Porch

One week ago, I sat on my porch and watched a diagonal thunderstorm. Branches and leaves flailed violently and I’m not sure the thunder ever stopped—instead it hummed low like an idling truck with shocks of explosions here and there. Its growl never stopped, though.

Out there on my porch, I stayed awake the entire night. I sat on the porch through the whole storm which stopped around 2:30 in the morning. I love a good storm, but I love night sounds even more. Night birds seem to have a more glottal call. Or is it sadder? Heavier? Their voices move like fog across the grass.

On that porch, I’d tossed several logs of wood into a rusty fire pit so the flames would keep me company. They were logs I’d chopped on my own from a tree that had fallen in my backyard during Tropical Storm Imelda. It took me months to finally do something with it. I knew before she fell that her foundation was shotty—that the right kind of angry wind would finally break her. I should have done something sooner, but I didn’t know what to do. Instead, and as I reluctantly anticipated, she finally fell. Of course then I really didn’t know what to do so after neglecting her for months, I finally decided to chop her up into as many pieces as I could. 

I watched those pieces burn. I watched them spark and smoke while they hissed and popped. If I’d have given them any, I could’ve told you every log’s name. I remember how it felt to axe each one. I remember which ones made me cry. I remember which ones made me feel strong. I remember with which one I finally got the hang of it. Now they simply burned.

Next to the porch with the fire and the logs, my little duck, Dorothy sat floofed atop her nest as her eggs hatched. Quite literally they hatched through the night—through the storm, the grumbling thunder, the night sounds and the wild, darting embers. Between the sounds, I’d hear small peeps from under her fluff. The next time, there’d be more.

I couldn’t leave her out there alone. I know that out in the world, ducks hatch alone, but I couldn’t not be there. Maybe it was me that needed her more than she needed me. I told my friends that I stayed out there to protect her from predators because there are many—and it’s true, that was the reason I went out there in the first place and dragged my rusty fire pit with me along with frumpy, splintery logs—to keep watch over her. But a week later as I think about that night, something tells me she would’ve been fine without me. Or not. I don’t know.

I stayed on the porch with my boots propped on the edge of the firepit until a dusty blue sunrise gathered behind the rain-battered trees. Dorothy was used to me being there by then and let her ducklings out despite my presence. Nine little lives emerged from beneath her and as a small group, they ventured about two feet into the yard to lay together in the wet grass. They nipped each other’s beaks, shook their heads, and stayed very close to their mom.

It was then I was able to see the shells from which the ducklings hatched. Carnage. Shells cracked, torn, layers dangling, juices stale. Those small, fuzzy, peeping creatures did that. I’ve found nests sadly ravaged by rats but I gotta say, they got nothing on the strength of these ducklings. Rats’ll crack an egg. A duckling will destroy it. A mess of brokenness two feet away from a brand new pile of eyes seeing the world for the first time. They were here because of their strength, will, and perseverance. They were here because they were loved.

—-

I’ve tried a dozen times at least in the past week to sit down and write this story—to find the words to share with y’all about the beauty, wonder, and frankly, weirdness of an all-nighter on the porch in the rain with my fire and my duck. But every time I’ve started to write something, the words escape me. Actually, it’s not that they escape, they’re just not there. One week ago, the world seemed like a different place. And in a lot of ways, it is, but in some ways, not at all.

I’m not sure I’ve said what I want to say. I’ve even debated posting it, wondering if it’s not the right time. I’ve decided to because even in all of this, there are small ducks. In all of this, under a little porch in the rain, there are small ducks. 

Life is so, so fragile. It is so fragile and it is always worth firghting for.

I love you.

Broken but Still Blooming

Sometime last year, I found a blooming whisper beneath a broken gutter. She brought a pale yet warm light to an otherwise dank, dark place and I left in absolute awe of her strength, will, and bravery. I’d forgotten about her until an aimless wander yesterday which led me to her again. My girl, I am wonderstruck.

Here is a link to that story: https://adonkumentary.com/2019/09/29/broken/

And here she is today. I am so, so proud.

In Orbit

It’s 3:30 in the afternoon on a clear, late-spring day in Texas which means that it’s painfully bright outside. That’s not to say I’m not grateful for the sunshine, but it’s times like this I wish I’d just go ahead and get myself some prescription sunglasses. In quarantine, I have yet to wear my contacts and I don’t intend to start unless I absolutely have to. The problem with having shaky hands is that even mundane tasks like putting in your contacts are often frustrating enough to set your mood up to be annoyed and grumpy for the rest of the day.

