I know I’ve been pretty lax in my posting lately. I have plenty of excuses, but none of them are especially convincing, so I won’t insult anyone by listing them here. The truth is I’ve probably just had too many other things on my mind to put much thought into posts anyone might remotely want to read. I’ve got limited time and space in my brain these days, which is a really bad combination.
I’ve also been feeling a little grinchy in general. I got my Christmas shopping out of the way pretty early (for me) and did a minimum of decorating. I didn’t even bother with a tree this year. Instead I got a dumpster and decided to tear apart my house, garage, barn, loft, feed shed and equipment shed and finally get organized—kind my gift to myself this year—so it seemed counterproductive to drag a tree and decorations out into the middle of the chaos.
I wouldn’t call myself a hoarder or anything, but I have a definite knack for hanging onto semi-useful stuff that’s past its prime with the well-intentioned rationalization that: I’ll find a use for it in the barn somewhere! And I seldom do. So ripping through closets, tack trunks and every other nook-and-cranny for unused junk and tossing it has been kind of liberating. On the flip-side, it’s also been great rediscovering stuff I’d put away and sort of forgotten about a long time ago, like the awesome blanket with the horse head on it my grandma knitted for me when I was about seven; that deserves a special place somewhere.
But aside from a few fond memories, I found I was able to be pretty ruthless about ditching stuff to get rid of the clutter. Which is why one incident from this last dumpster day kind of surprised me. Up in the loft I had our little blanket room piled with bags full of old linens and things. While sorting through them I came across one of those plastic zipper storage bags full of little stuffed ponies and other critters from who-knows-when. Now, I’m a long way off from being a kid, and I’m not the kind of adult who still plays with stuffed animals. So I thought, “what on earth am I doing with these things?” I thought for a minute my little nieces might want them, but they have tons of their own stuffed toys, so I decided to toss them. Into the back of the pickup they went, I drove over to the dumpster and I started chucking stuff in.
But when I was done throwing everything into the dumpster, I looked over and something about those little stuffed ponies sitting on top of the trash heap just looked so wrong to me. I couldn’t stand it. Sure, I had no real use for them. But I couldn’t throw them in the dumpster, either. So, I admit it: I went dumpster-diving after them. I fished them out and put them on the seat next to me in the pickup. And I sat there and just looked at them, the big goofy chestnut horse looking up at me, reminding me half of Nate and half of one of my favorite Christmas-time characters, the Skin Horse in The Velveteen Rabbit. I can never remember what the entire story is about with all the scarlet fever and the fires and woodland bunnies and nursery magic; I mainly just remember this quote:
"It doesn't happen all at once, said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."
-The Velveteen Rabbit
For me, in an odd way, they're words to live by. And, as I look around my stable, it’s largely a herd made up of other people’s throwaways—by “people who don’t understand.” Horses others had given up on. Horses they told themselves they’d “outgrown.” Horses they believed had no purpose or reason to exist. I struggle every day to make sure each of those horses knows how much they are loved and wanted, and I can’t imagine not loving each of them enough to keep and care for them no matter what.
So, yes, I’m a sap, but I’m keeping my ponies. All of them.
I’m sorry I don’t get to visit and chat with all of you more often, but it makes me happy to know there are so many Real people out there! Happy holidays to all of you and your critters!