Monday, August 23, 2010

summer's end, some speed bumps, and Wendell Berry

After a writing weekend that got canceled at the last minute,  I proceeded on my own and worked like a maniac. I didn't set foot in the barn from Friday afternoon until this morning.  I was eager to get out there today, but discovered we seem to be running our very own vet clinic this week.

Keil Bay got a small cut above his eye last week that is not getting infected, but keeps re-opening because of where it is and the fact that his facial muscles keep it moving.

Rafer Johnson is off on his right hind. No swelling, no obvious signs of anything, just tenderness on that foot. It's better - definitely not getting worse - but of course we have to keep our eyes on him.

Now Salina is off on her left hind. Seems to be hoof tenderness as opposed to joint or muscular issues. Abscess? Don't know yet. She too seems fine otherwise but is just taking it slowly around the barn and barnyard.

My mind is spinning with possibilities and diagnoses and remedies and the usual big question: is it time to call the vet?

My typical reaction to equine offness in any form or fashion is an immediate increase in stress. I feel out of control, I want to know exactly what's going on, and yet I am never comfortable with a huge veterinary intervention that tends to rule many things out before ruling anything in.

So this morning I did my own assessments of each issue and have plans for each of them in terms of what I can do myself and when it will be time to get the vet out. The weird thing is, the instant I get out there and start looking and checking and doing my equine nursing care routine, they all seem to get immediately better.  Sometimes I wonder if my not being out at the barn for a weekend is what gets these things rolling in the first place.

I also spun out initially to a morbid sort of place that in an odd way helps me settle down when dealing with unknowns and equines. I reminded myself that no animal here will ever have to suffer, that they all have good, rich lives, and that if the worst thing comes to pass, it will be sad and hard, but it won't be the end of the world. Death is part of life. When we live with animals, we take on the responsibility to help when things get to a point of no return, or to a point where quality of life must be assessed and acted upon. Reminding myself of this usually brings tears to my eyes, but then it brings me a sense of peace - and from that place I can march on and do what needs to be done.

At that point, this morning, I asked Salina if we are nearing a difficult decision. She flat out ignored me, which I think means no, we aren't. I walked out to the pondering bench and decided to just sit down and relax for a few minutes. Rafer came out and stood with me. He put his full weight on his right hind, used his left hind to scratch his nose, and then looked at me as if to say, "See? I'm okay."

I reminded myself that I wake up many mornings with little aches and pains, most of which work themselves out as I begin the day. Sometimes I end the day with little aches and pains, most of which heal with rest and a bit of time. Horses get those too. As do donkeys. And it's been a long, hot, very itchy and buggy summer for all of us.

With Salina in the barn whinnying her usual "where are my donkey boys?" and Rafer Johnson standing with me, alert and happy,  I looked up to the sky, through the leaves of the big oak, and saw many small dark objects in the dripping down of a different set of leaves. The wild muscadines are ready to eat. So I stood up and helped myself to as many as I could reach. I wait for these each year, as I have since I was very young, and today I savored the taste of the first in this end of summer season.

Each year now when I eat them I'm reminded of my most favorite Wendell Berry poem. (and my favorite poem, in general):
The Wild Geese

Horseback on Sunday morning,
harvest over, we taste persimmon
and wild grape, sharp sweet
of summer's end. In time's maze
over fall fields, we name names
that went west from here, names
that rest on graves. We open
a persimmon seed to find the tree
that stands in promise,
pale, in the seed's marrow.
Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear,
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye
clear. What we need is here.

Wendell Berry



Grey Horse Matters said...

Sorry your writing weekend was canceled but it sounds like you still got work done on your own.

I always joke that I'm not running a barn but a MASH unit here at the farm. Someone is always hurt or ill. But so far so good they all seem to be coming along. Then again what will be will be in the future and there is nothing we can do to stop the march of time.

The poem is one of my favorites too. Lovely.

billie said...

LOL - a MASH unit! Love it. I get so worried about the animals when they're not 100%. I sometimes think the issues they have off and on are actually lessons for me in learning to practice acceptance and just being with what is. But my m.o. is to rush in and fix things, and that's where I get frantic and have to stop and do all the reminding I did this morning.

Between Salina and Rafer Johnson, they have taught me more than I ever would have imagined. They are both such wonderful spirits.

Valentino said...

We too have the wild grapes ripening... when the storm season cooperates, I get to make jelly with them. There are wild persimmons here as well, still a few months away.

What a beautiful post, and a lovely poem. Thanks Billie :)

Anonymous said...

They seem to have all sorts of ways of getting hurt and in trouble, but most of the time things work out. Love the Wendell Barry poem - but then I love almost everything he ever has written.

Peggy Payne said...

Very cool that you ran your own successful writing weekend.

billie said...

V, I'd love to have your wild grape jelly recipe!

billie said...

Me, too, Kate - re: Wendell Berry's writing.

billie said...

Peggy, I was pretty impressed with my own self. :)