When There’s No Room At The Inn…

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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Anna Blake

74 thoughts on “When There’s No Room At The Inn…”

  1. Merry Christmas, Anna!! It’s so nice to wake up Christmas morning with a cup of coffee and another one of your excellent articles to read. This year has taught all of us some important lessons that hopefully we will carry over into the New Year. Peace of you and your herd.

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  2. Anna, perfectly said. you know us all so well 😉 thank you for the both the horse and word things, insight and challenge, and all the other “stuff” inbetween.
    peace to you and your herd, from me and my herd.

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  3. Heading out now for the morning feed. A bit longer than usual since a fire at our house on our beautiful 9 acres of New Mexico grassland means it’s a car ride from the rental in town rather than a walk out the back door. But smoke detectors that went off at 3am means everyone, furry and not, are ok, and insurance means the house will be too in about 9 months. A fit ending to this year. And yet we have so much to be thankful for, and that includes your amazing blogs that often bring me to tears. Going to pull on the long underwear and get going now to throw hay and scoop poopsicles before the dogs eat them all. I am so blessed. Peace to you Anna and to everyone, no exceptions.

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    • Ann, this is just what I mean about us. You make us proud and we are glad you’re all safe and up to the task at hand. Maybe just leave one popsicle? It’s Christmas after all.

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    • Oh, Ann! From one New Mexico woman to another … let me know if I can help. With animals, rebuilding, whatever. Merry Christmas and I’m glad everyone is ok.

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      • Thank you Cheri for your kind offer! We are doing ok right now. I have a wonderful horse “sitter” who is doing the evening feedings so I don’t have to drive out twice. Her pet sitting business was pretty much shut down by the pandemic back in March so she’s thrilled to have the steady income starting right before Christmas (and the insurance is paying for it!). Another of the many gifts I have found after the smoke cleared, literally. Her three school age kids probably got a few more gifts this year. There are things to celebrate most of the time if we choose to see them and the light will always return.

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  4. Horses need tending. Humans need to tend. Perfectly imperfect here at Wadadli Acres where there is always room for extras! I count the New Year happy as the old one as long as there are also horses in it and friends who feel the same.

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  5. Happy solstice, happy Christmas, happy Hanukkah, happy winter morning to you and all. Loved reading this after coming in from one of our crazy NC weather tilt-a-whirl rides. 65 and pouring rain yesterday, 50 at 10 pm last night then 32 and hard cold wind as rain tapered. I had to call my shots for how to blanket senior horses so they wouldn’t sweat, get wet, or freeze within a few hours time span. This morning my best surprise so far is finding a pony sheet I forgot I had bought, several years ago, stashed away brand new. I found some other things I forgot I had too, so more Christmas surprises. 🙂

    Horse people! Hugs to you all.

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    • Billie,
      Happy Holidays. Yes, the blanketing has been difficult.
      My Tennessee Walker looks like a yettee with his white coat, yet his eyes were runny and he was sniffing..
      Difficult call on the coats. Flash floods and high winds with tornadic activity last night in Virginia.
      Back to the low 40s today (from 68F) and dropping to 20F tonight.
      I ony have medium blankets. The Thoroughbred does not take cold well, so I added a neck piece. We’ll get through this!

      Love, best wishes,
      Nuala

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    • Billie, that’s what I mean about our weather apps, it’s more like gaming than anything. Nice job on the tilt-a-whirl. Weather is chaos but we are up to the task. Congrats on those new blankets. Best in the New Year.

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  6. Anna, this beautifully captured the experience for many this year. As always your writing resonates with my experience. This group you have created has been a blessing in my life this year. Best wishes for the coming new year. Merry Christmas!

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  7. I had laughs and tears reading this. Described my life exactly and I wouldn’t change a thing. Many blessings to you and your herd.

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  8. Thank you, Anna, for the year, for past years, for your important words, for your healing thoughts.
    Happy Holidays to you, your family, and all the wonderful species on your farm.
    And to Tiny Tim the mini, who reminds us of Dickens’ message.
    Love, Nuala, David, Jack the Thoroughbred, and Simon the Tennessee Walker, seven cats and three cockatiels,
    named Festus, Adelaide and Sydney.

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  9. “When other people call us contrary, we share a sideways solidarity glance with the donkey.” One of many sentences that tickled me deeply. Thanks and happy holidays from one who prefers a muck fork to a full place setting.

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  10. Thank you, Anna, for a beautifully written piece. I’ve had so much personal loss this year, and your words touched my heart. Peace to you and yours.

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  11. Thank you Anna; that is absolutely one of my favorite reads. You got to the core of everything we live and love. I will pass this on to some like minded friends as well as to a few not so like minded because it’s the perfect message. Yes, peace on earth.

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  12. Thank you Anna; that is absolutely one of my favorite reads. You got to the core of everything we live and love. I will pass this on to some like minded friends as well as to a few not so like minded because it’s the perfect message. Yes, peace on earth.

