Usually, when I tell a story, I start at the beginning and relate it in chronological order. With my experience last weekend at Mt. Saviour Monastery, though, I have not been doing that. There is so much to relate that I guess it is easier to describe it by topic. So, the topic I want to write about today is the sweet little lambs at the monastery.
A while ago, John shared with me that he had a dream to go to Mt. Saviour Monastery during the time when the lambs are being born. I was happy, because way back when I made my list of 50 things I wanted to do, one of them was to pet a lamb. We made a few phone calls and reserved a room in the guest house for a weekend in the middle of lambing season. The date for our weekend came on Friday, and off we went to Mt. Saviour in Elmira.
I was so excited to see the lambs. As we drove up the road toward the monastery, we could see that the hill was covered with white dots, which turned out to be sheep.
We spent most of the weekend in the barn, where Br. Pierre keeps the newborn lambs with their mothers until they are strong enough to go out into the field. I loved petting the lambs. I learned a lot of lessons from watching the sheep and the lambs and Br. Pierre.
The mamas are very protective. As soon as we walked near a pen that held a ewe and her lamb, the ewe would stamp her foot. It was obviously a warning that she did not want us near her lamb.
Br. Pierre is the shepherd of the flock at Mt. Saviour Monastery. During this season, he is also the midwife. He helps with the difficult births. He takes care of the orphan lambs and the lambs whose mothers do not have enough milk. He tries moving the forlorn lambs in with ewe who have plenty of milk. It often works. We saw one lamb adopted by a ewe that already had a lamb. She took on the second lamb readily, allowing it to nurse right away.
We also saw some harder cases, where Br. Pierre had to switch to bottle feeding a lamb that no ewe would accept.
After about a day, a lamb is ready to go out into the field with its mama. Br. Pierre moved the sheep, one “family” at a time, into a small field. It was wonderful to see the ewes cuddling with their lambs and the ewes with lambs following close behind.
After a day or two in the small field, the sheep were released out into the big field – the field covering the hill that we saw as we drove toward the monastery. It was amazing to see the lambs, only a few days old, running and jumping on the hill.
Spending the weekend with the lambs was interesting and whimsical and a lesson in harsh reality. Br. Pierre was working so hard, and still managed to make it to every prayer. He spoke gently to the sheep and handled them with a mixture of firmness and gentleness that was a model of parenting. His concern for the sheep and lambs was obvious in his words and actions.
I will close with my two favorite photos. I call the photo, above, “Following Mama,” and I love the image of the little lambs following after their mother. For me, the photo, below, captures the beauty and innocence of the little lambs. This little guy was one of my favorites. He allowed me to pet him for as long as I wanted, and then when he was done he went over and lay down next to his mama. An image of perfect peace.
I love looking at the photos of the sheep and the lambs. They are a wonderful reminder of a lovely weekend.