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Harriet Ling, LMBT


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205 Lloyd St., Suite 203
Carrboro, NC  27510

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Dead Sheep

It’s been said that a fence that won’t hold water won’t hold sheep, and mine had sprung a leak.  The six sheep residing in my pasture had gone missing.  Suddenly understanding the plight of Bo Peep, I made phone calls and hiked about the woods in search of the lost flock.  I located half of them in a neighbor’s pasture and enticed them with food to follow me the mile or so back home.  Upon our arrival, I discovered two of the remaining fugitives back inside the fence, and was immediately relieved, yet worried about the one lone missing sheep.  Sure enough, as I was mending the fence, the call came from a neighbor that my lost ewe was dead in his field.

I grabbed my wheelbarrow and set out down the hill to retrieve the lifeless sheep, the apparent victim of a dog attack. Traveling down this particular long, steep hill with a wheelbarrow was a bit of a challenge, and I was not looking forward to my return trip.  I reached the fifty-pound carcass, lifted it into the wheelbarrow, and began the uphill push.  At about the halfway point, it occurred to me that a boyfriend sure would be nice right about now.  When one did not magically appear, I continued my journey to the top of the hill, across the gravel lane, through my yard and into the horse pasture.  The back gate of the pasture opened into the woods, where I hoped to find a suitable place to give the deceased a proper burial in spite of the concrete-like state of the ground.  Beyond the back gate, I continued to push, pull, sweat and pant, over fallen logs, through the creek, up and down a few smaller hills, searching for an appropriate spot.  The voice in my head finally insisted, “Just dump the damn sheep!”  I eventually discovered a ready-made sheep-sized hole at the base of a fallen tree and transformed it into a grave, carefully covering the body with leaves and branches, and left with a prayer for the dearly departed.

On my way home, I became aware of parallels between this experience and my life.  How many years had I traveled bearing the burdens of my past, my metaphorical dead sheep?  I realized it was way past time to let go of resentment, anger, bitterness, fear...  All the baggage I’d held onto for much too long.

That evening, I lit a candle, set the Kate Wolf song “Unfinished Life” on repeat, and burned the pages of my journal, one by one.  Letting go of my past.  Consciously deciding to move forward and stop clinging to what had nothing left to contribute to my unfinished life.

As another year comes to a close, I’m reminded again to consider what I need to let go of, what is weighing me down and holding me back, what is working against my forward movement.  It’s time once again to dump the dead sheep.


Harriet D. Ling


Reader Comments (2)

First of all, how did I miss the fact that you have sheep? I love sheep! Yet another reason to plan my visit sooner rather than later.
Regarding your writings: You my sweet, beautiful, wonderful friend, have an incredible gift of words. I, too, need to "dump the dead sheep", particularly in light of losing Jim. Your story speaks to me on so many levels, and is just what I needed to read today, on this eve of a new year.
So, here's to dumping more of those dead sheep that hold us back, keep us down, and just plain mess with our heads. And to us a a Happy New Year ahead. xxooo

December 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKathy Gray

Oh, Kathy, thank you, thank you, thank you! It always amazes me how quickly I accumulate more "dead sheep" in need of dumping. Letting go is such hard work, yet so liberating and healing. Many blessings to you in 2013! Looking forward to getting together, whenever it happens!

PS I no longer keep sheep here, but I love them too!

January 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHarriet
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