Many people see the year turning, sigh, and say they truly hope the next year goes easier on them. There have been many years where I longed for a better year. Sometimes it got worse. This wasn’t one of those grinding hard years, that I was glad to see go. In some ways this in itself is an accomplishment because I have been so hurt and angry and full of grief that I didn’t know who I’d be if those things eased out of my life, so I held onto them longer than I should have. Jo Sobran of the National Review told me years ago that I was using my anger to block the sadness. He said that it was easier to feel that anger than the grief. (We talked when I was close to finishing my career as a publicist, and my parents’ death was still fresh and raw.) His comment struck me like the Bible does sometimes, when the insight feels like it was written just for me. But it took over a decade for me to walk through the anger to the grief. Anger is a strange energy that can feel like joy, that can keep you walking and working and getting up in the morning.
Anger can be addictive because of this energy, keeping a person above the sorrow. I remember wondering how I could avoid ending up a bitter old woman. All I can say was I kept walking through my anger and hurt. I wrote it down. Then I wrote it down the next day. Journaling became so wearing I learned that it was easier to not go to the angry place. I wrote a novel that I revised, diving deeper into how it felt to be the other person. I blessed the people who hurt me, sometimes multiple times a day. Ever since I entered the work force I realized I didn’t do well with office politics, so I have to admit retiring has been like lifting a work collar off my shoulders that galled me, those sores finally getting a chance to heal.
I have become an empty bowl, able to listen to my friends’ stories instead of being so full of my own pain. It’s a relief to be able to offer this after so many years of tellings variations on the same story. They have said they hope they can do me the same favor, but they already have by listening.
But this year was a nondescript year and I’m sorry to see it go. The other day, a friend asked what I was looking forward to in 2017. Well, nothing really. In fact I’m meeting the year with a good dose of dread. Not every year can be the best year yet. Nor can they be the worst year yet. When you get to a certain age, say in your sixties like I am, what you begin to look forward to is diminishment. While I feel healthier than I’ve ever felt in the past, I know my body will begin to wear out, wear down. Already my mind isn’t as quick as it used to be. In fact a neuropsyche test claimed I was below average intelligence. I have an over abundance of caution. I would love to ride Tessie alone in the park, like I did as a child, but caution and common sense stops me. I often fight fear when getting on her back. My eyes need a stronger prescription. And then there’s the threat someone might use their nukes.
It’s popular these years to pick a word to guide the year. Nope not for me. I draw a blank there too. Some of my Facebook friends advise we get quiet and listen to God. That is all well and good, but how do I know that’s God’s voice saying the word Listen or Dream or Hope or Dread? I don’t know what the year ahead holds, so why would I pick a word that would guide me through it? I’d rather relax and breathe and see what comes, trying to be limber enough to shift with the changes life brings. There’s a centeredness that is similar to what it takes to stay upright when my horse shies, to move along with her.
Oh and resolutions suck. I don’t even try to make them. (I rejoined Weight Watchers last year and have gained five pounds since I started.) As I was musing about this post, I came across James Clear’s blog, where he advised we should focus on setting up systems that help us work towards our goals. He argues that ignoring the big goals and focusing on the practices that help us achieve those is more effective than setting up goals. Ever since I moved to the farm, I’ve been unable to find a daily practice that enables me to work on the projects I want to work on. It’s been too easy to be deflected into Facebook. (I’ve read that our brains will nudge us towards the easy. So if I want to read a book, even if that is fun, I’m more likely to scroll through my phone or watch TV because it’s easier.)
I purchased a different planner than Sacred Ordinary Days because I needed a place to write out the projects I’d like to work on this year that gives me enough room to break down those projects into small steps, and that just plain gets those plans out of my head. (That planner is the iBloom Planner.) The fact I bought two different planners this year shows how I long to get a better grip on my days because there is so much I want to do, including a few more books that need to breathe. In other words I need to finish them and send them into the world. I need to kick the discouragement and get to work.
I’m hoping in the New Year Bruce and I can do some major decluttering, perhaps through an auction. This past year I sent about twenty boxes of books out the door, though I only cleared a few shelves. I probably sold ten Breyer horses between our local feed store and a tack sale. Finally I let go of most of my work clothes. I’m hoping we can make some minor repairs on the house itself and make our fences look presentable because the broken boards on the east corner of Tessie’s paddock is the first thing I see when we drive down the road. Bruce made good progress adding gates where I needed them and fixing the southern line of fence with wire and wooden posts. He electrified it to keep the mares from bending the wire and breaking the boards.
