Today I am the Provider.
The ruckusy call of seven goats tugs at my ears and walks my feet toward my brown garden clogs. I slip them on and step outside, and though I've seen this same view for a week, I still draw in my breath at the beauty of our white-coated lawn. The snow in town melted days ago, but our farm is insulated by towering pines. We're still white and beautiful.
The goats hear my steps on the porch and whine all the harder. "I'm coming!" I say, which turns the tone of their cries and laces the ruckus with a shiver of anticipation. I pick off a fat tab of hay and balance it on my left arm while I release the latch on the first of two gates. The goats can't see me, but they know the particular slide of that metal latch. They urge me to walk faster.
I do. And as I near the barn, one mama goat pokes her head through a hole in the mesh and welcomes me. Balancing the hay tab as I press in and push back the bar latch on their door, I hear, from the other side, the sound of hooves on straw, dancing the dance of the impatient.
They know the routine. They know that in about twenty seconds, I'll have the hay divided and spread into two slanted bins. But they don't want to wait twenty seconds. Instead, they rush me, trying to pull shreds of hay from my arms. "Hang on there, Jimmy," I suggest, but Jimmy just grins and takes another mouthful. "Back up, Blondie," I order, but Blondie presses in all the tighter. I have to reach over her horned head to toss one-half the bounty into a bin. By the time the second half is spread, hay coats the heads of three goats and clings to my hair and sweater. While they munch, I pick and brush the biggest slivers from myself.
They don't notice when I steal the two water buckets and slip back outside. I follow a well-packed snow trail past the duck yard and around the chicken coop and into the garden, where I raise the pump handle on the faucet. From beneath ground, I hear the water whooshing obediently to the surface. I fill the biggest bucket and bite my lip as I try to ease its weight off the lip of the faucet. While filling the second, a lone snowflake drifts past my vision and captures my hope. I scan the dark backdrop of evergreen branches below our meadow and see another flake, and another. I'm so immersed in my snow patrol, I forget about the water. It's only when a stream burbles over the edge and splashes my clogs that I pull my eyes from those trees and remember my task.
I'm so busy watching for snowflakes that the weight of two full buckets barely registers in my brain, though I'm huffing a bit by the time I reach the barn. When I secure the buckets and step back, I'm rewarded to watch S'More leave her hay long enough to take a long draught of ice cold water.
One more reward awaits me. Brownie, the baby goat, who only just recently learned to eat hay like the big goats, leaves the bin and walks over to me, still nibbling a tender, baby strand. She sniffs my hand and moves closer, then lowers her head and lets me scratch between her not-yet-there horns. In the language of goats, this is 'thank you.'
I leave them, but my task is not finished. The ducks want grain. The chickens want pellets. The dog is watching me from the front door and looking hungry. Six cats will soon be meowing and circling their dish. And in about twenty minutes, a sleepy-eyed girl will be wanting a steaming bowl of oatmeal and raisins.
Today, I am the Provider.
Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds? --Luke 12:24 (NKJV)