from-Swimming with Swans: vignettes of our three year journey between-homes
(Goat Suite Saga #5a)
February-March-April 2011 (the desert outside Las Cruces, NM)
With Tater gone, Mama Goat and the kids were introduced to life beyond the pen; opening up numerous opportunities to roam about the range during the daytime.
At first, the threesome devoted their new found freedom to eating leftover hay in Tater’s now empty pen rather than go exploring. However, frolicking in the feed bin became passé once its contents dwindled down to nothing. While the pens held fond memories of family playtime, Mama Goat, Terry Scape and Larry easily entered into a daily routine of romps out on the range.
Human romps out on the range increased as the days grew warmer. All of us on the compound got quite excited about starting a new garden plot by the goat pens where Leggy Lady left us lots of soil enriching fertilizer.
Everyone on our corner of the compound pitched in: Billy and Terry tractored and raked,
Karen watered and directed, and I…well…I raked, but mostly just kept the goats company.
By the end of that third weekend in March, we had a fully prepped garden area; ready and waiting to begin planting crops. In order to gain greater yields during its producing stage, we were now ready to plant our cool weather crop seeds by the dark of the Moon (time from the day after it is full to the day before it is new again) and to plant our above ground bedding plants by the light of the Moon (new to full) in April. Planting by the Phases of the Moon is a new farmer-thing I learned and has some basis in scientific reasoning. Just as the moon pulls the tides in our oceans, it also pulls upon water beneath the soil’s surface, causing moisture to rise in the earth, which encourages plant growth.
Consequently, this combination of getting my hands in the dirt, planting according to the Phases of the Moon and watching Mama Goat, Terry and Larry cavorting about the land caused my brain to come up with the song title for a musical composition I’d had rolling around in my mind for quite some time:
Goats in the Garden at Midnight by the Light of the Full Moon
Several rhythmic motifs came to me from observing those goats playing on any given day with such abandon and crazy clumsiness, providing me with plenty of creative inspiration.
Do they care?
As well, I acquired some melodic material from their bleating. Thanks to those required ear-training classes at DU Lamont School of Music, I was able to decipher specific intervals among these three goats.
For instance, the interval between Terry Scape and Larry’s normal bleating pitches is a consistent minor 3rd, with Terry Scape being the lower pitch and with Larry coming in a minor 3rd above that. Because their pitches are consistent, they seem to exhibit a type of “perfect pitch” gift! Mama Goat chimes in as the inverted 5th of the chord as her bleat is lower toned than both of her kids. So, it’s a first inversion minor chord of some sort.
While I haven’t been able to pin point the actual notes as in a named pitch, we who are musicians know once intervals are defined, the rest is pretty much rote. It then becomes a simple matter of plugging in a first reference note-of-choice, thus defining the key of the melodic material.
The other interesting thing for me to work with is the fact that these goat-pitches stay basically the same but change tone colors during different environmental stimuli…including but not limited to dynamics and frequency of their bleating! And as we classical guitarists know, one of the most defining characteristics of the classical guitar is its ability to produce a myriad of tone colors.
Obviously, the whole idea of “Goats in the Garden at Midnight by the Light of the Full Moon” got its inspiration by this garden next to the goat pens and having planted it according to the Phases of the Moon.
In terms of a musical composition, titling a piece, “Goats in the Garden” conjures up quite the visual. Picture this: snapshot images of goats dancing wildly about while snacking on the available produce, all to the sounds of the rhythmic and melodic motifs whirling around in my brain. Adding to that, “Midnight by the Light of the Full Moon” sounds romantic and earthy and mysterious. The two titles could quite possibly comprise two movements within the totality of the piece; a short Goat Suite composition. Technically, a suite consists of a minimum of three movements. And even that works within the complete title: #1-Goats in the Garden, #2-At Midnight, #3-By the Light of the Full Moon. Cool.
This piece-in-progress is just one of a great many I’ve been working on, along with some I have finished and performed, during our between-homes journey. Since most of those compositions have interesting creative process stories behind them, why am I mentioning this one over any of the others at this time? Because: reality inspired it; creative artistry took it over to produce a thing of potential musical beauty; and an incident occurred which caused it to come full circle back to the reality of living with goats. That is to say, the non-romanticized reality of my source material came crashing down around me one day while I was on my way out to work in our garden.
Gardening in the Desert Southwest entails more than just getting in crops before it becomes too hot. The biggest limiting factor involved is with the winds. That said, I wanted to get the tomato and pepper plants planted in keeping with the Phases of the Moon and before the winds kicked up again in full force.
Walking through the gate onto the range that morning, my arms heavy laden with bedding plants, I continued walking towards the garden area as a gardener determined to delight in getting my hands in the dirt. Unfortunately, Terry Scape, Larry and Mama Goat caught a glimpse of me as I walked through the first gate. Seeing me as their “human who always gives treats” they trotted over to me in happy anticipation of getting whatever goodies I had for them. Read: my tomato and pepper plants looked yummy.
Now, these goats are fairly obedient, very gentle and don’t usually push or butt me, but (!) they were determined to forage those plants right out of my hands; those hands which had given them so many other treats countless times over on a regular basis. Result: I dropped my plant cache.
Scrambling to save all but a 4-pack sacrificed to their eager appetites, I barely got the rest of the bedding plants back into my arms and myself out of their nibbling orgy.
I can laugh now, but in that immediate moment, it triggered a response in me that both surprised and comforted me. I started in on a spontaneous bawling jag. Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but it certainly whisked open the floodgates of pent-up emotion!
The surprise came at the fact that the incident itself was no big deal, really, but acted as a safe thing to get upset about while in the midst of our more serious life issues that are ever present. And the comfort came in the release it gave me to bawl-out about something benign that wouldn’t derail my constant emotional balancing act in these present times.
The goats were just being goats.
Goats in the Garden.
Not good in reality, but great inspiration for a musical composition.
And comic relief.
“The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world and all who live in it.” Psalm 24:1