The clouds were gorgeous this morning as Sunny and I took off for our walk. I couldn’t help but marvel. There was a coolness to the air and a beauty that lifted my heart. Something about the blue moon last night reminded me that we live in the midst of a glorious story…despite the pain and suffering embedded in our lives. If we step out of our daily grind, look up, we might just capture some of the brilliance that surrounds us.
This morning, on my walk, I saw this sight…two horses head to tail. I love seeing Foxie and Misty standing like this because I know they’re helping each other — scratching each other’s backs, swishing flies off of each other’s faces, generally making each other more comfortable. Isn’t that what good friends do for each other?
A little more to the right…a little higher….Ahhh…that’s the spot. Thank you, friend.
Mornings are some of the most peaceful times on the farm. Here’s a little peek at what I see most mornings when I head down to the barn with Sydney. How can you not love these horses?
After 10-plus days of head-aching congestion, laryngitis and basically feeling pretty rotten along with many days in a row of having a fever (once all the way up to 103), I’ve been feeling rather pitiful…missing my mom (she took great care of me when I was sick!). I had a couple of hours of being fever free the other day (so I decided to give myself the gift of writing about my mother), then wham the fever hit me again! Is this the dreaded 10-day virus? Or is my immune system just seriously compromised after dealing with the Lyme co-infections? Who knows? It just is… Maybe this is where humility begins. So much for getting a running start into summer. Thought I’d post a pretty photo, so at least my eyes can be happy.
For three-quarters of a decade, I have kept these dried flowers on a bureau in the hall, in a place where I could see them from my office. For a period of time they gave me comfort. They reminded me of my mother, who loved nature and the outdoors. I would glance at them as I was working on my memoir and think of her. But a year or two year ago, I began to feel like it was time to clear out the old and replace it with something new. It suddenly started feeling a bit morbid to have dead flowers from my mother’s funeral still in the house. Every week or so, I wiped away another handful of disintegrating dry petals from the surface of the bureau. My mother died in 2007.
But I didn’t want to just throw them away. I knew the flowers were a representation of my mother, not her ashes. But still I wanted to “let go” of these dried bouquets in a way that would honor her. So, during one of the cold days of winter, I came upon an idea. I held it in my mind for a while, caressing it for any rough edges. My idea was this: On Mother’s Day I would take the dried flowers to the graveyard on our property. We have several animals buried there: a beloved kitten named Spunky that wandered into our barn when it was first being built, three horses — including my beloved Crimson — and various other pets (some owned by others). At the back of the graveyard is a magnolia tree that Joel and I planted. It was a gift from my dear friend Lyn after one of my miscarriages. I imagined sprinkling dried petals around the base of this sweet tree that blooms each spring.
As the days gradually warmed, my idea evolved. I would take some of the flowers and leaves and distribute them around our farm. After all, Mom was (and is) ubiquitous in my life. I remember her walking around the property, waving her arms and exclaiming at the beauty of the woods the same way she exclaimed over the beauty of her beloved Lake George. I spent 20 years writing a memoir about her. And, yet, there is so much more to say. Her kindness, her gentleness, her tender heart are all things that bring me to tears. I missed them after she had died and still do. Even though, over 10 years before her death, she had descended deeply into Alzheimer’s, her gentle spirit was always present. But, still, it took time before I remembered the mother who had been there before the illness.
Gradually, as the weight and exhaustion of care taking lifted, the layers of who she was began fluttering through my mind like loose leaf pages. She was disorganized, but spontaneous. Ready for an adventure at a moment’s notice. She continually expressed pure awe at God’s handiwork. She was at home on the water. She loved sailing and canoeing, watching the sun set over the glistening waves. She enjoyed the occasional mountain hike or a roadside overlook, encouraging her children to pause and take in the views, listen to the birds. She was a lover of words — writing weekly feature stories for her town’s newspaper for years. As I think about it, one reason I think her stories were so appreciated by the community was that she really and truly wanted to know her subject. She found people endlessly fascinating and complex. But she approached them with no judgment whatsoever.
That quality of “wanting to know” may be what I most miss about her. To have a parent truly “want to know” you is a gift. My mother listened intently, cared deeply. She did not always “get” me. I suppose that is not unusual, maybe even a necessary stage in the mother/daughter relationship. And I realize, all these years later, that I was not exactly someone who was easy to know. But she tried, and she was always present to whatever was going on between us. Is it any wonder that I tend to idealize my mom? Maybe it’s no wonder that I kept the dried bouquets from her funeral on my bureau for seven and a half years.
So, finally Mother’s Day arrived. I looked at the dried flowers half dreading, half thrilled to be getting rid of them. I had told Joel a few days earlier that I wanted to save the pink contoured vase holding one of the collections of dried flowers. Both the color of it and the curves delighted my eyes. I also loved knowing that caring friends or family members had bought this particular vase filled with flowers and given it to us during the time of my mother’s death.
Joel presented me with a beautiful bouquet on Mother’s Day morning, and the roses would look gorgeous inside the vase. Our family went to church that morning, then Joel and I spent a leisurely afternoon — napping and taking a walk. Sydney, who wasn’t feeling well, went to bed early. The sun was just beginning to go down when I remembered that this was the day I wanted to dispense with the dried flowers. I smiled to myself, thinking that my mom — who rarely followed a plan that was laid out — would understand. Still, I didn’t want to wait another year!
