey. A chameleon named Carl used to live in the walnut tree, though come to think of it I haven’t seen him in some time. I might be missing someone, but you get the point. Everyone, and I count all the animals as everyones, has been named by our family.
I count the passage of time by the fullness of the moon and the length of my nighttime shadow. I can just about see the spot where David slayed Goliath from my living room window. I live in a yurt with my family that my husband built with the help of friends. The kitchen and bathroom are not inside the house. There are no sidewalks; we have no next door neighbors. In the winter, our house is surrounded by a giant mud lake. We have to schlep our garbage and recycling into the moshav –– thankfully just a short walk away. We live on a hill, and over the valley is a line of villages clustered around the Tarqumiya border crossing, twinkling like strung out Xmas lights at night. Sometimes there are gunshots, but more often it is fireworks that sound like gunshots. We have front row seats to these displays. We have front row seats to Life.
There are a lot of things I have done and said over the past few years that I never thought I would say or do. Like, a lot a lot.
Like the time I exclaimed in all seriousness, I got a great deal on a dozen pregnant goats!
Or the time I agreed to trade bags of goat poop to a permaculture expert in exchange for gardening advice.
Like the first time I gathered eggs from our chickens and had to explain to my then-4-year-old son that *all* eggs are from chickens, even the ones we buy in the supermarket.
Or when he asks, while attending a goat birth with me, DO ALL GOATS POOP THEIR BABIES OUT?!
Like when I found out that goat Materna (formula) is a thing.
When it’s so cold out that I pop a squat behind the yurt rather than trek to the bathroom. When I wrangle escapee goats and make sure the newborns stand and nurse. When I make salad for dinner from the greens I’ve foraged in the yard, mallow and mustard and shepherd’s purse and lamb’s quarters and nettle settling under the soft goat cheese my husband made after he chased down the goats and milked them. When I help him build stone pathways between our structures so we don’t drown in the mud. When I spot his ladder as he fixes our roof, which has blown off in the rain. When my kids feed the last of our chametz to the chickens. When the sun rises like the lightest and softest boiled egg, and settles in a quilt of pinks and purples. We watch meteor showers on summer nights, stretched out on blankets between bio-babies and bonus-babies.
We sleep fully dressed with shoes, flashlights, and knives at the ready just in case someone breaks into the land, or in case the rockets start flying overhead.
We have front row seats to Life.
It is exhausting, and humbling, like Life. Life and all its attendant details, both mundane and holy, still exist. Fights with my husband; the struggles of parenting. Kids these days. Trying, and feeling a sneaking suspicion that I’m not succeeding. Work. Work, work, and more work; all kinds of work. Life is really shitty sometimes and I am still me no matter where I am and I find that difficult sometimes. We aren’t in the Garden of Eden anymore; we’re experiencing the birth pangs of Mashiach. But this Life is also holy and this is the most exciting, sublime adventure I have ever been on, and I love it so much I could scream. That wild young girl with the long hair and bare feet is still inside me, and is so happy to be dancing here, now.