Wednesday, March 29

The Lambs of Spring

(A post by Jason)

Winters’ grip has loosened and the air has changed . The clocks have been moved back one hour. Ends of the fruit trees have begun to swell in anticipation of the bloom. The familiar hum of high torque, low rpm diesel engines combine with the squeak of metal on mettle as the plough follows dutifully behind the tractors echoes off the hills. Potatoes are in; The garlic and fava beans are up and have already been hoed and fertilized. Spring in our valley has finally arrived.

On the drive into Piobbico just past Il Castello Dei Pecori, on the left hand side, is a great field of grass. At first flat, it follows the terrain up the hillside with the perfect pockmark of trees ever so often as you would imagine. In the distance, far up the hill where the field meets the tree line, grazing peacefully, are several hundred lamb and sheep. Their presence and sheer number give perspective to the enormity of this field and I can barley make out individual shapes with the glare of the sun as I wiz by. They are alway there; each morning. In different locations of the field depending on time of day and where the sun might be shining but never less, heads down, peaceful grazing. They are never alone. The flock has two 55kg chaperones usually lying in the grass meters away. Cane Maremmano - Huge puffy white sheep herding dogs that are very protective of their flock and are not to be tested. They are led by slender man with a straw hat who carries a staff ( I can’t make this up). In the mornings I see him mostly walking almost the animals who don’t seem to pay him much mind. In the afternoons he might be taking some shade under one of the trees; enjoying a cigarette. 

This morning at the end of our road, I made a right hand turn. Just past Il Castello Dei Pecori as I came around the bend looking to my left into that vivid shade of green, the sun and the dew combined to transform every blade of grass into a tiny prism creating a brilliant effect. I scan that picturesque field with curious anticipation of catching a glimpse of the lambs grazing, a ritual now to begin my day. Today I look from the road all the way up to the tree line. No Lambs. I slowdown thinking they must be in the corner that’s hard to see if I go too fast. No big puffy white dogs. I pull over, get out, and look back down the field up into the opposite corner. The slender man with a straw hat and staff is not there. The Lambs are gone. Spring has arrived.

I am not a conflicted omnivore. I understand for what purpose those lambs were in that field. On Easter, like most Italians, I too will enjoy the traditional dishes of the season which will most certainly include Lamb.

I climb back into the dusty Hyundai, drive into Piobbico and do my errands. On the way back passing that field once more I say a silent thanks. I do not weep for the sheep, but rather renew my respect for them. An undeniable connection has been made between what I eat and where it came from so easily overlooked when displayed behind glass or neatly wrapped in styrofoam and plastic. I thank the Lambs and remind myself how lucky I am to live in this beautiful country. With all Her problems, all the craziness and corruption, a life in Italy is full of these little paradoxes all around, if you are willing to slow down and look for the Lambs.

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