It’s rained an endless
Drizzle for days: our
Beings washed, soaked,
Cleansed, and ready
For light to rise and
Shine so warmly anew.
It’s rained an endless
Drizzle for days: our
Beings washed, soaked,
Cleansed, and ready
For light to rise and
Shine so warmly anew.
You’re tough, my girl,
I’ve seen your fight—
Fire deep in your gut,
Dormant and dark until
Your fury bursts in
Colorful flames, a terrifying
Murder of crows searing high
Into the gray and scattering
But when your strength
Seems lost, my dear, when
The void is all you feel,
Rest your sweet head on
And I’ll fight until your
Embers catch and crackle
Again and anew. Rest now,
Friend, in your darkness,
It’s been just over a week since we said our last goodbye to our brave boy, Tink. We are all still reeling over the sudden loss of him and for days, I’ve been struggling to find some kind of peace between the choppy waves of mourning.
What is there is gratitude: gratitude for our time with him, for the opportunity to love him unconditionally. There is gratitude for the rescue that saved him in the first place and gave him a second shot at life: Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue. Because of them, he got fruitful years of life he would have otherwise lost.
PVDR saves donkeys across the U.S. They work tirelessly and endlessly to improve the plight of the American donkey. If you know anything of the challenges donkeys face, you know that they are vast. They are often neglected, abused, abandoned and across the globe, millions of donkeys are farmed, stolen, and captured for their skins to produce ejiao.
If it is in your heart, I ask that you help support PVDR in their mission to save donkeys. Whether that’s donating a few extra dollars (they are a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit) or simply sharing their information, their cause, and spreading awareness to help save donkeys, then more sweet fur babies like Tink will have a shot at life.
Donkeys can’t stand up for themselves in an often cruel and heartless world, but we can can be their voice. We can be their warriors. We can fight for them.
PVDR’s website can be found here: http://donkeyrescue.org
And from the bottom of my broken heart, thank you all for your words, messages, calls, emails, shares, and loving support. It is so, very appreciated. Let’s keep working together to make this world a better place for everyone: two-legged or four or none. We’re all in it together.
It is with a heavy and broken heart to report that our dear, sweet boy, Tink, was laid to eternal rest over the weekend. We had a sudden complication with his special foot and after the emergency vet arrived and worked with us to do everything we could, we had to say goodbye. Our family is devastated by this sudden loss and I’m so sad to have to share this news. Many of you were such loving advocates and supporters of sweet Tink and for that, we are all so grateful. I’d written this poem some time last year for him and decided to share it with all of you today in memoriam. He lives on eternally in our hearts. Forever our boy, Tink. Forever our bravest boy.
Even among 1,000 other donkeys, you stood out:
Your coat, a shining, chocolate brown and
Your ears icinged with textured, creamy white.
You laid lazily in the sand, soft rolls of your
Skin rumpled up around your shoulders and chin
And there, against the piped fence, you were
Thin, white lines circled your miles-deep eyes
And I could swear that the sky looked a little
Different around you—tugged by gravity, perhaps.
An equine equivalent to a black hole on Earth,
Your presence pulled my gaze, attention,
And beating heart into the shifting spaces about you.
Much later on in the day, I passed your paddock again
But this time you stood with one, front hoof lifted
And to a feeder of hay, you limped.
“What happened to him?” I asked your temporary caretaker (an angel)
And she said that you, Tink, had been permanently injured and that,
Could you believe it, the injury was caused by human neglect.
They had rescued you.
Your front, left hoof had been removed and left behind
Was exposed tissue—pink, soft, and unprotected.
She said you still needed a home and that they
Were waiting for the perfect home to come around
And like a drop of water on a frying pan, I jumped and said
I’d take you. I didn’t even think, not even for a second.
I’d take you.
Weeks later, you arrived at my house—three hooves
And two boots and all the pulling
Presence you had back at the thousand-donkey ranch.
I don’t know if you remembered me that day,
But when you hopped off that trailer,
You brayed so loud that the birds flew.
