I am a big fan of travel guide writer Rick Steves who is responsible for a series of excellent guidebooks to Europe, a useful travel website, travel specials on public television, and a radio show called Travel With Rick Steves. I listen to the latter regularly as a podcast. While generally the show features travel experts talking about destinations around the world with phone-in questions from listeners, the most recent episode’s unique topic is Encountering Sheep in Your Travels. I highly reccomend giving a listen
This makes total sense to me as I’ve seen and photographed sheep in seven nations. In Ireland where a sheep posed by the sheep crossing sign while other sheep in Slea Head grazed in impossible places on the cliff’s edge, in Versailles where regal sheep dominated the barnyard of Marie Antoinette’s Hameau, or in the the Alpe di Siussi where the jingle of sheep bells rang clear across the meadow and to the peak of Mt. Pez.
Of course, I appreciate sheep in my home country as well. In college my roommate Alan was famed for visiting the sheep at Colonial Williamsburg whenever he felt stressed. The term “Fuzzy Pig” originated from an apophrycal CW story about a city slicker parent exclaiming to her children to look at the fuzzy pigs. Alan along with several of our classmates at William & Mary formed a Fuzzy Pig appreciation society. The spring lambing was a big event and it was great to take a break from studying for finals to watch the newborn lambs frolic in the meadows. Do not underestimate the therapeutic value of a Leicester Longwool.
Sheep and shepherds are also a common metaphor throughout scripture. In a wonderful case of serendipity, today’s Gospel reading contains one of those instances:
At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them
because they were troubled and abandoned,
like sheep without a shepherd.
– Matthew 9:36
In my own room I have religious sheep imagery including a crossknit illustration of “The Lord is My Shepherd (Psalm 23)” given as gift to Alan & I from another college friend. For my first communion, each of the children made a felt banner to hang on the end of our pew, and were given several options of images to place upon it. I of course chose a sheep along with a fish and an open Bible, so it appears my love of sheep goes back a ways.
Tomorrow my friend Kim sings in a choir performing Handel’s Messiah and while I won’t be able to see the performance this year, I will be thinking of my favorite part: “All we like sheep have gone astray.”
“We like sheep,” we like them a lot. Amen.