Do you believe in goats?

Last week, the Weather Apocalypse finally hit the East Coast. In Washington, we got 8 inches of snow on February 12th, followed by t-shirt weather three days later, followed by sub-freezing temperatures three days after that. (Meanwhile, in the week’s other impossible news, the Vice President shot a man who, when he was sufficiently recovered, remarked only that he felt bad for the trigger-happy, buckshot-spewing, beer-drinking VP. So that’s what they mean by “compassionate conservatism.”)

I fled Washington on Friday, heading up to Vermont for a few days to work. This is the beauty of being self-employed: you can take off for some other, prettier place whenever you feel like it, as long as you have your laptop in tow. Of course, you really ought to take your own generator, too, in case you happen to be traveling during the Weather Apocalypse. I arrived in southern Vermont Friday evening to find that hurricane-force winds had blown out the region’s electricity.

At the house where I’m staying, this meant no heat, no water (the well’s pump is electric), no lights. No email. No cell phone coverage this far out in the sticks. And for good measure, the landline telephone went out, too. The Weather Apocalypse had officially blown me back to 1868. I was going to have to do my work on a tiny blackboard by candlelight, like young Abraham Lincoln.

There’s admittedly a certain simple pleasure in huddling near a wood-burning stove, snug in 12 layers of clothing, while the wind howls outside the windows. But like most simple pleasures – a chirping bird, a tasty muffin – the novelty wears off quickly. How long was the stupid electricity going to be off? How was I supposed to get any work done? My Vermont friends reacted with aplomb: All would be well. In the meantime, they suggested I go spend some time with the goats.

These goats apparently have some sort of mystical healing qualities. From what I could glean, my cares could be expected to melt away with the mere touch of a floppy ear or bristly coat. The warm clouds of their breath, their perfectly spherical little poops, the gentle stuttering of their “baa-aaa-aaa-aaa”s – these goats were apparently vessels of profound and enduring calm.

I didn’t go out to see the goats at first – it was too damn cold. But two days later, when the power was back on, I did indeed venture out to commune with our floppy-eared friends. On the way to the goat paddy, or whatever you call it, we made a detour to the pond, which was frozen solid enough to walk on. The ice and water were so clear, it looked like we were floating over the fish and salamanders skittering about below.

Ice 2

I walked a ways across the water, then approached the goats feeling a sense of divine power. There they were: some speckled, some plump, all chewing quietly on grass and sticks. The bells around their necks clangled as they walked; their little tails swished. Occasionally, one would break out into what my friend calls the “crazy dance,” running as fast as possible, body at an oddly diagonal angle, head flopping side to side. It truly does look crazy, like a stupid jig you’d do for a 2-year-old to make him stop crying. I wanted the goats to have a crazy dance marathon, but alas – the crazy dance, like so many magical moments in life, was fleeting.

goats 2

I spent about 15 minutes strolling around with the goats. I patted their big bellies, scratched the crowns of their heads and cooed “Here, goaty, goaty.” They looked at me quizzically, pulling their thin lips back to reveal sharp little teeth. It was freezing, but I wanted to see just one more crazy dance. Alas, the crazy dancing was done for today. But I will visit the goats again tomorrow, and perhaps I will do a crazy dance myself, to get them going. Behold, the power of the magic goats, to turn us into goats ourselves.

goat 2

6 responses to “Do you believe in goats?”

  1. I love how your conclusion echoes Emerson’s comments on children in “Self-Reliance”: “Their mind being whole, their eye is as yet unconquered, and when we look into their faces we are disconcerted. Infancy conforms to nobody; all conform to it; so that one babe commonly makes four or five out of the adults who prattle and play to it.”

  2. andrea says:

    Oh, Lisa, to think of you up there with the goats in the wind. Nature is a bitch. Say that over and over again and it will free you.

  3. reddog says:

    This is without a doubt the finest column combining weather, Dick Cheney’s hunting style and magical goats that I have read all week. If the weather has gotten your goat, get a real goat. If Dick Cheney’s antics have gotten your goat, get a magical goat.

    What this country needs is a good five cent goat. Sometimes a goat is just a goat. What do goats want? You can lead a goat to a bridge over frozen water but you can’t make him drink. A billy goat may be gruff, but he’s no Dick Cheney. I ain’t got no quarrels with no Viet Goats.

    Keep up the good work. Goats will set you free.

  4. Bryan Waterman says:

    I had to pass this link along.

  5. Goat Lord of the Underworld says:

    I am the mighty Lord of all that is GOAT, and I have looked into your feeble human world and judged it to be weak and vile. Come and kneel before my altar and chant the chant of the magical dancing goats; “I do believe in goats, I do believe in goats, I do believe in goats…”, until you are delieriously happy and begin to dance the crazy dance in wild abandon!

    I command you to do this in the way of the goat and repeat it unceasingly. If you do my bidding then I will reward you with the ultimate prize – you will truly be living the goat life that you were destined to follow!


  6. Baaaab says:

    Still you do not what my Lord commands? Perhaps you do not truly believe! Be forewarned, all of those who are unbelievers shall be nibbled off at the roots and chewed up like weeds of the field, and thence be shat upon the earth in short order! BeLEEEEEEEEEive! You are about to be the ruminant passing through the belly of He that is the Great Beast, the Ram of all Power and Might will dance upon the husks of what you once were! Partake of the Loco Weed and dance the Crazy Dance of those who have come before the Great One! Dance! Dance until all the energy you have is spent – or until it is no longer interesting.