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Friday, February 20, 2015

DONKEYS BELOW ZERO


donkey jack

This morning I went out with carrots to see the donkeys and toss them some hay. Jenny was standing at the gate waiting. Jack brayed and I couldn't see him. The steam of his breath I saw blow by the corner of the den. He was standing inside where it's not so cold. I handed him a carrot. He seemed grateful I didn't expect him to step out into the cold and stand on ice. He stepped out a ways, acting like he was so miserable he wanted to curl up into a ball. Jenny's demeanor gave the appearance that she was equally miserable, only more motivated by hunger than Jack. Of course, I apologized to them for not having better circumstances for them, a better barn with a door. I want to put blankets on them in the night, but know in the morning blankets would be stomped into their toilet, worthless and uncleanable. I spread some hay at their den's opening to give them the option to stand inside out of the cold air to graze. Also put some in the place I put the hay down for them day by day. Fortunately, the sun came out for awhile giving them a slight bit of warmth on one side at a time. Since my experience yesterday stepping into their den, surprised by the difference, I feel better about them at night. It was warm and pleasant, no wind inside, warmth radiating up from the floor. By warm, I don't mean summer day warm. Just noticeably warmer. At two below zero, the temperature in there could be two above. They spent much of the day inside the den. Jenny came out sometimes to graze. Jack came out a few times, too, but I had a feeling the ice on the ground made the zero air all the more difficult to bear. Nothing but ice to stand on. Ice to lie down on. He stayed in the den. I felt for him, too. I could easily imagine how agonizing it must be with only the blanket of your coat, below zero all night, and not above six during the day, no reprieve except huddled next to Jenny, the love of his life. 

donkey jen

Much as I want to comfort them, I'm freezing, dressed comfortable for 20, but not minus two, so I did not have a spirit for going into the shed and rubbing Jack's legs to help his circulation. I wanted to put a blanket over his back. My fingertips were freezing. Handling the blue plastic tarp, it minus two degrees, ice chunks from the snow hit my fingertips. Get used to it and do it. Like having cold feet. When the feet are so cold for so long I can't stand it any longer, I change shoes, put on ones I set on the heater. It warms them without making them hot. I put cold shoes there and change shoes a few times through the day. Jack does not have the option. His feet are cold all the time. I want to hug the donkeys, warm them. Later in the day, I took some sweet grain to them, more today than usual. They'll need it tonight. Put out some more hay. I want them to have all they can eat for these below zero nights. Forecast for tonight is minus seven. I almost feel guilty for having heat, blankets, sweaters, shoes, heavy socks. I have to remind self my whole body is acclimatized to the luxuries of civilization, like heat in the winter. I remember Marsha stressing the donkeys can take it and it is good for their health to take it. I think of the Rolling Stones song, Beast of Burden, am I rough enough, am I tough enough? I know the donkeys are tough and I know they can take it, but I feel Jack's agony with relentlessly cold feet. Beast of burden or not, he feels it. I feel like what makes donkeys exceptional is they can take it. Pictures of donkeys carrying things, acoustic pickup trucks, and carrying people, we think nothing of it. It's what donkeys do. If I'd trained Jack to carry things on his back, he would carry up to the very last ounce his legs could handle. 

donkey jack

In my first months with Jack, before Jenny, I was talking to him one day and said I would like to ride him. By then, I knew he was understanding what I was saying. He snorted his expression of agreement. He'd like it too. I said, I weigh so much, I don't want to hurt your back. He moved his head in an expression of appreciation. I heard the words in my head, "Thanks for consideration." This morning Jack seemed like he was shivering so hard it expressed in whimpering like a child about to break into tears, unable to quite get there. He went for the carrot like he was saying, Oh, thank you, thank you. He didn't chew very well, dropped one of the carrots. I'd say to him, Donkey Jack, and he would make a whimpering grunt, like appealing from the bottom of his heart for me to fix this weather condition with my human magic. I wanted to will them a place to get out of this cold at least long enough for their bones to thaw. I think of Himalayan climbers, able to function cold to the bone. Some come back with fingers, toes and nose gone to frostbite. I feel like Jack and Jenny are having a difficult time with the relentless zero degrees, but for having each other. Their hair is thick. Both have rolled in dust so much their backs are like soft clay. I touch either one of them on the back and a cloud of dust rises. I've learned the dust is valuable to them to keep parasites down and perhaps in winter the dust works as a form of insulation in their hair. They can get off their feet, hole up together in a corner and keep each other warm. As long as they're moving about, I know they're ok. Being in love as they are, the inter-dependent intimacy bonds them all the more. Jenny did not appear to be as shaken by below zero ground to stand on and the air so cold. I could see she was not comfortable. She could function. She reluctantly stood on the icy snow to graze on some hay. Jack preferred to stay near and inside their den. 

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I came to the house for some good, hot African coffee, to see what my friends are putting on facebook, see the political headlines for laughs. I don't need political cartoons anymore. The politicians are already hysterically comic. It gets them on tv. Name recognition. I don't care what you think of me, just remember my name, is their creed. Two-thirds a century of television and stupid is now electable, not just electable, preferred. How else explain the stardom of Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz? They're as vacant as the Hollywood stars, vacant as tv itself. USA is in a pickle, believe it or don't. Already is, not future tense. My younger friends are good at hunting and gardening, heat with wood, are resourceful, good at buying and selling, trading. I have confidence they will be all right. Then I turn to my artist friends at Daily Creative Practice and see the new images posted. I choose to live in this time without a future as if that's how it is all the time, which it is. I make my art objects. Not motivated by money, the absence of prospects to sell anything doesn't slow me down. I paint and put things together for now. Later is not my concern. I have a visual idea, put it together to completion, love it for itself, for the idea it becomes embodiment of, and be happy. Writing these daily entries for no reason but the doing is meditation time. I never took to sitting cross-legged and clearing my mind. Tried it for several years, felt some benefit from it, especially finding empty mind. I don't feel like I need to sit cross-legged on a pillow to go to empty mind. When things get a little to frantic swirling around in my head, I'll go to empty mind and take a break. These mind journeys I write open a door to the subconscious with empty mind looking for, waiting for images, words, a huge museum of memories, dances with them, makes connections, has insights, works out conundrums, and vents frustrations too. 

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3 comments:

  1. Thank you again, friend, for a wonderful narrative that took me with you. I feel like I'm having a conversation with you when I read your thoughts. You make the kind of sense that comes from living long and thinking well. Keep on writing.

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    1. Thanks Thomas, I appreciate you saying your thoughts. Years ago when I was first becoming conscious of writing, my goal was to be just exactly what you said, like having a conversation, close and personal. I dont know this except from feedback, and am grateful for it.

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