They stand against the bunk, jockeying for position, some of them moving around (because the corn is always better if someone else is eating it) and all of them enjoying it. This time of year, they’re eating for at least two, and often three or four. The lambs are due starting in January, and most of the ewes are starting to look quite pregnant. They aren’t miserable yet, just pregnant.
Even though the barn is open, it’s warm in by the feed bunk. The ewes are shoulder-to-shoulder, and once the corn is mostly gone, the hay gets piled in, smelling sweet and dusty. You can taste the memory of summer in the air, and the black noses dig through and find the leafy parts first, taking as much as they can in one bite.
Do we eat with such gusto everyday? Do we savor our bologna sandwiches at lunch for their reminder of childhood? Do we see the joy in our drink the way the ewes suck up the fresh water?
The hour that we sacrifice when it’s our turn to do chores is a reminder of all that we take for granted in our lives. The work we do in the barn is a physical outlet for the pent-up energy our lives demand us to forget. The sheep are the metaphor He used, and in tending them – in being the shepherd – we can’t help but think of the Gospel examples, and how much we have in common with the flock.
“It is the mark of a mean, vulgar and ignoble spirit to dwell on the thought of food before meal times or worse to dwell on it afterwards, to discuss it and wallow in the remembered pleasures of every mouthful. Those whose minds dwell before dinner on the spit, and after on the dishes, are fit only to be scullions. “
-St Francis de Sales