The first thing that beckons are the goats. The baby dwarf Nigerian goats, to be exact, that we spot in a pen as we tumble from the car, wide-eyed with elated promise tripping through our limbs.
We have come to this farm in a small river town miles from either of our homes. And though the landscape intrigues us, a sun-lit sprawl of grass and lavender buds, with a tipi in the distance, and trees wreathing the perimeter with rain-soaked flourish, we head for the main attraction: the baby goats.
We are here to dance with them, an invitation that needed no further prompting though the mention of Middle Eastern music and refreshments under the stars were beguiling additions to our night.
Yet as my friend Katie and I wander over to the penned in baby goats, who bleat in excitement as we approach, nudging their noses against the fence and into our palms, we have no idea that our easy enchantment with these social, curious creatures is just the beginning of a memory that will return to us, again and again, spinning us into the arms of its idyll.
We amble around the property, as other guests arrive, falling under the spell of a blue sky canopy for so much blooming loveliness: the oxeye daisies knitting the edge of the fields like lace, the purple sage thrusting their woody stems toward the light, the nasturtium lolling with easy grace, while the lavender — French Fields and Super Blue, Buenva Vista and even more — await their harvesting time. We delight in the surprise of a gypsy caravan housing chickens, a tiny shop selling soaps, candles, sachets and other lavender products, the tipi paintings honoring Mother Earth and Father sky and the world in between. We meet the owners, Adrienne and Don, who are as warm as they are whimsical.
By the time Susan, our dancing guide, and her DJ husband gather us into the large pen, and the baby goats are let in to romp around, I am fully divested of my workday, of anything that doesn’t root me to the ground beneath my feet.
For the next two hours, we dance to the exuberant, exotic sounds that lift the air. We play with the goats, laugh as they nibble straw from our hands, jump onto our backs. Happiness catches my heart like a wave, a steady swell that knocks me open, surges with this truth: now is good. Wildly perfectly good.
When we have danced ourselves into a blushing twilight and then nightfall, we leave the goats behind for a grove of trees. There, candles glow from the tables where we sit to enjoy a light repast of fruit and cheese, olives, humus and vegetables — on fine china with cloth napkins — accompanied by lavender iced tea.
All evening long, from moment to moment, Katie and I have shared our wonderment at where we are and what we are experiencing. It’s as if we’ve been transported to another realm and the only word we can find to capture it all is “magical.”
That night, we are the last to leave the farm because we linger in conversation over our candle-lit feast with Susan and her husband, and then we visit the gift shop, where Adrienne encourages us to take the lavender honey ice cream we purchase and sit outside to enjoy it. We heed her advice, relax under the inky sky strewn with stars, with the crickets chirping their night music, and a brimming praise and confectionary dream on our lips.
We joke about staying there, sleeping near the baby oats, moving in, living amid nature’s sorcery. Before we get into my car, we let our eyes rove, drinking in the shadows, the deep-burrowing bliss of this place.
For days, when we relive these moments, we will talk about magic, let ourselves be staggered anew by the unexpected bounty we shared.
I know this is a singular experience, apart from the ordinary. And yet I believe these small rhapsodies are available to us every day. We can find them in a patch of chicory along the side of a road, the rays of sun filtering through an oak, the yellow-winged flash of a goldfinch, a sudden smile in a guileless face. And when we do, we are drawn closer to the sacred bones of being a perpetual student of wonder.
I believe in courting astonishment, in marveling as a means of prayer. To live open to such discovery and surprise is to practice playfulness, to learn buoyancy, to find in each a day song and maybe, like our gift of time on the farm, even a symphony.
Often, this looks like appreciating beauty for beauty’s sake. And it is. But it is also the giving of myself to gratitude, to joy, the modest rituals of salvation.
Amid the blossoming fields of lavender and whispering pines, with my hands soft on capering goats and laughter slipping its own notes into the whir of sinuous melodies, I let my every sense be filled, until I am inhabiting a kind of ecstasy. The kind that teaches how to bear sorrow, the necessary work of shearing darkness from this harrowing, freighted world.