Another Lesson From Small

It had been pouring for two weeks. As I sat cutting carrots for the horses at the refuge where I volunteer, the rain let up, and Jean-Claude asked me to please help move items left over from the white-elephant sale we had held over the weekend, out of the horse truck into a storage area about 200 feet across a pasture and down a small hill. As I began pushing my first wheelbarrow piled with leftovers through the mud, I thought back to last week, when several volunteers had spent two days gathering and delivering donations for the sale to the community room in Virazeil, a small village 40 minutes away from the rescue, where the sale was to be held. Then, of the hours the volunteers had spent that Friday setting up and pricing everything, so that the doors could open at 8:00 Saturday morning. And then, of the two full days of the sale, when I also worked.

Although the rain had let up, water dripped heavily from trees, and we had to be careful as we pushed the wheelbarrows piled with clothing, books, household items, etc., not to slip in the thick mud beneath our feet. With each step, my boots made a sucking sound, accompanied by the squeaking of the wheelbarrow, as I made my way drunkenly down the hill.

During my third or fourth trip, as I waddled by his home, I heard our pig, Neff, snoring–loudly. A few seconds later, Jean-Claude passed me, pushing his wheelbarrow back uphill to the truck, and I began laughing. This was absurd! All that work for the sale, and now these treks up and back, slogging through the mud, to save a bunch of junk for the next sale, when everybody would again work for days to make a few hundred dollars for the rescue!

We are reenacting the myth of Sisyphus, I thought, up and back, up and back—all to no end. And Neff’s snores make this all the more absurd. A big fat pig sleeping all day, while we push wheelbarrows full of junk!

For several trips down and back, I focused on the absurdity of what we were doing. But then, I realized how unfair and disrespectful I was to the volunteers at the rescue, all of whom I have come to love. They took this transfer of merchandise seriously, as they did all of the work with the horses. While I gave a few hours a week, they spent three days a week working here. I needed to shift my thinking.

Think small, I reminded myself, think small.

So I stopped for a moment, gently lowered the wheelbarrow, and looked beyond, to the pasture below, its soft hills green, the old trailer-turned-chicken-coop, the small barn where the newest members of the rescue community were sheltered; and in the middle of it all, Marie, the director’s, small wood house. I remembered the last time I had ventured down that way, to that peaceable kingdom of horses, donkeys, sheep, goats, chickens, dogs and cats, all living happily and freely together.

Just then, the barn pigeons took off from a wire above me, swooping and soaring as one, a murmuration of pigeons, gliding, turning, coasting, wheeling through the sky as if celebrating my new state of mind. “You’ve got it,” they seemed to say. “Now, you’ve got the right and true attitude.”

As I stood watching the pigeons, I understood– from outside in, from my head to my toes–that thanks to small, I had come to the deep and beautiful truth of that morning.

Unlikely Beauty


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