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It’s that time of year again when the Golden Girls are shedding out. Their thick winter coats are coming off in handfuls. Every day we brush and comb and brush some more and still the ground is littered with clumps of brown or reddish hair, depending on who’s getting the combing.
It’s going to take a bit more time for the girls to get their sleek summer coats. And since it is Colorado, this slow process seems perfect. We could still have another snowstorm, though I’m crossing my fingers that we don’t. Rain will do nicely from now on to get that much-needed moisture we all talk about.
This process of shedding the old to make way for the new is so concrete when it refers to the progression from winter to summer haircoat. But it also makes me think about what I could be shedding, which isn’t nearly so concrete or accessible. Sometimes I wish I could simply shed into a new skin, or coat of hair. Every season a new me.
Off with the old – in with the new.
Sounds easy enough, but you and I both know it isn’t. The “old” is hard to let go of. It’s familiar, maybe even comforting. And the “new” is unknown. Unfamiliar. Maybe even a little scary. And yet, like it or not, it seems to be coming. How ridiculous would it be to continue walking around in the middle of summer with a thick coat of hair?
Not only ridiculous, it would be uncomfortably hot.
(I know I’m switching wildly between horses and humans, Work with me on this. Okay?)
So one place I know I could do with a bit of shedding is my closet. It has gotten, shall we say, a little overgrown? Yes let’s just name it: my closet is a mess. There are most definitely things I could shed. As I pick through the contenders, I wonder why I am hanging on to pants that don’t fit, things I don’t like, and one or two things that have simply done their time. They are tired and worn out.
Time to shed!
I’d like my closet to be the human version of Pepper and Chickadee’s coat closet. You can see it pictured above. Neat and tidy. And spare. I like that. It gives me breathing room just to look at it.
So that’s what I’m heading for in my head and my closet. As for the Golden Girls, they’ll be slick and shiny soon enough.
What could do with a bit of shedding in your world?
I’m revisiting this post from 2010 because I think it’s timely. Again.
My mother-in-law, who is
82 88 years old, says that getting old isn’t for wimps. The first time I heard her make this statement, it was probably ten years ago, and, hard as it is for me to admit this, it irritated me.
I wanted her, and really me, to focus on aging gracefully, without complaint or malady. Well, ten years down the road, I can say with 100% conviction, that I get it. Aging challenges people in ways I couldn’t even imagine a decade ago.
And that brings me to the topic of hipbones.
Pepper and I are in very different places when it comes to our hipbones.
Hers jut out, barely covered with flesh. Her bones would make runway models in Paris jealous. If she were wearing jeans, it would be the low-rider style. You know, the ones that jauntily sit on the hips. In my day, the 60’s, we called them hip-huggers. Okay, now I’ve carbon-dated myself. Oops!
It’s been years since I even considered pulling on a pair of hip hugging jeans. Where all we can see on Pepper is bony hips, I have the opposite dilemma. I know I have hips because I can still stand and walk. And when I put my hands on my hips, in a stance familiar to most of the women in my family, I can feel my hipbones. But I assure you, there are no Paris models envying my body.
Hormones and aging and not enough exercise conspire against middle-aged women. The result is that our hipbones go under cover. Way under cover. It doesn’t seem fair, and yet, baby, it happens.
Old mares, on the other hand, have a different struggle. It’s often hard to keep weight on them. They lose muscle mass and fat. The result is the ribby, bony look that my dear, sweet Pepper has.
We work to get more calories in her, while I work to get fewer into me.
And to my mother-in-law, I say, “You’re right. This aging business takes a gritty kind of courage that thirty-year-olds can’t begin to fathom.” As long as your body is working, you never even consider that it’s going to be any different.
Until it is.
A couple days ago I was walking upstairs to the laundry room in my house when I caught sight of this little guy sitting on the edge of the roof peering into the window. By the time I got my camera, he’d changed position slightly, but still offered me quite a pose.
He made me smile and reminded me yet again how there is always something wonderful to see when I tune in to the present moment.
The brilliant poet Mary Oliver said it perfectly:
Instructions for living a life~
Tell about it.
So simple and so profound. May you have an abundance of astonishing moments this weekend.
And always, really.
What is it about human (and horse) nature that keeps us from doing the things that are good for us?
