Most flowerbeds are still empty, but the daffodils’ yellow heads hang heavy with rain; I especially love the gone-wild stubborn daffodils lining roadsides and ditches, and clustering around old homesteads, near tumbled-down chimneys. Most trees are still bare, but the redbuds have popped, some white, some pink, and – yes – some red. The frogs have been singing the morning and evening chorus, their great thanksgiving for the soggy bottoms shining through the woods.
But the surest sign of spring may be the crop of lambs up the road at Tiny Farm. This beautiful little sustainable farm sells vegetables by the box, which you can pick up at the farm or at the Durham Farmer’s Market. We picked up our first box this week, which gave us a chance to ogle the lambs up close. Tiny Farm’s herd is small: one ram, four ewes, and – suddenly – seven lambs. The ram is black and white, the ewes are all white, and the lambs – well, you can tell who their daddy is. One is all white, one is all black except for a white star on his forehead and a white tail-tip, and the others are a mix of black and white in varying and mottled degrees.
The herd’s increase began a few weeks ago; M and I were headed to town and I glanced over to see one of the sheep lying down by herself. It was odd enough that I noticed … and then a few hours later when we drove by again on the way home, she was standing up with two tiny lambs at her side, stumbling to stay close. We pulled a u-turn to get a closer look, which spooked the mama enough that she started walking away from the roadside fence. The lambs followed immediately, keeping their noses pinned to her ribs.
Lambs are good followers. Hmmm. I thought about that a little. It pried open the picture in my head of Jesus as the Lamb of God. More than just a sacrificial lamb, Jesus stayed close to God … out of many necessities, I imagine. Jesus followed, closely.
More lambs have come tumbling along over the last couple of weeks … three sets of twins and one singleton and lambing season appears to be over. On our visit to the farm last Friday, we met the resident watch-barkers, a rowdy strong mixed breed and a hard-working border collie. The farm worker who helped us, Aurora, told us the owners used to have a 60-head herd at their old location; I bet the border collie is glad to be getting a little more work to do.
I am glad for the small farms around us; it feels good to talk with the people who grow the food we will eat, to follow their progress through the seasons. Winter has lasted just long enough, the lambs seem to say.
And yet, not every bulb blooms as early as the daffodil; not every tree takes the redbud’s chances. The oaks still wait, bare. Purple still drapes the altars of the Lenten season, as we wind our way toward Easter’s white and gold and alleluias. This late in the season, it is hard to receive winter’s blessings. Especially those that require more waiting.
But what happens in the midst of this waiting? It is not empty. We find nourishment in good food and the work we can do while we look for the work we want to do. We work to get stronger and leave the winter punies behind. We work to get our legs under us for the next stage of our journey.
Like the lambs … they wander away from their mamas, now, clustering together around the latest, sweetest bit of green. Their job is growing, and this they are doing, visibly bigger and stronger every day.
As I’ve grown older, I find growing to be harder work, not the effortless natural outcome of youthful energy intake and expenditure. “Complications” is a good word for what is happening in my life and the lives of many of those I love. Tonight, for instance … I almost didn’t write again, because my mind is in a fog. Fudge might be more like it. Something I ate yesterday did not agree with me, and I paid the price all night, leaving me worn out and sludgy in mind and body today. But I need to practice, and writing is my practice.
And so tonight, tired, muddy-headed, I am writing a less-than-perfect thing, because I need to write. It is an act of gratitude for liberation, and life, and love. As my hero Audre Lorde said,
“We can learn to work and speak when we are afraid in the same way we have learned to work and speak when we are tired. For we have been socialized to respect fear more than our own needs for language and definition, and while we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us.”
I may never have the energy of a spring lamb again. I may never have the fearlessness of a lamb, wandering in a young flock in a safe pasture. I may never again find language pouring clear and cold through my mind and my hands like spring water.
But if I am a faithful follower of my disciplines, I will work and speak when I am tired, and I will work and speak when I am afraid, and I will work and speak without hope of perfection and when no one is listening, if only because that is what love does. The love that lived and died and lives again as the ever-following Lamb of God … the love that lives inside of me, and wants so much to erupt in a green spring of new life and a new life’s work. Let every green thing I see in these late winter days remind me to be grateful: for the winter just passing, for this season of companionable joy, for each faithful and hopeful beginning again.