Life, Death, Sheep & Business

I recently visited Joan Ellison, The Shepherdess, and her husband Dave, The Shepherd + ER Doc, in Northern Minnesota during lambing season.  These lovely people are aunt & uncle to my dear friend, Jared.  

We saw a number of lambs birthed with the mothers licking and talking to the lambs directly after; all of us encouraging them to breathe, shake off, and stand up.  We witnessed 2 still births, and a ewe (female sheep) who passed away due to toxicity during and after childbirth.   

Upon experiencing these moments I felt a deeply connected Universal love, while also a nonchalant-ness.  It was so crazy beautiful and heartbreaking.  I was reminded that birth and death are such natural parts of life; blood, placentas, pain, and all.

I also experienced 2 firsts:  

-I gave a shot to a ewe who needed antibiotics – until then I was nervous to puncture skin.
-I split my first piece of fire wood – until then I’d practiced to no avail. 

What a weekend of wonder and growth!


Honored to bottle feed lambs not even 24 hrs. old


Mama & Quads (rare to have 4 at once)

I share these experiences because they directly relate to our daily creative work in the world.

What do I mean?  

First let’s remember that as performers & entrepreneurs, we must be constantly committed to our craft, take risks often, and change with the times.  After tons of adjustment and re-inventing ourselves, we must be brave enough to authentically share our message with the world, again and again!   

What strikes me about Joan and Dave, and the commitment they have to their current life’s work, is that after all the challenges they endure – weather conditions, making sure feed is healthfully grown, sheering, lambing, living, dying, sickness – they wander through literal muck and manure to tend to their 30-150 sheep.

They operate at the deepest level of dedication.  They don’t have the option of shutting down their computer to conclude their work for the day or week.  Being 100% responsible for that many lives throughout the fluctuation of life cycles and seasons, no matter how they feel is a part of their daily existence. 

Not to mention they’re also bee keepers, beer & wine makers, Sugar Bush owners (tap and make maple syrup), a professional writer (Shepherdess) and knitter, and much more.  Amazing beings! 

Have you chosen a livelihood where no matter what occurs in life, you’re committed to being responsible for it and fully committed to it day in and day out?  Do you find that kind of responsibility and commitment attractive, or repulsive?  

Remember that you are the shepherd of your life, your work, and your current moment.  One of the best ways to tend to your flock is by remembering that you are enough, you have all you need, and that this moment is a beautiful one. 

Below, let us know:  
To what FLOCK do you TEND? 
What does birth and death look like in your flock?

There are no ‘wrong’ or ‘right’ answers here.   

Please SHARE with friends that desire to be passionate about their flock…

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3 Responses to Life, Death, Sheep & Business

  1. Ariella April 18, 2013 at 11:13 PM #

    Hi everyone! The error was fixed and you may now comment. Get raw and real and share what’s up for you! I will respond. 🙂 ~Ariella

  2. maggie wheeler April 18, 2013 at 11:22 PM #

    Aside from my husband and my daughters – 13 & 17 – (my first and always flock) , I tend to the flock that is my choir. That flock is 7 years old . In its early years we gathered our forces and shepherded together as young member lost her life to cervical cancer . Until it was no longer possible, she found ways to be with us in choir, to sing with us and to let us sing over her . After she passed we gathered at her request to sing some of her favorite songs at her memorial. The experience deepened us all and bonded us in lasting ways. The following year a somewhat mysterious young man wandered in during choir practice . He adopted us and we adopted him. He came every Sunday well dressed and eager . It was over summer break that I received a notice from his family that he had taken his life after years of suffering from depression . It was only then that I realized why he came with such enthusiasm and hunger each week , for the community , the energy , the healing .
    This past year after putting it off for a long time , we worked on the song “Wanting Memories ” by Ysaye Barnwell . It was during that time that three members lost their mothers or their mothers in law and my own mother in law came to the end of her life . There have been many such moments where the song choices have presaged life events within the choir , where music has provided such a direct and critical healing .
    And of course as we have come together around grief and loss we have also had many ” choir babies” born into the circle bringing us so much joy and showing us in tangible simple ways how music effects little bodies.
    2 years ago we had a choir member who brought her baby each week . In a little video interview about the choir she held her infant and said that she hoped someday when he was old enough that he would sing with the older kids in the choir . Shortly after that she moved out of the country . When choir started up again this spring the door opened and that mother walked in with her now 2 year old son . They returned to the U.S. , returned to us and now that little boy is learning and singing the songs along with the big kids. I never took into consideration when I decided to build something consistent that I was inviting in the experience of living the seasons of life with this wonderful group of people . With out a doubt my flock has enriched my life & continues to do so with every season.

  3. Ariella April 18, 2013 at 11:38 PM #

    Thank you for doing this amazing work Maggie! I look forward to hearing how it continues to grow and expand over the years!!

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