I laughed and there were some tears I think
But I was so happy that my home was
Yours now, too. My magic ranch with chickens
Who tell stories and gardens that reveal
Worlds beneath the dirt. My home was yours
Now too, with Bunny the donkey who thinks
She’s a human mom to me and to us all and
Tee the mini donkey who is content with good hay, good scratches
And good songs with acoustic guitars.
My home was yours now, too, with King Ranch
Who can fix anything that breaks (you, included!) and Little Foot
Who will follow you and learn from you and befriend you.
You were home and that night, when I brushed
Your chocolate, brown coat under the baffled
Stars with Bunny and Tee watching curiously,
This magic ranch felt even more like home
Because you’d finally arrived. You with your
Two, interchangeable boots, had finally arrived.
Not much time passed before you and Tee
Became inseparable—a double tail behind
Bunny who bossed you two around which
Is exactly how I assumed it would be. She’s
A mom at heart, even without her own, born children
And it’s her that’s kept all of us grounded all this time.
My home was yours now, too, with concrete
Blocks marking the graves of fallen birds and
Gates that squeal with time. Rose petals
Sprinkle the lawns all spring and summer long
And in the fall, they’re replaced with millions
Of pecans that crunch satisfyingly beneath your steps.
We’d been waiting for you, you know, which is
Why I think the world pulled me to you that day—
That day I saw you laying there without knowing
Who you were.
It’s been since you arrived that King Ranch and I
Have finally started to make sense of this
Ranch life. This strange place that we moved to
Impulsively, unknowing of the stories waiting to be told.
We’ve cried and we’ve fought and we’ve lost
Sleep over our confusion here but more importantly,
We’ve now found hope. Hope that,
Even though there are people in this world who
Can so profoundly mistreat animals and stand to see their own faces
In a mirror, there’s hope. Even though there are wars
Shedding blood and life in distant lands, there is hope. There are those
Who say that the world will end within our children’s
Lifetime but nevertheless, there’s hope. There’s hope because
You’re alive. By all accounts, you shouldn’t be here
And anyone else would’ve put you down to
Put you out of your misery but guess what
I’ve found? You’re not miserable and in fact, you’re
The happiest, most energetic, most magical
Donkey that’s ever lived.
You defy odds. You defy stereotypes. You defy
All of nature simply by being who you are. You’ve
Brought people together who would’ve otherwise
Never met. You are the story that others need
To hear—the donkey with three hooves whose
Louder and more vibrant than all the other donkeys.
You’re the donkey who cannot be kept down. The donkey who
Manipulates the sky and the stars simply because
He is. The donkey who finally came home and with him,
We don’t have all the answers and no surprise but,
We never will. We can’t change our pasts, nor
Should we worry about tomorrow. We breathe, moment
By precious moment and you, Tink, my three-hooved
Donkey…you remind us to do this. You remind us that we
Are not limited by our shortcomings but can rather be
Made stronger by them. That we should embrace
About ourselves all of ourselves regardless of the
Stigma or stereotype or strangeness—that simply
By being alive, we are strong.
Tink, my sweet, three-hooved donkey, you remind
Us all to be present—to leave our pasts and our futures
Exactly where they are and stretch out every
Interim second to its fullest size. To breathe in
The air of the now, and to bray and sing and shout
Because life’s just too short to disappear into darkness.
This world can be so unfair. People can be so cruel, so wicked,
So centered around their selfishness that they have no
Idea how their actions affect those around them.
They forget or perhaps they never realized that
All breath pulls from the same sky, pulls from the same trees
And there, we are one.
Inhale, exhale, peace, peace, peace.
But on we go, my dear Tink, on we go dancing and braying
And pouring our molten love and pillowy peace into everything
Around us because at the end of it all, it’s all we can do.
It’s all we should do—love one another, three hooves or four or none—
Love each other so deeply and breathe in the moments so deeply
And be so deeply grateful for life blooming wildly and free around us.
This is our beginning, my friends. This moment. This
Line in a poem, this is our beginning. Breathe in—feel that?
That’s a new beginning, too.
Exhale, begin again. Inhale, begin again. Sing, dance,
Weep, fly, bray, sleep, whatever—begin again.
Be like Tink, the bravest donkey, and breathe.
Inhale, exhale, peace, peace, peace.
