Her voice is ethereal and she calls out to them.
There are about eight names in all and for the life of me I can remember only the three. As she calls out to them, in the distance you can hear them Baaa in response. It is a light whispered sound riding on a breeze. She is calling her heard of sheep and has melded the names into a song which brings them to the back porch of the store. They know she has supplied us with bread and it is that thought that brings them from the woods. These are carb loving sheep. Their voices grow stronger in response letting us know they are coming.
Every year while in the Berkshires, we go to Sheepsgate. It’s a tiny little store nestled in the woods filled with local textile artwork and sheepskin products. It’s on Route 23 also known as Otis Stage Road in Blandford, Massachusetts. Towns in this part of Massachusetts consist of a General Store and Post Office if you’re lucky. I’ve never actually seen Main Street Blandford or any cluster of buildings that might infer it was the center of anything. We come here specifically for the sheep and to support the local artists represented in the store.
Once upon a time, I was a weaver and textile designer. I still have a floor loom locked up in storage waiting for me to weave on it again. I painted and wove for a living until the poverty lost it’s romantic patina. I know of a photographer who likes photographing ballerinas because he finds beauty in the pain and poverty it causes the women who are attracted to this art. He actually said this to a crowded audience and they nodded in that knowing hushed way. They would have nodded at anything he would have said as they seemed to be the type that secretly dreamed of being him one day. His photographs are beautiful but I wanted to spit and snarl when he romanticized poverty. I think I will never forget the hunger an empty wallet provides. It was a harsh blow to realize an artist needs a trust fund or some type of financing to really make it. That or incredible luck and I had none of the above. I joined the work force of suits and sales never looking back. I’ve always had one art project or another feeding off my income, vacations and ultimately heart. That’s why photography has been such a good fit. I can bring the cameras with me wherever I go. Floor looms don’t travel with such ease.
Out back on the tiny porch we stand in a huddled group waiting with slices of bread in our hands. I still love the smell of wool and get excited when I see the sheep. They amble out of the brush excited to see us already with bread in hand. Usually Margaret, the owner, reserves this ritual for small children. We are not young in age but our enthusiasm overrides any qualms she might have not to pull out the loaf of bread and her song of names. I do not tell her that once upon a time I was a weaver. It is not a story I feel like telling at the moment as there are woolly heads to pat. There is a part of me that thinks she knows this already.