We procrastinate, avoid, rationalize, and deny.
“I’ll get to the gym tomorrow,” we promise.
“I don’t really need that much sleep,” we say as we stay up much later than our body wants/needs.
“I’ll start eating better right after my vacation, or right after the holidays, or right after our guests leave, or ?? You can fill in the blank on this lovely excuse.
I could go on, but I’m certain you get the idea.
In Miss Pepper’s case, she isn’t making up excuses or telling herself little white fibs.
At least I don’t think she is.
But playing games is her speciality.
And she has nailed it.
Because of her achy, arthritic legs she gets a daily anti-inflammatory pill. It really helps.
That must be why she doesn’t want to take it. 🙂
Every day we place the pale pink half-moon-shaped pill into her grain pan. Sometimes right on top. Other times we cover it with a bit of grain.
It doesn’t matter. She always finds it.
And without fail, she proceeds to push it around the pan.
We spend our time peering into her grain, searching for the pill. “Has she gotten it yet?” We sift through her food examining each little morsel of grain, as intently as if searching for weapons of mass destruction.
Sometimes we look at each other and laugh at our total folly.
We figure Pepper must enjoy our attention, because she pushes that pill here and there, avoiding it until she’s down to the last few bites. Sometimes she even spits it out, which sends us scouring the ground, looking for a pink pill in the dirt or snow, depending on the season.
Pepper keeps one eye on us as we go through our silly pill search.
And she usually has a mischievous glint in that same eye. I think we really entertain our persnickety old mare.
As for that promise to get to the gym. Went this morning.
My thirty-two year-old mare Pepper has been on to something for a long time. It’s taken me much longer to grasp. I’m talking about the benefits of slowing down.
I mean really slowing life down, not just giving it lip service.
My husband and I recently spent eleven days at a quiet little hotel in Mexico. This lovely spot is remote–there’s no club scene, no frantic shopping, no fighting your way through crowds for a good spot on the beach. We had empty beach right outside our door. We were off the grid, the only electricity coming from a generator and solar panels. It was healing balm to this over-scheduled, too-busy, working-into-the-night woman.
It took me at least a couple days to adjust.
No phone. No television. No email. Let me repeat. NO EMAIL.
This “electronic fast” helped me realize just how dependent I am on my computer. The hotel did in fact have wi-fi, but I chose to pretend it didn’t. I wanted the complete experience of slowing down.
For eleven days I had no idea what was going on in the world or with my family. And honestly, it was good. I’ve read many suggestions about every so often going on a “media fast.” Now I understand why it’s important!
Let me report the whole experience was beyond wonderful.
I spent my days reading, napping, walking the beach, and connecting to my husband. The food was delicious and beautiful, the Mayan staff warm and accommodating. We ate dinner at a communal table, talking and laughing with the other guests. And afterward, after a lovely look at the stars, we went back to our rooms and to bed. Without glaringly bright lights, our bodies quickly returned to the rhythm of the sun. We woke with daylight and went to sleep when it was dark.
After just a few days I found myself becoming deeply rested. It was a feeling that radiated through my body. My heart felt open and expansive. I laughed more. Breathed more deeply.
And I felt a sense of calm that was deliciously healing.
It was hard to leave, and yet life here in Colorado waited. We were eager to see family. We wanted to spend time with the Golden Girls, who fared quite nicely while we were away. We had commitments and obligations to return to.
Now the challenge is how to carry with us into this life at least some part of our open-hearted, expansive vacation mentality.
How do we slow down and still be productive?
How do we use the wonderful tools of technology and not become slaves to them?
How do we remember to laugh more and worry less?
All I can tell you is that we are giving it our best shot.
We’re eating more mindfully, turning off all our screens earlier in the evening, going to bed earlier, and laughing more.
Seems like a good start!
Here’s a pasture equation for you: Snow + Hungry + Bored = Curious Horses.
When we returned to Colorado after nearly two weeks in sunny Mexico, (more about that coming soon) we found snowy pastures and bored horses.
Horses graze. It’s what they do all day long.
It makes them happy.
A nibble here, a nibble there and before you know it, an entire day has passed. So obviously when there is nothing to nibble on, a horse gets bored.