Maybe this year we can plant our borders so we have some color around the house. Last summer I even weeded them but didn’t plant any flowers though Bruce planted wild flowers on Booker’s grave that didn’t come up until late autumn. Bruce finished cutting the twenty-five pines that died during the drought a few years back. We have two ash trees that will need to come down and a couple of our beautiful oak trees are beginning to die. They are big, stolid presences in our yard. After I mow, I feel like I’ve made a mini park in our front yard. We’ve already lost two, the air where they used to stand blank.
This past year we produced a beautiful crop of grass hay for our first cutting. We put it up in June this year instead of the first part of August. As usual, we didn’t have a crew to help us until that morning. What a lovely group of young men who eased our labor. They were fun to talk to and made me wistful for teaching. Our second crop bloomed with clover. Because that half of the summer was dry, we thought it would cost more to take it off the field than what we’d get for it, so we gave the crop away. A few days after we promised it for free, there was enough rain to produce 300 bales. But clover hay is too rich for my horses. I’ve seen it turn Morgen into a grump and they will pee like racehorses. We have fertilized the field and will kill the clover this spring.
The mares will lick concrete and dirt, especially when their coats are coming in. I’ve tried all kinds of vitamins and supplements but haven’t been satisfied with how they kept them off the concrete and out of the dirt, except for Smart Pak’s vitamins. But I got tired of the cost. This year Tessie colicked several times. Her system can be set off pretty easily. (Horses can’t vomit so they get stomach and intestinal pain that can kill them if their gut twists.) She also had some blood work that scared me. I finally tested our hay and found a company, Horse Tech, that created a custom mix of vitamins and minerals that would balance the nutrition in our hay. Kathleen Gustafson said a good place to start with straightening her out would be nutrition. I need to ride her and drive Morgen more.
Our shed door seized up so that we could not open it to get our tractor or the horse trailer out. The young men who fixed it impressed me with their engineering ability.
I rode Tessie at home because my trail riding companions were either without a horse or busy with family obligations. We practiced basic, basic dressage stuff like trotting circles and walking and halting. I swallowed down fear with some rides more relaxed than others. The weekend I watched the Pony Cup live streaming from Lexington, I started dreaming about competing with Tessie, but she had other ideas. In one ride she shied and bucked. The other ride she did a one eighty and bolted. Maybe she read those images and responded by saying, “No way am I going to be your patsy at some show, that’s not what this friendship is about.” We went back to practicing our circles.
We drove Morgen on the same route to try to give us all more confidence. By the time we put her away, she was walking past the neighbors’ cows and not stopping until Bruce had to lead her past. I have wondered about training her to be a riding horse and Tessie to be a driving horse. I have wondered about making them a team, though I think Morgen would resent Tessie intruding on her time with me, and that could be dangerous. They get along well enough to share a pasture, but I keep them separated in their paddocks so one doesn’t corner the other and kick her to injury.
Onyx has two collapsed lungs, at least the frontal lobes are collapsed and his heart was pushed to the side. Our vet fully expected him to be dead by now, but he researched a treatment, that is expensive but that is keeping him alive. He is such a good friend, sleeping all night in bed with us and climbing into Bruce’s or my lap, we are grateful we have this time with him. We have such a bad rat problem in the barn that we need to think about getting some barn cats this summer. I have found four rats drowned in a bucket and one still swimming. (Did they try to rescue each other?) I can’t stand the big wack em traps so we occasionally live trap them and take them to an empty field down the road. They are so very slow I could catch one in my hand.
Oh, and we had two chickens born on the place. One turned out to be a rooster, so now we have three. We’re hoping to get some chicks this spring, so maybe we can have our own eggs again. And maybe we’ll raise some meat chickens as well. I think about getting a few steers, people suggest it would help the mares get over their fear of cows, but I figure that would be like putting a snake in my bedroom, so we don’t.
After Booker died we welcomed another dog into our lives, this time a girl dog. (Girl dogs are almost a whole other species from the boys.) She’s copper colored and talkative, especially when Bruce enters the room. He tells her she is a sweet little dog even though she barks at him. She and Night play pretty hard with each other, Night’s eyes bright. It’s taken nearly a year for him to work it out so she’s not the total boss of him.
Well, that’s all I know for now. Apologies for making this so long, but I stalled on it. I’m curious about you. What do you do with New Year’s resolutions and one word and the just plain beginning of the New Year? I wish you all good things in the New Year and want to thank you again for reading these posts.