Well, I’m honored and excited. My Man has asked me to do a guest blog and is letting me do it without even knowing what it would be about. (Ok…he has full editing and veto rights…but this is really how our life is and I don’t mind so much…I’ve come to cherish it oddly enough.) So what would I write about that he couldn’t do better? The only answer is himself.
My Man came to me when I was ready for such a gift and not when I wished for it. I have come to understand that God often works this way. From a very young age I had decided what I wanted most in life and what was important to me. I never wavered from my earliest memories in my dedication to the quest. I wanted true love. As a child I dreamed of this person who would be my best friend and truest confidant….the person I could share everything with and have as an anchor in life. My dreams of the future were always about having this great love…not so much what I would be, what I would do, or where I would travel. All my dreams of happiness hinged on finding this person I knew was out there. I was scared sometimes, in such a big world, that I would never find this person…or that I might find the person I felt this way about and it would not be returned. I often didn’t think I was so worthy to have what I longed for…so this was a big concern for me always.
So I met Rick. My heart fell. I didn’t dare speak to him for 6 months after I met him because I knew if I did he would know how I felt. I was very afraid of that…too afraid that I really had found him and that my biggest fear would be reality. For 6 months I observed. I had to be sure. He was, and is, a strong man. He didn’t let others make his choices for him. He was kind. He was admired and pursued by so many, yet he seemed so alone. I finally got the courage to speak. You know the line “you had me at hello”…yeah…it was exactly like that.
I tell the same story about him so often that many of you if you know me have heard it already…sorry. It is, though, the story that, to me, conveys the spirit of the man I love. There are many, many more, but it was a moment where he made me stop and examine myself and realize that I wanted to be with him that I could learn to be more like him. We took a trip together to Toronto. It was a magical trip really…we were so in love and it was so new for us still. We, as we always do, walked for miles just exploring and seeing the city and all the little out of the way corners that don’t make the tourbooks…we like that. So anyway, we were walking along and I was endlessly expounding on something or other (you probably already deduce that I’m that way if you don’t know me and are sure of it if you do) and realized he wasn’t beside me and I was getting some odd stares walking along there talking like I had an imaginary friend by my side. I looked back to see Rick half a block behind me on his knees talking to an elderly, very down and out homeless man who was lying on the curb. The man had asked Rick for a cigarette…(ok not very glamorous, but not the point) and Rick had given him one and was lighting it for him. They were smiling at each other. I walked closer as Rick then sat down on the curb, feet in the gutter and the two of them talked and laughed. I watched. Rick took time with him, looked him in the eye, they shared some laughs, touched each other…I don’t think I even breathed…I was so entranced. When they had talked a while, Rick said he had to move on but had so enjoyed talking with him and gave him his pack of cigarettes and his lighter. He put his hand on the man’s shoulder and squeezed it. The old man looked so happy. He told Rick what a good man he was and thanked him for not just walking by…as I had. So many people never saw him he said…as I hadn’t. I was ashamed and at the same time so struck with admiration for this man…my Man. I determined to be different myself so that my Man could be as proud of me as I was of him.
I know I’ll never be like him. We are so different after all, but that’s part of the fun of our life together. I have learned from him, though, to see people…to take the time to look someone in the eye and say hello. I take time to just talk with people that I never would have because, for some strange reason, I didn’t realize I could. I do every day now. Soon after our trip I remember taking the time to talk with a homeless man in our home town. It just happened…because I actually saw him. We talked, we laughed…I saw that same light in his eyes when he realized someone saw him and cared to hear him speak…and laugh with him…and shake his hand. As he walked away I realized I had just learned something else I couldn’t have learned from just watching. The connection, the warmth, the kindness…it wasn’t a gift that Rick had given that man…it was an exchange….it was given and returned. That kind man that I would have never seen before was more a blessing in my day than I in his. So I keep finding it to be true…every day.
