Even on holidays, our family dinners don’t look like other people’s.
Neither do our hands or shoes. We look different; we have chronic hat hair from helmets or broad-brimmed favorites that never quite keep us out of the sun. We buy half our clothes in the men’s department which explains why we are unrecognizable the one or two times of the year that we get gussied up. We arrive late with visible dog hair, only to debate the relative worth of zip ties versus baling twine. Not dazzling dinner conversation. Then we’re the first to leave so we can get home in time for the night feed.
We’re introverted, not that we care but we must make a living so we venture out in public trying to fake being normal, till we can come home and muck. We’re independent and tough. Unafraid of blood or mice. The app we use most on our phones is for weather because it’s never small talk if you live on the land. We cry barking tears when the old one-eyed barn cat wanders off to die. It’s just that he reminded us of that tabby we had when we were three. We’re quiet about it, but we love hard. We appreciate a good swear word like hot sauce on eggs. We know the value of horse friends because who else can stand us?
We marry for life, or never marry at all. Sometimes we get it wrong but pick ourselves up and try again. We’re not quitters. We have kids so we can buy ponies, or we choose to not have children and never regret it. We set a course for our lives that usually involves a few bumpy dirt roads and dead ends. Horses teach us most of what we need to know. You can take us at our word. We’re the first to offer a kind hand. Some of us have big noisy clans and some of us have more dogs than family. Maybe we never quite fit in in the first place or maybe we eventually outlived our relatives. Most of us exist outside the boundaries of one kind or another. We still keep a quiet eye out for our neighbors.
When other people call us contrary, we share a sideways solidarity glance with the donkey. When our horses gallop to greet us, others might be intimidated by their size but not us. They take our breath away every time but for an entirely different reason. Other people say we have idiosyncratic personalities or peculiar behavioral characteristics. I suppose it could look that way if you didn’t have a goat. Compared to goats, we manage to look like fairly solid citizens.
We’re horse people. We are perfectly suited to homestead Mars or endure a pandemic.
But this year has been exhausting. We can juggle the first five or six challenges, but we passed that back in May. While we were all focused on the news, life continued. There has been such an immense loss. We thought because of the pandemic, we might get a pass on the normal grieving parts of life, but no. Instead, we had real-life as usual, with Covid adding an extra suffocating dark layer, every day piling on top of the one before, until we are numb. So much blame and back-biting. We’ve redefined divisiveness. We’ve heard the word unprecedented so many times it’s come to mean ordinary. There are no winners, just survivors.
As social media has raged on all sides, we quietly fought back by posting photos of stinky old dogs with cloudy eyes. Of horses chewing hay because we know that peaceful sound heals. We’ve raised money for rescues and people in need. While our horses liked having us home, we all had to find new ways to be relevant. We changed ourselves. We wrestled with technology in a love-hate free-for-all until we cheered each other in Zoom courses and made friends around the world. We’ve shared breath with our horses and with each other.
If the romance of drought, rising hay prices, and frozen manure aren’t enough, horse people are also first responders and essential workers. We’re caretakers and contact tracers. We are friends in the very best sense of the word, and we have never needed each other more.
This time of year, who hasn’t felt some version of there being ‘no room at the inn’? In this year of isolation and missing our loved ones, it can feel like we have no place to belong, but humans are herd animals. While some people have nativity scene figurines arranged around tiny stables on their mantle, while some of us are bundled up throwing extra hay for a cold night, we all look up at the same midnight stars. It’s time to see our differences as assets and respect all people who pioneer and persevere, whether developing vaccines or stocking grocery shelves. On this holiday that praises family, can we extend that word to include friends, communities, and this imperfect beautiful farm that we all share? Peace on Earth.
…Anna Blake for Relaxed & Forward
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