Sunrise at the farm
The sun rises in the front of the house and sets in the back. I notice these things now that I’m living at the farm full-time.
We’ve had such a long/short year of sick and broken things. My annual State of the Farm address in years past noted how long we’d gone without a colic (knock wood) or a lameness or a wound, but things were only fine on the surface. The façade was intact, but there was so little that was real or true. Life isn’t about things not being wrong – it’s about how we deal with the lot we’ve been given. (I think I just copied an eCard). Having walked through some pretty intense illnesses this year, both with the horses and the humans, I am more connected to the heart of things than I ever was in the past. I’ve witnessed the incredible spirit of our barn family first hand and I know I am surrounded by some rare and genuine people. The answer always comes. It might have four feet or two; it might blow in on a gust of wind, but it comes, quietly, without any herald or fanfare.
I’d emailed a friend in one of those moments of desperation, up at dawn with a sick horse. I asked her what our string of bad luck meant. She offered some words of wisdom that kept the question with me. I needed to turn my attention to the things that truly mattered.
I have time now to relish tiny, vastly important things that used to be a headache when I lived across town and was always trying to hurry up and close up the barn and head home.
Matilda has a habit of getting her feet stuck in buckets. This draft cross mare is HUGE and her ability to stand in a full water bucket hanging from the wall as she craned her neck to watch for the feed cart passing is the stuff of legends, and a vice that forced me to keep her in a paddock for several years. She’s older now and has been back in a stall at night for a while, but twice we’ve altered the hanging of her buckets after finding her standing, quietly, with a foot raised out in front of her in salute, stuck in a bucket. She doesn’t panic. I have a lot to learn from Matilda about how to manage stress. But if she panicked she would be able to release herself by breaking the hay string our last fete of bucket engineering brought us. We’ve tried hanging them low; we’ve tried hanging them high. Matilda just stands there – on three legs — waiting for someone to feed her and possibly free her as an afterthought. She’s in it for the food.
So we installed a Rubbermaid container as a makeshift trough in her stall. I figure the worse she could do is flood her floor or stand in the container. You can read more about Matilda’s bucket antics at Sarah Boudreaux’s Matilda Project blog.
Last night as I was giving hay and closing up, I realized her bucket was filthy, so she might have been standing in it, or some bedding was thrown around when her stall was being cleaned. Having nowhere else to be, I didn’t have to wait until the morning for weekly water scrubbing, so I bailed the trough out bucket by bucket as Matilda munched hay and watched me like a movie or a sports show — Human Moves Buckets. I rinsed the trough out and waited for it to fill. She curved her head around and stared at me.
So I pressed my ear against her side and listened to her stomach. She breathed and I breathed and pressed closer into the thick, giant, warmth of her. Having the time, finally, to think and to press close, I became acutely aware of the creature’s whole sixteen hundred pounds, amazed that she’s fine with me being there with her, sharing hay and water.
I’m more conscious of water use in the house now that I’m off city water in my normal, doing dishes/laundry, human-time. We’re vastly conservative in our water use at the farm, being on a well. It makes me think of all the sacred wells I’ve visited in Turkey, Russia, Portugal. Blessed water that was hauled bucket by bucket for normal, human-things: washing dishes, doing laundry, drinking. Living at the farm, drinking from this well, reminds me to turn the water off when I’m brushing my teeth, to soap dishes up and rinse them, separately, together. The horses and I share the same water for living now and that communion makes every drop of it a prayer.
When I was at one my lowest points a few years ago, another friend offered the best advice, “Take some time to pet dogs every day.” As we head into a new year and new adventures, I wish all of you the time to do tiny, vastly important things. Look for something thirsty and give it water.
Or as Neil Gaiman says much better in his children’s book, Instructions:
if any creature tells you that it hungers,
If it tells you that it is dirty,
If it cries to you that it hurts,
if you can,
ease its pain.
From the back garden you will be able to see the wild wood.