Emily the last of the family pet goats died in the night and at 16 years old it was no surprise that her time had come. It may seem to some that ‘it’s just a goat’ but to me it is so much more important than losing a ‘piece’ of livestock.
It is the end of an important era. A huge chunk of a life which has consisted of many things relevant to that time but now no longer so. Emily was a part of a vast and varied menagerie which were a part of my attempts to provide my daughter, Anouska, (and myself) with the idyllic country lifestyle that I considered the best grounding for the rest of her life. Goats, chickens, ducks, cats, rabbits, dogs, ponies, horses, fish, and whatever waifs and strays stayed with us on and off throughout the last twenty years. They would provide a great deal of sanity when it seemed to me that the world around was just chaos and madness. They taught her about the many fundamental things about life, living and death. Onlookers – especially the local farmers would observe and tut at the antics in disgust. We had a bond with our animal family that no herdsman liked to see.
Wherever we were – the animals would surely follow. Anouska particularly was like a mini Pied Piper. From the age of 2 to around 8 or so this was especially cute to watch. All two and four legged beings would pursue us in a mixed up muddle, tripping over each other, stalking, panting, pouncing, hiding, skipping, strutting, lurking, sprinting, clucking, fussing and generally insisting on being at the head of the queue remaining as close to us as they could possibly be. Picnics would often involve pushing chickens off our laps because they believed they were people too. They would land on the ground turning their beady eye at us in consternation because of course it is normal for us to share our sandwiches together – had we forgotten? Chickens would chase cats, cats would terrorise dogs, each would sit on top of the other – regardless of size or species, and generally enjoyed the sport of playing and teasing one another. There were no boundaries nor discrimination. They all co-habited in their own chaotic but amiable way.
Losing the last of these creatures marks the end of a time which can only be enjoyed in memories. Like taking Anouska to and from school on an old shetland pony much to the delight and glee of her school friends. The pony didn’t think much of it though – but then she was a grumpy old bat. Then there were the chicken obstacle courses which Anouska and her friends would create in the garden. And yes – the chickens would hop over hurdles, duck under poles, climb through tubes, navigate maze like structures all because they were asked too. (Sheer blasphemy to the local stock dealers who shook their heads in despair). Then there was the gander who absolutely adored Anouska when she was little. They would often be found together sat in some corner of the garden as he passed bits of straw to her to build their nest together after which they would potter about their little kingdom as she told him stories and he quietly listened.
All in all the creatures have taught me a great deal about life and about myself. Losing the last of them means a final close to an era in which Anouska was completely and utterly at the centre. She has now flown the nest and I am here with just one cat and one horse. I feel sad about that more than anything but happy too as I can stand back and watch my grown up daughter with pride as she embraces life and all it has to offer completely and wholeheartedly.
On a more serious note, my aunt too is not for this world too much longer. How long nobody knows but again it brings to the surface the fact that nothing ever lasts. Death has a tendency to strip us bare leaving us to walk naked into every new era. Exposed and vulnerable – the slightest **** of our mortal beings will cause us to bleed again all to easily. The closer the loss is to us the more poignant the experience which can mean so many different things. At that point we have to accept that it is too late to make any changes, say sorry, make things better, or just remember to laugh at the good things while they are there. The loss of those opportunities are all a part of that grieving process but we do have the choice to tweak our memories so that we focus on the good things and not the bad.
For all of us the past is letting us go as fast as we walk into our future each and every day. It is up to us to embrace tomorrow with an open mind and loving heart and be willing to believe that it is likely to be as great as yesterday. It is up to each of us to decide how we gather our experiences and immerse ourselves into the tiny details of singular moments to absorb the best of what is there.
I know that I am walking into a new time when things will never be the same again for so many reasons. For this I am grateful and actually happy knowing that I am about to experience a freedom that hasn’t been mine for some time. Older and wiser I can take as many strides as I choose to take. I am probably about to be led into a world that I might not have seen before and that is ok too. I know that business is likely to change as a result of this – so who knows what I will be doing tomorrow. We live in exciting times where new and inspiring opportunities are there for us to grab with both hands. The memories will always remain in our portfolio of camp fire stories to be recounted and enjoyed for many years to come. I can celebrate my daughter’s successes, triumphs, joys and commiserate with her losses as she experiences them. The life we have led has given us both a good grounding for our future and today is our day to look to the new things emerging on the horizon.
The impact of what has happened in recent years has led to me thinking that really my wish today is that all of us can accept changes as they happen, embrace the learning that each experience has to offer and celebrate that things do move on. I wonder though – would you feel the same way?