Snow lambs

The soothing, comforting chinking of the bells belies the danger. It’s late for lambs. Their bleating fills this little hillside with ideas of motherhood and domesticity.

To be broken only by the occasional shout of the shepherds, a whistle or the whimpering of dogs who seem needier than the charge they are to protect.

There are many lambs this year, and today the first smattering of snow has arrived. It doesn’t seem to affect them, they are playful and stubborn. Some abruptly change direction from the mob, some wander off through the hazelnuts in different directions, only to be collected again by the dogs.

The shepherds seem to move in slow motion, smoking and staring at the sky before going back to their jobs of tending the sheep. One shepherd must gather in his arms a distracted lamb who has meandered onto the road, tucking it under his shoulder.

The mother sheep are always on the alert, low-growl bleating warns me off. We don’t know how long they will stay but they are welcome visitors before Christmas, reminding us of far-away lands and lost childhoods.

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