Refuge Farms home of "Horses Helping..."

The Dunn County News
March 30, 2008


   Resurrection is a big word. Webster's Dictionary has seven definitions - one is "a rising from the dead that leads to a spiritual understanding." It's a big, deep, significant word.

   For me, Easter signifies resurrection and holds many gifts, promises and significant lessons. This year, it started with the first full Sunday of spring. Hallelujah!

   It is no secret that winter is a tough season up here in the northland. And it is also no secret that winter brings challenges with it that are ever increasingly more difficult to meet and overcome. Each year, the winds are a bit stronger, the thermometer stays lower a bit longer, the snow isn't quite so inviting and the days seem a bit harder and longer. Winter is tough. And it seems to be a bit tougher every year.

   So to me, the first day of spring is a true resurrection. It means that the perennials will soon be poking their green sprouts up through the earth. It means that the songbirds that I hear outside are real and are back for the summer. It means that the geese I see are coming home to have their offspring and relax for a few months.

   The first Sunday of spring was a resurrection of the earth and therefore of my spirit. Both will once again come back from their hibernations and become alive again. It is time to breathe in deeply of spring in Wisconsin.

   I am reminded of the story of the original resurrection, of good sustaining over evil, of life and an invitation to do good and of possibilities and sustaining. For me, the Easter Sunday story is, more than anything, the story of hope. I rely on that hope each day as I start the daily chores - the hope that good will, in fact, prevail, and we humans will eventually learn to care for each other and respect and trust each other. Simply put, we humans will hopefully learn to be more like The Herd: living teachers of the meaning of that original resurrection.

   But last Sunday was more than Easter Sunday and the first Sunday of spring. It was also the anniversary of the crossing of one who taught me the true meaning of the word resurrection. A little mare showed me every single day what resurrection really meant. And in so doing, she left engrained in my heart a life lesson that I hold as dear as her memory.

   Ima's gift - a life lesson
   Ima came to THE FARM a starved, dehydrated, maggot-infested creature without a mane and barely a tail. Her body had no reserves left anywhere. I had never seen a horse so totally depleted and without any hope. Her eyes were blinded from the process of starvation and yet, somehow, she had delivered a baby out of that emaciated body - a baby that would certainly die since her mother had no milk to offer.

   As the master plan moved another step forward, I found myself in the driveway, talking with the man who "owned" Ima. And as the plan continued, Ima, and her starved, sweating baby, were soon in my trailer heading for my barns. The voice inside of me told me that they would both certainly die. The baby would die for sure. The mare would die most likely in a very short time. I heard myself preparing my heart for that inevitability. But I thought it would be better for them to die quietly and peacefully in a bed of straw in a cool barn than in a circle of dirt out in the hot sun and covered with flies.

   But Ima had other plans. She would perform unlike any of my expectations, and she would teach me the true meaning of devotion, determination, selflessness and resurrection.

   Ima would take the food offered her and eat it calmly. She ate slowly, in total deliberation and with obvious purpose. Ima would not inhale the food, as she so desperately wanted to do. No, she would chew and swallow and drink plenty of water, all the while commanding her body to pass on the nutrition to her baby in the form of milk; all the while commanding her body not to retain any of the nutrition for herself, even though she so desperately needed the strength just to stand. Ima insisted that her body use all of the nutrition for her baby.

   And so because of Ima's selflessness, there was a resurrection at Refuge Farms that night in 1998. A little baby horse left to die on the deep straw was raised again by the mare that delivered her. The mare that was starved to the point of barely being able to stand simply converted the offered hay and water to milk. Bypassing her own needs, she gave back. And the baby drank. And the baby lived.

   I tell people that Ima's daughter, April, was born on the last day of April 1998. And then she was born again somewhere in the night of May 1, 1998 - all because her mother had the determination and conviction to do what it took to bring her baby back from certain death. It was a resurrection.

   Resurrection is a big word. It means spring is coming. It means Easter Sunday. And my thoughts return to Ima, who taught the lesson better than any storyteller ever could. Ima taught by being a living example. And so, I honor Ima - by loving her daughter, April, and telling the story of her mother who created her own little Easter right there in the barn. That Easter morning brought us a new life and new possibilities. It brought us hope and some spiritual understanding.

   I wish you peace and contentment. May you know in your inner self that you have a place, a purpose, a future and a life after this one. May you know the determination and perseverance, generosity and loyalty of Ima and the strength and gift of life of April. I hope you may, perhaps, experience your own resurrection.

Enjoy the journey of each and every day,
Sandy and The Herd

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