Something’s set to start,
there’s a meadow-music in the dark
and the clouds that shroud the mountain
slowly, softly start to part.
-From Poem for a New Year by Matt Goodfellow
Jesse and I usually see each other twice a week, on Mondays and Fridays, for a combination of manual work and cold laser therapy. I wasn’t able to see him last week, and I really missed him. I thought of him through the day, wondered what he was up to, how he was feeling. He’s become a fixture in my routine. His well-being contributes to mine (and vice-versa, I hope). He is truly, deeply loved and cared for by his owner Becky, who provides for him in every way…from her investment in his training and specific boarding and turnout situation at Walnut Pond Farm, to his frequent veterinary and care and farriery, medications, collection of blankets and halters, regular bodywork, and his very favorite: his beloved, sugar-free peppermints.
Caring for Jesse isn’t easy. His physical issues are complex and range from everything from kissing spine to Cushing’s syndrome, allergies and skin sensitivities, GI woes, navicular changes, and intermittent lameness due to inflammation and pain in the carpal canal (below the knee). I could write about each of these issues in detail, which would make for a very academic post. But, that’s not what comes to mind (or heart) on this New Year’s Day, as I sit here thinking of him, and of all of the other animals and people that complete my life.
You see, Jesse can be a saint, but he can also be a curmudgeon. If there’s one thing everyone can say for him, it’s that he is a great communicator, HA! Sometimes he tries to bite me. Sometimes he tries to kick me. Sometimes he tries to bite me and kick me at the same time, and even body slam me against a trash can. But my oh my…at other times, he turns to look me in the eyes, or licks and chews, has a big sigh, paws for a treat, or (if I’m really lucky) lets me take his cheeks in my hands and kiss him on the nose. Does he correct himself when I ask him to? Yes. I feel special in those moments.
Jesse messes up sometimes, but I love him anyway. He doesn't need to earn his keep. At his age, and after so many years of being a very successful school horse, he absolutely knows better than to misbehave. Basic rules and boundaries are not new to him. But, he is doing the very best he can given the circumstances, both within himself and in his ever-changing environment. It’s up to me to manage my reactions to him, and to remember that tolerance, acceptance, and forgiveness are three very different things. Combined, however, they create the puzzle that we share.
Isn’t this where we all are right now, in the winter of 2020? We are all making mistakes, and we are all doing our best, all at the same time. It’s messy! We’re floating along in uncharted territory, using familiar tools to (try to) adapt to an unfamiliar environment. We seek connection and reassurance now more than ever, but we can’t have it the way we’d like…and if we find it somehow, we’re like bumbling idiots with each other, totally out of practice. We say things we don’t mean. We mean things we don’t say. We blame and shame, and we laugh and love, and we don’t always know why…and it’s ok!!
In my own life, I’ve noticed people (and animals) coming out of the woodwork recently. Maybe it’s the season, the holidays, this surreal time. They emerge and disappear, with what seems like no rhyme or reason. Perhaps I do the same. It’s like a kaleidoscope: sometimes we overlap, sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we hang around for a while, as a new color, together. Sometimes we slide right past each other. Sometimes we don’t even notice who’s beside us, because we’re blinded by the light that lets us be colors in the first place.
There are horses I see once in a lifetime, because that was the original agreement, or things got fixed, or I couldn’t help, or it wasn’t practical to meet again. There are others I’ve known for years, and (like with Jesse), we’ve developed a weathered intimacy that belongs only to us. Some relationships are superficial, others are deep. Some are fleeting, others last forever. They can be simple or complicated, tangible or intangible, frustrating or inspiring. Many are depleting and sorrowful. A few are enlightening and full of love.
The same goes for people: it takes two to tango. No matter what, we meet, we do our best, and we learn.
We affect each other in ways we will never know. The only control we have, now and always, is to stay openhearted…towards ourselves and to each other. Happy New Year, everyone! Thank you for bumbling along with me!