Happy holiBRAYs, friends.
“…Please bestow upon us, vast oneness and love,
Little specs of healing light that can fall from above…”
Twas the week before Christmas, when all through the night,
Not a creature was stirring in the cold air’s bite.
The chickens were snug in their coop with care,
In floofy, puffed feathers blocking raw, winter air.
The donkeys were nestled all snug in their shed,
While layers of clouds stretched out above head.
And King Ranch with his scotch and I with my red,
Snuggled in for a night cap, then we’d be off to bed.
When out on the land, there arose such a clatter,
I nearly spilled my wine to see what was the matter.
On with my coat and my hat and my boots,
I flew like the wind, after the hollers and hoots.
The moon, a dull smudge behind shape-shifting clouds
Lacked lustre and brilliance behind low-hanging shrouds.
When, what to my tipsy, blurred eyes seemed to charge,
But two miniature donks, and a standard…
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The sun’s retreated beyond the piney treetops as I’m driving in my rickety-red truck due south. The heavy, low-hanging clouds are reflecting the sunset so brightly that the neon pinks and oranges seem unreal—a dramatic sky spray-painting. I’ve been on the road for over four hours hauling a trailer behind me which is carrying a riding mower and I have to say I’m proud of my old truck for making it this far with a heavy load in-tow. I never thought I’d be someone who was proud of a vehicle yet, here I am.
On the passenger seat next to me in a dog crate is my hen, Wednesday Addams, and her three, newly hatched chicks. Without a working sound system in my truck, I’ve spent the last several hours listening to the peeping and chattering of Wednesday’s new, little family. They’re not sure what to make of this trip and I suppose, neither am I. It’s all just happened so quickly.
A little over two and a half years ago, my new, little family moved to a small town in north Texas where we met a donkey named Bunny. She was included in the purchase of our home and really, I think she’s why we ultimately decided to purchase that home. Within that little more than two and a half years, we’ve adopted two more donkeys, Tink and Tee, and fostered twenty three other donkeys until we placed them in forever, loving homes.
It’s been a little over two and a half years since we found that home and several hours ago, I left it for the last time.
In front of me, King Ranch is driving a large moving van and behind me, my dad is in his own pickup truck and together, we three drivers have caravanned across a chunk of Texas in an effort to start anew. King Ranch started a new job several hours away and so the rest of us—Little Foot, Tucker, Bunny, Tee, Tink, Wednesday, her three new chicks and myself—have all followed along.
The clouds have faded into purple and gray as evening swallows the sunset and I’m hoping my three donkeys are doing okay. I delivered them a few days ago to our new house where they have a cozy barn and just as much land as they need. It’s traumatizing for them, I imagine, being loaded into a noisy box, driven at 65 to 75MPH between other whooshing vehicles and strange smells, only to jump out of the box with shaky legs and probably sore hooves in a place they’ve never seen. But if there’s one thing I know about donkeys it’s that they’re resilient—and luckily, they’ve got each other. I can hardly wait to get to our new home to see them again.
Wednesday Addams’s three babies have burrowed beneath her feathery belly in the now-darkness of our drive and the peeping has drifted into sleep. Her marble, black eyes are mostly shut and I realize that I don’t think I’ve ever actually watched a hen fall asleep. I wonder if they dream? It feels so silent now in the cab of this truck, the only noises left being the Rickety-red’s squeaky engine and passing cars.
I start to wonder if I’ll find a new place to teach yoga once we’ve settled in our new home. I haven’t led a yoga class in over a month being tied up in this move. I feel the tension climbing down my neck and behind my shoulder blades. Stress likes to sit back there, curled into a tight ball and it becomes more and more gravitational the longer I go without slowing down and stretching out properly. It begins to pull at the muscles along my spine and even down into my ham strings.
I think about the yoga class I led at my ranch several months ago—Yoga with the Donkeys is what I called it. I had so many friends attend that night and we raised several hundred dollars that went directly to saving donkeys. I wonder when I’ll see those friends again…north Texas will be a long way away.
The moving van’s blinker begins to flash and as a caravan, we all change lanes in the blackness of this new night. We still have a ways to go.