I’m outside tinkering in my garden which is already yielding the best tomato crop I’ve ever, ever had. From between the leaves that I’m pruning, I look over at my sweet donkeys three on the other side of the fence and let out a sigh of silly relief. They all three had their hooves done yesterday and I’m not sure why, but I absolutely obsess over the health of their hooves. (Not in a healthy, responsible pet-owner who should care about the health of all their animals kind of way…no…this is utter, panicky obsession). I worry every single time that my (amazing) farrier will see something terribly, terribly wrong with their hooves. I don’t know why. I actually lose sleep over this. It’s a worry I’ve latched onto which at this point in my life, I realize is 1) a part of the larger anxiety/OCD/panic disorder that I’ve been wired with since I was born and 2) always worsened when I’m going through something or distracting myself from dealing with something (consciously or subconsciously). But they’re all fine. They’re all just fine. Happy and healthy, from their ears to their hooves, and so for a while, I can let out that anxious breath I’ve been holding onto.

In a row along the table in my garden, I’ve lined up the tomatoes that were ready for picking and there are 29. 29! That’s in addition to the 17 three days ago. I’m so proud. I’m so incredibly proud of both the plants for just straight up kicking ass and also of myself for (literally) being able to reap the fruits of my labor. It is so, so satisfying. 

And geeze do I need something to feel good about right now. Don’t we all? 

Whoever you are reading this here blog, I know you’re going through some varying degree of discomfort, stress, fear, worry, grieving, frustrated, sick, recovering, or mourning that the rest of the world is experiencing in one way or another, so I don’t have much to add to that topic.

Instead, I’d like to add that we’re all spending a whole lot more time with ourselves than we’re probably used to and so space is becoming tight and certainly uncomfortable. And for many of us, that means having to use a kitchen knife to finally pry open a puffy scar on your arm that has a nasty infection brewing underneath it but haven’t dealt with because you know the second you pour antiseptic on it, it’s doing to hurt like the dickens. But now you’ve had a fever for six weeks, so time to bite the washcloth and dig in, I guess.

And as expected: it. effing. hurts.

But look, what matters is that you’re opening that shit up and giving it the air that it desperately needs. Will it heal all the way? Probably not, but maybe. Who knows? How long will it take? Don’t worry about that (ha, I get the irony of that last statement 😛 ). Just let the air in. Give it the right kind of medicine. Let it breathe. Contact a professional if it’s beyond control. And most importantly, know that you are brave for facing your pain no matter how bad it hurts. 

Also, let out long sighs every once in a while, even if it’s not necessarily attached to something you’re able to “let go” of. (I hate the term “just let it go” like, wowza, brilliant solution. I hadn’t thought of that, thank you! I’ll just unclench my fist, let it sail into the wind, and frolic through a fucking wheat field with perfect beach hair under a cute boho hat because I LET IT GO).

Let out an exhale because it feels good. It just feels good. If something attaches to it (like okay great, I know that at least TODAY my donkey’s hooves are fine but I know after the next time it rains and they’re walking around in mud I’ll inevitably panic), well then, great. Let that go with your breath. But do not hold that expectation of having to let things go and solve every problem over yourself. That is false-positivity and incredibly toxic, especially to the most vulnerable. 

Sigh.

As a weird (and sophomoric) side note, I’ve connected with most of you by way of social media and I should let y’all know that I have closed down my Facebook account—not just my Donkumentary page, but my personal one, too. I loathe Facebook. I get the importance of it for growing and sustaining businesses, but I was at the point of being downright mad every time I logged in and so, (as it goes) I put on my cute hat and frolicked through a field barefoot as I let Facebook go. (side note…do people not worry about ticks out there running around in fields?)

The closure of my Facebook page also comes at a time where I’m beginning to wonder if this here Donkumentary (in its current form) has run its course. If you’ve been with me from the beginning, you may recall that I started this 5 years ago when I moved away from my hometown for the first time as a way to keep in touch with my friends and family back home. Then I took up a fascination of and love for donkeys and had to tell the world about it. But there are a lot of wonderful and more consistent, dedicated, and expert resources out there and specifically, many good books and essays that talk about the wisdom of donkeys and how they’ve changed people’s lives and symbolize the misunderstood and stereotyped. So I don’t want to be redundant. My life is completely different than it was five years ago in both incredibly empowering but also very difficult ways and so I have to ask myself, “what do I need?”

I hang out on Instagram pretty regularly so if you’re on that platform and want to keep up, you can find me at the handle: adonkumentary. You can also message / email me. I love that kind of stuff. Digital pen-pals, as it is.

