Posted in Diary Entry on September 18, 2008
Ok Southern California, you have made me a believer. For never, in my wildest imaginations (and I can have some pretty wild ones) could I have predicted the outpouring of generosity and compassion for myself and the animals here at the sanctuary. To put it in financial terms, to date you have taken our bank account from a negative $1000 to a whopping $100,000 to the positive, with most of that amount hitting our mail box within 5 days of the article appearing in the Times. I was literally buried in donations and they are still coming in.
It took me two weeks to enter all the initial data into our financial software and I am still trying to find time to record the donations into our donor management program which then kicks out receipts and thank you letters. Oh, to have that problem all the time.
And therein lies the real benefit of all this generosity; hope. Yes, I was able to get hay, pay bills and hire a office helper. I stocked up on senior feed, scheduled dental work for the old horses and bought seed to plant in our hay fields for a harvest of hay next June. And it feels good to have a bit of a cushion as we go into winter.
But beyond the obvious day to day needs we all have up here, what we also needed was a good old fashioned dose of hope. We, the horses and I, needed to know people care about what happens to us. And regardless of the economy, geopolitics and all the other uncertainties of our modern world, the same basic things that were important a hundred years ago are important today: kindness, compassion, justice, truth and the simplicity found in the lives of animals.
It is interesting how the simple act of writing a check and attaching an encouraging note can have such a profound effect on the recipients. In simple terms bellies are full each night and tomorrow is more secure. But more complex is the effect of one opening an envelop, making note of the donation and then reading the endearing notes from the givers. One note came from a 91 year old LA resident who said in a world wanting for heroes, she had found one in me.
So, LA, you made me a believer. People care. Hope is alive and well. Kindness and compassion reign supreme and even the most ordinary person can be someones hero.
Thank you LA.
Posted in Diary Entry on December 09, 2005
Its quiet. A white quiet. A stillness shaped by a windless half-moon night and the snow fog that slowly settles down on our mile high valley. Its 10pm and I am walking the dogs as I prepare the waterlines for a night of sharp cold. All I hear as I walk is the crunch of my boots in the snow that blankets the ground and the muffled sound of my breathing against the inside of my parka.
The stillness around me is absorbing. I stop in the middle of the dirt road, turn off my flashlight and listen. There is no noise. Nothing. No wind. No far off howls of hunting coyotes. No night birds or sounds of horses on the range. It is completely silent except for the sound of my beating heart.
It is not often that one can enter a space so devoid of noise. For most of us some level of sound is always there. Even in the twilight of sleep there is a far off dog barking, an early morning garbage collection, the faint clicking of changing lights at an intersection, the muffled sound of motors and wheels on pavement on some unseen freeway, a nocturnal cat padding across a rooftop or the deep dream-filled breathing next to us or down the hall. Wave after wave of sound laps against our ear drums. An endless ocean of sonant matter.
Before coming to this North East corner of California noise was a given. I never knew the profound importance of silence. How the silence allows the brain, indeed, the soul, to sift and separate the many things learned and experienced each day, pondering its travels, mixing, measuring, distilling everything down to a third element, revelation. And with revelation one can then journey with wisdom and some level of grace.
The busy, chaotic, technical world we have created for ourselves makes it hard to get to this third element. There are just too few places where we can experience true silence. We cannot pause during the day and let the quiet roll over us. There is no natural quiet.
I stand in the cold, listening to the silence, letting it settle over me like the snow fog has settled over our valley until the dogs find me again. Their happy whines and friendly sparring brings me back to the world of sound. I walk back to the house. My boots and breathing keeping me company with their regular cadence against a background of white.
Posted in Diary Entry on May 21, 2005
The valley behind the sanctuary is green now. The same vibrant green one finds in box of basic crayons. The range-land as far as the eye can see is a flowing carpet of this green, interspersed with the blue-gray hues of the sage. The range is cradled between volcanic mountains, ridges and bluffs pushed up from the flat eons ago when the earth was trying to decide what its face should look like.
