Sometimes, life doesn’t play out the way you think, or hope, that it should. Sometimes, it does. Am I disappointed in the results of last night’s election? Of course. Half of our great country is. The other half is having a good day. Good on ’em. They got the results that they wanted, at least for the short term. How those results will parlay into the change that they seek remains to be seen. What’s done is done, for sure, and it’s time to move on and hope for the best. Sure, I am in shock, as many are, and I worry for the millions of people who placed their vote hoping for a change for the better; it’s a change that may not come. I am worried for those people that live with inequality, because this election has given rise and permission to those who would further that inequality, with an option for violence front and center. Change on many fronts is coming, as demanded and received by a vast number of voices yesterday, but it’s a change that holds a great deal of uncertainty for countless others, for a myriad of reasons.
Although the start to my day was not what I had thought it would be when I went to bed last night, I soon remembered that my routine here on the Farm did not change overnight. I still had three sets of dog eyes reminding me that they were waiting for their breakfast, followed by a romp in the yard. I heard the wails of the wee donkeys echoing out of the barn, wanting attention and freedom from their stalls. I knew that Alex, Diva and Sassy would be waiting by the gate to the field for their morning hay and ear scratches. Planting the last of the garlic and clearing the garden for Spring was also on the agenda for my day, as was the usual daily cleaning of stalls and paddocks. Somewhere in all of that, I would take a trip into town for chicken grain and shavings to mulch the garlic bed when I finished planting. Any gaps would be filled in by numerous other chores that needed to be done. And at the end of the day, when the Man comes home from work, we will wonder what to have for supper, and after tucking all of the critters into various stalls, rooms, and cages, we will settle in to watch a movie. The dogs will gather around us on the couches, and maybe I will build a fire in the stove to take the chill out of the Fall air. It’s a routine that doesn’t change much from day to day, even if it happens to be the day after a doozy of an election.
I fully realize that the decisions that other people make are based on their life experiences, current situations and/or the hope for a better future. I am no different, so I do not hold that against them. The life that the Man and I have built together here on the Farm is based on all of those factors, so why it should it be different for anyone else? It isn’t. What is different is that while one candidate promised that the life we have built would remain with no threat from the government or religious fanatics, the other promised to dismantle our marriage, take away our rights, and return us to the days of having to worry about our personal safety. But I get it, I really do. It’s self preservation at it’s finest, and no amount of reasoning works once someone has their knickers in a twist, no matter if it’s an educated, well informed twist or one based on fear and lack of understanding. It’s all about perspective, and what is important to me may not be important to others, including family. It just so happens that what is a big deal to me is being able to walk down the sidewalk without fear of harassment or physical harm.
Change has come, for sure, and time will tell how it effects the Man and me in the future, if at all. What hasn’t changed, though, is the love that we share, and the unwavering commitment to each other. Come what may, at the end of the day, that is all that matters. This bond we share is built upon the same principles of many of the votes cast yesterday. Past experiences and hope for the future. While we wait for that future, however challenging it may or may not be, we will still be building this world we call “The Farm”. We will continue to foster all who enter this world of ours, both human and animal, because that is what we do, and it’s who we are. It is our chosen path.
Yesterday, millions of people took a stand in an effort to have more control over or change their own path. That is their right, and I support their right to vote for the person that can help them to a better place in life. My place in life is right here, at the Farm, with the man that I love, and there is nothing about it that I would change if I could. I am happy with the choices that I have made in life that have led me to both where and who I am. For the multitudes of people who voted for their own path yesterday, I truly hope that the choice that they have made is the right one. For them, and for us…
I had been feeling uneasy for a few days concerning Alex, my horse, like something dark was coming, although I did not know what. He was “summer lean”, as those in the horse world would say, but that is the norm for him. Physically, I could find nothing with him that would support my uneasiness. I started to tweak his diet, as I usually do this time of year anyway, to help him bulk up for the coming cold months, and I had already started to see him respond. All I could do from then on was continue to watch him from day to day, and hope that the dark cloud in my mind was imagined, and not the foreboding premonition that it felt like. The other day, when I woke up, the cloud was still there, along with a healthy case of nausea. I went to the barn to check on and turn out Alex and his stablemates, and noticed nothing wrong with him or any of the others. I set them up with fresh water and hay, then proceeded with my day on the road with Susan, my farrier friend. As usual, it was a good day, as I always enjoy her company, horse knowledge and wisdom, but I felt antsy throughout the day. The horses that I helped with that day all knew me well from past visits, and they knew that I was a bit off my game. The one thing about horses is that you can hide nothing from them. They see and feel everything, and I wasn’t able to interact with them as I usually do. I did my best to leave my uneasiness at the barn door, but I couldn’t, and they held me at leg and hoof’s length, both physically and mentally.
