The manure pile has gone from a small hill to a low swell. A swollen reddish-brown circle on the gray gravelly ground.
Now instead of digging, I scrape the dried manure from the surface of the circle with the rake. It comes up easy, the manure under it still wet and dense. It’s lighter too, which makes it easier to shovel into the wheelbarrow, easier to move into the pasture and spread around.
Drying manure dots the barnyard where the sheep and donkeys drop it.
Looking at it I think of my trip to the village of Bulpar, India. It was there I saw cow manure that was being dried for fuel on the walls of the houses, and on the trunks of trees. The amazing thing was that it was dried in individual flattened circles, each with a handprint in it from the person who had shaped it.
My first thought in seeing them was how much they reminded me of those ancient hand-print paintings found on rock walls and in caves.
The artist in me wanted to make my own handprint in the manure and I did, to the horror of the people I was traveling with. I flattened a cow pie onto the wall of one of the houses, adding my handprint to the ones that were already there.
I felt like I was affirming my existence.
I was also participating in this ongoing mundane ritual, of drying manure for fuel, that has been happening in many places around the world for thousands of years.
It’s really the most natural thing for me to be spreading the manure from the donkeys and sheep throughout the pastures. The animals do it every day, fertilizing the grass as they eat and then poop.
And now with the last of the manure pile spread thin on the ground, the top layer drys in the sun. So all I have to do is keep scraping it off until it is as flat as the ground around it.
I feel like I’m doing more than simply fertilizing the pastures (although that is enough in itself) when I do this.
In the slow manual spreading of manure with my rake, shovel, and wheelbarrow, with the help of the sun, I feel like I’m making a connection to the past as a human as well as to the animals I live with and this piece of earth that I am inhabiting for this short period of time.