by Suzanne Clothier
Recently, I was contacted by Shambhala Sun magazine with a series of questions they asked me to answer for their blog, SunSpace. Interesting to have them note that they felt my approach was informed by Buddhist principles, particularly my blog pieces. I'm not a Buddhist, though many Buddhist ideas resonate deeply with me. You can read the "interview" at Shambhala Sun .
Beginning about 2 months ago, we hit a wave of events that turned this summer (so far) into something far from what I had imagined and planned. It all began when Rain, our lovely broodbitch, aborted her entire litter of pups about 2 weeks prior to whelping. Fearing a uterine infection, we chose to spay her, ending a remarkable breeding career that put a number of breeding animals into guide schools, as well as producing lovely pups that have been a blessing for the families who love them. That was a rough blow for Rain, who has bounced back. Tough for us, and tough for all the folks waiting patiently for their pup to be born.
That was followed by more veterinary events than I care to list or detail. Suffice it to say that for the past 7 weeks, we have averaged a vet visit (whether large or small animal) every 3 days. I can't tell if the hands-down winner was the cow who needed TWO vet calls in one day, or the day when I was driving out to see one vet with 3 dogs in the car (only chiropractic appointments, thankfully!) precisely as one of our large animal vets drove in to see the horse who had a badly swollen eye. Or the phone call at 11 PM to report that the colicking horse was doing fine, a call made from the horse's stall. Only to have the horse glance over, drop to the floor and demonstrate with remarkable clarity, "Um, I'm actually not feeling all that well at the moment..."
Woven through it all are several deaths, none of them expected, all shocking and sad. All involved very young or unborn animals, leading me to spend a lot of time watching the wind blow in the trees while dogs race around me, listening to the pigs argue among themselves in grunts and squeals, watching the horses swish flies, and wondering why . . . Why did these little souls come so close to being here and then -- then what? change their minds? be called to some other purpose? Or was this their purpose? Believing as I do that each soul serves a purpose, brings a lesson (and has lessons to learn), I cannot help but turn over and over in my mind these puzzles of life.
Sometimes, I feel clarity rising from the murky depths, feeling understanding and acceptance coming into focus. It is very much like watching a fish ascend to a lake's surface. First a shadowy movement, and then -- ever brighter, ever clearer -- the fish begins to emerge until there it is! illuminated in unexpected beauty. But understanding is a wary fish that gleams sharply for a moment and then retreats in a flashing turn and is gone again, back into the darker corners of my mind where I can sense but cannot articulate what I feel or what I know.
Acceptance does not come easily. Apparently, I have constructed a life in which I have the chance for on-going practice of accepting what I cannot understand, accepting the mysteries of life and death, accepting that despite my finest efforts and despite my carelessness and errors, Life has a plan, the details to which I am not privy.
When I was in elementary school, my mother never understood how I could walk to school using an umbrella and end up still soaked through. She didn't know that I tucked the loathed umbrella under a neighbor's shrub, and proceeded to walk into the rain deliberately, seeking the sensation of rain hitting me, accepting it with delight. All around me, other people fought it, guarded against it, bundled themselves up to ward off the rain. Turns out that was one of the earlier lessons in my life for which I am learning the bigger applications. If I fight rain, I end up not just wet as is inevitable, but also tired and spent, and possibly angry. I keep discovering that the same is true in Life.
The lessons continue in acceptance, in playing the odds knowing full well that for everyone I love there's a turn of the daily dice that will be the final one. Such a blessing, to live these mysteries.