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Once upon a time...

Posted by on Aug. 20, 2012 at 9:57 AM
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Once upon a time, in a sunny valley filled with lush grass and a few stands of shady trees, there lived a shepherd named Dale.

Dale and his wife, Emmy, were simple folk, working hard and keeping themselves to themselves.  Dale would watch the flock, rescue sheep when they got trapped, and shear the wool.   Emmy would card, spin and knit; trading the resulting clothing, yarn and fleeces for anything they couldn't make or grow themselves when Ivan the travelling merchant visited each month.

This was a long long time ago, and they weren't what we'd now call educated folk.  They had no books or maps.  No teachers, other than a bit of lambing lore Dale's father had passed onto him along with the straggly flock he'd inherited and since greatly expanded.  But they weren't stupid; they could come up with reasonable explanations for things in terms of what they did know.  So though they'd never been outside the valley, they reasoned there must be other valleys full of sheep, or perhaps other domesticated animals (Ivan mentioned something about creatures named "cows").  They noticed that it rained more at some times of the year than at others, and only when the wind had brought dark clouds into the sky over the valley.  They noticed what conditions of sun and rain produced the best grass, and how that affected the amount of wool the sheep produced.  But they couldn't explain it using the language of science, talking about water molecules and evaporation, nutrition and calories.  The only language they had to describe and discuss between them their model of how reality works was the language they grew up with - the grass 'liked' having sun and rain, the winds were being 'kind' when they brought the right amount, and 'angry' when they blew trees down destroying stone walls that had taken days to build.

It was very lonely, standing around with just sheep for company all day, so often Dale would talk with them and hold imaginary conversations.   He knew they were not like Emmy and able to answer back, but it is difficult to judge how much the sheep understood, or whether did understand but were just willful and disobeyed.  So he talked anyway, and guessed at thoughts from small cues of face and body movements.  It passed the time, and perhaps it was worthwhile anyway, because the sheep became used to his voice, and by interacting with them as individuals he paid more attention to them and noticed when a particular sheep was acting unusually for that individual and so could guess it had a burr in its coat, or an injured leg.

One year a wolf visited the valley.  Dale tried chasing it, but it was too fast and too good at hiding.  He tried talking to the wolf, and asking it nicely to leave the sheep along, but the wolf just stared out from under the treed with its large yellow eyes.   Finally Dale remembered a tale Ivan had told about treaties between kings and the giving of gifts, and so Dale left a gift of meat, a 'sacrifice', for the wolf, at the old stone pillar that marked the boundary between Dale's valley and the next valley over, and the wolf ate the sacrifice then went away.

The years passed on, as years do, and Dale and Emmy had children which they raised in their ways, just purely by example.  Dale's oldest son, Patrick, learned that one starts shearing the sheep at the time of year when the first of the pink bell shaped flowers opens, and that wood needs to be stored inside so it doesn't get wet, and that Mr. Sun and Mrs. Wind should always be thanked for a good day lest the next day turn out not so fine, and that one should be polite but firm with wolves, paying their price but insisting that they then go.

Patrick grew up to be a fine lad, taking over the watching of the flocks.  He was respectful to his parents, kind but firm with the sheep, and fair in all his dealings.  He married Daisy, from the next valley over, and from her he learned the ways of her folks, leaving a gift to Mr Sun each autumn as thanks for the sun being kind and bringing good crops.  He'd never seen the need to do that himself, but it was a small price and it made Daisy happy, and who knows, perhaps the sun did look down with better favour upon those who were nice to it?  Better to play it on the safe side and go along with the practice.  Likewise Daisy's folks had never thanks Mrs Wind for the rain clouds, but doing so made Patrick happy.  So a few times a year the old boundary stone would end up decorated with garlands, or have cups of home brewed beer laid by it, and everything went peaceably.

Daisy was a bright perky lass, with a sunny disposition, and Patrick came to love her very much.  But she was small, and her first childbirth was very difficult.  Patrick spoke to Mrs Wind, as his father had done before him, asking favours when Daisy's waters broke, promising a garland of flowers.  But, alas, the baby died, and Daisy nearly died too.   Worse, in the following year the Sun was hard and the land was dry, the grass didn't grow much, and several sheep starved to death.   Distraught, Patrick sought the advice of his now aged father, Dale.

"My son, I don't know.  Surely the elements are angered over something.  Perhaps they were insulted by the gift being too small?   I sacrificed the entrails of a sheep to get rid of that wolf.   Perhaps, for something as important as a healthy child, the sacrifice should be a whole lamb?"

His son replied "Should I make the sacrifice to Mr Sun or Mrs Wind?  I want a healthy child greatly, but I can't spare two lambs - there are few enough as it is, given this drought.  And surely they'd both be insulted if I asked them to share the same lamb."

Dale thought, and then replied with the first ever piece of theology, "Daisy's folks always looked to the sun not the wind, and maybe with her sunny disposition the sun is more in tune with her nature.  You tried the wind last time, and it failed.   This time it is the go of the sun to have a try."

Sure enough, the next time Daisy became pregnant, Patrick sacrificed a lamb, burning it to ash in a large fire as a way to send it to the fire in the sky.  Not only did Daisy give birth to a beautiful daughter, but the drought ended too.

A few years later, when Dale entered his final sleep, Patrick reasoned that Dale's spirit still existed somewhere, just not in his body, like the lands one visits when dreaming.  So, not able to influence things himself, he asked Mrs Wind to carry Dale's spirit somewhere nice and sunny, and Mr Sun to shine down kindly upon Dale's spirit in the eternal summerlands.

by on Aug. 20, 2012 at 9:57 AM
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Replies (1-4):
Clairwil
by Group Owner on Aug. 20, 2012 at 9:57 AM

(to be continued)

Clairwil
by Group Owner on Aug. 20, 2012 at 9:57 AM

(to be continued)

AdrianneHill
by Member on Aug. 21, 2012 at 6:28 AM
1 mom liked this
Yeeeaahhh?

Waiting here.
Posted on CafeMom Mobile
Clairwil
by Group Owner on Jul. 17, 2013 at 6:13 AM
Quoting AdrianneHill:

Yeeeaahhh?

Waiting here.

Ooops, sorry, forgot about this one.   Bump for myself, to continue later.


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