Llama T-Shirts


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I saw less of the llamas, and I missed them. Most of my attention was on work in town. One evening, I was teaching a class in self-hypnosis for writing. The students were sitting with eyes shut, absorbed in the task I had given them, of allowing a symbol to arise from the inner mind. It could be anything, and it was to help them with writing. I sat quietly.

Suddenly I felt a symbol inside me too, so I closed my eyes.

There was Tumbleweed, close up, looking at me with his clear gaze, so very dignified even with the perpetual wisp of hay dangling from his mouth. “Write for us!” his gaze said to me. “Tell people who we are.”

My heart seemed to expand beyond my body with the magnitude of the love I felt for him. In that moment he wasn’t so much an animal who lived in a fenced area on my land as he was a wise benefactor, serene yet needing what I could give. I felt respect for him and for his wisdom. When it came to writing a book, he was truly a speechless brother. For that he needed me.

Our Christmas card was a sketch that Kelly did, with five llamas, the two of us, both dogs and the cat. We received mostly amused comments from friends and relatives, but one uncle of Kelly’s wrote, “I envy you the mountains but you can keep the llamas.”

“He probably thinks they spit a lot,” I said when Kelly read the card aloud.

Kelly had never been spat upon. “Do they spit at you?” asked a reporter who was doing a llama story for a Portland paper.

“Oh no,” Kelly said cheerfully. “They do spit at each other now and then, but not at us.”

“How long is their wool?” asked the photographer.Kelly was holding Lil Bit, and he parted the strands of her wool.

Lil Bit turned her head around and spat.

First she hit the photographer; next, the writer; then Kelly felt a little pop-pop-pop as the grain he had just given her landed on his forehead. Luckily the visitors believed Kelly’s protestations that this was rare; they didn’t feature spitting in the article.

Kelly and I celebrated New Year’s Eve with a bottle of champagne by the fire. Just before midnight we went down to the barn for a party. Our footsteps and flashlights alerted the llamas, and they eagerly nibbled the grain we offered them.

It was a beautiful night, cold and clear, stars filling the sky from one mountain horizon to another. Although there was no moon, the mountains were bright with snow. I thought of the parties in town we had been invited to, but I was glad to be home instead. What better way to end the year than with the animal friends who had made it so special?

I felt a thrill as I thought of living with llamas in the coming year. I felt a chill as a gust of wind whipped through my down jacket. When we went back inside, it was past midnight. We hadn’t heard any horns or firecrackers. We hadn’t even kissed, but–better late than never–we took care of that.

We worked outside on New Year’s Day. Kelly added beams to the sheds to strengthen them against the snow load, and I dug manure from the females’ shed. The heavy work made us warm, and we had a quart jar of orange juice with us. Lil Bit sniffed it thoroughly.

She sat down by her front door, and watched our activities. I hunkered down next to her and rubbed her neck. “Lil Bit, I bet it would be easy to make you into a pet. You’re a bit much for a trailer, but when the living room is further along, I’ll bring you in,” I promised.

We finished the afternoon’s work with a little llama training. We put cinches around Levi and Whiskers, as a step toward packing with them. They moved away from us and threatened with their necks as we put the cinches on, but once they were on, the llamas seemed oblivious to them.

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