Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Joy of Retirement

By Amber Donkey

It is now official, I have retired from my duties of head greeter in the big barn. However, my role has merely shifted, not gone away. I have actually moved closer to Dawn’s computer now, so there is sure to be more writing activity going on!

Last winter was really hard on my old bones. My teeth have seen better days as well. I have enjoyed an incredible summer with all the great care my human friends have added to make me even more comfortable. However, the cooler nights and the thought of winter chill, admittedly began to worry me. Dawn told me there was a second option but it would require moving to another smaller barn attached to her house. I was a little skeptical at first, as I truly love all my friends in the big barn and they need me. My goat herd needs me the most. But Dawn informed me that I could still go out with my goats on nice days and it wouldn’t be any more of a walk than I already manage. And Dawn and Margot both promised me that I would still see all my human friends and could still greet visitors, although it is by appointment now.

I thought that whole idea sounded dignified. I mean, being seen by appointment is kind of special actually. But the most important thing is that I am not without a job. That is not what retirement is all about. Retirement isn’t a time for doing nothing. It’s a time to reassess what it is we are here to do and to spend more time doing that, rather than being distracted by work and other busy kind of things. It’s a time to look inside ourselves. At least for me, that is what I’m doing.

My new job is a big one. First of all, my new friends now consist of a herd of geldings. As soon as I stepped into that barn, I knew my work was cut out for me. They are badly in need of a female to help guide them. There is young Shawnee, a 4 year old paint gelding, who seems to be quite smitten with me actually. He breathed new life into this old sagging body. Then there is Jeremy who is the leader of this band of orphans. I call him Prince Charming. He is quite magnificent actually and I find his energy to be very refreshing. He is strong and noble and very gentle and soft spoken. I like him very much. And he welcomed me to his barn. And then we have the two donkey boys. I have heard them on the farm for years now, yet we have never met. They call me the wise donkey. And I now call them the wise guys. They are badly in need of donkey supervision. Its not their fault. Neither of them had their mothers with them for long and they did the best they could by relying on the wisdom of the horses. But donkey wisdom is different. They are for sure my project.

I also have another herd of goats now to tend to. There are three of them, and one of them has a special stall at night right next to mine. I find great comfort in goats. They bring with them the calmness of the earth and the laughter of the wind. There is nothing as good as a goat to lift your spirits on a dreary day. They demand laughter from their friends and I am the first one to sign up to be their friend.

So, although I have retired, I have a new found purpose. I have actually always wanted my own little barn. They tell me I will be so much warmer for the winter and I have to say that is very appealing to me. I still have all the same staff caring for me which is great, because I care for them too and I would have not opted to move up here if I had to leave everyone. And then there is the writing. Now that I’m retired, I think we’ll have much more time to write. I’m just trying to explain to Dawn now how that all works. She still gets caught up in this time thing. Stay tuned, there is more to come about all that I will now learn from my new friends and family.

Please come see me anytime, but by appointment only!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Season of Change

It is incredibly hard to believe that it is already September 1st today.
Here, in upstate NY, there is already a scent of fall in the air. The nights have been chilly, the days fairly cool, and the apple trees are starting to bear their fruit. Soon the leaves will be changing color and the magnificence of fall in upstate NY will be out in full force.

Fall is my favorite time of year. It brings with it the promise of slowing down and settling in for the upcoming winter. Right? That always seems the way it should be. The rest of nature seems to abide by that cycle. But humans somehow don’t necessarily fit in that routine. I laugh each year as I think winter means a slower time. A time to hibernate and rest and reflect on all that has occurred the seasons before. Yet, instead, we find ourselves wearing layer upon layer of heavy clothing so that each time we go out to do anything, it takes 5 minutes of gearing up before we even go outside. Then we have to continuously move snow around. Either by the shovel full or the tractor bucket full. The snow falls and we move it. Only to have the wind come up and put it back where we moved it from. It becomes an endless cycle of moving piles back and forth. That is winter in upstate NY. Gorgeous, but labor intensive.

But winter reminds us that spring is not far ahead. Days start getting longer ever so slightly and by February we are all eager for warmer days and green grass. We forget though that it will be May before we see flowers blooming and the world turning green before our eyes. And then summer once again comes our way.

I was thinking about this as I walked into the barn last night to check on all the equines, goats, sheep, ducks, and chickens, and of course the two barn cats Bella and Izzy. It seems I have slipped into this routine of being the weather person in the barn each night. The animals are so quickly affected by the weather conditions. Our horses with asthma do not do well with high pollen counts and heat and humidity. The older horses don’t do well with the rain and the cold. And none of them do well when the weather is such that they cannot get out and enjoy their day in the pasture. When its too hot, the flies bother them. Too windy and they get nervous and want to come in. Weather is a constant part of our days on the farm and something that can dramatically affect the lives of the barn animals. If we have too much rain or not enough rain, we can have a bad hay crop and the food supply is immediately affected. So much depends on the weather.

So when we have several hot days in a row (which only happened once this summer but it was difficult), I go down to the barn and reassure the animals there that cooler weather is coming soon. When its been raining, I let them know when its supposed to be dry. When its windy, I let them know when things will quiet down. And when its cold, I let them know when it will get warmer. But this week, we have been blessed with absolute perfect weather. The days are 70-75 degrees, and the nights 45-55. And we have abundant sunshine with bright blue skies. When I came into the barn last night, the weather wasn’t on my mind, because it didn’t have to be. And that’s when it was called to my attention about my role in the barn with the animals. I was met by Amber Donkey who had the following to say to me.

Amber: Well, Miss weather forecaster, what say you today? What’s it going to be tomorrow? More of today? Less of today? Today all over again?
I’ve noticed that when things are calm, you never tell us that its going to change soon. Yet, you know it always does. The world was not meant to be without change. Perfection is not to be without change. Perfection is to understand that change happens moment by moment, but perfection is also staying present in each moment. You are always looking to see what is going to be in the next moment. We just smile and know you gain comfort in knowing what the next day will be like. We like to share that with you each night because it is what you do. But the fact is that nothing ever stays the same for long. If it did, we would never learn anything. We’d never be able to find out anything about ourselves. We’d be like a white spot on a white wall, never to differentiate ourselves from what is around us. You see, change is perfection itself. Because in change, you can always find permanence. In change, you can always rely on forward movement. It is change that brings you all the wondrous, miraculous things in your life. Change makes the caterpillar into a butterfly. Change makes the rain turn into the rainbow. Change makes my hair go from short to long and then to short again. It makes me look out my door here and know that soon it will look different. It is never the same two days in a row. Change lets us know we are alive and that we are a part of this creation.

So each night you come in here and tell us the weather forecast, we honor that because we know it is change. Even though you don’t realize it as the gift for which it is. The success of any being is to stay present in each moment of change. Because the very idea of a moment, is all about change. One moment is never permanent. It simply morphs into the next moment, is built upon the last moment, and only can be experienced in the present. That is what life is all about.