Of Christmas Trees, Service, Horses, and Purpose

I put my Christmas tree up on December 23rd. I took it down about four weeks later. By then the needles dropped torrentially every time I inadvertently brushed the drooping branches in passing. 

I wrestle with my conscience every year when I buy a live cut tree. It seems so sad, standing resplendently in the corner of my living room slowly dying, a symbol of the fleeting nature of the Christmas season and of the transience of life in general. Yet, I can’t seem to make myself buy an artificial one. I love the smell of  spruce. I delight when the sap oozes from its knobby twig ends. It reminds me of my beloved state of Maine. I savor its presence while it is with me, and when the time comes to take it down, I cut off its branches and break them into kindling for the fireplace. In doing so, I continue to honor it until the last of the tree is burnt and the crocuses have sprung up.

The tree represents a cycle of life and a way of living authentically that are important to me. Yes, life is seasonal. Things come and go. All the more reason to recognize the present with its many gifts. “Take  your cookies when they are passed,” a beloved mentor of mine used to tell me. “And savor them,” I would add. And “be grateful.” 

And so I am for my tree, every Christmas. Grateful for its beauty. Grateful for its reminder that being of service to the bitter end (i.e. as kindling in the fireplace!) is the greatest gift of all.

I feel the same way about horses. Grateful. That’s why I do what I do at the Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center. Horses have given me so much throughout my lifetime: 

Joy. Purpose. Love. Solace. Understanding. Insight. Forgiveness. Patience. Direction. Focus. 

And, so much more!

Talk about being of service! Not just to me! But to humankind in general! We crossed continents, conquered nations, created civilizations with horses. They pulled our carriages, hauled our goods, fought our wars. We drank their milk. We ate (and some still do eat) their flesh. We used their hair to insulate our walls; their hooves to make our glue. To this day, they play our games. They provide us with livelihoods. Like the Christmas tree, they are beautiful and, like the tree, they are silent. I want to recognize their service to me and to others across the globe past and present, by helping one race horse  at the MMSC at a time to find its purpose and its person when it no longer has a use on the track. I strive to be each horse’s voice, its champion, its defender. I am very particular about who adopts my horses.  Adopters fill out a multi-faceted application and submit it for approval by members of the MMSC board. Once they are approved, they must come to the MMSC to try the horse and prove to me that the fit is a good one.

It may seem crazy to be so exigent—why,when so many horses need homes am I this selective?  

It all boils down to my sense of purpose. As I told you when I first started writing this blog, purpose is important to me. Purpose gives life meaning--that is if you commit to serving something greater than yourself. 

When I was ten, my family moved to France, which had socialized medicine that covered the costs of my brothers medical care. He had severe classical hemophilia. I had to navigate the public transportation system of Paris on my own to get to and from school every day. I sat in classes when I didn’t understand a word. I felt scared, vulnerable, and helpless.

My brothers condition incited those feelings too. Throughout my childhood, I watched him endure devastating internal joint and soft tissue bleeds. I wanted so much to help him, to prevent the bleeding episodes. But I could do nothing. 

But, horses were always there for me to help me through: In books, in films, on street corners. We lived right next to the barracks of the famous Garde Republicaine - the French mounted guard, and I could hear the clip-clops of the horses’ shoes reverberating on the the pavement right over the wall behind my family’s apartment! 

The example of a horse’s service, generosity, stoicism always inspired me. It still does. And humbles me too. 

That childhood fear, sense of vulnerability and helplessness, paved the way to my purpose. As the Portuguese saying goes, “God writes straight on crooked lines.” I have traveled along a bunch of crooked lines. And that is a very good thing. I know what it is like for a horse to live in a world where is doesnt speak the language. I know how horses feel when they try their best to please yet their efforts are not recognized or are misinterpreted. I can relate viscerally to the terrorizing threat of losing someone important in your “herd”.

That is why every person who gets a MMSC horse must prove first his or her ability to keep and properly care for it. When they come to the MMSC I watch the horse’s reactions to see what it has to say about the match. I am committed to trying to understand the language and the issues of every horse that comes through the program. 

I move about 35 to 40 horses a year through the MMSC. That many not seem like many in relation to a yearly foal crop in the twenty thousands. I remind myself, however, that a cistern is filled one drop at a time. A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step. If I commit myself every day to living in authenticity and in the service to something bigger than myself, then each pure drop, and each true step will make a difference. One horse, one person, one smile at a time. 

Those of you who live on purpose know from your own experiences how rewarding every small service can be. For those of you who may still be searching for your purpose, listen to your small inner voice. That’s your “Garmin,” your inner GPS. It may or may not lead you to material riches, but it will, I assure you, always lead you to a path replete with unexpected and truly marvelous treasures. 

Cheery bye,

Why is exigent highlighted?  

Because it is the Blog Word of the Day: 

 Help us reach our goal of 112,000 total blog visitors this year! Join our Word of the Day contest and you could be entered in a grand prize drawing to win a $500 horse credit at the MMSC or a Breyer model of Secretariat signed by Secretariat’s jockey Ron Turcotte! Simply read the blog every Sunday and find the highlighted Word of the Day. Then write a sentence using the word and submit it to mmsc04@gmail.com for a chance to be entered to win! Please read the full contest details below before submitting an entry.
  • Blogs will be posted on Sundays. A chosen word will be highlighted within each blog post.
  • Sentences using the highlighted word must be emailed to mmsc04@gmail.com with the subject line “Word of the Day Contest”.
  • Entries may be submitted each week following a blog post from the posted time through Thursday at 5:00 pm.
  • Winners will be posted on the MMSC Facebook page each Friday following a blog post.
  • Entries must include the highlighted word of the day. The word of the day may be used in other parts of speech other than the one used in the blog, i.e. the highlighted word in the blog may be "malleability" but entrants may use the more common form "malleable" in their sentences.
  • Entries must also include the entrant’s full name (first and last) and email address.
  • Entrants may submit more than one sentence for consideration.
  • Sentences will be judged based on correct use of the word of the day, grammar and sentence structure, and creativity. 
  • Sentences will be judged by the MMSC staff, including MMSC Director Susanna Thomas, MMSC Barn and Media Manager Catherine Flowers, and MMSC Office Manager Lori Tobin.
  • Winners of each word of the day contest throughout the year will be entered in a grand prize drawing to win their choice of either a $500 horse credit toward an MMSC horse available for adoption or a Breyer model of Secretariat signed by Ron Turcotte. To use the $500 horse credit, the winner must become an approved adopter with the MMSC and follow all adoption policies and procedures.
  • The grand prize drawing will be held at the end of the year after Christmas and prior to New Year’s Eve.
  • Disclaimer: This contest does not have a connection with Blogspot or Facebook in any way and is not sponsored, supported, or organized by Blogspot or Facebook. The recipient of the information provided by you is not Blogspot or Facebook but the Maker's Mark Secretariat Center.