An image of Little Foot’s bedroom (which I guess is now his old bedroom) appears in my mind. Hours ago, I stood in that doorway, nothing but indents in the carpet from the moved furniture and the dream-like memories left inside the room. I remember the first time I walked in there and saw him standing upright in his crib—he looked so big. He grinned with only a couple teeth, proud of his accomplishment. I don’t remember what I said to him, but he bounced up and down, giggling wildly. I remember once, when I’d come down the hallway, I heard him chattering in there and when I peeked in, I discovered that he was flipping through “Brown Bear, Brown Bear” and reciting every line as if he knew how to read it all by himself. I thought my heart might stop when I saw that. He emphasized the words just as I had when I’d read it to him. He loves his books.
I blink my eyes a few times, the taillights of the moving van blurring through my tears and I glance at Wednesday whose eyes are still not fully shut. She must be exhausted. I am.
I wonder if the people who move into our old home will like the painting I’d left on the fence in the garden or if they’ll get rid of it. I always thought of my garden as my own, secret garden only instead of a robin, there were two cardinals.
It’s all happened so fast—two and a half years have opened and shut so quickly and now, I’m driving away from what seems like a single, snapped Polaroid photo—the memories of it all stuck in that blurry, creaminess that appears before the picture fully develops. It’s done. Our time at the ranch where this whole Donkumentary began has come to an end, the shadow of the back cover of this large book closing all around me as I zoom down this dark, wooded highway.
I don’t yet know if there will be a sequel or a continuation of this here bloggery. This feels like a clean end and an opportunity to begin building new things upon a more solid foundation than when I began before. I also just don’t know what the days, weeks, or months ahead look like. I have no clue.
It will be some time before I’ll have internet up and running at my new place, so I suppose I have some time to think on it. I’ll unpack. I’ll love on my family, two legged and four. I’ll secure fences and hang paintings and learn which light switches belong to which lights. I’ll discover the nearest pizza place and find out if we can keep rescuing donkeys. I’ll take a break from the news and from the interwebs and begin to build again.
Until then, thank you. Thank you for following my story. I’ve loved having you along the way.
Much love and namasBRAY,
It’s all so fast today.
It’s all just so fast.
The days are more
like minutes, the Sun
Racing to set and
Leave long, cold
Darkness: bones in the
Cool, dark Earth.
It’s us left to protect
Her warmth. To
Store within ourselves
And let shine her
It’s us who must
Carry her torch in this
Long, deepening dark.
Keep them safe, her
Shards of sparking light.
She’ll come back for
Her shining, broken pieces
It’s not quite dawn and I’ve just finished leading a guided meditation which I do with a group of friends three times a week before the sun comes up. It’s never anything fancy, just fifteen or so minutes that we spend together trying to slow down and relax, utilizing the interwebs to connect digitally to share this time.
After the meditation, I pour a cup of coffee and sit for a while. Most mornings like these, Little Foot is still asleep and the donkeys haven’t brayed yet to let me know they’re ready to be let out into the pasture. The sun’s not peeked through the trees and the stillness in my living room is profound. I’ve written before about sitting with silence during this time (that post here) so I won’t go into that again. I do feel that silence and me are becoming more and more acquainted, though. It’s a welcome friendship.
I decide to go outside early—before the glow of the sun bounces off the dew in the grass. It’s damp and cool out this morning and hanging from the awning over my back patio, a black spider is wrapping something tightly on an arm of her snowflake-shaped web.
I shut the door behind me, a sound the donkeys can hear and they must be surprised by my early movement because Bunny brays, then Tink, then Tee and finally, my last adoptable donkey available, The Professor: a pre-dawn chorus. In their shed, I kneel down next to Tink to wrap his hoof and secure his boot before taking time to greet each donkey. They’re even more peaceful in the mornings which for donkeys, is saying a lot.
I’ve not much to say this morning. Several times over the past couple of weeks, I’ve started and then deleted many blog post drafts, none of which have become anything I’ve felt was worth a post. That’s not to say that nothing interesting is happening, in fact a lot is going on…large, life-changing events are happening within our family and to our ranch but because I’m an anxious mind with a tendency to be superstitious about things, I’ve refrained from revealing these changes in an effort to not jinx it all. What I will say has happened is that I’ve allowed myself to become consumed by and buried beneath task after time sensitive task and it’s forced me into reclusive mode.
