No Longer Lonely

whose bellies are grain-filled,
whose long-ribbed loneliness
can be scratched into no-longer-lonely.

~Jane Hirshfield from The Love of Aged Horses

(originally written ~20 years ago)

Settling down into the straw, I am grateful for this quiet moment after a 12 hour workday followed by all the requisite personal conversations that help mop up the spills and splatters of every day life. My family has verbally unloaded their day like so much stored up laundry needing to be washed and rinsed with the spin cycle completed before tomorrow dawns. I moved from child to child to child to husband to grandmother, hoping to help each one clean, dry, fold and sort everything in their pile. Not to be outdone, I piled up a little dirty laundry of my own as I complain about my day.

By that time I’m on “spent” cycle myself and seeking a little “alone” time.  I retreat to the barn where verbal communication isn’t necessary. Instead, I need to just sit quietly, watching what happens around me. 

A new foal and his vigilant mama watch my every move.

This colt is intrigued by my intrusion into his 12′ x 24′ world. His mother is annoyed. He comes over to sniff my foot and his mother swiftly moves him away with a quick swing of her hips, daunting me with the closeness of her heels. Her first instinct insists she separate me from him and bar my access. My mandate is to woo her over. I could bribe her with food and sweet talk, but, no, that is too easy.

A curry comb is best. If nothing else will work, a good scratching always does. Standing up, I start peeling sheets of no longer needed winter hair off her neck,  her sides, her flank and hindquarter.  She relaxes in response to my efforts,  giving her baby a body rub with her muzzle, wiggling her lips all up and down from his back to his tummy. He is delighted with this spontaneous mommy massage and leans into her, moving around so his hind end is under her mouth and his front end is facing me. Then he starts giving his own version of a massage too, wiggling his muzzle over my coat sleeve and wondrously closing this little therapeutic triangle, all of us “scratched into no-longer-lonely.”

Here we are, a tight little knot of givers/receivers with horse hair flying in a cloud about us. One weary human, one protective mama mare and one day-old foal, who is learning so young how to contribute to the well being of others. It is an incredible gift of trust they bestow on me like a blessing.  I realize this horse family is helping me sort my own laundry in the same way I had helped with my human family’s load.

Too often in life we confine our lonely selves in painful triangles, passing our kicks and bites down the line to each other rather than providing nurture and respite. We find ourselves unable to wrench free from continuing to deliver the hurts we’ve just received.  What strength it takes to respond with kindness when the kick has just landed on our backside. How chastened we feel when a kindness is directed at us, as undeserving as we are after having bitten someone hard.

Instead of biting, try a gentle scratching.  Instead of kicking, try tickling. Instead of fear, try acceptance.  Instead of annoyance, try patience. Instead of piling up so much laundry of your own, try washing, folding and sorting what is dumped on you by others, handing it back all ready for the next day.

Just settle into the straw to watch and wait – amazing things will happen.

7 thoughts on “No Longer Lonely

  1. A beautiful reflection that I totally identify with. Animals are most soothing creatures to be around when stressed. They live in the presence and they give unconditionally.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I told my husband this morning, that our sweet tabby is my therapy cat. all she has to do is sit on my lap and I look into her big green eyes, and all is well with my soul and the world. This post really spoke to me..Beautiful!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Every smidgen of balm like the comforting, loving event you describe in your barn with ‘mama’ and her new foal is pure gift, Emily. The interaction between the mare and you — guarded, hesitant at first — disappears as you find one of her ‘soft spots’ that will inspire her trust and safety concern for her baby to ‘let you in.’ What a unique way you use this real life situation as you so cleverly relate it to our human need to face and deal with frustrating and even hurtful situations in our everyday lives. What a healing difference that would make for peace – in our families, workplace – our suffering world.

    (I was going to add a short suggestion from Scripture that could also be considered appropriate, especially when dealing with stressful situations that we face every day, but cannot find my Bible just now. It is simply: ‘Turn the other cheek.’ Actually, now that I think about it, I like your specific examples,.)

    Thank you for this gentle, sweetest reminder of ways that we can show love when faced with overtaxing situations in all facets of our lives..
    I enjoyed this whole post immensely. It is etched in my heart. I will share it with others. Sometimes, it is the simple, practical things that seem to work, Emily, as you point out..
    We spend fortunes on OTC and prescription meds to get us over the hump – to quiet, soothe, place the problem in ‘quarantine,’ out of immediate consciousness. . And yet, we see from your example here that, in essence, all that is often needed is love — a familiar touch of the hand, a meeting of the eyes, a smile — all of which say, “I care; I am here if you need help or just want to talk it out,’ or sometimes, just plain naked knowing, affirming silence. Isn’t that the way that Jesus taught His Message that has taken root in our souls, lasting for over two millennia?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a wonderful reminder of who we are to be, whether we own “therapy” creatures or not. My hurts are to be unloaded at the Lord’s feet, not on the head of another person. Beautiful piece, Emily.


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