My Week to Learn From

Shelley awaiting release from the infirmary

Three Sundays ago ended what I have come to call ‘my week to learn from.’  That week, I had more need for emergency veterinary assistance than in my past twelve years of equine ownership.  My vet told me I was making up for lost time.  I’m afraid I didn’t appreciate his sense of humor. While walking colicky ponies and on long drives to veterinary hospitals, I did a lot of wondering about why this all happened.  The answer that has emerged has surprised me.

My husband is a battalion chief in our volunteer fire department.  He also is involved with Search & Rescue.  It is not uncommon for emergencies to come in groups of three.  A few weeks ago a run of three included a car accident, a snow machine accident, and lost cross-country skiers. So at the beginning of ‘my week to learn from’, when we had one crisis in our business and one pony come down sick, I figured a third incident was soon to follow.  What I wasn’t prepared for was two sets of three.

After the week was over and I had a little more time to search for answers, I asked a friend for advice.  She had a more tragic set of three last summer.  She responded, “The universe is so much more powerful than what we can ever understand.  Sometimes no matter what we do, and how hard we try, accidents and tragedy will happen.” 

The next day I found a new post on my nephew’s blog.  He shared this quote from Evelyn Underhill’s The House of the Soul and Concerning the Inner Life:   “Consider that wonderful world of life in which you are placed, and observe that its great rhythms of birth, growth, and death—all the things that really matter — are not in your control. That unhurried process will go forward in its stately beauty, little affected by your anxious fuss. Find out, then, where your treasure really is. Discern substance from accident.” 

The first thing that I related to was ‘anxious fuss,’ as anxiety was definitely something I was experiencing.  Then I re-read the quote, and ‘wonderful world of life’ resonated, as indeed I am blessed to live in a beautiful place with many beautiful animals as companions.  As a breeder of livestock I also had to notice ‘great rhythms of birth, growth, and death,’ for indeed this vocation is inherently about ‘the things that really matter.’  And then, finally, ‘not in your control’ sprang to the fore.  I wanted to blame myself for the ills that came upon my ponies.  The reality, though, was that factors beyond my control probably had as much or more to do with ‘my week to learn from’ than my actions did.  A few factors that were at work were challenging winter weather, the position of an unborn foal in a mare’s abdomen, and a tussle between two ponies over a pile of hay that resulted in one pony getting kicked in the head.

My nephew’s blog post was titled “T’is the gift.”  I greatly appreciated this reference to a song that I had enjoyed years ago but had forgotten about:  “T’is the gift to be simple, t’is the gift to be free…”  I think my first encounter with it was the same as Noah’s, at the Quaker church his family attended in his youth.  Later in my life I encountered it again when I was exploring simple living in earnest.   As I’ve recovered from the stress of ‘my week to learn from’, I’ve tried to commit the words to memory.  I’ve been surprised how hard memorizing it has been for me.  And it has made me ponder what simplicity looks like at this stage of my life.

Last night I was reading a chapter in Linda Kohanov’s Way of the Horse.   Kohanov observed that horses have a way of humbling animal communicators and elite horse trainers who focus on big-headed solutions.  She told of her own experience of looking for a solution to a problem with a horse and finding it to be much simpler than what she expected.

A few days ago I spoke to my friend and mentor Joe, and when he asked how I’d been, I told him about ‘my week to learn from.’  Joe expressed concern about me and about the ponies, and then he surprised me.  He quickly saw a common theme in the three veterinary emergencies that my husband had also mentioned but I found hard to accept.  “Your ponies want to be with you.”  Could it really be as simple as that?  As time has passed since ‘my week to learn from’, it’s been hard to find a better answer.  Heeding Underhill’s advice, I’ve decided this is where my treasure really is.

(c)  Jenifer Morrissey 2011

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About workponies

Breeder of Fell Ponies, teamster of work ponies, and author of Feather Notes, Fell Pony News, and A Humbling Experience: My First Few Years with Fell Ponies. Distributor of Dynamite Specialty Products for the health of our planet and the beings I share it with.
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