Friday, 15 June 2012
A Woodland Birth
By Barbara Sloan
The sun flickered on the ripples of the small stream as it flowed and tumbled under the tall, swaying, green-dusted trees of springtime. An old woman sat in the comfort of the bay window smiling at the familiar view.
She leaned her head back on the chair cushion and closed her eyes. She remembered another little stream running through the woods at the back of the farm where she spent her childhood.
Eight years old, curly blonde hair, wearing yellow shorts with a matching tee-shirt, she remembered the small, niggling feeling of fear as she walked further and further away from the farm house and barn where the family lived.
Twisting, turning, the lane made a grassy trail between the entrances for each of the fenced in fields. At the final turn in the lane before the woods, she stood and looked back toward the buildings. They looked small in the distance.
She sat down to rest leaning on the corner post and wished she had brought a jar of water. She frowned, wondering if the little stream in the woods was worth the long walk.
In a short time, she got up, slowly brushing the dirt and grass off her yellow shorts. She ran the last lap of the lane to the edge of the woods. Walking slowly into the grove of trees, she looked around to find the animals that were making noises. “Oh, it’s only a few sheep pasturing in the shade of the woods; nothing to be alarmed about.”
Hesitantly, she walked slowly as the area became more thickly wooded and she approached the stream. She squatted down next to the trickling water to look for crayfish. She picked up a stick and leaned forward poking under a rock. Sure enough, the small creature popped out from under the rock swimming toward her. She fell over backwards to get out of its way.
She lay on the bank where she had fallen staring up through the leaves making patterns against the blue sky. Finally she willed herself to get up, brushed herself off and looked around to see if she could see any of the sheep that she had heard.
“BAAAA!” She whirled around and saw a large ewe struggling to get up. She talked softly to the animal as she stood and watched. It quieted so she took several small, silent steps toward the animal.
A twig snapped under her foot. The sheep struggled again as if to get up but seemed trapped on its side. She took a few more steps before she knelt down behind the animal, watching, trying to figure out why it didn’t jump up and run away from her.
The sheep quieted down. It seemed tired as it heaved up and down with each breath. A few minutes passed.
All of a sudden the sheep gave a mighty heave, not struggling in fear this time, but straining with all it’s muscles as if it was trying to expel something from its insides. The straining movements came on a regular basis, each push lasting a little longer.
Two baby hooves barely peeked out of the back of the sheep. Another hard push and two legs began to appear, then a head with eyes, nose and mouth appeared lying on top of the legs behind the little hooves.
The sheep gave two more heaves. First the body, then the stretched out back legs with little hooves on the ends appeared, all wrapped neatly in membranous sac.
“I think I better go get Dad. He is going to be really mad if this sheep is dying.”
With this thought, she jumped up and ran to the house to get help for whatever was going on with the ewe.
The little girl and her Dad got on the tractor and drove down the lane to the woods. Next to the little stream stood the ewe licking on a newborn lamb standing on wobbling legs next to its mother.
Dad told her, as they sat on the tractor watching, “I don’t think she needs any help. She knows exactly what she is doing.”
A bird, in the tree hanging over the stream, trilled a happy song loud enough to awaken the old woman sleeping in the chair next to the open window. She yawned, looking out to where the sound came from and saw a bright red cardinal.
She smiled thinking of that day in the woods so many years ago when she had witnessed a woodland birth.
[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]