The Man arrived home from work shortly after I did, and after spending some time with him before he ran into town on errands, I went out to replenish everyone’s fresh water and hay. I grabbed a few flakes of hay on the way through the barn, and as soon as I stepped into the back yard to greet the wee ones (both donkey and horse), their tension hit me like a wave. They were on high alert, especially the donkeys, and on first glance, I could see nothing wrong with either them or their surroundings. Then, I heard it. Heavy pounding coming from the big horse’s paddock. My first thought was that Diva had decided to play in the giant water trough, as she has a fondness for doing, but then realized that it couldn’t be her, as the pounding was too erratic, coming in a flurry for a few seconds, then stopping completely. I dropped the flakes of hay and headed towards the gate, not knowing what I would find, but it didn’t feel right. In seconds, I had reached the gate and was quickly scanning the field, hoping that I was wrong and that it actually was Diva who was gleefully destroying another water tub. And then I saw him.
He was on his side, with most of his lower body inside one of the horse shelters, and he wasn’t moving, even when I called his name. My immediate thought was that I was too late for whatever was happening, and that he was dead, but as I neared him he started thrashing and kicking his legs up against the inside wall of the shelter. My mind shifted to colic, which in horses quite often can be deadly, and I knew I had to get him up and moving. He was clearly exhausted, and the panic in his movements mirrored what I saw in his eyes. Having just spent the day trying, and failing miserably, to keep my anxiety hidden from horses, I knew that this moment was key to whatever came next. I took a deep breath, centered my thoughts, and quietly said his name. “Alex” I whispered, as I knelt down beside him, laying one hand on his neck. His huge head swiveled towards me, and as he looked up at me, I saw the panic and fear in his eyes instantly disappear. I am not sure if a horse can feel relief, but in that moment, that is what I felt from him. Good sign, I thought, for in my small handful of colic experiences, the discomfort and fear in a horse’s eyes that is feeling that much pain does not go away that quickly. After calling the Man, and asking for his help, I again knelt at my best friend’s side, trying to figure out what was happening. I soon realized that Alex had been trying to get up, most likely after napping or rolling in the dirt, and had become wedged up against the wall of the shelter. With no room to get his legs under him to either get up or simply roll over, he had spent all of his energy pounding his feet and legs against the close wall trying to move. He lay there breathing heavily, his muscles shaking and his eyes following me intently. Far from relieved at realizing it wasn’t colic that had brought him down, I now worried that he might have injured a leg, hoof, or somehow injured himself internally while struggling so heavily for who knows how long. Or, possibly, all of the above.
I cradled his face with my hands, whispering to him that I was going to help, but that he had to preserve his strength so that he could help me help him when the time came. His eyes followed me as I rose, and as I turned towards the barn, I heard him sigh deeply. When I returned moments later with a halter and a lead, he had remained still and was waiting for me. I went behind him, and with my hands dug as much of the hard packed stone dust away from his body as I could to help him roll away from the wall. Wrapping the lead around his front legs and planting my feet, I looked him in the eye and whispered “Now, Alex, now!”. I knew me being able to pull him over was a long shot, but that was my only thought at the time. He kicked and arched his back, trying to roll over, with me pulling on his front legs with all of my might. It might have worked, and nearly did each time we tried, but his arching caused him to stop the roll with his head. By the time the Man arrived, I had slipped the halter over Alex’s head, and while the Man braced himself to hold Alex’s head and halter still, I again wrapped the lead around his front legs. I met Alex’s never wavering gaze, and he knew it was time to try again. He pushed, I pulled, the Man held, and after much groaning and straining from all of us, and with the Man and I dodging flying hoofs, Alex rolled onto his left side and onto his feet. I held my breath, watching as he shook off the dirt like a phoenix rising from the ashes. With still held breath, I watched him run out of the shelter to greet Diva and Sassy, who had remained close throughout the whole ordeal. I had expected him to be limping after what he had gone through, and he was, though his head was high and majestic as he ran around the paddock a couple times, as if he were checking to see what worked and what didn’t. His body language told me all I needed to know for the time being, and as he ran and stretched his legs, the limp nearly disappeared. The Man and I continued to watch him for a few minutes, and after giving him some medicine to help with the muscle soreness, we left him in Diva and Sassy’s care, who continued to follow and watch him closely with concern. It wasn’t until a few hours later that we realized how scared those two must have been watching him struggle. He is their Alpha, and as with all of us here at the Farm, all things truly do revolve around him.
