It’s a farm life worth living

22 Dec

•••

Last week Pearl the alpaca had a baby. We’d been expecting her to give birth for nearly six weeks, checking on her every day for signs of when it might happen. After looking forward to this event for so long we must have imagined the baby would come out dancing with a top-hat and cane. But instead he came out wheezing and choking because of a congenital defect known as wry face. His right eyeball was more than twice the size of his left and the passage-ways in his throat had formed in a tangle, making it difficult for him to nurse or breath.

The morning he died we started up the rusty yellow digger that’d been sitting in a field looking like a relic from one of the farm’s past lives. We drove it out into an open area and prepared it for digging. The ground was frozen, covered in snow from the night before. I thought about how in this same spot two-hundred years ago it would have been impossible to dig a grave — dead bodies would have had to be stored in a shed until the ground thawed.

The digger clawed at the earth as rocks began to scatter and pile around the hole. We’re not far from the town of Cognac, and it’s this same type of rock, choking every inch of soil, that reflects sunlight onto the underside of the acidic and slowly ripening Ugni blanc grape vines. Leaning on the fence, I watched as the hole got deeper. The gray sky, a digger yawning diesel after a six month hibernation, muddy alpacas looking on from a distance. I remembered what David Mitchell wrote in Black Swan Green, “Beauty is immune to definition. When beauty is present, you know. Winter sunrise in dirty Toronto, one’s new lover in an old cafe, sinister magpies on a roof.” To this list I would add: one alpaca’s birth, his life, his death, the machine that buried him, and all other things both beautiful and unimagined.

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2 Responses to “It’s a farm life worth living”

  1. Robert Spotts December 22, 2010 at 6:45 pm #

    Tonight, I toast my glass of scotch to the alpaga with the twisted windpipe.

    • jasonbox December 22, 2010 at 7:00 pm #

      And I’ll tip mine to that little Pagger’s momma.

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