Category Archives: Chewing the Grass

What Chelsea has to say

Year End Reflections

At New Year I always enjoy spending time setting my goals for the coming year. I can usually do this fairly easily but, back in January, I struggled to find anything very meaningful to write down. As winter wore on, however, I decided it was time to move and suddenly the (metaphorical) fog lifted and things began to fall into place.

It has turned out to be a busy year with a house move and a hip replacement. It has also been a year of lessons in patience – and clearly I needed to work on this as the lessons have been many! That said, the trip through the year has probably been smoother and more interesting than anything I could have planned. Everything that needed to happen, fell into place very nicely and I can look back with joy and gratitude.

As another New Year approaches, I am content to look forward to having my other hip replaced (hopefully in February) and then see what the rest of the year brings. Something else I have learned over this year is that there is a difference between having no plans and being alert for opportunities so I shall be alert too and see what comes my way.

So, whatever your plans are, remember to be alert – like this squirrel, who was quick to spot his opportunity to stock up for winter!

Nuts!

On being a horse

During my stay in hospital, and especially for the first 48 hours or so after my operation, I was completely dependent on the hospital staff for everything. Bringing me food, getting about, washing etc. I couldn’t help but think that this is how it feels to be a “domesticated” horse – or indeed any domesticated animal. I know that what I am about to say is nothing new but it gave me a whole new perspective which I hope will make me even more thoughtful in the way I care for animals.

What helped the most?

A steady routine: I soon got to know the routine on the ward and that gave a steady shape to my day (and night).

Some freedom: I felt so much better when I could get about independently (albeit with a walking frame) as I could then go for walks about the ward. Even some turnout makes a difference.

Regular grooming: Being given a “bed bath” boosted my spirits. It helped me understand how much horses enjoy having the freedom to roll, mutual groom – and be groomed by us.

Positive reinforcement: Whilst learning to move again after my operation, I couldn’t help but notice the difference between the (only, fortunately) grumpy night nurse who growled at me “to help myself otherwise you’ll be here forever” as I struggled to put on my slippers the night after my operation and all the others who encouraged and supported me, stepping in to help where it was needed with a sympathetic hand. The former was so crushing: the latter so uplifting. Reminded me of Ray Hunt’s advice to “reward the try.”

Company (being part of a herd): I shared a room in the ward with 4 other women. We were all very different but soon got to know each other. Barbara was definitely the lead mare. She had been in traction for about six weeks following a particularly nasty hip fracture. She knew all the staff, the systems and had control of te remote for the TV in our room but made sure that we all got to watch our favourite programmes. The others all had had hip replacements and so we were able to exchange notes on progress and offer mutual support.

Being treated as an individual: I have written about this before but being seen as me and not just as a hip replacement definitely speeded my healing and boosted my spirit. The physios were particularly good at finding “training methods” that worked for me as I learned to get about with a walking frame and then sticks.

I am now back at home and have much more control over my daily life although I still need some support for which I am grateful. I hope, however, I will remember how it is not to have control and to remember what made a difference.

Time to let go and relax

I went up to see Chelsea yesterday and was at the yard when she came in from the field. I was struck by how relaxed she looked as she walked in with a couple of field mates. It’s easy to tell with her – she’s soft eyed, with an easy head carriage. I led her into her stable where tea was waiting. She knew it was there but, as ever, she was very polite and waited for me to remove her headcollar before tucking in.

I do think she is enjoying this easier life for although she is the lead mare in her group, they don’t seem to be such a responsibility. Perhaps it’s because they are all quite mature but I also think she knows they are not all mine. That may seem anthropomorphic but there were many times when she helped me out with the herd and I always knew I could count of her when the chips were down.

Once again she is setting me a good example, especially over the next few months, that I too can set aside at least some of my responsibilities and relax. Her message to  me yesterday was certainly that, however much we enjoy our work (and she really did enjoy teaching humans), there comes a time to relax and take it easy – and that can be enjoyable too.

