I feed horses at a barn just down the road from my house. Normally, I jumble the tasks of moving and feeding the horses and feeding and playing with the cats. I’ve taken notice, however, of a few things. One, that if I feed the cats last, the are all around my feet while I’m in the tack room, as well as in the pans, eating the horse feed. Two, that if I let the two older horses, who will be chased away from their food if not separated from the others, out while the barn door is open, they tend to head into the barn, despite having just watched me put their pans in the corral. Three, that when I stack a particular set of pans together without some sort of separation, I then have to spend twenty minutes bending my nails, trying to pry them apart whilst swatting away impatient noses.
So, on a particular day, when I had much nothingness to be doing at home, I decided that I was going to make some… methodical changes. In my head, I had planned the trip out as follows: Pick up the pans on the way into the barn, drop them inside the barn door, close the door, let the old guys into the corral (re-open the barn door), feed the cats, make the horse feed, feed the horses, and skip grooming for the day so I could go home and be lazy.
It did not work out that way.
Despite the door being closed, the old guys went directly there, standing as if it was going to open for them, then walking aimlessly outside the corral while I tried to coerce them in. The cats were a blessing, satisfied at having been fed first. Then, stacking the odd-sized one between the two that stick together, I carried five full pans out of the barn. I set and slid two into the corral before heading over to the pasture, where the remaining horses [and mini donkey] were waiting. I adjusted the pans on my hip and unlocked the gate. Success. I thought, too soon. With the gate open, their mild impatience shot high, and no sooner than I moved my attention from my hip to the horses did all three pans go crashing to the ground. The gate flew wide. Noses went diving to food and my feet, right there in the opening. I flailed one hand as the other tried to save as much as possible. After a few minutes, I gave up. I delt the horses what was left, closed the gate and returned to look at the mess I had made. My hands grabbed and picked at the feed, trying to remove all of the chunks and little pieces of dirt.
While, in the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t really much of a disaster, I felt like a failure. I saw in that little handful of dirt and feed every easy way out I had ever tried to make, and every bruise it had ever brought me, especially the ones that had yet to go away. A deep-rooted defeat overwhelmed me as tears came to my eyes. I looked up to keep the them from welling, and found my gaze upon the horses. They were my favorite animal by far, and the entire reason I was at the barn every day, doing such mundane tasks as this. They munched with lazy eyes and ears and a rhythmic tail-swat to the flies. They were happy. Without the handfuls that I had clumsily taken from their portions, that I had thrown into the dirt in an effort to get home quickly, that they would later come and pick piece by piece from the dirt, they were happy. One big tear dropped from my eye, and it, too, was happy.