"Why do you help these old animals?" he asked.
I was talking to a casual acquaintance, who I'd run into at the feed store. It was a brief encounter, less than a minute, as he was on his way out and I was just at the counter.
How do you explain it in a 10 second sound bite?
"Because I need to, and want to," I said, feeling clumsy with the answer. And we went on our way.
But I thought about it a lot, how do I explain it to myself or anyone else-why do I feel compelled to help old creatures, especially the raggedy ones?
The easy answer is, because it makes me feel useful, and helping any creature, be it goat, donkey or old man, feels good. It is the right thing for me to do–to help others, somehow. And we are all able to help someone, somewhere, in small ways, or big, if we choose to.
I am far from being a hoarder, please understand that. I am not trying to fill a hole left by a long ago wound or lack of love. There are many well intentioned people out there that get into bad situations by taking on more than they can manage, or they fall ill and things start to crumble for man and beast. My vets have told me about cases, I've seen it happen around the area, I've taken on some of those animals that came from such situations. Some of these people are mentally ill or unstable and they are doing the best they can with their abilities at the time. Some are elderly and are doing their very best. Some of them are just...in over their heads and too stubborn or ignorant to make a change.
But I started looking at the deeper reasons I am bringing on Misfits. I looked back over my life and early on, with my curly red hair and chubby cheeks [I thought] I felt ugly and out of place. I loved being at home and with my mom and our dogs, and nature. I wasn't a loner but I was very independent while at home. I would entertain myself for hours, alone in the sumac bushes or up in a tree. I was smart, but lacked confidance through my early years, and into college. I remember I would see my school chums going to camp, and my older brother went to camp too, but I didn't want to go. I wanted to be home.
When I went off to college, I chose a far away in upstate NY. They had a riding program and I wanted to expand from my family and get away, even though they wanted me to stay closer. They thought I'd have trouble being away. I had a real hard time that first year-and following years. I had friends, and had a lot of fun [it was the '70's, you know] but I always yearned for home.
I have built a solid life here with the farm and Martyn. I know what it feels like to be grounded with land...and entwined with my passion of art and writing. I know the feeling of driving down that gravel road and feeling like I'm part of it, and I'm safe, and happy. And I know what it feels like to have to leave it. I just want to help creatures that once had this same sense of home–but lost it. I am empathetic to the broken hearted-for once you lose your mother, father, child or mate, you find yourself yearning again for that far away place that brought you safety and comfort and fed you both emotionally and physically. You can feel the shade of that old tree you liked and how it seemed right. It doesn't matter that each day had its imperfections, it is the sense of those days, the essence of them, that soothes you. Some call it meloncholia. I call it a memory blanket-those senses of the past no matter how edited covers old wounds from dust in the wind.
So here I am, a happy, middle aged woman who has a farm big enough for many. And when I witness an old animal, such as Old Rudy here, settle in over the months, I feel good because I've been able to give them a place to put on a memory blanket, and take a nap in a place they can feel like they are...home.