I have a thing for goats. I could regale you with why, but then you might think I’m weird.
Okay, I’ll regale you with why.
First, my now-ex-parents-in-law had a goat farm. I used to love to take the one-mile hike to the farm from their house, barely keeping up with the strides of my five-foot, tough-as-nails, farmer mother-in-law as she confidently strode in the blistering heat. Okay, I didn’t love the walk, but I loved the goats. They were cute and also tough as nails, chewing through everything, stubbornly surviving.
Many years later, I went to visit a shaman. (See, I told you you’d think I was weird). It was a rough time in my life and I was open to approaching the problem in different ways. He did a candle “reading,” (he watched a candle flame, and then said things so insightful and specific I wondered if he’d Googled me, although this was before I used to splash my every intellectual itch on this blog). He announced I needed a shamanic journey.
He asked me to lay down, relax, close my eyes, let go of all my worries. (Ha, good luck with that one, shaman dude). He guided me into a relaxed meditative state (he called it a shamanic journey, but even as I was getting into it I remained a bit skeptical). When my mind was calm(-ish) after many minutes, he told me to imagine I was walking down, underground, until I reached a big cave that was lit in a way I didn’t need to figure out. For a long time he told me to explore the cave and, when I was ready, to be open for an animal to find me.
“What if I’m just making it up?” I asked him.
“That’s fine. Don’t question it. Maybe you’re making it up and it’s fine if you are.”
This stilled me. I knew there was very little chance that my bossy brain would just let the experience just happen. I knew enough about shamanism to know he was leading me on a search for my “power animal,” and I wanted to make it a good one. I scanned the distance of my imaginary, magically-lit-up cave, hoping for an alpha predator to emerge. Was that a lion I spied in the distance? Nope, just more rocks. Tried as I might, I could not make the lion materialize. I tried to conjure up falcon cries and slinking panthers. I tried really hard on the panther.
Then, scrambling over the rocky terrain, up bounded a goat. It was unprepossessing and a little goofy, its scraggly chin hairs messy and unkempt. It actually startled me. It was the last thing I expected to see down there.
“You see something,” the guy said.
“It’s nothing. I’m pretty sure I just… it’s like a glitch.”
“What is it?”
So I did, annoyed that this goat was keeping my tiger spirit animal from showing up. But then maybe the goat was the bait and the tiger would eat it, showing me how to take charge in the world.
I scrambled after the goat.
The goat was light on its feet, nimble, and figured out how to climb over every obstacle. It seemed to get out of any jam in its way. Following it, I found that I could somehow effortlessly do the same. But, hey, I was actually imagining the whole thing while on a blanket at some shaman dude’s East Village apartment, so I was just fooling myself.
The shaman talked me through the end of the “journey.” The goat bounded away. I sat up and blinked, confused.
“So tell me about the goat.”
“It was… I mean, it was a goat. Just a little uncombed. Not very impressive looking.”
“It was good on the rocks. Scrambled over them easily.”
“Good power animal, the goat.”
“You can’t seriously think the goat is my power animal. Can’t we try again? I’m sure if I concentrate harder I can summon an eagle or something.”
“The goat is about resilience, being crafty and strong, thriving when it seems like resources are scant, figuring things out when the terrain seems rocky. It sounds like maybe that’s the kind of ally you need on your side right now. So you can find your resourcefulness and your strength, even in rocky terrain.” This was just a little after my divorce, when my financial future was anything but certain, so he couldn’t have imagined how right he was.
Still, the goat imagery slightly wounded my sense of grandeur. I wanted a far more lithe and dignified power animal. I tried to dismiss it as some error of my perverse imagination.
Then I started having goat dreams. I don’t know what the heck it was, but the goat was everywhere. Perhaps it was the power of suggestion. Perhaps some part of me liked the symbolism of the being that survives in rocky terrain. But the pesky goat captured my imagination, showed up in the most unlikely of places, all the time. Slowly, the goat worked its way into my head, like a stubborn little thing that would not be denied.
So I bought a goat pendant, bought a small shadowbox and made a goat display right in the main hall of my first floor. Every time I walked by it, I imagined myself strong and wily, like the goat. Slowly, the goat dreams subsided. The shaman might have said it was because I gave the goat its due.
Still, I am always fascinated by images of goats. I’ve gained a new-found respect for them. I no longer wish that a cheetah would have shown up that day. I am not a hunter. I am a survivor. I don’t wish to pounce on things. I wish to keep my footing no matter what the terrain. Today, someone posted a link to a fascinating album of goats doing goat things. It reminded me that power comes in the most unexpected of guises.
Click here to check out the album.