Maria is a testament to the power of encouragement and creativity. Creativity runs through her life, from her relationships with animals to her art to her marriage to her friendships.
She is an animal whisperer, they connect to her gentleness, read the trust and affection in her eyes, and follow her wishes. One of our lambs is too thin, and Maria is hoping to fatten her up.
Over the past decade, I’ve had the privilege of watching her grow, like a hardy wildflower, in her art, her life, her love, her connection to animals.
I have learned so much from her. People need space to grow, they need affirmation and faith. People, I am learning, are sometimes like seeds in a garden, planted well and nurtured, they just explode with color and light. She is like that.
I like to think that I am also still growing and learning – I’m told that is true – but I am late to it, and not as gentle or intuitive as my wife. I never tire of watching her with the animals, they simply trust her and read her thoughts.
I’ve had this relationship with dogs, I connect with them in this way, but Maria relates to almost all of the living things in the world like that – plants, butterflies, snails, donkeys, sheep, chickens, and cats.
Liz, our shearer who brought us the lamb, Merricat, was worried about her, one reason I think, she hoped Maria would take her in. We could see this was thin, but also shy, she didn’t push into the feeding scrum like the other sheep, she held back.
She made the right choice. Maria, who understands shyness, started sitting with Merricat when she put the hay out, earning her trust, talking to her.
Yesterday, Maria walked into the barn, and Merricat, curious, followed her, she asked the other sheep to leave and took out a bucket of grain. The other sheep left, which surprised me – they all scramble for grain – to go back to their feeder, which surprised me.
Merricat stayed and ate her grain. When she was done, Maria knew to leave the barn so that she would return to the flock and not become overly-attached to her.
All of this was accomplished with hardly any words, and I realized these were the things I always used border collies to do – Rose, Izzy, Red.
It didn’t occur to me to guide them to it, almost wordlessly. When Maria comes into the pasture with hay, she is the Pied Piper, the sheep follow her calmly and quietly – no bumping, running, pushing.
Today, Merricat just walked right into the barn, the sheep went to the feeder, Merricat got her grain, and then left to go to the pasture. There was no confusion, no tension, no jockeying for position.
This is a ballet to me, our own Nutcracker, it is a beautiful thing to see. Maria is younger than me, but I learn from her every day.