The world is in turmoil.
he virus that has crippled our globe seems to be in the rearview mirror, a war threatening all of Europe has taken its place and a catastrophic flood has forced tens of thousands to seek shelter in Australia.
The world is complex, but it always has been. Things have never been easy.
It’s lambing time on the farm and so am I bring new life into the world. Just this morning we had given birth to triplets and listening to the radio in the sheep pen put everything into perspective. I have stayed at this sheepfold for occasions large and small for the past seven years since returning to Ireland.
Lambing, calving, writing, I’ve become a different person. I have become the person who sought the soul of the world and found it in a silent manger. The sheep ground me into the present.
There is life and death, joy and sadness. All life is found in this shed and When I’m in the country everything seems to make sense.
Every day I come to the farm and accompany my father to feed the animals and take care of the lambs. Yesterday I bottle fed some of the newborns. Their mom was a little boring so we separated them from her and give them extra attention. The lamb sucks the milk from the bottle at its own pace. Some are fast, some slow.
With the slow we must learn patience, we must learn to be in the moment and accept that the lambs will do their business in their own time.
The lambs are teachers for me, they teach us life and that even in this crazy world We need to find reflection and stillness to do the work that needs to be done.
Every lambing season I want to get myself a good thick book to read, so that I can have company while I’m waiting. It was a few years ago The narrow path to the deep north by Richard Flanagan, the Australian author, last year it was John McGahern. I seem to be reading a series of shorter books this year, the work of Brazilian author Paulo Coelho.
I’ve always liked Coelho, not least because of his best-selling works The Alchemist which has sold more than 60 million copies. His work contains a multitude of life lessons.
Coelho is a writer of great talent, a man of faith and, I think, above all, a happy man. This happiness counts for a lot. I know what it means to be lucky and what its absence looks like.
I have returned The Alchemist this lambing season. It’s a story of sheep and shepherds, so so much is true for me. Boy The book’s protagonist, Santiago, wanted to be a priest like I once was, and he loves to read and farm, things that touch me too.
Santiago travels the world in search of great treasure and fortune. His travels take him from Andalusia in southern Spain to Africa in search of his personal legend.
There he meets wise men, warriors and traders. All are looking for something, they all know what it is to long for. Santiago is selling his sheep to make this journey, while I have done the opposite. I bought sheep to start my journey on sacred ground.
Every morning as I walk into the sheepfold there are new lambs, new life and I think of all the joys in the world.
As Santiago reaches the end of his journey, he learns that his great treasure lay in his homeland, in Spain, in the fields.
When I first read this book in 2015, I felt a little betrayed by the ending. I was about to go to Spain and later America to write a new book and the ending didn’t seem to make sense to me. But, as the years passed I got to know Earth better and I see that Coelho was right.
Only when we return to the origin after the great journeys can we see how much we have changed, how much we have been shaped by life and its events.
When I come to the sheepfold every day, everything is new, every little thing brings new joy.
There have been other lambs, other sheep in other seasons, but in the present moment, in living now, that’s all that matters.
Maybe that’s the big lesson: just live in the now.
As I walk across the green fields that begin to bloom and grow again, I can see that we are in complex times. I think of the lambing season in other parts of the world; in Ukraine, where the farmers, who never sought anything else but to cultivate their land in peace, now wait in uncertainty.
I am part of the world and so are you. We are connected, we are brothers and sisters of the soil and the soul.
I will enjoy this lambing season, I will try to recognize my own personal legend as Coelho calls it.
There is a quiet, triumphant joy in this season and in its simplicity we can all grow.
It’s good for the heart and mind. It’s the real soul in the world and the one I know best.
It only took seven years to learn that, but in a life of learning that’s not all that long.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/sacred-soil-can-decipher-strange-alchemy-of-life-and-the-secret-of-living-in-the-now-41409429.html Sacred Ground can unlock the strange alchemy of life and the mystery of living in the now