On Death & Dying

This was blogged by Richard Carlson.  It describes a horrible act of butchery that took place against us – killing our precious llama Michelle Belle.

I’m fascinated with friends.  At some points in my life I have neglected family completely to be involved with friends.  They don’t need to be 2 separate groups I guess, but there seem to be significant differences.  That would need to be a different essay.
I don’t think I’ve had a lot of friends since junior high school, although I don’t count or usually compare myself to other people in this regard.  I’m not very good at making friends or keeping them…but the ones who have hung around I really treasure.  I hope I tell them so enough…but I’m sure I should do more.  And I should tell my family I treasure them too.

Sometimes people have shown up in my life who are so incredible, and even famous, that I can’t believe we even know each other.  I don’t understand how that happens, and I don’t want to tempt the fates by asking.  I just tiptoe along in gratitude.  I hope you know people like that too.

Such people are Annie and Jay Warmke, who live at Blue Rock Station up near Philo, Ohio, which is close to Zanesville.  That’s Annie in the picture…and I can just hear her saying, Oh that picture is a few years old!  (I think 2005.)  I could write for days about their amazing journey, about their achievements in sustainability long before most of us even heard the term, about their lovely grandchild Catlyn (soon to be sweet 16), and all their chickens and cats and dogs and goats…and llamas, all of whom have names and are talked to and treated almost the same as the rest of us people.  You can know more about them by visiting here  http://www.bluerockstation.com/ or just email to tell them you’re coming and go see for yourself.

I don’t know how we found out about each other.  It may have been on the Internet some way, through common interests.  But I remember the moment we all met in person as if it were this morning.  It started with instant recognition and hugs.  And we’ve just stayed that way.  Two families traveling through life as friends.  We’re all different ages and have had extraordinarily different individual lives…but none of that matters.  It only makes things more interesting.  Both Ilona and Cat have lived in France…and share certain consternations about boys, so there’s that.  Otherwise, we’re unique except that we laugh a lot when we’re together.  That’s not often because we live about 2 hours apart, which is a bit far just to drop by after supper.

They’re not the first people I’ve known who’ve kept llamas.  My cousin Janet and her husband did.  They ran a recreation camp on Lake Chautauqua, and I thought maybe the animals were there as kind of a novelty zoo or something.  Apparently llamas are very handy creatures though, a kind of combination of a cow, a horse, and a sheep all in one.  I still don’t know much about them, but I suppose I know them better because they’re part of Jay and Annie’s family.  Herding them from pasture to pasture needs to be a public event, with neighbor help.  When a baby llama is born there is great celebration.

Mostly the Warmkes keep to themselves up there in Muskingum County.  It’s not known as a particularly progressive area, and some folks may wonder about the strange house Annie and Jay built themselves out of old tires, bottles, wire mesh and mud.  They’ve got 38 acres and what they do isn’t visible from the road, and you’d think more conservative people would let them mind their own business.  But people do come and go at Blue Rock Station.  They come for workshops and tours and for one of Annie’s high tea ceremonies.  There’s a sign at the gate and they advertise.  People find out and I suppose the old word “hippie” might occur to them.  Too bad.

The last couple years Jay has taken an interest in standing for public office.  Folks may not know or guess that in his background is a startling business career of great accomplishment.  He doesn’t unfurl his credentials readily or even willingly, but they’re there and he makes a formidable candidate.  Cat’s reports of her school experience in Muskingum inspired Jay to run for the school board.  That’s all.  It’s not like he wants to be county executive or anything.  Just a contributing school board member.  He tried it once before but didn’t get elected.  This year he tried again.

Last month we drove up for Annie’s unique birthday party.  It was for women only and involved swapping stuff from around our houses that we don’t use much but that other people might like.  No presents.  We guys had to leave the grounds and go somewhere else.  Jay and I got to talk about the school board and the election.  He showed me the big house his opponent lives in and his big SUVs out front, and told me a bit of what he does for a living and how he operates.  It was a tight race, and I guess it got rather nasty.  At one point Annie wrote me that maybe if Jay lost, it would be better.
Just now I checked the WHIZ website for election results.  It looks like the school levy got turned down again, but it appears Jay actually won…and now is a member of the Franklin Local Schools School Board.  Yay!  Congratulations buddy!
But at what cost?  Late at night, election night…someone expressed an opinion.  Annie wrote me early yesterday morning.  Here it is~~~

“Yesterday was one of the worst days of my life.  In the night someone or
maybe more then one person came into the field.  They shot Michelle
Belle with a 22, and then as she lay dying they cut off her ear as a
trophy of some sort.  I found her when I went to milk this morning. This is the final act in a tough campaign for school board.  I couldn’t
have imagined this is how it would all end.

“We spent 3.5 years socializing her so that she was a good llama.  Then I
spent the better part of August and September saving her life – hand
feeding her, pulling her up with a tow strap to force her to keep
moving, and massaging her to keep her from stiffening up.  She had the
loveliest velvety chocolate face with huge eyes and long lashes.  I
loved her.

“There is nothing else to say until I figure out what this all means to
my life, and what I need to do to protect the rest of the animals.Today
I am able to think again.  We refuse to live in fear.  I only want good
energy here so in spite of the fact that I will not stop looking for the
person or people who did this to Michelle.  I am planning a blessing
day.  We are going to light sage and bless the place where she died, and
where we buried her.  Then we will walk the property line where we know
they crossed to do this horrible thing.  The only protection we can have
for the other animals is a constant good energy.  I am also sending
blessings and healing the those who did this, and the constant mantra
that they will come forward.

“I couldn’t think of this yesterday – I was just mourning.  It is still
not clear to me what all of this means to our lives, but this will be
revealed as time passes.”

Later yesterday she added~~~

“I think the thing we have to do is to talk about how to react to these
types of hate crimes.  I needed today to think this through and I see
that we need to think about how to raise awareness in the community that
involves talking to each other and not just thinking the law will take
care of this.  We need to have a plan with steps that involve the
community.  We need to ask for mental health assistance if the person is
caught and not press for jail time….jail will not help.  We need to
share how we have mourned this type of invasion in our lives.  I don’t
know all of the answers yet, but I am determined to figure out how to
fit this into my walk of peace in my life.  Annie”

I asked her if blogging and sharing this news would be helpful, or did they need to be quiet about this.  She said she has written to the Zanesville Times-Recorder, and perhaps a reporter will contact them today.  Annie said any publicity of this monstrous behavior could help and would be welcome.  There’s not much more I can say, but I thought the Warmkes might like this poem that showed up the other day~~~

by Louis Jenkins

It turns out that the drain pipe from the sink is attached to
nothing and water just runs right onto the ground in the
crawl space underneath the house and then trickles out
into the stream that passes through the backyard. It turns
out that the house is not really attached to the ground but
sits atop a few loose concrete blocks all held in place by
gravity, which, as I understand it, means “seriousness.” Well,
this is serious enough. If you look into it further you will
discover that the water is not attached to anything either
and that perhaps the rocks and the trees are not all that
firmly in place. The world is a stage. But don’t try to move
anything. You might hurt yourself, besides that’s a job for
the stagehands and union rules are strict. You are merely a
player about to deliver a soliloquy on the septic system to a
couple dozen popple trees and a patch of pale blue sky.

“Gravity” by Louis Jenkins from Just Above Water.


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Writer, farmer, scientist, from Ohio

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