I didn't expect to spend time this summer wedged in the back of a stuffy van with two strong-smelling pack goats nuzzling my head and leaving goat droppings uncomfortably close to my feet. But that's where I was two days ago.
After another session of teaching poetry at Jonathan Rand's Author Quest Camp for young writers, I spent several days with my good friends Shelley and Roderick at their farm in Wolverine, Michigan. Among other activities, they took me blackberry picking with their two pack goats Troubadour and Blue. The blackberry field was several miles away, and without a trailer, the only way to transport the goats was via the van.
I haven't spent a lot of time up close and personal with goats. In fact, I haven't spent a lot of time up close and personal with many farm animals. The most exotic creature I associated with growing up was my godparents' chihuahua, Kippy. But being around Shelley and Roderick always results in new experiences for me, such as climbing a steep winding staircase without handrails to reach the guestroom perched on top of their self-designed home. As I descended these stairs in the middle of the night to use the bathroom I realized how easy it would be to plummet to my death. One wrong step on a stray chicken or a feral cat and I'd be history. The familiarity of my own safe apartment seemed mighty appealing.
Truth be told, like the main character in the middle grade novel I'm writing, I'm often hesitant to try new things. Some might say I'm cautious. Others might say I'm a stick-in-the-mud. But also like the character I'm writing about, I find that these new experiences make my life infinitely more rich. They also make my writing more rich. Thankfully I have friends like Shelley and Roderick who get me out of my comfort zone and into the world of affectionate goats and succulent blackberries.