Monday, March 24, 2008

Easter blessings

Easter is the one holiday in the Christian calendar that has no defined date. Instead, it 'floats' in late March or early April, falling on the Sunday closest to the full moon. Sometimes Easter is celebrated during the Hebrew Passover, other years it is not since they are based on different calendar configurations.

All this to say that our Easter weekend was tenderly touched by layers of events beyond us. On Friday -- aka, Good Friday, the prelude to Easter -- we learned that one of our first friends in the alpaca business, Ed Warynick, had died peacefully that morning. Ed was a retired engineer and test pilot who, along with his wife Elizabeth, embraced the gentle alpaca. They sold their home, bought a farm in the village of Los Olivos, just north of Santa Barbara, and learned to care for their herd of alpacas, several llamas, sheep from the Santa Ynez Mission, and a collection of rescued dogs with health issues. The figure of St Francis near the barn area reflects their love for animals and their Creator.

Alpacas de los Olivos was one of the ranches I was privileged to visit and offer assistance, on herd health days or at shearing time. Ed taught me about designing pens so one person could easily move the animals from one area to another. He was a gracious gentleman and host to many visitors on Open Ranch days, charming them with his stories of his animals.

Even though I had not seen Ed in awhile, already I miss his kind voice and the twinkle in his eye as he offered his advice. So I thought about him as I tended our animals through the weekend...

A friend joined us for a mid-day Easter dinner. I'd forgotten to turn my cell phone on, so missed a message from her. And another one, too, apparently: earlier a neighbor had called to say that when she went out to feed her sheep and donkeys, there were two new lambs in the stall! First-time mom, Rasta Girl, had birthed a male and female with no problems.

So we popped the apple pie in the oven and dashed over to see them. New life is so sweet to behold! The boy is coal black with tight, lustrous curls, and his sister looks like someone smeared white on her face. Rasta instinctively knew how to care for them, and she has plenty of milk.

These lambs are a blend of breeds: Cotswold-Wensleydale (Rasta, ewe) and Gotland-Shetland (Pappy, ram). The donkeys (Mediterranean minis, often depicted in the Christmas story as Mary's mode of transportation) were curious about the new additions to their world, and came to meet the lambs. Meanwhile, another ewe showed up bedecked with blackberry vines that she'd obviously gotten stuck in. We laughed at the dangling roots and sprigs of leaves that were her Easter bonnet. The other sheep helped to nibble them off.

Returning in time to check on the apple pie, we nodded to our five dams and reassured them how simple birth would be for them in the coming weeks and months.

So the holiday was poignant with unexpected blessings: the peaceful death of a man of strong faith on Good Friday, and the birth of black twin lambs to a Jewish friend on Easter morning.

Mike and I concluded this ecumenically diverse weekend by watching Cry of the Snow Lion, a chronicle of Tibet's recent past told through interviews and personal stories. Since we have no TV here (by choice), our news input is quite selective, and watching this documentary gave valuable perspective on current events.

Peace... whatever that means for you
at this moment, and the next.

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