I spent the next few hours cleaning stalls, and the Big 3 all had brand new, clean and dry bedding waiting for them when they came in for the night. Alex’s bedding was extra thick, because though he usually doesn’t lay down to sleep each night, I knew that on this particular night, the chances that he would rest those overworked and aching muscles were pretty high. When it came time for them to walk the short road that led from the field to the barn, I watched Alex closely for any signs of injury that might still be setting in. I could still see a slight limp in his back legs, but by morning, that would most likely be gone. His head was high, ears were alert, and the average man would see nothing that would indicate what had happened just a few short hours before. After everyone was settled into their stalls, happily munching on some grain and hay, I went to spend some time with Alex before turning out the lights for the night. He has never been one for being overly affectionate, so I wasn’t expecting anything different from him this night. True to form, he didn’t want to be fawned over, but he did lower his massive head, gently placing his forehead onto mine. We stood that way for about 10 seconds, eye to eye, then he turned back to his grain. For those 10 seconds, he offered love and gratitude in the only way that he knows how to show it. It was freely given, and gratefully accepted.
In the few days since, the uneasiness and foreboding that I had experienced leading up to that day has disappeared, and life has returned to normal here at the Farm. Earlier tonight, I stood next to Alex, with my head buried in his neck, while he ate his grain. As a rule, he has never liked to be bothered while he eats, but tonight he leaned into me as I wrapped my arms around him. For now, he still wants me near, and I am happy to oblige him. He is content, and tonight he will sleep feeling safe and knowing that all is well within his kingdom. I, too, will sleep peacefully knowing that in the morning, I will be greeted by the knicker of a horse that truly understands how much he is loved…
I’ve learned to keep my opinions to myself, and on most days I am successful at it, or at least I think I am. I live my life my way, you live yours as you see fit. For the most part, it works out just fine for all involved, no matter if you are a close friend or a casual acquaintance. We all have different life experiences to draw upon, with odd quirks that can either be entertaining or maddening to those around us. We all have different views on religion, with different levels of belief (or not) in a higher power governing our lives. Live and let live, you do your thing and I’ll do mine, let’s raise a glass and toast to our differences…and be kind along the way. That’s my philosophy, and it’s served me well over the years. Unless, of course, it’s election year. That is when I struggle. When someone is making life choices that only determine their own fate and surroundings, it truly is none of my business if it does not effect me or my loved ones. When that person (or a group of like minded people) are willing to vote for someone or something that will adversely effect my life, and they are ok with it, then I have an obligation (and a right) to speak my mind. For months now on a popular social media site, I’ve watched as others spoke their minds and posted their memes, most often with “facts” that are untrue, or at the very least greatly misquoted. The amount of frothy hatred that was appearing on my news feed was getting more than a little overwhelming, and I made the decision to not subject myself to what they were saying, even though in some cases, they were friends and sometimes family. One tap of a button allows me to not see the hatred, the racism, the bigotry and the outright lies that they themselves choose to believe. I cannot change what they allow to fill their lives, but I can choose to not let it drag me down on a daily basis.
The other day, I made a comment about how I had blocked another person from my news feed because I did not want to see their daily dose of misinformed hatred anymore. The mistake that I made was the wording that I had used. Many took offense that I had used the word “unfriend” instead of explaining in clearly needed simpler terms that I had only blocked their posts from appearing in my news feed. Hell fire rained upon me from all directions, and I have to admit, I was taken completely by surprise by the reaction from some people who follow my posts. One person wrote that they thought I was “better than that”, others wrote in great detail about how disappointed they were that I could pass judgement so easily on others, and that I was, in fact, the one that was now discriminating against others for their beliefs. It was clearly pointed out to me that I needed to stick to posting pictures of the garden, the dogs and the horses, as well as daily updates of how long the grass has gotten and how many eggs I had collected that morning. I was so shocked and initially hurt by the accusations of judgement and discrimination that I made the decision to delete any political posts that I had recently posted, and would from now on mind my own business and let others continue to create their own path, complete with their own consequences. I would move on and let be, or so I thought. That night, and for the few days since, I have slept very little, and my mood is dark. Not because others may think badly of me (I’m a big boy), but because I think badly of myself for allowing others to bully me into censoring what I say and post, while they continue to post their thoughts, comments and memes willy-nilly without bothering to do even two minutes of fact checking with reliable sources. “Freedom of speech!!” they scream, except for if someone doesn’t agree with their bigotry. Yes, we all do have “Freedom of Speech”, as guaranteed by the Constitution of this already great country we share, but with that freedom comes a responsibility to be truthful, not hateful. To judge each other by our words and our actions, not by the color of our skin. To celebrate our differences, not promote candidates that would undo years of progress, or laws that would further separate us into different classes not worthy of the same rights. To be accepting of our individual religious beliefs, not promote violence if we don’t share those same convictions. To promote unity, not divide by using fear and lies. To show compassion, not look down upon. We have a responsibility to be kind in all that we do and say to each of us every day…and that also applies to what we choose to post on our social media pages. If you choose to post something that is untruthful, hateful and divisive, then it has not come from a place of kindness, and the results will have far reaching effects. Life truly is about choices, and the words that come out of our mouths and the company that we keep will surely determine the paths that we take.
