Lucie is 19, Jean-Yves eldest child, and the only member of the Martinal family who can speak English. More importantly she is one of the most thoughtful, kind and inquisitive people I’ve met on this journey. She is in the middle of studying for her exam that will determine if she can go to university, where she will study philosophy. Estelle is 17, the middle child, and equally wonderful but with whom I need to use an array of hand signals and the French/English dictionary to communicate. She attends pottery school in Dijon, about four hours away. Both Estelle and Lucie stay at school during the week but they return to the farm on the weekends. Alban, at 15, is the youngest and cracks the most jokes. I laugh not because I understand, but because his enthusiasm is contagious. He attends school nearby and is home every evening. Unlike his older sisters, he will not continue school after this year. He hopes to be a fireman.
After dinner on Friday night, Lucie, Jean-Yves and I lingered at the table and talked philosophy. Lucie, both translator and active participant, brewed a pot of tea with slivers of grapefruit rind. Jean-Yves repeated, “Wild, Hombre, God.” (When we talk, he’ll throw in a few Spanish words, like “hombre” for good measure. It always makes me laugh.) Then would launch into his theories about nature and religion and the different ways in which people see God. Patiently, Lucie would translate for me, and I’d reply and ask more questions. For Jean-Yves, God is in the eye of the beholder and the world evolved in this order: “Wild, Hombre, God.” First came nature or “wild”, then humans or “hombre”, and last God, if God is whom we choose to see.
Just as we had finished our tea, Alban ran into the kitchen. A goat was having a baby. “Maintanant!” We all rushed over to the barn and by the light of a single headlamp, Jean-Yves assisted with the birth by gently pulling the baby goat into the world. At first the baby looked dead. She was lying on the straw, limp and lifeless. Maybe 20 seconds passed. Then she moved her tiny little head and tried to stand. The other goats approached her, curious. When Lucie and I walked out of the barn about ten minutes later, the petite chevre was already standing and trying to drink.
And I didn’t fall asleep that night thinking that witnessing my very first live birth on the heels of an in depth discussion about God was some sort of sign from a higher power. I fell asleep thinking that life is a miracle in its own right. It is opportunity and hardship, hope and sadness, and love and loss. Maybe for me, God encompasses every life on earth, past, present and future, and is a reflection of the energy that all our lives produce. “Wild, Hombre, God.” Sounds good to me.