It also made me very grateful to everyone at Bowhill  as I know she will be very well cared for while I recover and that will definitely make it easier for me to relax too.

Making me smile

When I went over to see Chelsea yesterday she was in for the night and contentedly munching at her haynet. She was pleased to see me, especially as I had some carrots for her. As I drove out to see her, I had been thinking about my forthcoming surgery and some of the limitations that would mean, including, of course, not being able to drive. I wasn’t aware of feeling a bit down at this prospect but the ever alert Chelsea certainly noticed and decided I need to be cheered up.

She is very polite about taking food from hands and always waits to be offered a treat but last night she was very sweetly pushy, enough to make me laugh as she gently nosed her way into my hands. We ended up playing a game of “Which hand is the carrot in?” – which, of course, she always got right.

I drove home with a much lighter heart and a smile on my face. I shouldn’t be surprised at her awareness and her attentiveness but I am still touched by it. Even though I will see her less often until I am back behind the wheel again, I’m sure I will still feel her energy and presence and it will put a smile on my face.

Getting ready for Hip Op no 1

In preparation for my hip operation, I spent much of last Friday at Borders General Hospital where I was thoroughly assessed, even down to a memory test (which I passed!).

Grabber and long shoe horn, both already useful pieces of equipment.

The nurse, doctor and anaesthetist all treated me with great kindness, patiently answering all my questions as they explained the process to me. Yes – I would be sedated sufficiently not to hear the sawing of bones, Yes – they would know before me that the sedation was starting to wear off and could give me more, No – it was not safe to continue taking some of my supplements right up to my hospital admission but arnica afterwards would be fine, and so on. There was humour too, which always helps.

Inevitable there was some waiting around and the receptionist noticed I was still there when she came back from lunch and immediately offered to get me something to eat. I had actually gone just after she did so I had eaten but I was touched that she had noticed and wanted to help.

In talking to the nurse about my work and recent move to Earlston, she told me about the local University of the Third Age group which is very active and invited me to join them once I was back on my feet again.

All the way through, I felt that they were looking after all of me and I wasn’t just “the hip replacement.” I left feeling much less anxious about the procedure. It didn’t take them any longer to be kind and caring and hopefully they went home tired but content, as I did.

Next week I get to meet the physio team and the occupational therapist who will make sure that everything at home is at the right height for me to use safely and comfortably – and give me any equipment I might need to help my recovery.

My neighbours have all offered to help me in any way they can so I feel sure that I will be very well looked after and thus make a speedy recovery – ready for operation no 2!

All of this kindness has rubbed off and made me aware of the moments when I too can be kind and helpful and thus continue these ripples out into the wider world.

Minnesota Morning

I wrote these lines in the early morning, whilst sitting on the edge of Lake Superior on Minnesota’s North Shore. It is a magical place and we were blessed with warm Autumn/Fall sunshine and glorious colours.

Sunrise over Lake Superior

North Shore – Pioneers, traders, adventurers
You saw the same moonrise and sunrise
Shared the beauty, the majesty of nature
The birds, the Fall colours – yellow, red and orange
May we respect, keep it for future generations to enjoy.
To know we are small, standing in awe of what is about us
The lake is calm today but has all the power to create a storm, to freeze, to be a challenge.
The pioneers worked with that,
No GPS, no mobile phones stay in touch.
They knew the land and its way.
May we stay in touch with that, with nature and our intuition and teach the children to do so too.
Thank you, North Shore, sun, moon, seagulls and geese
For sharing your wonder with us on the glorious, colourful, Fall morning.

Fall Colours

Moving From and Moving To

Having loved the farm, the horses and being able to share all of this with friends and clients, I had expected to miss it greatly once I moved – and yet what I actually felt was a deep sense of relief at no longer having the responsibility. I hadn’t realised till I moved just how much energy the responsibility of the farm and seven horses on my own used up, even with excellent help. I am so glad to have lived there and to have made a difference to so many people, but it was definitely time to move on.