So, I quickly emptied the bouquets into two plastic grocery bags. Then I had to put the flowers Joel had given me into the pink vase. Voila! They looked as beautiful as I had imagined.
As I stepped out of the house, I wandered around the foliage in our yard, placing a dried bud here, some disintegrating leaves there. I walked down the driveway in the gradually fading light. I dropped a few flowers into the woods, knowing I’d forget where they were, but liking the idea that they were there…or at least the remnants of them would finish decaying on my well-worn path.
I paused at the creek and sent a few dried petals floating to wherever the creek empties, knowing my mother, although tied down with a military husband and four children, also enjoyed her freedom.
I stopped by the barn and placed a dried flower in the door of Foxie’s stall, thinking of how my mother had loved my pony Cochise and that she must be smiling down on Sydney and her horse. I continued on, stopping here and there, including at the big rock we jokingly call “Joshua’s Rock South” in honor of the place “up north” deeply connected to my mother’s family’s heritage.
Eventually, I got to the graveyard. I had forgotten that Joel had not yet mowed it this year. I was in shorts, and prickers and Poison Ivy were everywhere. Once again, I remembered how my mother would toss her head when coming to an obstacle and light-heartedly move in another direction. She would understand, I thought, as I left a small bouquet at the entrance of the graveyard.
On the way back to the house, I paused at the places I had been, smiling and sighing. It felt good to relieve myself of these dead flowers, to spread their husks into the world, allowing them to be remade over time into something new. As I was approaching the big creek, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. It was a bird. Not just any bird. A robin.
The bird was dusky with a definite tint of orange on her breast. My mother loved all birds and would exclaim over every cardinal or blue jay or purple martin that she saw. But robins were what I considered “our birds.” My middle name is Robin. And each time she spotted one, she said it was “Little Robin Red Breast,” and mom would look at me tenderly, as if the bird and I were one. Over the years we spotted many robins during our spring, summer and fall walks, or my mother would call to me when she noticed one outside her kitchen window. There were many sightings.
This little robin on the driveway was a messenger, a gift, a reminder of my mother’s love and the fact that her spirit can not be contained in a few bouquets of dried flowers. I needn’t feel bad that I was letting this tangible reminder of her go. Reminders were everywhere. The woods were full of them. And somehow setting myself free from the burden of holding on, allows me to feel the joy of her life. In the darkening light, the robin stayed with me, never more than a few yards ahead, as I walked. I thanked God silently for this amazing little bird and for my mother, all that she was and always will be. When I reached the house, the robin flitted towards a tree (for safety or to build a nest?) as the dog came running up to greet me the same way life rushes in.
This past Saturday was a big day at the barn. We “traded” horses with our neighbor. The girls and I walked Smokey down the road, and a little while later returned to our barn with Misty. If you missed Part I of Moving Day, click here.
On Saturday, after we said goodbye to sweet Smokey, we turned our attention to Misty. We saddled her up, took a few photos and then I prepared for the ride back along the road to our farm.
Misty wasn’t too sure about some of the sights along the road. The mailboxes and the bridge were kind of scary, but she was very brave, and we made the trip without incident. Karen was a big help as she drove her car slowly behind Misty and me and flashed her headlights at any oncoming traffic. Fortunately, there were only a few cars and the drivers all slowed down. It was a beautiful morning for a ride!
Once we arrived at our farm, we put Misty in the middle paddock, so she could look around.
I then put Foxie into a pasture where she and Misty could see each other. Foxie, who had been by herself for the past hour, was happy to see another horse. She and Misty got acquainted at a distance first.
Then I moved Foxie into the small paddock next to Misty. The two horses nosed each other.
Finally, it was time to put them in the same paddock and see how they got along. We all held our breath for a moment.
There were a few “hello squeals.” But, very quickly, the two mares settled down and began grazing side by side. It was a beautiful sight.
It was a fun and exciting morning. We’re all so happy to have Misty at the barn and so pleased that she and Foxie are becoming good friends. Thanks to Karen for once again documenting the day with photos.
It’s been my intention from the outset to bring two horses to the barn that could eventually be sweet companions and good riding mounts for Sydney and her friend LK . We found Sydney’s horse Foxie first, and a friend of a friend allowed us to borrow Smokey, her Shetland pony, so that Foxie would have a pasture buddy. This gave me a few weeks to settle into the reality of having horses again, and it also gave me some time to search for a second horse.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been in touch with my neighbor Darlene who owns a barn down the street from us. It turns out that her daughter’s pony Misty, a sweet Quarter Horse paint mare, was available for lease. Last Saturday, Sydney, LK, Karen and I went over to meet Misty. LK fell in love, and she and Misty seem to be a good match. So during the next week, Karen arranged to lease Misty. It just so happened that Darlene needed a pasture buddy for her other horse, so we made plans to trade Smokey, the Shetland pony, for Misty, for the time being.
It was a beautiful morning to walk Smokey to his new (temporary) home just down the road. After we got Smokey settled, I rode Misty back to our farm (with Karen and the girls driving slowly behind me). The girls were sorry to say goodbye to Smokey. He’s been so fun to have around the barn. Maybe he’ll come back. 🙂
We’ll miss you, Smokey! But we trust you’ll enjoy your time with Daisy.
Stay tuned for “Moving Day: Part II – Misty,” which will be coming soon. Hope everyone has a great Mother’s Day!