Settling in the straw, I am grateful for a quiet moment after a 12-hour workday followed by all the necessary personal conversations that help mop up the spills and splatters of everyday life. My family verbally unloads their day like so much stored up dirty laundry needing to be washed and rinsed with the spin cycle completed before tomorrow dawns. I move from child to child to child to husband to grandmother, helping each one clean, dry, fold and sort everything in their pile. Not to be outdone, I pile up a little soiled laundry of my own as I complain about my day.
By the time I’m on “spent” cycle myself, I retreat to the barn where communication is less demanding and requires more than just my ears and vocal cords. Complaints are meaningless here. In this place, a new foal and his vigilant mama watch my every move.
This colt is intrigued by my intrusion into his 12′ x 24′ world. His mother is annoyed. He comes over to sniff my foot and his mother swiftly moves him away with a quick swing of her hips, daunting me with the closeness of her heels. Her first instinct insists she separate me from him and bar my access. My mandate is to woo her over with kindness. I could bribe her with food, but no, that is too easy.
A curry comb works best. If nothing else will work, a good scratching where it is needed always does. Standing up, I start peeling sheets of no longer needed winter hair off her neck, her sides, her flanks and hindquarters. She relaxes in response to my ministering to her, in turn, giving her baby a body rub with her muzzle, wiggling her lips all up and down from his back to his tummy. He is delighted with this spontaneous mommy massage and leans into her, moving around so his hind end is under her mouth and his front end is facing me. Then he starts giving his own version of a massage too, wiggling his muzzle over my coat sleeve and wondrously closing this little therapeutic triangle.
Here we are, a tight little knot of givers/receivers with horse hair flying in a cloud about us. One weary human, one protective mama mare and one day-old foal who is learning so young how to contribute to the well-being of others. It is an incredible gift of trust they bestow on me like a blessing. I realize this horse family is helping me sort my own laundry in the same way I had helped my human family’s load.
Too often in life we find ourselves in painful triangles, passing our kicks and bites down the line to each other rather than providing needed relief and respite. We find ourselves unable to wrench free from continuing to deliver the hurts we’ve just received. What strength it takes to respond with kindness when the kick has just landed on our backside. How chastened we feel when a kindness is directed at us, as undeserving as we are after having bitten someone else hard.
Instead of biting, try massaging. Instead of kicking, try tickling. Instead of fear, try acceptance. Instead of annoyance, try patience. Instead of piling up so much laundry of your own, try washing, folding and sorting what is given to you by others, handing it back all clean and ready for the next day.
Then if you just settle into the straw to wait and watch, amazing things can take place.