bébé-chèvre“The Lame Goat”

You have seen a herd of goats

going down to the water.


The lame and dreamy goat

brings up the rear.


There are worried faces about that one,

but now they’re laughing,

because look, as they return,

that one is leading.


There are many different ways of knowing.

The lame goat’s kind is a branch

that traces back to the roots of presence.


Learn from the lame goat,

and lead the herd home.


From Rumi, a 13th-century Persian Sunni Muslim poet, jurist, Islamic scholar, theologian, and Sufi mystic.

If you ask anyone who knew me as a child, they will admit I was a late bloomer. My dad’s nickname for me was “Bumper;” I was always running into walls and doors. With the amount of spills I took running across the street, riding a bike, or even just walking down the hall, it sometimes seemed like a struggle just to stay on my own two feet. I’m guessing that’s why I am drawn to this poem.

So often, we dismiss the “lame goats,” the ones who bring up the rear and seem to be in their own world, but this poem reminds us that when we do, we may not have the right perspective. It takes time, and patience to see the whole picture and those are two things most of us have in short supply. The concrete visual imagery of this poem is a powerful reminder to have some patience and faith in the people and things that take a little more time. This is even a lesson we can apply to ourselves when we find ourselves falling behind! Everyone has value and everyone is ahead of the curve somewhere and at some time.

So have pity on the “lame goat” who lags behind, including this writer, who agonized about choosing such a silly poem for today! I wanted to offer something a little lighter than “The Last Supper,” but hope you don’t find it underwhelming.  Tomorrow, we’ll get back to some more serious literary work!



Goat Rodeo: about the most polite term used by aviation people (and others in higher risk situations) to describe a scenario that requires about 100 things to go right at once if you intend to walk away from it. http://www.urbandictionary.com

Most mornings with Kiko feel like I’m at a Goat Rodeo. Today was no exception and unfortunately, no one walked away from it completely unscathed. She stormed out of the house to wait in the misty rain for her carpool; I went to check my computer. This is what I saw on Facebook:

Oh, if I had only known! But wait a minute. I did know. Though I hadn’t seen her midnight post (I go to bed around ten), I could tell from the moment she woke up that today was not a good day. It was her father who didn’t know and who brought this morning to such an unhappy conclusion.

Kiko has never been a morning person; adolescence has done nothing to improve the situation. The challenging curriculum at her all-girls prep school has only made it worse. She does homework until eleven or so and then takes an hour or two to unwind. Her alarm goes off (for the first of several times) at 6:30 AM.

Though I am a morning person, I’ve learned to adjust my expectations. I speak to her minimally. I am helpful when possible. I appreciate her good mornings, using those days to sneak in an extra hug, or kiss and chat about life. On bad days, I avoid her. I pack her lunch, pat her on the head and try to never, under any circumstances, overreact to her snide comments, deep sighs and tragicomical complaints.

Tim has no such compunction. I don’t know what got into him this morning, but as Keara lay on the couch, soaking up her last moments in a horizontal position before the incessant verticality of her day, he would not leave her alone. As the youngest child in his family, his internal switch is permanently set to “tease.” As the father in this home, he has a reasonable expectation for respect and response. While neither of these things are bad in and of themselves, (I appreciate them most of the time), they are not great in combination with an overly tired, teenage girl. I didn’t hear the details of their exchange, but he made one crack after another, which she either ignored, or “cracked” back, until she stormed out of the house.

Exasperated, I looked at him and he said, “I don’t know how you don’t engage when she is acting like that.” I started straightening couch cushions. “Don’t you think she’s being unreasonable?” I folded throw blankets. “Seriously, when someone is being such a donkey, how do you not try to get them to stop?” I began to rearrange the trinkets on the entryway table. He finally got it. “Oh, you do it just like you are doing it to me right now,” he said as he turned and stalked up the stairs.

Ugh. He caught me and I didn’t even realize I was doing it. I was frustrated at him for messing with Kiko, but I didn’t have to ignore him as if he were a cranky, petulant teen. I could have engaged in conversation with him about his concerns. I could have empathized with his pain and his desire to connect with her. I could have recognized that he only wanted to be a good dad, to make her laugh, to start her day on a better note.

But instead of acknowledging any of that, I was smug and if there is one thing I hate being, that’s it. Cathleen Falsani wrote one of my favorite blogs of 2012, called “Deliver Us From Smugness.” If you have time, you should read the whole thing, but one line in particular has stayed with me on an almost daily basis. She writes,

“The opposite of love is smug.”

She goes on to explain that “To be smug is to be excessively proud of your achievements and successes. Conceited. Arrogant. Complacently self-satisfied.”

This morning I was smug with the man I love. I was excessively proud of how I wrangle the Goat Rodeo that is Kiko and her morning routine, instead of humbly grateful that I have crashed and burned enough times to know when and how to walk away.

So Tim, I hope you’ll forgive my smugness. It is the opposite of Love and Love is the one thing I want to be, every day, in every way possible.


As per our family agreement, this blog was read and approved by both parties involved in this morning’s Goat Rodeo.