So that’s my guest blog. My Man is my teacher. He’s so much more…he’s a comedian, an artist, a caretaker, a guardian…I could go on and on. He fascinates me…after 10 years together I just love watching him still…what he does…how he goes about things. Still every now and then he unlocks some little corner of the world…some magical wonderful little tucked away corner…that I never saw. The veil falls away , I see, and I’m astounded. How could I have been so blind? Perhaps I’ll get to tell you about them sometime if the blogmeister is so benevolent as to allow…
It never occurred to me that my horse, Alex, might go through some behaviors once he moved home to the Farm, especially since he was so sick upon arrival. It’s quite clear now, though, that the horse I fell in love with two years ago has a bratty side to him that he was keeping tucked away. Now that he is on the fast track to robust health, he has decided to take away the dominance crown that Diva was proudly wearing. He throws a fit if we don’t acknowledge him first with everything, from scritches to grain, to who goes out into the paddock first. At first, it was a little cute, because it showed he was feeling better, and it was mostly centered around his feeding time. He was used to fighting a large herd of horses for his share of food, and we figured it would pass in time. It dawned on the Man and I this morning that maybe we now had a problem on our hands. More experienced horse owners might have picked up on it a little quicker and put the brakes to it, but it took us a few days to realize that we have the horse version of Nellie Olsen on our hands. The odd part is that the tantrum is never aimed at us, but at Diva, the queen of sweetness. The ears go back and the hooves start stamping, with a swift kick to the stall wall for good measure. Horses aren’t like dogs and cats, or even parrots, so we aren’t quite sure how to deal with this behavior. I put in a call to the vet this morning for advice, and it will be interesting to see what they recommend. This evening will be spent pouring through the web to see what I can find that other horse owners have written about it. Hopefully, we can turn Alex away from the dark side before he starts directing his tantrums towards us. The hardest part will be not letting him see me giggle when he stomps his feet…
It’s been an interesting day here at the Farm. It was a day that we knew would come, but for some reason we thought it would be later rather than sooner. It started out quietly enough, being that it was a Sunday morning, and the sun was shining. The Man tended to the dogs and the birds, and I headed out to the Barn to give the horses their morning grain, hay, and buckets of fresh water. Alex greeted me with his usual foot stomping and snorting, which is his way of telling me to hurry up with his breakfast, and Diva was quiet and attentive, letting her barn mate do the talking. Her big brown eyes followed me around the barn, patiently waiting for her turn. When they both had received the attention they wanted, and had turned away from me to eat, I ambled back into the House. The Man handed me a steaming cup of freshly brewed coffee, and I settled down in front of the computer. After an hour or so, when it was clear the coffee was not going to do it’s job, it occurred to me that there was nothing wrong with turning my usual Sunday afternoon nap into a mid-morning siesta. The Man tucked me in, and I promptly fell asleep with visions of clean stalls and full water buckets dancing in my head. I was awoken by a scream, and in my fogginess, I wondered what woman would be in my house, and why was she screaming? As soon as I heard the words “horses out”, I realized the high pitched screams of panic were coming not from a strange woman, but from the Man. I should make it quite clear that normally, the Man isn’t much of a screamer, and when he does, it’s usually quite masculine, so the level of stress in his voice alerted me to how serious the situation was. I was up, dressed, and out the door faster than I thought was humanly possible.
As I had hoped, the Man had gone out to the Barn to turn the horses out, and had cleaned the stalls and refilled the water buckets, and had even spent time out in the paddock brushing both horses. We have a gate on the back of the Barn that latches to keep the horses outside, and we always keep the huge door on the front closed in case they do manage their way in. He swears that he latched the back gate, and I believe him, as horses are well known for their ability to manipulate simple latches. This, however, is a pretty moot point, considering that the front door on the Barn had been left wide open.
