Wednesday afternoons are reserved for my weekly doctor’s appointment. I clean off the sweat and dirt of a morning spent down at the barn, put on some nice clothes and drive the truck up the Interstate to Gainesville for a check-up and “fill”. This week put me in the bonus round. My expansion process has gone well enough to call it done and so now I am off the hook for further work until surgery next month, none of which is really relevant to what I am writing about, except to let you know why I was on the road in the first place and also, to give me a chance to set mood.
I look forward to those visits. I adore Maeve, the PA who dutifully punches a needle, sized for elephant tranq, into the hidden port in my chest and pumps 60 cc of saline into the expander that lies beneath. She is sweet and bubbly and makes me excited about my progress. I AM excited about my progress. All of this is healing work, folks. Each visit pumps me up with optimism for and about the future.
So when I am making the drive up to Gainesville, I am happy. I think the world is a good place and I am happy to be in it. This Wednesday was a rainy drive. It was landing hard on Ocala when I left, but I was slowly driving out of it as I progressed north. In Florida, trucks are confined to the first and middle lanes of the Interstate. So it’s fair to say I was surprised to see a semi bearing down on my left as I hummed along in the middle lane. The small, green Toyota just in front of me in that outside lane looked equally surprised. I slowed to let the Toyota in and the semi drove hard past us. Whoa. Glad he’s in front, I thought, and when he pulled back into the middle lane up ahead, I pulled over to the inside lane to keep my distance.
Then the rain messed with the traffic and the next thing I know I am trapped in a pocket of cars with the cargo part of the truck moving along next to me. It was a animal transport rig — do you know the kind? They have open air holes along the side, something like this:
This one was hauling live cargo. Cattle. Young ones and also mature ones. I know this because we were traveling slowly now and they were, what — maybe 6 feet away from me? I could see them clearly through the slats.
Those that could were pressing their faces to the holes in the side of the rig, lapping their long pink tongues out, trying to catch some of the rain that dripped down its side. Others struggled to get up or push over, but were unable to maneuver in their cramped quarters. They laid their heads along the backs of those in front of them, their brown eyes pleading for the relief the rain would have brought to them.
Now, I have been a vegetarian for a damn long time — all of my adult life — for straightup ethical reasons: I cannot tolerate the thought of subjecting an animal to the manipulated life and death that is the horrid destiny of having been labeled livestock. I came to veganism later in my life after stripping away my own ignorance of the reality of life for animals who are obligated to produce, particularly in today’s industrial farming practices.
If you are still reading, please know I am not trying to bang on the bully pulpit here. I tell you these things so you can perhaps understand when I confess that I lost it. Completely. I sobbed “I am so sorry, I am so sorry” over and over to the big brown eyes and uplifted pink tongues locked in the cage traveling next to me. I felt complete and utter futility at the mighty weight of the ingrained ways of the world; how our collective ignorance and arrogance keep us from seeing the beauty of God glowing in the eyes of each living creature.
In that moment, I felt so devastatingly alone and by that I mean, I could not find God. I could not feel the better presence of the Universe.
So I spent a long time back down at the barn when I returned home. The rain had stopped; still all the horses lingered in the barn with me. I love those times so very much. They hold the space with such peace and calm. My sorry, ragged self put itself in service; rubbing ointment on owies, clearing gunk out of eyes, rearranging fly masks. I felt the great grief of that day morph into an even greater fierceness about needing to nurture and protect the harmony that we share. And maybe, because God heard us, maybe because you can grow goodness, not just wait for it to land upon you, the glow of the setting sun changed the barn to fit my changing thoughts.
Also, as if I ever doubted, there are some who bring to this earth a double dose of wondrousness.
The sun set and the horses roamed into the back pasture, leaving the donkeys and I to hover in our own circle of peace under the gathering darkness. I felt their comfort, their pleasure at being, just being, and I felt myself retreat even further from the great abyss of darkness that had cracked me open. I felt myself grow small; small enough to fit perfectly again into the sliver of life that is mine — where I am never alone and the goodness of the Universe can be found everywhere.
I wish you the same.