Lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
We are right smack in the middle of summer. The vibrant greens are already changing to golds and browns as the corn tassels and the oats mature.
My mind wanders to our family living room up in Duluth, Minnesota. I am 9-years-old and standing next to our new Hi-Fi Stereo system. It's a fancy one. That huge black album held magic in its grooves. I'm on stage, you know - singing to my make - believe audience at the top of my lungs, singing with Nat King Cole that favorite song of mine for this time of year. And when that special diamond needle rested on those grooves, Mr. Cole was right next to me and we were on! "Bring back those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer. Those days of pretzels and sunshine and cheer." These are the words my Mom approved and so I must sing these words and not the true words of the song. And sing I did!
Fast forward fifty years. It was a public hours on a recent Saturday at Refuge Farms. Many of the volunteers - or "The Other Herd" as I call them - were working at a local music festival to earn extra funds in their support of the farm. As a result, I found myself greeting our guests and telling them the stories of Andy, Frances Andrew, the Memory Beds, and of course, about our missions for both horses and humans alike.
Truly, I enjoy this socialization. And isn't that a peculiar statement from a woman who so desperately protects her privacy? Yes, I do thoroughly enjoy greeting total strangers who decide to check us out and venture in to my barns.
Toward the end of this particular day, a young couple stopped to visit. I enjoyed his humor and her keen eye. He enjoyed Jeri-Ann and was, as expected, in awe of her size given her young age. This gave her and me time to talk and begin to know one another. Her observations showed me a quick mind with attention to detail. And her questions caused me to really think before spouting off a reply.
We talked of how her mother reads these very articles and how she has driven by many times on her way to visit her mother. And her love of her life and of these horses was obvious to me. I found myself concluding that this was a truly nice woman.
At the close of this initial visit, we strolled up from the barn toward their vehicle. Our conversation was lively, and I was enjoying it - and them. Innocently, she asked me, "How long have you been doing all of this, Sandy?"
As she posed her question, her arm swept the horizon around us signaling her intention of including the barns, the yard, the horses, the pastures, the house, the volunteers, the public, the round bales.
How long had I been doing all of this?
My response came out of me before I fully heard her question. It was one of those quick replies that you say before you hear it yourself. But the answer was honest and sincere, and like a mirror on my wall.
"Forever," I said. "I've been doing this forever."
After their departure, I thought of her question and my response. Why did I answer so quickly - and with those words? Was it fatigue? Was it weariness? Was it the heat and the lack of sleep? No.
My response was from none of that. My response was from my heart. Better yet, my response was from my soul. Yes, that's right - from my soul, from my very inner being.
In that quick response to her simple question I showed - even to myself - that I was truly, honestly, and wholly born to do this.
I was born to rescue the horses that no one wants - the ones that we call the "die-ers". I was born to care for these huge animals. I was born to care and love and get right inside of them with my determination to heal and help and comfort them. And, unbelievably, I was born to grow enough as a human being to come to want to share them with all of you.
And in that sharing, maybe both of us can learn a bit about forgiveness and respect and acceptance and honesty and loyalty. Maybe, just maybe, these horses can get through to we human beings when human words cannot. Maybe, just maybe, these horses can give the love and welcoming hearts that we all long for. Maybe, if we learn to trust over a ton of horse flesh with our bodies, we can learn to trust a fellow human being with our honest feelings.
In a recent blog, I wrote about my belief that if you get in front of human beings with a message of kindness and forgiveness and faith and grace, eventually someone will take that message on as his own. That without ever having visited the farm, someone reading these articles will know of the missions and actually begin to practice them in their own life - creating those random acts of kindness. Maybe, just maybe, words and stories and pictures are able to sow the seeds of them, just like we planted those tiny little pumpkin seeds in the Kid's Garden just a short while ago.
And so I write our stories with the hope of someone grabbing on and making them their own. Maybe someone would hold a door open to help a stranger, or offer an iced tea to a hard-working neighbor.
Maybe our work to show our missions to you can mimic those 40 pumpkin seeds that sprouted in to 41 plants. The faith of a gardener - that's what I strive for - to plant a seed in the dark dirt and trust that a plant will grow, to trust that good will come from my efforts.
And so on that public hours Saturday, I found myself walking with the proof of that very trust and my efforts - living proof walking right here in my driveway and talking with me - a visitor to the farm because of these articles and our consistent message of faith and good works. But did she know the healing that she gave that day? The healing she offered to the one who was offering her horses to heal others? Did this stranger know that on that particular day, it was she who healed me?
Later, after feeding and chores and some time to ponder the day, I was rejuvenated by the realization that I was here - right here in this very place at his very time, doing what my heart calls me to do. I am where I am supposed to be and doing what I am supposed to be doing. I know this like I know my name. Peace and calm come with that realization and the acceptance of it all.
Labor of love
Sure, there's work and blisters and headaches and too little sleep and way, way too much stress. But there would be stress in my life if I were a millionaire!
And yes, there are times when it all is truly overwhelming. You hear me when I tell you how tired I can become and how the work never ends. You hear me when my grief simply oozes out of my skin when I must let one go. But then a visitor shows up during public hours, and she asks a simple question: "How long have I been doing all of this?"
Meant to be
If I work really hard at it, I can remember a time when I did not have cars in the driveway or anyone in my barns, when I chose not to answer the telephone when it rang, and I seldom held a conversation with another person. I was secluded and that way on purpose. I was reeling from the loss of my sister, my only sibling, and my very best friend. And no other person could - or would - be allowed to intrude on my grief.
But that seems like lifetimes ago. Now I have people at the farm almost daily! And my telephone rings and I reach for it - smiling! And total strangers are given a handshake when they arrive and then a hug when they leave.
Born to rescue
My, how time - and the magic of this place - has worked on me. And now, simply, it is my job to share what I have found with you.
Come and meet the herd of horses and "The Other Herd" of volunteers. You'll find some of the most caring, giving, sincere, and comical people who walk this earth right in my backyard - right here, not hidden in some retreat or hillside someplace - right here in St. Croix Valley.
I was born to do this. And so I must rescue. And I must do my best to heal. And I must do my very, very best to be there for "them" - who or whatever "them" might be - and to make tough decisions. And to do my darnedest to not have regrets.
And so I've been humming that Nat King Cole song a lot lately: "Those lazy hazy crazy days of summer!" Yup. I even hear the hazy part. Yup. I even hear the crazy part. But when, Mr. Cole, does the lazy part start?
Enjoy the journey of each and every day,
Sandy and The Herd - with Hope