We scrambled into the truck with harnesses and leads, and went off down the road to find them. It wasn’t long before we saw a flash of white running through the apple trees, followed closely by a blur of chestnut brown close behind. We abandoned the truck and headed into orchard, hoping that catching them would be easier than what we feared. Alex was doing his best to keep up with Diva, and considering how sick he had been three weeks ago, he was doing a pretty good job. Together, they wove in and out of the ancient apple trees, kicking up their heels as they squealed with delight at their new found freedom. The chase quickly grew into a game for them, and they doubled back and headed towards the Farm. By the time we got back out to the road, they were out of sight, and if it weren’t for a kindly elderly man who stopped his truck to tell us which direction they had headed, we would have been in sad shape. We didn’t argue with him when he excitedly told us to get in the back of his truck, thankful for the help and the chance to catch our breath. As we came over the crest of the hill beyond the Farm, we saw them in an open field, lazily munching on grass, as if this was where they always lived. I quietly walked up to Alex, and easily put his halter and lead on him, and turned towards home, leaving the Man to deal with Diva. Once she saw that I had Alex, she decided to give up the chase and trotted ahead of us up the road and towards the Farm, even turning into the drive by herself with no prompting from us. They quickly settled into their stalls, munching silently on their hay as if nothing had happened, and it was just another day.
Chasing the horses over the river and through the woods was not what I had planned for the day, but in the end, I can admit that it was a little fun, and a good learning experience for the Man. No harm, no foul, everyone safe and sound. The interesting part of the experience was how all of our neighbors reacted and pulled together to help us catch the horses. People from up and down the road were doing their part, from offering carrots to entice, or circling the horses to cut off escape routes. Some of the less spry neighbors watched from their porches and offered words of encouragement. When one smiled, waived, and said “You finally got your horses?”, I very nearly shouted out “No, these are our poodles!”. It was good to see a neighborhood come together like it did, even if some of the amusement was at our expense. I suppose that it’s a rite of passage of sorts, having your horses escape their barn and visit the neighbors, and I knew it would happen at some point. It always does, we were told. Hopefully it won’t happen again any time soon.
A few people have noticed and commented on how I capitalize certain words in my blogs, so I thought I would share my reasons why. Over time, certain things aren’t just objects to me. They take on a life of their own, with personalities and deep meaning. One of the biggest would be “the Farm”. Ten years ago, when I first came to the Farm, I didn’t have a very big connection to it personally, other than that was where the Man was, and it’s where I belonged. Built in 1810, it had gone through many renovations and additions over time, and it wasn’t until the Man and I decided to bring it back to it’s former glory did it start to feel as though I belonged. I’m a carpenter by hobby, something that is deeply rooted in my genetics, passed down through generations of Dawes men. The one thing I didn’t plan on was how difficult it would be to deconstruct and rebuild a nearly 200 year old farm. Every wall I rebuilt, every beam I exposed, they all brought me one step closer to the bond that was growing between this collection of buildings that I now call the Farm. It is no longer just lumber and nails built upon a foundation of rocks. It’s alive to me, a part of me, and I have left my mark for future generations to enjoy. It deserves a certain reverence when it’s being spoken of…
The Barn is another. Even though it is certainly a part of the collection, it also stands alone. When the main house was built in 1810, the beams used to construct the Barn had been taken from another, older barn. There are signs of a fire on some of them, and on others you can see the old notches and peg holes that were part of the original construction. If you look close enough, you may even find the occasional mark carved into the wood by the builders. Over the years, the Barn has seen it’s share of farm animals come and go, even a horse riding school. When the Man and I decided to ready the Barn for our horses, we discovered that those many years of housing animals before us had left the floor of the Barn completely rotted out. Reconstructing the floor added many weeks to our schedule, but the result was that I became much more intimate with the Barn. I had seen it’s mighty foundation built with boulders from the surrounding fields. I saw how the mighty beams were anchored together, cut and notched by the hands of men who had likely come together for a day with their neighbors, to fellowship and raise a barn. By the time our horses did arrive, the Barn had earned my respect both for it’s construction and it’s history. A history that the Man and I were now a part of…
And of course, the most obvious one of all. The Man. He is my mate, my best friend, and my husband. He is the one that saved my life 11 years ago. He rescued me from a bad place where bad decisions were being made. He showed me the love I had dreamt of, and I returned it to him, and together we set out on this grand journey. I call him “the Man” because he is complete, and he completes me. Other than him occasionally trying to tell me how to build something, I would not change one thing about him. Well, maybe it would be nice if he would learn to tie his shoes and zip up his fly, but these things do not detract from the man that he is. We will grow old together, here on the Farm, our legacy complete. Just me and the Man…
For the first few years of our life together here on the Farm, we had three cats. Two of them, Toby and Trouble, had been mine since they were 6 weeks old, and at age 18, were starting to decline rapidly. The other, Bert, was a big fat tomcat that we had rescued from under- neath my parent’s porch on a cold November day. Within a year, all three had passed away, either from old age or cancer. All of a sudden, our house was empty, and I was determined to fill it back up. One of my favorite things to do is to convince the Man to “just go look”. We went to HART, in Cumberland, which is a no kill shelter, with the mindset that we were just going to see what they had. At least that is what the Man was thinking. Each room at the shelter had close to 50 cats wandering about, and each one that the Man picked up he liked, especially the one big orange tomcat that resembled Bert. I basically ignored him, knowing that I was on a mission, and when I saw the right cat, I would know it.
