Moving forward is valued, encouraged, and applauded. To me, what our fifth-gear culture views as a win-win is actually a double-edged sword of enthusiasm and grief.
Ten years ago, another me sat beside a small chicken house, watching. Gordita was my favourite. She was kind, curious, and pleasantly plump. My favourite wasn't the favourite, though. A smaller, quicker and louder hen who I never named 'ruled the roost,' keeping the other five in line with her dominant attitude and quick beak.
Another time, I glanced out the kitchen window to see that the cattle had congregated by the front gate abutting our yard. I rushed out the door, slowing myself only as I came into view of the animals. I just wanted to touch them. I stepped up onto the gate. The cattle hesitated backwards. I stilled myself long enough that their confidence and curiosity returned. The herd closed in again. As one curious steer outstretched his head, I could hear, see, and feel his powerful warm breath. I reached out enthusiastically, briefly making contact with his nose. He and several others reeled back, startled.
Five years later, I stepped off the high school bus onto our gravel driveway. I approached the house slowly, head low. In my head there existed an unsightly whirlwind of confusion, self doubt, and shame. I ascended the veranda stairs with heavy steps. When I opened the door, I smiled. Lying on her blue bed, her tail began to joyfully rap against the floor as she glanced over to me. She arose, approached, and sniffed my pant leg. She knew how to love without judgement, question, or expectation.
As I recited the veterinarian's oath on the weekend, my eyes filled with tears and my voice wavered. I have started an incredible new chapter, and for that I am grateful and joyful. But the double edged sword of transitions always cuts both ways. From Gordita, I learned that supremacy does not equate charisma. The young cattle taught me that a valuable connection takes curiosity, but also trust, time, and patience. From Kate, a canine teacher who spent fourteen years in my life, I learned that we don't love for what one could be or wants to be, but for what one is.
Kate, Gordita, and those angus cattle no longer exist outside of my memory and imagination. These animals and others have been some of my greatest teachers. As I'm moving forward, I'm grieving that fact that I could only be their pupil for so long.
In loving memory of Kate Maxwell, 2007 - 2021