Generations of Unbridled Delight

When I was a child, one of my favorite places to go on Long Island was the Long Island Game Farm, a perhaps-antiquated name for what is a small children’s zoo where you can pet, feed, and cuddle with a number of silly creatures.

My mom and I took the boys there recently, and what a time we had!

Baby black-bellied sheep nibbled on our fingers...
We hung out with a really charming donkey.

One of my favorite features of this particular place is that there are certain pens you get to go in and out of freely, including one with small deer and one with (squeal with me!) baby goats!

For a semi-outrageous fee you can buy little bottles of milk to feed the 'babies.'

Looking back at my face in these pictures, I’m thinking that my opening line “when I was a child…” is inaccurate. Apparently I’m still a child.

The actual children had a great time, too:


Graeme (center) got knocked over by baby goats repeatedly, which did nothing to attenuate his passion for them.

But it was truly three generations of animal love:

With a long (ish) history:

Oy, the glasses. These were so wrong.

I love places like this. I really think they can help children experience a sense of wonder at and compassion for God’s creatures. But I’m always stunned by two things:

1. So many junky toys being hawked.

2. So much junky food.

I don’t want to pet sweet creatures and then go eat hot dogs made from their mistreated buddies! This is an absurd disconnect!

(Not saying no meat. But Certified Humane chicken fingers and hot dogs might be an appropriate step…and would it kill them to offer a veggie burger!?)

I wonder if places like the Long Island Game Farm could do more to offer a fuller vision of what it looks like to coexist peacefully with animals–even without being vegetarian. As Wendell Berry writes:

“To live, we must daily break the body and shed the blood of Creation. When we do this knowingly, lovingly, skillfully, reverently, it is a sacrament. When we do it ignorantly, greedily, clumsily, destructively, it is a desecration.”



Do You Know When the Goats Give Birth?

I have a new essay up at Flourish, a wonderful organization that “inspires and equips churches to better love God by reviving human lives and the landscapes on which they depend.”

Although I had hoped that this essay would be about my experience observing a goat giving birth at our local Catapano Dairy Farm, it didn’t work out that way; goats, like people, refuse to birth on schedule.

But you can find goat births on YouTube!

Here’s some of what I wrote:

Birth is messy. It’s bloody. (The birthing tub ends up looking like an abattoir! one Scottish friend had remarked.) And it is painful.

But it is a pain unlike any other. It is not the bloody pain of surgery or injury. It is the pain of a body giving–giving way, giving space, giving shape, giving life–to another. And at the climax of that giving, when it feels like your body will be split in two, great pain gives way to great love, as everything in the mother rushes toward the being that has just separated to bring it back again in a different kind of closeness.

There is tremendous power and poetry in birth.

Even in goat births.

{Read it all here.}