It made me think about what had made this change so positive and relatively smooth.  I knew what I wanted to move away from – the farm and all the work and planning that it entailed. It took more effort to work out what I wanted to move towards. Where did I want to live? What kind of house? What about the horses? What did I want to do? When? So many decisions…… Sometimes it felt as if it would just be easier to stay and yet I knew that was not really a wise idea, however attractive it felt in these moments.

Gradually, however, I built up a picture  (a collage, in my case,) and a detailed list of what wanted to move towards. Then the search for a new home and the detailed planning for the move began. At that point, I was back in familiar territory, having spent many years as a project manager and also having moved home several times. Recently, I looked back at my list and realised that I had achieved all of it by the target date of 1st September. Writing things down definitely makes a difference, if only because of the clarity it demands.

I had never really thought of change so specifically as moving away from one thing and towards an another but that process helped me and I wanted to share it, just in case it might help you too.

On my list was that the location of my new house would still feel quite rural. This is the view from my garden.

No words required

While I was visiting Chelsea this afternoon, a little girl, aged about three or four, arrived to go out on a lead rein ride. She patted Cookie, the tiny Shetland she would be riding, and then spotted Chelsea’s head over her stable door. Chelsea, who loves small children, had been watching her and leaned down to greet her as she approached. Even so, the little girl realised that she could not reach up to Chelsea so she stretched her arms up to me. I picked her up and watched as they nuzzled one another very gently, the little girl smiling broadly as she stroked Chelsea’s velvet nose.

Then it was time for her ride and I put her down again. It all happened in just a few minutes and not a word was said but much communication had taken place and the world (and I) felt better for it.

Settling In

I have been in my new homes for about ten weeks now and it’s a measure of how settled I feel that it seems much longer than that. Part of the reason is that everyone has been incredibly friendly and helpful. I have had some bits and pieces done around the house and all the trades people have been excellent and given great service. The Borders is much less affluent than the North East and many people have had to re-train following the closure of the woollen mills, the traditional occupation for several generations here. The work ethic is strong and, combined with a natural friendliness, leads to great customer care.

There is also a great sense of community and caring. My new hairdresser, who has a quirky salon here in Earlston, routinely employs people with disabilities, encourages her apprentices – and wins awards for her hair styling. What a great combination! I look forward to making my contribution.

Typical Border scenery

Reflections on Moving

I am in the final stages of getting ready to move. The horses left last Friday and are settling well in their new homes. I have kept Chelsea but the others have gone to new owners, all of whom I (and they) know. Anything I don’t need has gone to charity or for recycling and the rubbish filled a large skip. I was determined not to move with clutter! Some-one once told me that everything in a home should be either useful or beautiful and I have used that as my guide line.

My decision to move came as a surprise to most people and it has been interesting to experience a variety of reaction. On the positive side, people have been glad for me, inspired by my courage in making the move, (especially when it meant giving up the farm and six of my horses) and eager to help. There have also been the kindly people who have simply taken time to ask how I feel about the move and to be there for me in the difficult moments. On the less positive side, there has been anger (sometimes expressed, sometimes not) and resentment, usually because my move meant some inconvenience for them. It’s been interesting to notice the range of responses.

I have done my best not to be triggered by the negative stuff and be grateful for the positive – so thank you to everyone who has helped, for the encouraging comments, the lovely home cooked meals, the flowers, the good wishes and for just being there. I will try to thank you all personally as it has meant a lot.

As I go forward, I will be sure to encourage people as they move forward and enter a new phase of their life, whether it is good for me personally or not. A good reminder to walk in another’s moccasins before passing judgement. I am looking forward to joining Chelsea down in the Borders this week and approaching this new phase of my life like her – ears pricked and alert to the new opportunities that will come our way.