In the morning I
like to feed my six sheep a modest grain ration because they are pets and it
suits me to be a gentle shepherd. Sometimes, in the fall, I feed them surplus
apples off the trees, sometimes lettuce or spare roasting ears from the
Cheviots, a breed I selected for its handsomeness and durability. Their clean
white faces have intelligent brows and delicate features, their wool is deep
and fits neatly over their shoulders like a Tudor cape, and they are stubborn
individuals of Scottish origin much like myself. Usually Mac, the young
imported ram, and his five ewes shoulder and butt each other to be first at my
hand. But there are none this morning. I can't hear Mac's bell in the distance
or their bleating.
As I look west
over the front lawn to where it cracks steeply off into the valley, the distant
irrigated fields between mountains and ocean are a blur; my gaze settles on the
decayed dogtooth of the point, a far fang of rock, brown and crusted with salt
and shorebird lime, and surrounded by rolling, gnawing surf.
In the grand
clear dewy morning I'm apprehensive. I sniff the air like a wolf.
Poky, my black
Lab, comes trotting to say good morning. Her chin is gray, her back sags. Good
morning, you bum. I scratch old Poky's ears, worrying.
Looking south I
check the green side of the ridge for new ulcers. When I first came here the
ridge was ancient and untouched. We thought no one would ever build over there
because it was too steep, in shade most of the day, there were no roads, water
or power, and the ground wouldn't grow enough to feed a goat. Now look at the
bulldozed pads, raw mouthfuls ripped out of the haunch of the natural ridge,
adorned with houses that from this distance look more like machine shops.
Sometimes I hear
their stereos and bongos or their dogs barking if the breeze is southerly.
Poky is sullen,
sulky. The sheep are on her mind as well as my own. She drags along, tail
Whoo, sheep! I feel a sickness tightening in my chest, knowing something's
going to hit soon, and my body is already girding up to meet the shock. Whooee,
sheep! I whoop into the clear morning sky that melts into the sea at land's
A hawk wobbles
stiffly on the morning thermal and shrieks his game-starting call. Whooee!