Perhaps this wonder is coming from this place of social distance and isolation (although I’ve never really been comfortably social) or perhaps it’s brewing because the entire, literal world is undergoing a massive black-hole of change and is pulling me and my small bliggity-blip-of-a-blog into its gravitational orbit. I don’t know. I still love donkeys. I still love telling stories. I still strive to break the stigma over mental health. I still want to sell my cute books to raise awareness about bullying and donkeys while supporting a really great cause. But. Change is a thing. So, who knows. I’ll take my time. My mom always warns me about being impulsive and even though I’m in my early 30s, she still calls me out on it. So mom, you can exhale 😉  

Sigh.

I’ll leave you with this: a song someone sent me just earlier today that I just think is great. ❤ 

 

 

Love you.
Jess

 

Weird

It’s mid afternoon. I haven’t seen a cloud all day beyond the tree’s spring leaves which are in bright, juicy bloom. In a shady spot beneath the flitting birds and green-oh-so-green canopy of my backyard rainforest, I rock gently side to side on my hammock. I’ve been in this spot for nearly an hour staring either up into the blue patches between the leaves or past my feet into the green movements of fresh, sweet-smelling growth. Before this, I laid in bed with the window wide open and my laptop in my lap upon which there was a halfway composed email that I kept forgetting how to finish. There too I stared blankly either out the window or at the screen with a blinking cursor.

Everything is weird. Everything. And it occurs to me that in the overdrive of the weirded-out-ness, it’s easy to just overheat and shutdown. The ole “too many tabs open and not enough bandwidth to support them” idea. Then there’s isolation. Uncertainty. Anxiety. No structure. Down the mountain it all tumbles into the weird, worried abyss. Even this post is days old. I’ve left and returned to it multiple times. Edited it. Deleted it. Stared at it while paralyzed in in my own dank pool of murky, slippery thoughts.

So maybe I’m barfing this out for myself or maybe someone reading this needs it. Here’s what I’m trying to say (and please forgive what will inevitably be the rough ride. Like the feeling in my own self right now, this read is a stick-shift car bucking because the gears are slipping. Sorry.)

Feel. My god, allow yourself to feel. Even the scary parts. Feel it all. I’m not here to tell you what to do because I, myself, have no idea what’s up or down. But I would encourage you to try and not anesthetize yourself too much in the discomfort of loneliness, inpredictability, and boredom—be it alcohol, drugs, mindless scrolling or other methods of escape from the depth of the feels (which we all do in one way or another so reader, no judgement from me, I promise). In moments when you can muster the strength, be there. Be in it. If there is something I do know, it’s that whoever you are, the world needs you awake. AWAKE. Eyes wide open. There are enough sheep out there and we (all of us) need you here.

But along those lines, don’t be so judgemental of yourself. No one knows how to handle this. No one. The people we normally (or are trained to) look to don’t know how to handle this. I don’t think we’re usually in a place to have our coping mechanisms running on full steam for such a long period of time. So if you need to checkout for a while, you do what you need to. No judgement. From me. From yourself. Or that guy over there. And if that guy over there is judging you, flip him off and go back to doing what you need. Whatever you need. Apparently I need long bouts of just staring. And oranges. Seems to be the only thing I want to eat. Staring Oranges. (band name, I called it.)

Communicate. My jeebs, communicate. With your family, friends, loved ones, co-workers (or former co-workers), fans, supporters, neighbors whomever. Communicate. Stuck inside with someone (or multiple people?) Communicate fully with them. We all cope with stress, disappointment, confusion, anger, crises differently. Some people need quiet. Some people need to be in mode. Some people need physical contact. Some people need to be alone with their thoughts. Some people need to bury their face in a pillow and scream cuss words while other people need to retreat into a quiet room and pray. And on and on and if you can’t stop and communicate that with others, you’ll end up fighting or feeling neglected or feeling smothered, or forgotten or invalidated and really, just a series of conversations about where you’re at (or not at) can be the bright, shining beacon which makes this nutball time tolerable. So try to be patient with others. Don’t be the d-bag that screams at a customer service rep because you’re stressed out. I promise, they are too. Stop. Sit down. Communicate. Admit your weaknesses and your strengths. Say you are confused. Say you don’t know what the right thing is. No one does. It’s okay. And I’ll say it again. We need you here. All of you.

A few days ago, I got a call from a debt collector. I keep it no secret that I am in a god-awful pit of medical bill debt. You don’t have three surgeries in the past two years in this country and not be in incredible debt (even with what’s considered decent health insurance) unless you’re like crazy rich. Anyway, I got yet another call from a debt collector saying I owed a bunch of money to some branch of some medical department from a year and a half ago that I didn’t even know existed and when she told me the amount, I crumbled. I started to cry. I told her that I don’t have that kind of cash to spare right now, and who does? I told her I don’t even know what tomorrow looks like. She was very quiet for a moment and finally just said, “I know. I understand.” I let out a long exhale. So did she. And then we chatted for like 3 solid minutes about how nuts everything is right now. We laughed about toilet paper. Debt collector calls are typically recorded and I think this one was too. I hope that her supervisor hears that recording because she was a real person, confused about everything like I am, who took a few minutes to connect with me. I needed that. I think we all need that. We ended on it not being urgent and that they’d put a note to call back in 6-weeks to see where I’m at. I thanked her profusely. She told me to hang in there and stay safe. I told her to do the same.

