Summer is upon us. White daisies speckle the meadows in full flower. The hay fields are ready for the first cutting of the season. The hay I fed the donkeys through the winter came from last year's third cutting, and it was still good hay. It's a happy time for the donkeys, pleasantly warm days, flies not too bad a nuisance, switching tails and flopping ears. Their winter hair is falling away a little more every day. Their summer hair is so much shorter than winter hair I wondered if they might be getting some skin disease that was making their hair fall out. The patches of short hair are growing bigger and the long hair gradually falls away. I brushed Jack once when he was new here. I was thinking brushing them was a s'posed-to grooming aid. Jack let me brush him. He didn't like it. He walked away when I finished brushing him, lay down on his dust circle and wallowed on his back, wallered as it's said in the mountains. I realized the dust was important to him. It keeps parasites down. I've not brushed him since, and never have brushed Jenny. I want them to live their donkeyness as fully as possible outside a herd in the North African arid regions. Nobody brushes them in the wild. The western US and down through Central and South America herds of wild donkeys live outside human control. I want my donkeys to be as free as a wild donkey, though safely contained inside a fence and gentle with people. I'm learning they like the fence. The acre they're in is theirs. It is all theirs. It is their territory. Nothing goes in there but humans I invite. The dogs and coyotes have learned to stay out. The donkeys patrol the fence. They see a dog walking down the road, they walk along inside the fence beside the dog, reminding its every step to stay out of their meadow.
Donkey Jen has come back from a couple of pensive days after seeing her friend from seven months ago. Next day she was somewhat pensive, somewhat distant, though so subtly only I could see it. It was in her eyes and her stillness. Day after that she was back to her usual self. I questioned the good sense of the meeting for seeing how it hurt Jenny's heart. I thought we want the ones we love to have a freely flowing life without pain, but that's not the nature of this world. Pain is part of it. I heard today of somebody I knew in his school years who is grown with kids, was in a bad car wreck and has a foot messed up for life, crippled by it. His mother told me about it. I think about how it bothered me that Jenny might be feeling pain in the heart, and saw my friend Rose telling about her boy, knowing she really does not like it. It wasn't just somebody telling about a car wreck and what she heard. She was talking about her boy, the love of her life, crippled now. I didn't know what to say. I was deeply moved. I thought of my friend Justin one day when we were talking about how we see this life spiritually. He said, All I can see is shit happens. That's it. Shit happens. You pick yourself up and go on. He has good experience picking himself up and going on. I told him when he was seventeen that he had about five years of mayhem ahead of him. I didn't know what he was going to do or anything, but I asked one thing of him, that he survive it. It's what happens to boys and girls whose home life amounted to hitting and berating every day relentlessly, held on a short leash so short it was more a hand gripping a collar. When kids like that bust loose, they can't do anything but run wide open for about five years. I did my time. Justin went so far off the deep end I was apprehensive of him coming to the house, knowing the law was watching him. He came through. He came out of his wild-thang time whole and well educated by it. He regrets he didn't go to college, though I feel like he had a better education outside college. I believe real education is self-knowledge. Justin learned himself in those five years. He learned that he can pick himself up and carry on.
His reduction of a few thousand years of philosophy to shit happens struck me at first simplistic, but it took only half a second's examination to say, I can't refute that. It seemed to me a good summary. I'm not about directing his spiritual life, but if I were, I'd have to say, Well done. This was a few years ago, and unto today I've not been able to see anything I'd add to or take away from it. Sure, there is more to it, but that's for later. We start somewhere or we don't start at all. I felt like Justin had paid closer attention to his inner self than I knew. It gave me a good measure of Justin's intelligence. He means that he does not believe God is about directing his life, that he, himself, is about directing his life. It's his responsibility to manage his own affairs. The nature of his life is his own making; therefore, it's his to direct as he will and is able. Something doesn't go the way you like it, he's not going to ask if God disapproves of him, or if it's bad karma. I see an image of a cartoon from years and years ago of a big hand sticking out of a cloud with finger pointing at a little man on the ground. It said: You piss me off. Justin doesn't buy that God. Something happens he'd prefer didn't happen: shit happens. He's not one to go about saying, the Lord blessed me, or anything like that. It's an interior concern, not a device to draw attention to yourself. I deeply appreciate this in Justin. I don't know where he got it. He might say it came from me. I am pretty much an open anti-religionist, and Justin probably knows it better than anybody. I don't see God in religion any more than I see God in Exxon. Only in that God is everywhere, is everything and nothing, the yin and the yang, the light and the dark. One day last summer in Justin's mancave after several games of darts, we were sitting, smoking cigarettes, and he asked what God wanted of us. That one rocked me. Tall order. First thing in mind was I cannot give this anything less than what I really see and went inward for a spell. I saw 7 billion lives on the earth, each with his/her own place and role. God loves them all and forgives them all, intimately, individually. Unconditionally. Not just the deserving, whatever that means. God doesn't care what kind of work we do, how we live our lives. God only cares about the heart. The answer I came back with: To live our lives. I actually had never entertained that question. It was my first time to look at it. I may not have had the definitive answer, but I could only speak from my own experience. I was the one asked, so I had to answer from my own vision, not quote scripture or browbeat him about salvation.
I am a rogue in the department of religionism. The spiritual path is for people who want it for themselves of their own volition. It's not something you recruit somebody to or convince them about. It's my own. Justin sees it. I never talk about it unless he wants to. I never talk about it to anybody but my friend Carole I talk with daily, who knows me inside out, better than anybody, and I know her about the same. The spiritual path is a one lane path, a narrow way we walk alone. It is in the heart, the very core of being, the soul. He wants in this lifetime to have a family and an opportunity to be what he vowed he would be all through his childhood, a good daddy. He doesn't want to be a rock star or prove himself in a public way. He wants to be a good daddy. It's his highest goal. Who can say God would recommend something else? God doesn't care that he has a short temper and never reads books. That's his. I rate Justin among the best hearted people I know. Again, it's not something he shows. He's not somebody to value being a good person. He knows if you get in his face and start cussing him, you're going to see by first-hand experience he's not a good person. He's a major asshole from hell when his fist connects with your face and you're laying on the ground looking up at him. He knows his heart is with the light. He doesn't need to prove it to anybody. Nobody sees it, he doesn't care. It's none of their business. It's nobody's business how much he loves his babies, but theirs. I find that remarkable in Justin's character as a man. I didn't know it then, but see it now that he was like this all the way along from baby onward. One day he said to me, You've known me in every age of my life and I've only known you with white hair living where you live. That one sent me rolling like a hula-hoop across the lawn. A little over a year ago, a man I know felt a need to tell me everything that was wrong with Justin. He didn't exaggerate and he didn't make anything up. He was getting wound up and I had to say, Before you go too far, I need to tell you Justin is the same as my own. He took back every word he said and I never saw him again. I don't care what he thinks of Justin. Everything he said was so, but I don't care. I understand how Justin got short-tempered and so forth, and I know he is spending his life untying his interior knots. I'm here to help him, not to advise him to walk some arbitrary imaginary line because somebody doesn't like him.
abe rattner himself