Breathing deeply helps. Pulling in a long breath, holding it for a few seconds, and then sighing it out helps. Not losing sight of self-worth and refraining from placing self-value in the hands of others helps, too.
As I walk back towards the house, the sky just starting to turn purple, a flock of blackbirds soars overhead, their broad wings gliding effortlessly and I realize my skin is prickling. I close my eyes and draw in a long breath, all the way into the bottom of my lungs. The air is a bright light, swirling down my spine and spreading like spilled ink through my body. I hold it in, the light glowing brighter and brighter, my body relaxing in its warmth. I hold that alabaster peace with all I’ve got and then finally, I exhale and open my eyes.
A single blackbird squabbles in the sky. She is struggling to catch up to the rest of the flock, wings flapping frantically and clumsily, and I’m suddenly overtaken by fear that something’s going to happen to that bird. Why is she struggling so badly? Is she hurt? Eyes wide, I watch the straggler disappear over the trees and suddenly I’m panicking. I search the sky for any other birds but there are none. My heart races and my to do list tumbles down, across the ground in my mind’s eye—a ten-mile long scroll. Everything that’s hanging in the balance falls and shatters and the weight of the world itself lays down across my chest. Fly, blackbird, fly. Come on.
The donkeys are standing next to me now, calm and quiet, and so I take another long, deep breath. I hold it in, trying to visualize the movement of light again but my mind is racing so quickly that I can’t see a thing, just a blur of worry. I sigh and breathe deeply again. No light. My heart’s racing and my breath is shallow. One more time, I breathe deeply, hold it in, and finally sigh it out, cold and dark.
I scan the sky once more, but the blackbirds are gone. I lean on Bunny—it’s like she knows when I’m having a panic attack and knows that by being there, it helps. It does.
I think we’ve all been that blackbird. We’ve all fallen behind, despite how hard we’ve worked. We’ve all been alone, watching the rest move along with ease. I want so badly for that blackbird to catch up to her friends, to the rest, so she doesn’t feel so alone but then I realize that maybe she’s making her own path. Maybe being separated from the rest, misunderstood and a bit clumsy, is just who she is right now. And that’s okay because at least on this morning, she’s still moving forward.
I hug my sweet donkey, her breath steady and mine now too, and with my gray pajama pants tucked into the tops of my work boots which I slipped on without socks, I walk back towards the house where I’ll sit on my couch with a second cup of coffee for just a bit longer, waiting for the sun to come up.
I want to start this post by clarifying that contrary to popular belief, not all donkeys are natural guardians, especially mini donkeys like our little Tee. Please don’t assume donkeys will act as guardians—in fact they can be quite vulnerable to predators. Make sure that if you own donkeys that their fencing, paddocks, barns, and sheds are secure to keep them safe from threats.
That being said…
Earlier today, I was out fixing part of the fence in the pasture while my two year old son, Little Foot, sat next to me drawing shapes in the dirt with a stick. The town’s roaming flock of guinea hens were fluttering about on my property with four young guinea chicks in the center of the group. I was securing a new section of chicken-wire when suddenly the flock burst into a frantic squabble. I turned to find that a small (I’m assuming young) wild boar was charging the flock.
I should note that upon first glance, I thought that the boar was some kind of domestic pig. There’s a notorious woman in our town who breeds pigs and animal control has about had it with how often her young pigs get loose. But this was no domestic pig. This was a boar with a line of thick, black hair down its back and stripes along its sides. Boar’s noses are typically longer, too and this was quite a snout.
I stood from my project and the small boar caught sight of me. I paused and it paused and for a moment, we stared at each other. I gripped the wire cutters tightly in my hand and with the other hand, I slowly nudged my two year old son behind my legs.
The guineas retreated into the bushes, their chattering terrified, and the boar began running straight for Little Foot and me, snorting angrily. I turned to pick up my son, thinking I could try and outrun the boar and as I did, from the right like a bolt of lightning, Tee came flying through with his head down and ears back.
