Saturday, 15 February 2014

The Sheep In The Woods

In the Withy Bed, two fields across from our cottage, is a temple made of conifers. I swear even the most insensitive, disinterested person couldn't fail to feel the difference as you walk into the circle of trees whose foliage blocks out the light, and creates a soft, silent carpet when it finally falls.

I found it last October. Despite living here for nearly five years now - and knowing this land since I was a small child - I have until the last year or so stayed out of this little patch of woodland but, on hearing and seeing evidence of shooting, I started to walk this patch regularly; watching, noting, just keeping an eye on what was supposed to be there and what wasn't. And if I'm honest, something was calling me. She was calling me.

In the conifer circle, among the ash and hazel, on a 'sunny showers' kind of day, not cold, the bright sun glittering off raindrops everywhere, I could feel the magic of the spot. I looked down for a moment and there she was...the skull of a sheep.

I am a bone collector. I have a mantle covered in jaws, skulls, spines and teeth, from a tiny shrew to the beautiful badger cub skull that Dooley brought me during his first days home. I picked up the sheep and immediately saw her with the others.

She had other plans.

As I walked away with a spring in my step, excited by my find, I heard her say that she didn't want to go. She asked me to take her back and then, after I dismissed the words as me being 'a bit mental' and kept walking, she told me to take her back.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed. The collector in me put up a fight but the One Who Listens in me, er, listened. The sheep told me she wanted to be here in the woods and she wanted to be 'brought together'. I laid down her skull and saw a rib. I brought that to her and saw another. And another. Then another bone - a scapula. More and more of the bones of her scattered in the circle.

I had gathered her bones and after spending some time doing another sweep of the circle, I left her and walked away down a deer path through the hazel. She wasn't done. A short way out I felt an 'itch' that made me look more closely at the ground and there was her lower jaw. I carried it back and decided to do this thing properly. She was already in a safe, sheltered spot at the foot of a conifer but I was sad that she was alone, after all, sheep are social animals.

Back in the field I pulled sheep's wool from the hedge's low branches and, with some twigs for legs, made a little 'sheep' to keep her company. I found some dog roses and took them back to her. It felt peaceful. She felt peaceful.

In the following days I took Evie to see her and as the weather had changed for the worse, we built her an Eeyore house and covered it with foliage. We go back and see her regularly. She has been quiet. Until recently.

On the days that I call in the directions, I talk to the Sheep In The Woods, to the east where she lives. I don't expect a reply but it feels to me that if she called me to find and help her, we have a relationship. Lately I've felt some restlessness from her. She's ready to move. So, when the weather dries up a little, I'll take her to the edge of the woods and find her a sunny spot in the hedge where I collected the wool. On the open side of it will be ewes and lambs who sleep piled up together in the sunny mornings and shelter there when it's cold and wet. She'll be with her family.

Of course she may have alternative plans. I don't doubt she'll keep me informed.


  1. oh my word. i can't even tell you how much i love this. utterly fucking brilliant. (apologies - sacred profanity).


  2. Wow. I don't think I ever been called out by "things" this way, or even felt this kind of profound connection to nature around me. It makes me wonder about the connection of everything when I read words like yours, or meet people like you who seem to see and hear nature on a deeper level. Gave me the shivers and warmed my heart somehow.

  3. Indeed, you warm my heart. You warm the hearts of many.

  4. I just finished the book by Derrick Jensen, A Language Older Than Words. One of my favorite bloggers, Milla, of the Girl Who Married a Bear, turned me on to it through a guest post here:
    This experience you write of is so in sync with what I keep reading and will always believe. That our planet, every speck

  5. Hi! Yes...moved to wordpress and have NO idea what I'm doing so it'll keep changing for a few days : )

  6. I love you for listening, for communicating, and for respecting across time and space. We collect more than bones. xx