I will admit that I might have gotten a little testy the other night, and if I hurt anyone’s delicate sensibilities in any way, that was not my intention. It was born out of frustration, and of concern for my future and the futures of those that I hold dear, and for that I will not apologize. Your freedoms do include being able to say and do what you like, as do mine, but not at the expense of others. I will continue to share photos and updates about the Farm, and about the Man, and I will do that mostly because that is what a great many people have to come to love and expect. I will also continue to share those things because they are the two things that I love the most in this world. For the same reason, I will continue to voice my opinion on the current political scene, and will keep an open mind about what other people may care to post, if they are reasonable and intelligent postings. I will also continue to censor what others post if they do not come from a place of kindness and compassion. I don’t allow that in my life outside of social media, and I will not allow it within.
Because, as a matter of fact, I believe that I AM better than that. We should all be better than that…
He walked into the Barn as he always does, with authority and purpose, and as he passed the mini horse’s stall, the nightly routine of a few hoof stomps and a few snorts began. It never lasts very long, this display. It’s a nod to the resident wee horses that this Barn belongs to him, always has and always will. He was the first to be welcomed to the Farm, and with that comes a certain status that everyone who lives here, both four and two footed, is reminded of daily. On his testier days, he will include a high pitched whinny as an exclamation point, just in case nobody was listening. This night, however, he chose to forgo that extra proclamation, and went directly into his freshly cleaned stall where his nightly grain and hay awaited. After tucking his stablemates into their own stalls, I returned to his for our usual habit of quiet words and gentle scratches. I quietly came up beside him and stretched out my hand to caress that special spot on his neck, but instead of leaning into me as he usually does, he quickly pulled away and walked to the front of his stall. It wasn’t the first time he had done this in the past, so I wasn’t taken aback in any way. Some would argue that perhaps he is a bit spoiled, with kingly expectations, and I’m good with that. He has earned that right as well as his commanded status. As I turned to leave his stall, I ruffled his mane and gently chided him that it was ok if he was tired and cranky, but he didn’t have to be rude. Before I could reach the door, I felt his warm nose on my back, and I felt his words “I’m sorry, don’t go. I am tired from the day, but I want you near.”. He returned to his grain bowl, and I moved to stand by his side. We stood there in silence, with him slowly chewing and me with just one still hand on his back. He sighed deeply, and relaxed to my touch. His majestic head lifted and slowly swung towards me, and when our eyes connected, I realized that I hadn’t been spending as much time with him as both he and I would like. My days here on the Farm during the summer are full, and although I work very hard to make sure that every critter living here has their share of quality time each day, once in awhile that isn’t enough. He took another deep breath, and then took a step back so that my face was level with his. As I had gently reprimanded him a few minutes before, he was now quietly chiding me. I instantly felt his need for closeness and connection, but most of all, I felt his love. After a few moments, the spell was broken, and he started chewing as he lifted his head to expose his neck. This time he accepted the gentle scratch, then lowered his head to rub his nose on my shoulder. Never one for wasted emotions, he then returned to his grain and hay, but now with an air more of contentment than of concern. I grabbed his favorite brush, and while he slowly chewed his hay with his eyes closed, I brushed away the dirt and sweat of the day. I carefully brushed his beautiful mane, taking out twigs that he had collected while browsing earlier in his field. Just as I thought he might be tiring of the attention, he shifted his weight and offered one front foot to be cleaned. I pulled my ever present hoof pick from my back pocket and set to work, with him offering up another foot as the last was finished. As I slipped the hoof pick back into my pocket, he rubbed his forehead on my back a few times, with a slight nudge towards the door. He was satisfied, and was telling me it was time to go. As I reached for the handle on his door, I felt one last nudge of his nose. “Aren’t you forgetting something?” he asked. I followed his gaze to my right front pocket, where chances were good that I might happen to have a couple of his favorite butterscotch horse treats. It was a safe bet, and all of the animals here on the Farm know that the same pocket almost always has something to nibble on. Soft fuzzy lips carefully took what was offered, and when the treats were gone, those same soft lips brushed my cheek and his butterscotch breath warmed my face. It is moments like this that I wish could last longer, but one cannot take or expect affection from a horse, only gratefully accept when it is freely given. With one final soft knicker, our time was done, and he returned to his hay. I closed his stall door, and gently slid the latch into place. I made the rounds one last time to check on the other Barn residents, securing doors and scratching noses. The Barn was quiet, except for chewing noises, and I knew that they were all content, and most importantly, felt loved. I glanced over one last time at him as I turned off the lights, and he was standing there, warm eyes watching me. “Good night, my friend. I love you.” I said. I slid the Barn door closed, and as I walked towards the house, I once again felt the warmth…and love…of fuzzy butterscotch kisses on my cheek.