We walked into the last room, and I quickly scanned around, and that’s when I saw her. The cat that would soon become my Ellie was laying under a small table, and she looked about as pathetic as a cat could. She was weak and shivering, and had a sadness about her that instantly warmed my heart. I could hear the Man’s footsteps behind me, and I knew that he had found a cat that he wanted to show me. When I turned to face him, I was cradling Ellie, and as soon as he saw the look on my face, he dropped the other cat and rolled his eyes. Even the staff of HART thought I was crazy for picking out this particular cat when there were so many other healthy ones to choose from. The Man remained a bit unconvinced, until he heard her story. She had been found in a barn with 5 kittens, and all were very sick. All of her kittens passed away shortly after arriving at the shelter from pneumonia, and Ellie really wasn’t far from joining them. We both fell in love with her, and quickly did the needed paperwork so that we could bring her home to the Farm.
As was expected, considering that she had been a feral cat, she was very wary of us, and we couldn’t approach her for months. I figured out fairly quickly that Ellie would be a years long project, and made the mental commitment to go at her pace. She quickly made friends with a kitten we had gotten a month earlier (another “Let’s just look” notch on my belt), and stepped into “mother mode” automatically. Seeing as though she had just lost her 5 kittens, having a small kitten for her to take care of was a huge step towards her recovery. Gradually over the coming months, she warmed up to us a little, but she always took baby steps. Every few months, she would make a big leap of faith, and get closer, letting us pet her, and always only with one hand. I think in her mind she was afraid that if we could pick her up, we might put her in a box and take her to the shelter, just as what had happened to her before. Then, when we least expected it, she was on the back of the couch near our shoulders, and few months later she would be laying beside us during the evenings when everything was calm. Over the next few years, we could tell that Ellie wanted to curl up in our laps, but just couldn’t let her guard down enough to just do it. A few days ago, I mentioned to the Man that I thought maybe Ellie was on the verge of giving in, and last night, she did just that.
Before I even knew what was happening, she had crawled into my lap and snuggled in. Her body was relaxed, as if all the tension and wariness of the past 5 years simply drained away and left in it’s place contentment and trust. She laid there for about a half hour, but it seemed longer, simply because the Man and I were in such shock that we barely dared to breath or move. She rolled onto her side and nuzzled her face into my hand. I could feel my whole body vibrate to the rhythm of her singing, which matched perfectly to the kneading of my leg by her paws. I realize that most might not think of how special this was for both Ellie and me. Years of patience on my part, and learning to trust on her’s, had finally paid off. There is a peace about her now, a peace that I had started to worry would never come for her. I still can’t pick her up, or rub her belly, but I have no doubt now that these last walls will crumble for Ellie. Perhaps in another 6 months or so, she will give in and offer up her belly, but there is no hurry. She will know when the time is right.