Injury, pardon, and restoration

Maggie & Quincy 12.22.18 AKW edited clean bill

Maggie and Quincy at Summit Equestrian Center, December 2018. (Photo by Allison Wheaton)

First came months of construction noise and upheaval at Summit Equestrian Center. Even the best improvements are a hard sell to our animal friends.

Then one night a fox breached the coop, taking a chicken and all but one duck. The coop was fortified against further invasion, but the survivors — two sheep, a handful of chickens, and Quincy, the last duck standing — were shaken.

As an animal Reiki practitioner and animal communicator, I sat with them, listened, and offered healing energy to help them recover in whatever way they needed. Quincy roamed around the enclosure eating, drinking, washing, shaking out her feathers, and nipping when a chicken got too close. She was determined to take care of things and find that “new normal.”

A few days later, she couldn’t walk.

Maggie, the sweet-faced black sheep who loved chin scratches, had grabbed hold of Quincy and pinned her to the ground. It was over quickly, but the result was a duck with a fracture. After her vet visit, Quincy was moved to a safe spot and given pain meds, some special supplements, plenty of Reiki, and even a little weekend “hydrotherapy” at the lake with director Allison Wheaton.

But we were mystified. The sheep, chickens, and ducks had all gotten along before, and sheep — especially female sheep with no lambs — aren’t generally aggressive. Why on earth would Maggie attack Quincy?

Gradually, I pieced together accounts from Allison and others with what Quincy and Maggie themselves relayed. In the heightened vigilance generated by the construction and then the fox incident, an anxious Quincy had gotten under the feet of an equally anxious Maggie. It startled Maggie so badly that a violent defense seemed like the only option.

You may not think a sheep could be appalled with herself, but I think this one was. I gently suggested she move carefully in the coop and, when the time was right, try to find a way forward with Quincy. As for Quincy — helping her heal was my first priority. Only when she recovered enough to return to the coop did I encourage her to consider working things out with Maggie … and then only when she was ready.

Though Maggie kept a respectful distance, Quincy was still nervous around her. Maggie also didn’t come to me for chin scratches as before, although she did share the Reiki energy I offered for short durations. She’d either stay where she was or move toward me, then walk away. She was reconsidering how to be and move about in her world, and I let her know that was OK.

We had been preparing for a major fall fundraiser at Summit Equestrian, and with that successful event behind us, things quieted down a bit. The construction moved closer to completion, and as the holidays approached, Quincy moved around with ease. Maggie, for her part, started venturing to the fence to say hello and accept a brief chin scratch.

One day as I shared Reiki with the inhabitants of the coop, I looked up and noticed Maggie and Quincy nose to bill just a few feet away from me. There was not a hint of confrontation in the stance of either. It could have been a “hey, didja smell that new feed the chickens got?” or a simple “Good morning.”

It was one of those animal moments you don’t want to spoil by so much as noticing, but Allison later confirmed the two had been hanging out.

How did they get to that point? When I asked them, Quincy and Maggie both showed me how each had moved toward the other a little bit at a time … sometimes a very little bit … rebuilding trust and parity in a way that worked for both of them.

A beautiful prayer traditionally attributed to St. Francis includes a line about bringing pardon where there is injury. It’s one thing to pardon, or forgive — to free oneself as much as possible from the effects of the injury. This can be done regardless of the injurer’s actions or attitude. It’s quite another for both parties to reconstruct what is broken so that it is better and stronger than before.

A duck and a sheep showed us how to do both.

Keep calm and read on

LittleWaysKeepCalmMECH.inddDuring a dark moment of human history, a motivational poster appeared with a crown and the words “Keep calm and carry on.” Published by the British government as World War II loomed, this simple statement urged an understandably anxious populace to keep their chins up and go about whatever was theirs to do.

Mark A. Reinecke, Ph.D., pulls this into our anxious age in Little Ways to Keep Calm and Carry On: Twenty Lessons for Managing Worry, Anxiety, and Fear (2010). The lessons are straightforward, common-sense, and well worth considering, even if you’ve heard some of it before. Each lesson is succinctly introduced, followed by “Key Points,” “What You May Be Thinking,” “Now Ask Yourself…” and “What You Need to Do.”

Let’s look at Lesson 3: We Overestimate Risk When We’re Afraid. “The most important things to do when you feel anxious about a situation are get accurate facts and make an accurate assessment. When something bad happens, we tend to overestimate the likelihood that it will happen again,” it begins. (Don’t we ever.) So it’s important to ask yourself some key questions about what you fear will happen, the likelihood of it happening, the most likely scenario, factors that suggest the feared event might not happen or be so bad if it does happen, and how you will cope. These questions are basically the key points of this lesson.

“What You May Be Thinking” brings in the self-doubt: How can I be sure my assessment is correct? What if I’ve left something out? What if I make a mistake? “Now Ask Yourself …” breaks down the earlier questions a bit for the reader to address particular problems and coping skills. “What You Need to Do” suggests enlisting a trusted friend to help size up the most likely scenario or continuing the work on paper. Reinecke acknowledges the hardest part of all this is managing uncertainty . . . which is covered in the next lesson.

I chose this lesson to highlight here because it resonates with the way I cope when worries go zinging around in my head at night and I can’t sleep. Sometimes I make a list of things to do to deal with the issue the next day. I may make a plan for responding to Scenario A, Scenario B, or both. Just getting it on paper helps to both calm the storm and come up with a constructive response.

The book’s short, sweet, and to-the-point approach is negated a bit by the citations within the text; that’s more akin to academic writing. However — as I have told students and reporters, I’d much rather see sources cited awkwardly than not at all.

Chin up, then.