Friday, January 16, 2009
My Humble Opinion
I looked at the photo of the passengers standing on the wing of the US Airways plane as it sunk into the Hudson River in New York City yesterday, and I thought it was the perfect metaphor for what life is like in this country right now. Our plane hasn’t completely crashed and burned, but due to circumstances beyond our control, lifelong plans were aborted, and now we’re standing on the proverbial wing sinking into icy waters. Thanks to the kindness of other human beings, many of us have not drowned, while others have not been so lucky. How many people in this country feel the same way right now? The number grows bigger every day.
Maybe the biggest lesson for us in these turbulent times is that we better learn to be humble. Humility has been out of fashion for a long, long time. The one thing that having horses in my backyard insures is that I am reminded, as J.M. Barrie said that “life is a long lesson in humility”.
As I stood on top of a huge pile of horse manure yesterday, unable to feel my fingers and toes in the burning cold, and turned it with a pitchfork so it would steam and cure into good compost, I thought about how I used to live such a glamorous, hedonistic existence in New York City and California. Those days are so far gone. Would I have preferred at that moment to be eating lunch in a chic restaurant or having a massage instead of standing outside in 5F degree cold? You bet -- but wait, maybe not. The weird part is that I sleep better and have less anxiety than I did back in my urbane life, and I like myself much more now. That's when the thought that I’m fortunate that my horses keep me humble popped into my mind as I climbed down off the poop pile.
I got an email from a friend in Tennessee today who has 17 horses and ponies and many other assorted animals, along with several children. She was explaining what she went through last night to be sure that all her creatures were as warm as possible in weather that was very cold by their Southern standards. I had some consolation that at least I knew a few people who were schlepping hay and chipping ice and filling heated buckets the way I’ve been laboring these frigid days. Most of my friends and neighbors stay in their warm houses and shake their heads, saying, “I don’t know how you do it.”
What else would they do, let the animals freeze and starve? If I drum one lesson into my child, it will be “It’s not all about you, darling.” I think it was St. Augustine who said, “Humility is the foundation of all other virtues.”