The milker in the family is the first to notice the shortening daylight. The familiar walk up to the barn, swinging the pail and calling the "girls" in becomes a path darkened with new shadows splotched with orange sunset...When our bedtime ritual has overextended itself....or when I give in to "just one more story" or "one more Scotish lullaby" I light the oil lamp and stumble over the cats on the back stoop on my way up for the evening milking. I've given up faith in battery operated flashlights. My experience with them has been similiar to my misadventures with vacuum cleaners and pick-up trucks. When they want to work, they will, when you need them, they'll fail. A barn, at milking time, by oil lamp takes on iconic hues. The curvature of the roof and rafters lit by the flickering wick could be Bethlehem or Norman Rockwell's 1940s or your Great Grandpa's hayloft. Five cats fan out beneath it, lapping up warm milk, and the sight of them, the sound of the cow at her hay, the warm orange glow and soft teats encircled in rythmic milking....the swash of the milk in the paill....all this, in a barn surrounded by black night, crickets and bullfrogs...makes for a kind of feast for the 5 senses. A riotuos buffet for ears, eyes, nose, hands...the sense of taste is content to be absent, having indulged in a Sunday dinner of raost chicken and gravy. Time on the farm is measured in quarts. It is the milking chorse that bookends the day. No matter how many harried discussions you have about how you're going to pay your hay bill or who to slaughter or sell or when to put the cover crop in, the getting up and going to milk sets it all in motion everyday-no fail. Starts you in on the farming before you can question whether you should be doing it, whethter you're any good at it...you lean into the barrelled side of Dixie or Lupe and content in those moments on that overturned crate, you fill a pail with the warm foaming liquid proof- the "something to show for it all" reward at the beginning and end of each day...tightening the farmer's heart to the farming by bonds of sensual affection after the strange dreams of night and the struggles of the day. The cats have begun to sit, enraptured, beneath my arms and knees, watching all that white gold squirt down from the funny beasts I call goats. Every time I see them sit like that I can't help but believe that cat's understand MIRACLES. Sometimes if they're impatient for their share of the spils they'll give you a swat or two at Dixie's hind legs as if to hurry the milk machines up. Eventually, when they've had their fill, they'll splay about the barn with their swollen bellies and lick their faces lazily and watch me finish up with evident satisfaction. It's clear to them that we run a "delicious" factory, and who would ever roam away from a land flowing with delicious and honey? You would think the twice a day milking would become a tedious task, but mercifully it's anything but. In the oil lamp glow I'm daily reminded that I'm with the cats....yesterday I happened across a new mess of them in the goat's pen...Mama had given birth to a new litter of kittens, 3 of them orange tabbies. The heavy pail I tote back to the house for straining and cooling is the poem that signifies a re-filled heart renewed in the DESIRE for just staying put.