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  13. I have to say the whole year would have been less horrible if I still was involved with horses – but it is what it is (really dont like that saying, but it works). Have been mulling over what to do with my saddle, pads, bridles etc which have been sitting in a trunk for the past 18 years!! (still good, oiled it well back then). My granddaughter who grew up riding with me really has no need for what is essentially an endurance saddle, my other granddaughter likely wont need one, so my sort of new granddaughter (my sons step daughter) does ride. So shes getting the trunk full for Christmas (shes 15). Her family has horses and NOW she will have her own saddle to do with as she wants. I thought this would be hard, but you know, its kind of a relief to know someone will get pleasure and enjoyment out of it as much as I did. And when she moves on to do her own thing – it can go with her. I went through three or four western saddles before this one came my way – its quite a lot like a McClellan without the open strip in the middle – VERY comfortable & only 14 pounds!
    Really enjoy this blog and ALL the gals (and guys) that comment here – Hope all have a good, if not merry, Christmas.

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    • Love to think you are passing this one to someone who could become more family. Let her be your legacy, so glad for what it will mean for her. And glad you are with us still, Maggie. You are a long timer and I love seeing your comments. Thanks, Maggie

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  14. Anna, as I laughed out loud and then grew misty while reading your prose, I thought how comforting it is to be part of a group of like minded folks. I know we are unique; so much so, that I have a friend from work who says my life should be chronicled on a reality show because she deems it as totally outrageous. A reality show is the LAST thing I could tolerate! Solitude and privacy amongst our creatures is partly why we live the way we do, is it not? Thank you as always Anna, for sharing a clear and realistic view of our collective reality. Here’s hoping that 2021 will have fewer challenges and more opportunities for peace, growth, and joy for all of us.

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    • Thats funny – its exactly what I thought when I looked at that picture. I’ve seen far too many pictures of ponies & donkeys with such horrible, awful feet that never had care (rescue pictures). It completely blows my mind (as does much nowadays) that anyone thinks its not necessary to care for FEET! Like minds, I guess!

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  15. It’s uncanny how close to the core that got… deep and true, turning body and spirit inside out…
    Yule tidings of all things good n sound… music of the earth… like hoofbeats on bare ground.

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  16. That was beautiful. Grateful to be able to read words you’re able to put to an experience that’s otherwise indescribable, on Christmas Day, after showing up this morning with a smile and warm mash all around, just to feel that slurpy, mooshy peace.

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  17. Yup. We are all that and a bag of chips.
    I have to say that zoom classes and meetings helped me hold on to the wee bit of thread holding my sanity together this year. You listen closely and might just hear the Lunatic cackle from the tatters of my mind.

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    • Are you sure it isn’t my mind. I’ve gotten so emotional when those classes end. Who would have ever thought Zoom would be part of my approach to training, but horses sure like working from home. Happy New Year, Kim. See you in class.

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  18. Thank you, Anna. I love this. I shared it with my daughter, who is a vet tech & horse owner. It hit home with me. We live in the mountains west of Boulder & Golden, CO, and often feel like we don’t quite fit in in regular society, although we can dress the part & pull of those roles when needed. But we we feel more comfortable and understood with our animals – horses, dogs, cats…
    Thank you again.

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  19. Merry Christmas Anna and thank you for your comfort throughout the year.

    My husband and I hunkered down on the farm mid-March….traveling only for curbside pickups, drive-through feed stores, an occasional McDonald’s app used for something ‘special’. Retired law enforcement, late 60’s, we followed the rules.

    A slight pain in his chest sent hubby to the doc. An echocardiogram was ordered in September but couldn’t be scheduled til early December, most likely because of the pressures on the system created by COVID-19. I lost him the end of October.

    It does no good to rage on about a stealthy and invisible monster. Instead I hold steadfast here at the farm, hugging four-leggeds more than normal. Crying into manes and soft fur. Talking to no one but the soft eyes who listen. Patiently.

    As I read your blog today I realized it was like my life checklist. Yup, me, check. That too, check. And of course I do, check. Thank you for reminding me I am normal. LOL, not the new normal everyone talks about. But the normal I’ve always been and will continue to be. I won’t be by myself.

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    • Oh Sandy, so sorry for your loss. Such a sad complicated hard year, especially in a case like your husband’s. You’re right, the ‘what if’s don’t matter now. But the land will hold you up and the animals will remind you to breathe, and we are all right here. Thanks for your heartfelt message, here’s to a better New Year.

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  20. “Suited for a pandemic” – absolutely!!!! Except for having to wear a mask in certain areas, my life during this mess has been altered very little!! There’s the grocery store, feed store, gas station (actually MUCH less!) and that’s about the extent of it! No trips either!

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  21. I loved this, Anna. Thanks for putting into words things all of us feel, see and live. I feel more alive, more part of this life and so blessed to be where I am.

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  22. I second what Kerri Burg said! So grateful to have your words, often a salve, often a challenge. Wishing you & yours all the best in the year before us. It is my hope in the year ahead that your words will touch the heart & head of horse owners far & wide; making this world a nicer place to be for our faithful four-legged friends. Thank you Anne, for your insight and for sharing it through your incredible and uncanny way with words.

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  23. To Sandy,
    My heart goes out to you and I am very glad to know that you have the warmth, companionship & peace that animals will provide if we just let them. Godspeed & blessings to you my friend as you move forward in your journey while grieving your loss.

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