To the End of One Row and Back Again

Working it all out in the barn

I am one who confides in animals. My deep secrets and private discussions take place in the barn most of the time. Regularly, the recipients of these narrations are my horses. I am one who brings the tensions of her day to those that listen while they chew. Hay-chewing therapists.

As they listen, I like to think they absolve me of my shortcomings. They don’t cluck at me when I’m judgy. They let me prattle on about the latest irritation or crisis. They soothe my brokenness when I’m sad. Their rhythmic chewing seems to find a cadence to my blathering. They help me work through any relationship annoyances. In doing so I find my way back to compassion and understanding.

No one is perfect, they remind me — including me. I sing to my horses of life’s entanglements and declare how I will do better – cross my heart.

There are few things sweeter or more calming for me than listening to my horses munch away. And in the magic of their contentment, I find solace. They are my grounders.

The energy vibes of animals

Our animals are furry beings of energy. Have you noticed how their senses are so acute to the electricity in the air?

Those of you who have years of veterinary experience, and particularly in ECC, know what I mean when I say this. How many times have you triaged a dog coming through the front door of the hospital and heard a client say, “This is the most activity I’ve seen in her/him all week!” And they would wonder if their dog was really as sick as they were at home.

But just think about what smacks that dog coming through the door. Oh, the smells! The sounds! The sights! All of these sensations flooding over and through that dog were sometimes enough, momentarily, to give the false appearance of wellness or of being “not that sick.”

It doesn’t last long, but for those first brief moments that dog was in overload with a current of electricity! It’s a primal response. We call it fight or flight, but how many times do we think of this as they walk through the door?

Creatures of habit

The current upheaval of the human species as we know it, finds my animals in the barn or in the house completely oblivious to the anguishes we’re experiencing. It’s easy to forget the dystopian scenes taking place in our lives when theirs is a world filled with routine and consistency.

“To the end of one row and back again…like always” is a line out of a song that fits them well. They like it that way, and they don’t take kindly to change.

Go ahead, try and change box stalls on a horse that’s been going to the same one for years. Same with cows.

I was doing large animal work and farm calls in the days when cows regularly came through the barn and walked to their stanchions. I remember old farmers telling me how hard it was to change stanchions on a cow. They are creatures of habit. We are, too. And that’s another reason this shackling of our lives is taking such a toll on our psyche. We’re used to going to the same stanchion!

Here’s what I know, though. We do our best when under pressure. When there is little time to catch a breath, we pull together and with little hesitation, do what needs to be done.

When crisis hits, the first thing to be affected is our routine. All of our familiar habits are interrupted and we are awash in the urgency of the task at hand. All of our efforts continue in the hopes of restoring some sense of normalcy. It is our collective performance that helps us achieve our goal. Like an army of ants, we do our best when we are working together, in harmony, to achieve the seemingly impossible.

The power of ancestors

It is during times like these that I reach for the fierceness of my ancestors. My great grandmother died in the 1918 pandemic. She was 32 years old and not here very long after the long, arduous journey from Northern Italy. Her newborn girl child was just twelve days old. She had four others under the age of eleven. They had no choice but to pull together to get through it. Let that sink in. No choice…dig in or perish. I have to remind myself, sometimes, that their blood runs through me. That same tenacious passion for life, for survival runs through me.

You have stories like that in your history. You have tales of courageous death-or-glory in your people. When it feels like circumstances have you backed into a corner with little to no options, that you can see, can you remember someone in your lineage who faced similar trials? Their blood runs through you.

I try and draw from the resolute and determined nature of my people to help me get on the other side. It is on the other side that I can find clarity and renewal. And, I thank them for their stalwart courage for what it took to get me here.