There’s something about that less than 5-minute exchange that changed this all for me. All of it. We may not know jack right now, but we do know each other. All of us at our core are human and to be human is to be wildly complex. We can connect with complete strangers over a past-due bill. We can laugh and cry in the same conversation. We can be gentle to one another. And even though we remain in the shitty pit of uncertainty (or debt or confusion or sickness or frustration whatever) we can still connect with one another. What a time to be human.

Feelings. Nonjudgement. Communication. Gentleness. Connection.

Weirdness.

I think that’s all I can say. No more steam in the engine. And if I don’t click publish now, I’ll sit on it for another week. Or maybe I’ll delete. Eff.

If you made it to the end, thank you. Also I love you. Yes you, fellow human. Also the world needs you. Be safe. Be here. Be you.

Brave

Hey friends! Here’s a link to a reading of my book, “Tink the Bravest Donkey,” that I hope your kiddos / students at home may enjoy while at home. I am in complete awe of how teachers, librarians, parents, and all y’all educators have come together to literally change the educational landscape overnight so that kiddos can continue to learn, feel connected, and grow in this unprecedented time. This is all y’all. This wasn’t any fat-cat politician with no educational experience touting orders from an uninformed bubble….no….this was Y’ALL! Please know how appreciated each and everyone of y’all are!

And to the kiddos — I am so proud of all of y’all for how you’re adjusting to this crazy time. I hope that each and every one of y’all knows that you are so brave (just like Tink!) Hee-Haw!

We’re all in this together, friends. Keep taking care of yourselves and each other. Parents, if you or your kiddos have any questions, please feel free to comment here or on any of my various social media accounts!

 

Much love to all, Jess

While You’re At Home…

Hey there y’all — during this time of uncertainty, I want to urge y’all to take time to connect with yourselves. It’s incredibly easy to get sucked into the news cycles, (not that you should be uninformed…but it’s also a risk of becoming addicted to and overwhelmed by it, so take breaks) and if you’re like me, your routine, schedule, rituals, and finances have all spun out into the abyss.

But please don’t lose yourself in it. Take the time — MAKE the time — to turn your phone off, go for a walk outside, hike in the woods, chop some wood, plant some herbs, play frisbee with your dog, or do some yoga.

Speaking of yoga…I know there’s a ton of content out there — like a TON of videos — so I don’t want to add to any burnout, but for anyone who might be interested, I do have two little online yoga classes available on YouTube. For years, teaching yoga was my full-time job and although I rarely teach these days, it does remain a part of my routine (which yes, is off kilter right now but dammit, I’m trying to stitch something resembling a schedule together).

Here’s the first: a 40-minute vinyasa class for y’all who want to get sweaty.

 

And here’s the second: a 20-minute gentle yoga (with a curious baby Bodhi!)

 

And finally, while I’m sharing videos, I made one just the other day of myself reading my latest book, “Will You Be My Val-Equine?” with my donkeys as little helpers. For y’all who’ve got kiddos home from school, I thought they might enjoy!

 

Happy social distancing, y’all. Please, please, PLEASE take care of yourselves. Slow down when you can. Breathe deep. Relax your shoulders. Unclench your jaw. Unfurrow your brow. Check in with your loved ones. If you’re struggling with your mental health, reach out for help. Times like these, people may not be able to afford their medication. Job loss, financial stress, isolation, etc can be incredibly triggering. But also, y’all who are doing alright, check on those who you know might be struggling. Remind them that they’re not alone. Ask what you can do to help. Though we may not be able to embrace each other right now, we are still all in this together. We can’t forget that.

Much love.
Jess

Will You Be My Val-Equine?

Hey y’all!

For anyone who’s got kiddos at home, I made a little recording of me reading my book, “Will You Be My Val-Equine?” with two of my donkeys (and of course, they steal the show ❤ ) I hope that y’all enjoy & if your kids have any questions / comments, just leave them in the comment section here on my blog!

 

Please also remember that 100% of the proceeds from this book go to the Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue (donkeyrescue.org) so that thousands (yes, thousands!) of donkeys can receive the care they need and deserve.

Much love,
Jess