Thursday, August 23, 2007

Slices of our Trip to Oregon: Part 1 - A Mother in Nature

We were back home for twelve days, and on almost every one of those days we made the thistle-laden trek over the hill from my parents' backyard, down to the pasture. The dogs, Hank and Huck, accompanied us every time. I'm fairly certain Henry likes Hank, Huck and Lucy (my parents' cat) better than any humans in this world, but don't tell his grandmas that; I think they'd be crushed.

When we got down to the barn, we'd slide the big wooden doors apart, greet Sally and Heidi (the barn cats whose sole purpose on this earth is to kill the mice that got into the shed last year and ate all of our old baby clothes that my mom was saving for us in cardboard boxes,) and then we'd excitedly make our way over to the third hay-filled stall where Ellie and her one week old colt, whom we have yet to name, have been staying since his wobbly kneed debut into this world three and a half weeks ago.

One of my very favorite details of the whole trip (and of my whole life, really,) was going down to the barn to let them out into the pasture and then watching Ellie mother her baby. Let me preface this little portion by saying that I have a very tender heart; I get teary eyed about a lot of things, not the least of which are letters from my father, James Taylor songs, and The Baby Story on TLC. So of course, watching this eight hundred (plus) pound giant of a creature protect her baby in as gentle a way as eight hundred pound creatures are capable of, was enough to wet my lacrimal ducts. It was sort of sublime (in the Kantian, awe-inspiring sense of the word,) to watch her slip seamlessly into her mother horse role without so much as a hint of instruction or training. She mothers as if the maternal instinct is bred right into her blood. And I think it is. No one lectured her on the importance of protecting that spritely little baby, but she never lets him get farther than twenty yards from her--even if it means running about, to and fro, to keep up with his frenzied bursts of youthful energy. And all this only one week after laboring in the pasture and pushing out the ninety pounds of four-legged foal (sans anaesthetic -- which makes me cry for an entirely different set of reasons.) You're a hero, "Beautiful Ellie Girl!" (that's what Henry calls her.)

And apparently, from what my dad, (the resident horse expert,) tells me, Ellie has a reputation for being somewhat of a clumsy gal. She's powerful and beautiful, but she's huge and never seemed to have any qualms about bumping into things or people. My dad, who's genetically prone to worry about anything that poses a threat to anything, was (of course) worried that she was going to step on that little baby and squarsh 'eem. But she hasn't. She is unbelievably nimble and gentle. He darts through her legs, under her swollen belly, bolts carelessly about her hooves, and she moves gracefully around him. It's almost like they know each others' rhythm. They are beautiful to watch because they have beautiful hair and musculature and form. But the intangible and invisible dynamic that exists in their company is even more beautiful. It's that intangible, uncapturable something between mother and baby that makes tender-hearted saps like me, cry.

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