And hungry. Those twice daily hay deliveries don’t last long. What’s a horse to do with the other eleven hours of the day?
Well they grow curious, vigilant really, and always on the lookout for the F-word.
That would be food!
I needed to give you this backstory to set the stage for the photos to come.
You see, we had to drive into the pasture to get to the Golden Girls, who spent our vacation in their own special “hotel.” They had room service and no one bothered them. They could munch hay as long as they wanted with no fear of a bigger, stronger horse muscling in. We took them grain before turning them into the bigger pasture.
Then we waited. The Golden Girls are dawdlers. At least the one named Pepper!
And while we waited we had visitors.
Somebody was certain there was something to eat in the back of the pickup. It is the same kind of vehicle that delivers hay. Right??
Annie thought it looked pretty warm inside the cab. She wasn’t above begging!
Winter is hard on old horses.
They use their calories for warmth or weight. It’s either/or, and the main reason we keep Miss Pepper blanketed most of the time. She can take a lot of heat. I think she gave up sweating long ago.
But when the weather gets warm, we remove her red blanket and let her old bones soak up the sun. We hope she revels in the heat.
Let me tell you though, when that blanket comes off, so does our denial.
It’s when we really see our bony old girl. It always surprises me. Somewhere in the recesses of my memory, she remains the strong, muscular alpha mare of the herd, the horse she used to be.
I remember her in her glory days.
It’s much the way I think of myself–though I was never an alpha.
I’ve had many conversations lately with my companion baby boomers about how we don’t think of ourselves as old. We still remember our glory days, when we were taking on the world. In our minds we haven’t changed, and are often shocked when we catch sight of ourselves in a mirror.
“Who is that person?” We wonder. “Surely it isn’t me. Where did those wrinkles come from? And that tummy?”
Like Pepper, my body has changed with my ever-increasing journeys round the sun. I’m not suggesting I’m ready to cash in my chips.
Far from it.
But like Miss P. I am learning to accept (with a modicum of grumbling) the adjustments my body is making.
How about you?
Isn’t it time we open this conversation?
Over the weekend for two days, we watched this horse stand patiently at the gate, head jutting across the metal bar, waiting. His gaze never left the road ahead.
I suspect it was the road his friend walked down.
And now his self-appointed task was to remain vigilant until his friend returned. I don’t know how long this boy kept his vigil, but I have a good guess he stayed put until his pal was led back into the pasture. He certainly remained in place the entire time we spent with the Golden Girls, which thanks to Pepper’s slow eating habits, has stretched into a generous hour. Often more.
Like us, horses have friends.
They form strong attachments, and protest loudly when that bond is interrupted. Like this black beauty, they will stand guard at the point of exit, and wait. And whinny loud desperate calls. And wait some more.
They find comfort and safety in their friendships.
Sometimes they form a small herd, like our Herd of Oldsters. Others are content with one BFF. As we’ve gotten to know the horses living in the pasture, we’ve seen several longstanding friendships.
Honestly, they make me smile.
Humans and horses are social creatures.
We have our own special brand of quirky personalities, desires, and a host of things necessary for our survival.
Right at the top of the list for me are the people who make up my community–friends and family who help me feel safe and nurtured in this sometimes-unpredictable world.
Our peeps matter to us. We need each other.
If I go too long without spending time with someone important to me, I notice.
Something feels “off,” not right with my world, though I may not be able to put my finger on it right away.
Eventually I’ll figure out that I need to connect. Re-connect.
If I’m taking good care of myself, I’ll reach out– make that call, or schedule a time to get together. It’s an important part of what keeps me centered and able to go on about my life.
Eventually this black horse ended his vigil. I didn’t actually see the reunion, but I’m pretty darn sure it happened. His friend was returned to the pasture, putting the axis of one black horse’s world back in place.
Is there someone you might want to call?
Now could be the perfect time.
From all of us at Two Old Horses and Me:
Jean, Rick, Pepper, Chickadee
& the Herd of Oldsters
We wish you the merriest of holidays.
And thank you for being interested in our little slice of life in the pasture here in northern Colorado.(Because what good is a blog if no one reads it?)
Thank you, thank you!!
P.S. If Santa needs two more reindeer tonight, he’ll find volunteers in the pasture 🙂