This is open range county, all this green and gray and dark brown slate. Its hard for most people to grasp the idea or even the reality of open range. Most people live divided and segmented lives with roads, fences, houses and yards breaking up any idea of what is meant by "as a crow flies". Nothing can be reached in a straight line.
But out here neither the carpet of green nor a line of sight has segments. Its all one long free flowing horizon. A person could start a walk from any place on the sanctuary and just keep walking, uninhibited by walls, barriers or gated communities. A walk could start at the sanctuary and days later end somewhere in Nevada with only the barest glimpse of other people.
This is what I love about my now green world. Its vast and unimpeded horizon gives me wings that stretch way out....and out...and out. Here I am free. If I stretch out my arms I do not need to say "this is how much space I need", the amount of space some researcher said every human needs. Out here I stretch out my arms and look down one of them to my finger and beyond, to a space that is 10, 20 miles off in the distance and I say "this is how much space I need".
This is how much space we all need. Even if we don't live here. Even if we only hear about it or see it in a photo or read about it on someones weblog. We all need to know its out here. Untouched. Undeveloped. Unfenced. A place that is open and sometimes like the green in a crayon box.
Posted in Diary Entry on May 13, 2005
Mice. Most people try to find sanitary, efficient and mostly hands-off ways to get rid of them. Under normal circumstances I would included myself amongst that group. But like everything else at the sanctuary, normal is rarely the realm within which we operate. The sanctuary changes and challenges everything about me, inside and out. Little mouse was no exception.
I first met Little Mouse in a bag of dog food. Due to the number of dogs we house at the sanctuary, I keep large bags of dog food. Once a bag is opened, it is then stored in the pantry. And no matter how many times I would berate myself, I would invariably forget to tightly close the top of the bag. This is a situation no mouse can resist. So one day, after I had dragged the 50 lb bag out of the pantry I reached in with a dog bowl I used as a measure and when I fished it out there on top of the bowl now heaped with dog food sat Little Mouse.
At first I was startled but Little Mouse just sat there calmly looking at me. And there-in was the challenge. I could drop the bowl and leave Little Mouse for the dogs to dispatch or I could...what? I wasn't sure about what I should do. I just stood there holding the dog bowl and Little Mouse sat on the heaping dog food calm as could be. Waiting, I presume, for me to make up my mind. I eventually lowered the dog bowl to the counter and Little Mouse jumped off, ran across the counter then back under the stove, a nice warm home.
I suppose it seemed silly, my letting the mouse go free. After all, what's a mouse but a nasty disease carrying rodent. They are small creatures to be squashed, trapped, poisoned. At least that is the party line. But in the abstract, which is where most of us go when we causally buy poison or traps in our local hardware centers, it is easy to forget that mice have lives of their own, separate from humans. And different. But are they any less important?
After feeding the dogs I dragged the bag back to the pantry and ...you guessed it...forgot to tightly close the bag. Next day I again dragged the bag out and reached into it with a dog bowl and once again I fished out dog food and...little mouse.
This time I was not startled, just a bit mystified. Why was this mouse getting stuck in the bag and why wasn't it freaking out when I fished it out? With Little Mouse perched on top of the bowl of dog food I took a good look at him. Unlike other mice I had seen, this mouse had a bedraggled coat, tattered ears and gray muzzle. Little Mouse was old! Who knows how long Little Mouse had lived under the stove. I know the house had been where it was for seven years, so at least that long. How long do mice live? I really had no idea. But I was not going to be the one to end those years. So once again I lowered the dog bowl to the counter where Little Mouse made his journey back to the stove.
This adventure with the dog food bag and Little Mouse went on for quite a while until one day Little Mouse did not appear. I have no idea what happened to my little friend. But I do know that like many of the adventures I have living up here in this wild section of California, I was changed by the experience.
I had never really looked at a mouse so closely. Not really. Nor had I ever thought about what an aged mouse would look like. I had never really thought about mice at all. Not their lives. Not their world. Not how we change that world with our fears and myths or our need for a sterile environment. Mice were just...well...in the way and therefore expendable. But Little Mouse changed that comfortable human justification with his simple need for food and warmth. I was face to face with the life that is behind the word "mouse". No longer an abstract, Little Mouse was now a part of my daily routine, a very concrete being. And unlike humans, without natural malice. He just wanted the dog food. By accident or fate, my war with mice had ended.
