It’s Saturday and I’m getting ready for another adventure and today it’s going to be another mystery adventure arranged by Sage. I only know one thing: I had to book a rental car.
Today is one of the coldest days of the year. It’s -14°C but with the wind it feels like -22°. I call out to Sage as I get out of the shower. “Is our adventure outdoors? What should I wear?” Without giving me any more details she simply says “Dress warmly.” And so I dig through some bins and find long johns – wool pants and long sleeve shirt to wear under my clothes, a sweater to wear on top along with a hat, gloves, and a heavy down coat. I may have grown up in Vermont but I despise feeling cold.
My usual routine of connecting my phone to the car for music and navigation is derailed. Sage has plans in this respect. One of the things I love most about her is that she’s truly devoted to an analog lifestyle. Like many people in today’s world she laments the influence that smartphones have had on our culture. Unlike a number of them, though, she has gone so far as to not only go without a smartphone – she doesn’t even bring a phone with her when she travels.
She connects a primitive MP3 Player to the AUX port with a mix of songs she’s created – as close to a mix tape as you can get in a car in 2020 – and pulls out a printed set of directions. “Get on the 401 and head east for 55 kilometres.” she says and off we go.
Along the way we play games – most related to creating improv characters. We’ve recently rediscovered improv and are really enjoying playing again. And before we know it, we’ve missed our exit. In fact we don’t even notice it until we stop at a rest area for a washroom break, get back on the highway and see that we are about 10 kilometres beyond where we need to go. When I come back to the car, Sage asks me to record another Instagram story. She tells me to open a folded piece of paper which will reveal our destination. We are headed to Haute Goat Farm for wandering in a winter wonderland and “Goat Shmurgling”. So we are most definitely going to be dealing with my nemesis: cold weather. But I’m hopeful that dressing for it has helped, and being with goats will be enough distraction.
We turn the car around and head back, and soon are on narrow country roads lined with, and sometimes even coated with snow. I’m starting to feel grateful for the all wheel drive SUV the rental agency gave us.
We park the car in the snow next to a long driveway, arriving 20 minutes after everyone else. Sage runs inside the office to check in. When she comes back she is laughing as she hands me a wristband and says “The lady inside told me to tell my partner that she needs to put this on her right hand.” Yes, indeed, we all are prone to making assumptions based on appearances.
The group has already left so the attendant points down the snowy path and says “They’ve already left but the goats always like to stop for something to eat so I’m sure you can catch them. Off we go in to the cold wind to catch them.
It hasn’t warmed up at all since we left the city but I am too captivated by the scenery to care. My clothes are warm enough that I am only a little cold. Meanwhile, I’m surrounded by such beauty.
We rush ahead to catch up with a group of about 20 people and about the same number of goats. The goats range in size from not even knee high kids up to adults that come up to my waist. The goats make their way to a line of cedar trees and we catch up.
We get closer and join the crowd. There people of all ages here – children as young as 6-8 years old, couples on dates, and older people likely taking their grandchildren. And we are all focused on the small furry animals in front of us. As they’re all distracted by the delicious cedar needles in front of them we all get closer, petting as many as we can. I’m struck by how warm their fur is. As I scratch their backs I notice that their skin still feels really warm. Goat fur is clearly magical.
Soon it’s time to take the goats to the playground. We’re all encouraged to call the goats as we walk back toward where we started. Calling the goats here means shouting “Goatiegoatiegoatie!” in a silly falsetto. It sounds ridiculous to us but clearly the goats understand and are coming along with us. It makes me think about the goatherds I met in Rajasthan and how they dealt with their goats. They were kind and gentle but firmly guided them with a big bamboo pole and a gruff “HAT”. What would those guys think of our ridiculous way of getting the goats where we wanted them.
When we got inside the playground we were all given a chance to feed them more cedar. They seem to like cedar as much as the Rajasthani goats love Sangri leaves. They will literally climb you to get it.
And soon after that we’re given another cool opportunity. People are invited to get down on all fours and let the goats walk on them. Sage is so excited she does it right away. I think to myself it might be fun but also feel reserved and silly so I decide I’ll take photos and video.
After this one of the staff asks if I want to have a goat on my back. At first I say “No, I”m OK.” but then I realize I’m not refusing for any good reason. I actually DO want to and so I say “Sure!” Later in another Instagram story I tell about this and say to myself “For crying out loud, just say YES to something!” which a friend of mine quotes back at me as a great tagline for this entire project.
And soon I am on all fours and then there’s a tiny goat on my back. I had expected its hooves to hurt a little – to feel pokey and pointy. Instead it feels almost like a nice massage. The goat stays on my back for a long time and even though my knees are in snow and it feels like -20 outside I’m happy enough to stay still as long as she’ll stay where she is.
Finally, though, the goat had better things to do with her life – probably involving cedar needles and so she was off. And we went inside to have a delicious lunch and coffee. Inside was cozy and lovely. A man next to our table was playing solo guitar. Outside the windows was a beautiful panorama – alpacas walked by with another group, there were snowy fields and mountains, and in the midst of it all, a working dog happily walked back and forth making the rounds to keep the animals safe. (Though there’s not much threat in the daytime, at night there are coyotes that live here that could make a great meal of a flock of goats or an alpaca).
Something about the atmosphere – the wholesome food, the cozy atmosphere, snowy mountains and even the smell of the wood building brought me back to the things I loved about living in Vermont when I was growing up. I felt cozy and at home.
As I sat there I thought about the wonderful day I had just had and how it could have gone had I not “Just said yes to something for crying out loud!” Today is the coldest day of the year so far and I’ve avoided going outdoors in much warmer weather. Had I followed my usual habit of cancelling because it was too cold, I would not have had this beautiful day.
Also, whether it’s post-trip letdown, the winter blues or just a bit of of a negative attitude (likely all of the above), I had been feeling pretty down and self-absorbed. In the face of feeling that way and feeling like the weather was going to be too unpleasant to enjoy anything at all, cancelling might well have been an option I’d have considered had I not already booked a car and told people to watch for the fun we had planned. And then in the end, of course, I thought that it might be too much trouble or seem silly to have a goat on my back, and yet that was one of the more ridiculous and fun things of the day.
All of which is to say that often, for me, it is easier to face the discomfort of, say, hanging off the CN tower, singing on video, or facing my terror of bees than it is to face the more mundane discomfort of being, well, just a little bit uncomfortable: feeling a little cold, sad, or silly. And so while I might not have learned any great lesson from petting a goat – these kids (along with Sage who made it happen), taught me a pretty important and useful lesson.
If you’d like to see all of the video we shared during our time there, head on over to Instagram and watch the story.