Something Special about Celtic Lambs and Sheep
“Little Lamb, Who Made Thee?”. This poem by William Blake went through my mind today as I sorted through pictures from my recent trip to Ireland. Blake drew his inspiration from the hills and valleys of his Celtic lands and here I am years later doing so as well. I do love traveling the countryside in the British Isles and am always delighted to see and photograph the colorful sheep and their little lambs. There is something special about them.
The picture above is one of my favorites. I came over the rise of the hill leading up to my favorite stone circle. There-smack dab in the middle of what I consider sacred space- was this little cutie looking right at me. I not only got the perfect picture but we also had quite a nice I-Thou communication going until his mother scurried him away. I liked the picture so much I chose it for the back cover of my new novel Amidst the Stones.
This, of course, was not my first or last encounter with these wooly creatures. As a teenager, my mother and I drove through the Scottish Highlands in an old car on loan from our cousins in Dundee. My mom had not driven a standard in a long time and found it impossible to put the gear shift in reverse. All was well until we encountered our first herd of sheep meandering down a one lane road. We took lots of pictures, enjoyed their romping around and then found ourselves stuck. They were not prepared to budge, and Mother could not back up. Thankfully, it was a “wee car” and we were able to push it back and around. Only later did the cousins mention that the gear shift often seized. We said nothing, although we laughed about it forever after.
Of course, at the time I did not know about The Highland Clearances in the 1700s where so many crofters were driven off the land and to be replaced by sheep farming. Like Blake, I saw the romantic side.
Just last year friends and I were in County Clare and southern Galway. We had an inside joke going about the sheep and were disappointed that none seemed to be around. My friends got a picture or two of sheep far away in a field. However, the iconic sight of sheep marked in bright color dyes blocking the road and sitting on outcrops of rock along the way were not to be found. We learned that cattle were now more profitable and so fewer and fewer sheep grazed the land. Another sign of change.
Happily, there are still plenty of sheep to see, but sadly these sights were not in the cards for my friends. After leaving them off at Shannon airport and traveling on to Achill Island, I found sheep galore. My Air B&B host could identify by those colorful markings the ones that really belonged in the next village. She also had to warn me to keep the driveway gate closed or they and their droppings would be at my doorstep.
In the next few days, I will share some of my other favorite pictures of sheep.