Up here in hinterland, our other rodent population that humans war against are the prairie dogs. Farmers and ranchers shoot them, poison them, gas them. Certain ranches in our area even hold special "rat shoots" - an interesting use of verbal camouflage - where the public is invited to bring their guns and spend the day dispatching the critters as they peek their heads out of their underground hide outs. The shoots are held to keep the prairie dogs from consuming the alfalfa fields.
I am considered the crazy hold-out. I will not let anyone shoot the prairie dogs on our property. And yes, they do eat a lot of the alfalfa and in fact have decimated our fields. But, I still can't let the sound of gunfire roll across our acres. When I left the defense industry I was through with the theory and reality of killing. I will find other ways to keep them from ruining the alfalfa. After all, if we can put a man on the moon, take the temperature of mars and explore the rings of Saturn, surely we can find a way to share this planet with the many creatures that inhabit it. That challenge is my ode to Little Mouse.
"Five sparrows are sold for just two pennies. But God doesn't forget a one of them". Luke 12:6
Posted in Diary Entry on April 01, 2005
Lottie has a blown knee, which makes her unrideable, a banged-up and scarred face that douses any romantic thoughts of the beautiful equine, and she requires a special diet and a very understanding and patient farrier. Because she is physically vulnerable, she cannot live with other horses in a pasture. Lottie cannot be ridden and she cannot be a pasture companion to another horse. Lottie just doesn’t make the grade, in any way that would make her useable again. In her crippled and slow-gaited existence, she represents the epitome of the unusable, unproductive and therefore disposable life form.
But Lottie is also the reason society needs sanctuaries, places of refuge for non-performers in a performanced-based culture. Lottie and all of the others like her who have been given sanctuary, are mere whispers in a world roaring with words such as performance, competence, viability and productiveness. Lottie represents the almost forgotten values of other words such as kindness and compassion. For if performance is indeed more important than kindness, then there is no place in this world for Lottie. And the hunger that many of us feel, as humans, for a larger and more compassionate place for our children and ourselves will go unfulfilled.
Lottie takes up so little room and yet because she can no longer perform, she is even denied that space. And in society's denial of space, a final and ironic use for her is found. She is sent to the slaughterhouse to endure all of its terrors, so that she can be food for the tables of Europe and Asiaand profit for corporations.
Lottie and others like her are the only defense for believing in the critical importance of providing sanctuary for horses in need. The path to rehabilitate the rideable and useable horse, although important and noble, is too easily lost in the many justifications for performance-based value. Sanctuary, on the other hand, is one of those words that pick at the collective conscience of society. It picks at it because Lottie needs sanctuary, not from some great evil out there somewhere, but because she needs it from us, the you and me that make up society.
Because horses are valued primarily for what they can do, they are in jeopardy from the moment they are born. But then that should not come as any great surprise, for many of us have learned that our value as individuals is directly linked to whether or not we can perform, produce, or be competent at something. To fall into any other category is to become disenfranchised, a chasm the homeless, disabled, ill and aged often fall into.
This is why Lottie is important. She is a gentle but imperfect being, vulnerable in her inability to perform anymore and put before us to ponder her fate. The decisions we make about Lottie, and a thousand like her every day, become measures of who we really are as individuals and as a society. Our collective character is shaped, not by the decisions we make about the beautiful, powerful or competent, it is shaped by how we treat the weakest and neediest amongst us.
The sanctuary residents, the whole and the broken, become ambassadors of the promises we make and want to make for a better world. And as visitors watch Lottie nap in the warm sun or graze on the green grass with her stable mates and friends they are able to see and experience the meaning of sanctuary, for it is painted in the bold colors of Lottie’s enriched existence. Because there is a place of safety, hope and healing for Lottie, with all of her imperfections, then maybe, just maybe, there is also a place of safety, hope and healing for the rest of us.
- Page 2 of 3
- << Start < Prev 1 2 3 Next > End >>