Just imagine, for a moment, that you are a sheep. You and your 60 or so fellow sheep find yourself in an open-ended shelter as a terrible storm rages. A deafening roar fills your world and gusts of wind, such as have never been felt before (although, because you are a sheep, you know nothing about weather history) threaten to lift your shelter up and carry it away.
Suddenly a massive blast of air pushes the pole structure that had until then offered minimal protection several feet to the west, bending and breaking the water pipe in its path as easily as if it were a strand of spaghetti. A geyser of water is now spewing from the ground; sheets of rain are pouring from the sky. The structure tilts and topples, poles bending and fences snapping. Still the roar surrounds you and you strain against the wind just to stand in place.
Someone among you takes the lead (is it the same someone every time, or do you, like geese in a V, take turns being the leader, one wonders). Is it sheep intuition that instructs your leader to brace her shoulders against the wind and head up hill? Maybe she remembers the location of the broccoli, and knows instinctively that it is good to eat, though none among you have ever sampled even a single leaf. Or maybe the broccoli’s alluring scent carries through the sodden air and transcends the supposed fear of the moment.
You follow your brave, or clever, or particularly olfactorily gifted—or just lucky—leader over the broken fence and up the hill to the promised land, where the taste of tender florets greatly outweighs the discomfort of the blustery march. You eat your fill.
You devour heads of cabbage, tender leaves of Brussels sprouts and kale, and a whole long row of broccoli and cauliflower. Big full heads of green lettuce are covered by a flimsy white cloth—it’s only a minor inconvenience to rip through it. When the good stuff is gone there are the grassy blades of oats and delicacies like carrot and parsnip leaves, turnips, and rhubarb stalks. The rain pelts and the wind furiously blasts at your wet hide, but how often do you get a chance to eat like this?
Never! That’s how often. Usually it’s fields of grass and clover. If you’re really lucky, alfalfa. How sweet are the rewards of an occurrence calamitous enough to disrupt normal life. And, in the case of a sheep, how immediate.
As humans, the process is slower, and more reflective. When we find ourselves displaced, our homes lacking the things we need to carry on, we have no choice but to experience life from a different perspective. In the midst of our discomfort, a kind friend, a soft bed, a pot of African peanut soup arrive on the scene.
Suddenly there are conversations that would not have happened, revelations that would not have been learned, a debt owed and instantly discounted, a favor granted, a bond deepened. The garden is in ruins but the good feelings multiply. The sheep now know where the broccoli is kept, we now know that we can trust in friendship.
I rip out the bare stalks of brassicas and chomped heads of cabbage and count my losses. One, two, three trashcans full of remains will go to the pigs. Enthusiastically they will grunt and rejoice over their good fortune (do pigs rejoice, one wonders).
Safe, warm, full of contentment, I am once again ensconced with my stuff. The refrigerator has been emptied of its spoiled contents and refilled. The prematurely empty garden is planted in winter rye and vetch, builders of next year's soil. I am much richer for my losses.
After all, It’s only broccoli.