As I was walking on the hills above Lochwinnoch one morning on the last day of February, I happened across a sheep that had died in the winter. Its body had disintegrated, and its fleece lay scattered across the hillside. 

 

I walked across the slope, bending to pick clumps of white from the spring grass. It was like the last remnants of snow, hanging on to the winter, the last vestiges of life clinging to their form before disappearing back into the earth. 

 

I collected the last pieces of that sheep, stuffing them into my pockets, revelling in the early spring sunshine and the beauty of life, my hands warmed by the soft touch of wool. 

 

Back in my kitchen I combed through with my fingers, pulling out brambles and bits of dead grass. I soaked the fleece and washed it, combed it and spun it into a soft two-ply. I dug my fingers into the remains of that sheep time and again as I wound it into a ball and knit it into a delicate lace. 

 

I wonder if anybody ever loved that sheep during its life as intimately as I did after its death. If anybody had ever given it the care and affection that I did as I picked bits of its wool out of the spring grass that morning on the last day of February?

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In mid-September I returned to the place where I had found the sheep. I recognized it by a dip in the hillside. In early autumn, the grass was vivid green, littered with the yellow remains of ragwort and buttercups. Cows roamed the hillside, while there were still sheep in the field below. I sat down and began my work.

 

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At the end of November I returned a final time, my work completed. I lay the blanket in the grass, where I had found it 9 months earlier. The sun shone golden light over the hills above Lochwinnoch, illuminating each stitch, each stray piece of wool. It lay in the grass, white on green, flecked with bits of nature, while I marvelled at the process of making, and thanked the world for its bounty. 

Monument to the Sheep That Died
on the Hills Above Lochwinnoch