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Gray Days

Gray Days

From Boulevard to Barn: Tales of a Young Farmer from the City

by Andrea Caluori of Ashfield, MA
originally published at

Days like yesterday the girls have no idea how much they ground me. There is something about the known action of feeding and caring for them that stabilizes me even through stressful times.

This has been that kind of week.

Gray, rainy fall weather mixed with melancholic vibes have caused me to feel a little down and lackluster. But the girls always come through.

What is it about our relationship with animals that they magically are able to pull us back into the present moment and remind us of compassion and love? Even my cat at home, just by sleeping on the edge of the bed, curled up, has the ability to relax me. I recently read a chapter by Mary Link in the book Pet Loss and Human Bereavement where she discusses how emotionally troubled kids cope with the loss of a pet. She describes a place where she worked as a therapeutic riding instructor in Brewster, New York and focuses on the emotional connection between a young boy and a mare about to be put down due to serious and prolonged illness. None of the children own these animals, and yet their bond with them is incredibly significant, meaningful, and full of attachment. She addresses why: “Because of the unconditional and nonjudgemental quality of the relationship with the animal, the emotionally disturbed child can take the risk involved in forming emotional attachments and can learn to trust and love. The animal friend will always listen and understand. These children believe the animal cares for them and so they feel needed, appreciated, important and loved.” Isn’t that feeling of being needed, loved, appreciated, important and valued something all of us humans need to feel from another being and with each other? It made me realize just how significant of a role animal relationships play in our understanding of our ability to navigate emotionally significant relationships. Non-judgement, compassion, and appreciation are three things that our animal friends often display towards us and yet we tend to have a difficult time showing those feelings within our human relationships and interactions. Animal relationships remind us of the simple basics in communicating love that help define a meaningful and trusting relationship.

Gray Days

I thought about these ideas a lot this morning as I reflected on my time with the goats yesterday afternoon. Having a not-so-great day, I opened the stall door and called them from outside for supper. Immediately enthusiastic to hear my voice, they came running. In fact, even when they hear my car pull up, they start asking for me. They don’t do this with any other car and I have no idea how they have been able to discern the difference between my engine and anyone else’s. As I hand them dinner, Daisy’s tail wags furiously with delight. They munch away and I watch. I pet them along their ridges, tell them what good friends they are, and then go on to refill water and add more hay to the hay racks. Once the fresh water arrives, I giggle at their silly slurping and their excitement for the simple pleasures of nourishment that exist within our lives: food, water, care. Ah yes, care.

After supper, hay is to be had. I set up a blanket I use for sitting in the stall and place it atop their little wooden loft. The two of them start chewing away, each taking turns to come visit me, to stand close to my ear and munch their mouthfuls of hay. I love the sound of them eating and the tickle of hay sticking out of their mouths. Aster attempts to sit on my lap — even though I have been trying to train her not to do so (65 lbs and growing does not make a good lap goat). We find other ways to cuddle and hug.

Their chewing, cuddles and sweet curious demeanor ground me. For these moments, nothing else really matters. There is no judgement, no computers, reports, emails or bitter arguments. The outside melts away and the world has become smaller, quieter, simpler. Nothing exists beyond hay, goat kisses and tail wagging. It’s an easy life: chew hay, give kisses, jump for joy. We could take a hint from these curious caprines about the beauty of life. The moments worth cherishing, the minutes worth having, remembering… and more importantly, considering. It’s best to let the bitter and sour tasting notes of gray days to melt away. Instead, replace them with the memories and presence of quiet and thoughtful moments. These are worth considering, these are what is profound.

I learn a lot from these critters. They teach me so much. So much more than goat herding.