Note from Dawn: Today is the 15th anniversary of the fire that took our entire barn which housed our small animals, our offices, and our living quarters. We lost everything we had in just 20 minutes. Many of you have read about the fire in our book IF ONLY THEY COULD TALK: The Miracles of Spring Farm, by Bonnie Jones Reynolds and Dawn Hayman. We lost 24 animals in the blaze started by an electrical spike caused by a car hitting a telephone pole during a freak snow storm. The horses were stabled in another barn separated only by 12 feet at one point from the inferno. The firemen managed to save the stable from burning, and we managed to get our 30 horses out before the smoke killed them. As Bonnie and I regrouped after the last horse was safely out, we came back out front to see the last wall of our beloved home collapse into a heap. We turned to each other and said, “somehow this is all going to be all right.” In those immediately spoken words were the first sparks rekindling the passion, the understanding, that we must not give up but instead move forward. The animals who died would have wanted that. And on tough days, when it felt like we couldn’t go on, I remember thinking that we do it for them. All that was left the next day were burning embers and a mountain of ash. Because of the still smoldering remains, the horses were not able to return to their barn for 2 days. Although we didn’t lose any horses in the fire, and the horse barn itself was saved, their lives were also forever touched by that night. For years, the horses have been the ones to say to us, “let’s remember those we lost that night.”
On October 29, 2008 we had almost an identical snow storm hit here. When I went to the horse barn to say good-night and be sure they were all safe and warm, Bo, (24 year old Thoroughbred mare) said to me, “we remember a night like this many years ago and I bet you do too.” She was right. The timing was eerie in a way and I did take a closer look around the barn than usual. It was hard not to be affected by that. And then Bo said, “we, the horses, would like to do a memorial for the animals we lost that night. Let us do something for them this year.”
Sometimes opportunities in life come to us in various disguises. Following Amber’s discussion of Halloween then and tricks and treats and costumes, I can only use that as the perfect example of what I mean. The fire that is part of our history here on this farm is a living force of the farm. It is not something that happened to us all. None of us were victims. It was a force shaping a path. It was not a darkness but it was a light bearing event. The fire happened on Halloween when many people were dressing up in costumes and looking like something else. The fire did the same thing. At first look it seemed to be a great tragedy. But underneath that disguise was a great opportunity. So often we miss the meaning of gifts being handed to us. As we were all ushered into the darkness and snow that night, we were all scared. As the fire started raging, some of us tried running back into the barn where we felt safe. Pretty soon the darkness of night was replaced by the glow of the fire and we understood the enormous loss affecting the farm. We were scared. We knew our human friends were helping us out of the barn but then we lost track of them. Some of us worried they had died too when we didn’t see them. They were worried the same thing about us. So at days first light, we were so relieved to see them come out to us. At least we all still had one another. Some of us offered Bonnie and Dawn our stalls so they had a place to sleep. As it turned out, they didn’t need that. But we would have given them that space. Even with all that they were going through, they still came out to hug each one of us and to feed us and check on us. We all knew how lucky we were to still be alive. And we all were incredibly aware of the 24 who didn’t wake up with us that morning. We also knew something else. We knew we were starting a new day. And we knew we needed to be sure that Bonnie and Dawn saw that too. They did.
We horses asked to hold the memory of those 24 who died that night as part of the living history of the farm. What this means to us is that their energy still lives on in all we do. We are the keepers of that understanding of a new day. We will always hold that space on this farm. Its not just remembering them. Its keeping who they are as a part of the daily functioning. They’d have liked that. Its not that we even think of them every day. They just are here. The fire ruins are sacred. There is always a duck who stands guard at that place. There is always life that stands among and springs from the ashes.
For as scared as we were that night to be out in the dark, cold, stormy night, after the fire burned itself out, the farm was filled with angels soaring over the pastures, playing with the horses, and blessing the farm we call home. We knew then that what happened was all for good. We knew that the ones who left us that night were a part of the new beginning. And we vowed then and there to the angels to always hold that memory and to remind anyone who wanted to listen about this truth. Always look for the disguise in tragedy, and always understand the opportunities you are given.