Every spring, usually some time in March when the first shoots of lush green grass start peeking through the snow, I take the horses off pasture. Much to their dismay, they must hang out in “dry turnout” for a month or so. This means they are confined to their usually muddy paddock, sloppy with snow melt, and the sandy riding arena.
Purpose for this is two fold. One, horses eating too much of the rich spring grass can get sick and colic and two, because our two pastures are small, maybe an acre total, the grass needs time to get established so that we can have taller and more grass all summer. Living in a semi-arid climate, the grass can be “eaten out” in no time and then the weeds take over.
This year, the horses’ quarantine started right around the same time as corona virus ushered in a new way of life called “social isolation”, taking hold nationwide, world-wide actually, and I too went into quarantine, not leaving the house except for occasional trips to the grocery store. I told the boys that we are watching the grass grow.
After a couple of weeks, it seems that this is a slow process. At first the horses act dismayed and bored, standing by the wooden fence gazing longingly at the pasture. Gradually they learn to walk around, scratch themselves rolling in the cool, gritty sand, and stand dozing in the sun. In the afternoons, I often find them lying down peacefully, enjoying a siesta. Periodically they amble along the pasture fence line, foreleg stretched long, nose under the bottom board reaching for all their might to nibble a few tender grass shoots sprouting on the edge of the pasture. Every once in awhile, they canter joyfully around the arena, most often when they feel frisky in the morning. But mostly they are the epitome of being and acceptance.
This year, before the pandemic and any idea that corona virus was going to initiate an unprecedented closure of schools, restaurants, hair salons, and almost all businesses deemed “non essential,” we are all at home evaluating exactly what is essential in our lives. Outwardly it pretty much boils down to medical care, grocery stores, pharmacies, and financial institutions. Do we really need our hair cut and colored when the world is falling apart before our eyes? I am coming to the realization that I may never over-shop again for clothes I think are cute but don’t really need. Even traditional education is temporarily on hold as teachers and professors figure out how to take classes online. Our lives are moving online. We are also in our houses with more spare time than we have ever had.
Inwardly, we are remembering how to be with ourselves, spend more time with our families, to read books and write texts and e-mails checking on friends and family and for some of us returning to old fashioned communication like letters and post cards and telephone calls. We are learning how to be. Be calm, be patient, be considerate, compassionate and kind. Two neighbors and my dog sitter have offered to go to the grocery store for me as I am immune compromised, trying as much as possible to avoid going to public places. All this time on our hands is frightening to many.
There is time to cook real food and fewer opportunities to buy fast food, a much healthier way to live. The whole world is slowing down it seems. Behind my property, the busy road normally noisy with oil field trucks and cars rumbling by to schools and shopping and recently built subdivisions that just a year or two ago were cow pastures and corn fields, is quiet now. It seems that the whole world is slowing as we all hunker down. Humans are in hope of the prevention of widespread corona virus. Horses are hopeful about the emerging grass. As a human observer, it seems a little like the calm before a storm, a fierce storm we hope and pray will not be devastating. The horses are waiting for the grass to be tall enough for me to relent and open the pasture gate.
It seems that time is standing still. I am thinking this year we may stay off pasture longer than usual to let the grass grow taller, thicker, and healthier which will provide a payoff eventually with more and longer grass. I am thinking we might be in quarantine for an extra month, through April maybe. Into May, we may venture out slowly, 30 minutes here, an hour there, so that the horses gradually start consuming the lush grass without getting sick. Hopefully by then, humans can safely venture out more, though likely sparingly at first to make sure the virus really is under control. In truth, we don’t know how long that will take and it may be awhile.
Hopefully there will be lessons learned in all this down time. Can we consume less, want less, use what we have, learn the difference between need and want? Can we protect our environment more by driving and flying less, working at home and nesting at home more? Can we stop poisoning our soil and putting chemicals on our food causing cancer and a host of health issues? Can we stop using plastic bottles and bags and over filling our landfills? Can we learn to eat “real” food instead of overly processed food we consume for entertainment instead of fuel?
Can we hunger to do our parts, no matter how small, to stop global warming that is contributing to more and fiercer hurricanes, tornados, and wild fires as well as melting glaciers and rising oceans? Can we be kinder and more compassionate to our fellow humans?
As crowds gather in grocery stores to overstock with toilet paper, maybe we will realize that a huge percentage of the world population does not use toilet paper, nor did our forebears, explorers and pioneers who traveled by wagon and canoe as they discovered America. Many cultures today have no toilets. And sadly, tens of thousands of people in our country and in other countries go to bed hungry at night because there is not enough food. As this pandemic unfolds, perhaps in our isolation, we can ponder compassion towards those who have less than us.
As the sun comes out melting the snow from the blizzard a few days ago on the first day of spring, the horses are lying down longer than usual, dogs are stretched out on the patio and in the grass, cats are sunning on the warm hood of the pickup, chickens are quietly sitting in the sunniest corner of the chicken garden. I too am sunning in my lawn chair. We are all enjoying the warmth of solitude, watching the grass grow.