The boar squealed, changed course not fifteen feet from Little Foot and me, and ran away so fast he was nothing more than a black and brown blur. Tee followed directly behind him grunting and bucking his legs and running after that boar faster than I even thought possible. Dirt and sand flew up fiercely in their tracks.
Tee chased him all the way to a small opening in the fence far across our property which the boar struggled to squeeze through. It managed to escape as Tee stomped his hooves around and around.
I clutched Little Foot tightly in my arms, my heart pounding so heavily I could hardly hear a thing. Bunny and Tink appeared behind us, eyes wide and ears up when Little Foot said, “Mommy, Tee chase that pig so fast!” All I could do was nod. We all watched Tee who paced back and forth across that small opening, his ears perked and chest puffed.
I’m in absolute awe of our mini donkey right now. I’ve known that Tee is fiercely protective of Little Foot for a while now, but I didn’t know he had this in him. I’m flabbergasted and grateful and dumbfounded. I don’t know what that small boar would’ve done had it reached us. I don’t want to know. I also, apparently, have another part of the fence to secure.
I would assume that mama boar must not be too far off which has me nervous. I’ve heard about wild boars being a thing out here but…Hoo boy. As they say, sh*t just got real.
Tee was our hero today. I….I just kind of can’t even right now.
I think I’ll make him a carrot cake.
It’s not quite dawn and the only sound I hear is the low buzz of the running refrigerator from the kitchen. Peering out my front window which has two, furry moths on it side-by-side, I’m watching the blackness beyond my front porch, waiting for the spaces between the trees that I know are there to fade into orange as the sun comes up. Right now, it’s darkness. I remember a year and a half ago, I wrote a blog called “It’s Always Darkest Before Dawn,” and here I find myself again in the deepest part of the night and in the deepest part of my mind, waiting for the sky to fade into light.
One of the moths stuck to the window rotates and flutters its wings—a morning stretch, perhaps. In a few minutes, I’ll be hopping online to lead a guided meditation with a group of friends which I do three times a week. I find meditations to read aloud or I write them myself sometimes. There’s accountability in having a group—all of us just people wanting to slow down from time to time, but always finding excuses not to. Today, we’ll be doing a meditation that focuses specifically on healing. I sip my coffee.
There are many things on my mind right now (as is the case with everyone I know) and lots that I feel I want to say…but on this deep, dark morning, the quiet is comforting. It is still utter blackness outside and I want it to stay that way for a little while longer. Maybe just today, the sun can wait a few more minutes before silhouetting the trees in her warm, orange glow.
Moments like these, I feel like silence becomes more than just a lack of sound. Right now, it feels like silence is sitting next to me on the couch, watching me reach the bottom of my coffee cup. Silence is like a stranger without a voice that perhaps makes us uncomfortable because she never responds when we ask her questions or throw ideas her way—but as I’m sitting here with her, I actually think that’s her beauty. Shadowy silence is fine to just sit there and keep me company. She’s there to surround me and always eager to blanket the busyness of my mind when my thoughts start swirling too quickly; I just have to give her permission. She never judges, she never expects…she just is.
Beyond the trees, I can see the faintest shift in the darkness. A graying is opening up behind the trees and soon, I’ll see the shapes of the leaves. That’s what new sunrises always deliver: shifts, changes and opportunities to see a little more clearly. I take the final, cool sip of coffee sitting at the bottom of my cup and then place the mug on the table—a loud knock in this gravitational silence. She accentuates everything.
Deep breath in. Hold it. Sigh it out.
Deep breath in. Hold it. Sigh it out.
Both moths quickly flutter away now, leaving an oddly clean and bare window, and a truck drives down the gravelly road outside—its tire-crunching and engine rumble flooding in the fading darkness. Silence no longer sits curiously on the couch. She, along with the night, fluttered away on the backs of those two, furry moths.
I take another deep breath and ready my notes for today’s meditation. The gray will soon be blue and it will be a new day. Whoever you are reading this, I hope that this day brings you some peace even in the chaoses that life can carry. If you get the chance, invite silence to join you for a little while. There’s profoundness in company with whom you can just sit, not saying a thing.