shortest days


Every year, I struggle around the solstice. Maybe it’s because the Holiday spirit doesn’t seem to do much for me, maybe I’m just not a shopper or maybe I have trouble getting and receiving gifts. Nah, it’s just that I need the sunlight and I need the daylight hours in which to get everything done that I need to. Even in the long days of summer, I never seem to find enough time to ride as much as I’d like or to do as much as I’d like to get done, so losing 6 hours of daylight certainly cuts into that mix!

I know our ancestors created big holidays around the solstice as an opportunity to build community in those times where the nights are long and cold. It’s a time to come together an remind ourselves what makes us human. Strangely, I find myself wanting to be alone more in these times.

Yesterday, the cold rain was falling all day. I cancelled lessons and advised any volunteers that they should probably stay home and be warm and dry. So it was just me, 18 horses, nine barn cats and the goats, a boatload of chores – and the rain. Sometime in the late afternoon, I was up in the pasture digging trenches for the rain water to flow into the creek. My wrist and back were aching and the mud had seeped into my tall rubber boots. I was feeling sorry for myself, feeling under-staffed and overworked and generally having a big jolly pity party for myself. It’s easy for a girl to do while standing shin deep in mud while your office is spilling over with projects to finish, bills to pay and an email inbox with over 100 messages waiting to be dealt with.

Just as I was reaching the apex of my now full-blown self absorbed feel-sorry-for-myself-jubilee, Gigi, the princess Tb mare, made her way over to me. She just looked at me and invited me to pet her head with my muddy gloves. We stood together for a few minutes. She didn’t turn and demand that I scratch her withers, she didn’t sniff my pockets for treats. She just wanted to be close. Not for protection, or food, she forsook the company of the other horses in the pasture – just to be close to me. We simply hung out for awhile like the old friends that we are, in the rain and the mud. I told her what a fool I was and I thanked her for her own version of wisdom.

Some days – however short, turn out to be very good days.

Joell Dunlap

Executive Director
Square Peg Foundation
Mission: to turn “I wish” into “I can.”

“Happiness comes of the capacity to feel deeply,
to enjoy simply, to think freely, to risk life, to be needed.”
-Storm Jameson

3 Replies to “shortest days”

  1. Dear Joell,____I know how easy it is to fall into those moments. I also am very aware how much my horses reach out to me with unconditional love. Those are the moments to be cherished and savored FOREVER! I am so pleased that you took the time to write about your experience for all of us to share with you. ____Gigi is quite wise. Most of all she probably knows when to reach out and ask for help when she truly needs it. *looking at you sternly* Seriously, Joell, Square Peg Foundation is not a project to be undertaken, at any given moment, by yourself, on good days, let alone poor weather days! ____My heart goes out to you and all of your members. Wishing all of you a joyous Merry Christmas filled with lots of love from all of your friends with two legs and four legs. :)____D'Arcy

  2. Dear Joell,
    As we drove south on this Winter Solstice, I thought of you and Gigi and Stanley and all the other friends at the ranch as the sun set over the Pacific near Ventura. I cried tears of goodbye, yet I also smiled at a familiar memory. I too, recently had a moment of feeling sorry for myself as I stood by the rail on a cold Tuesday morning last week at Square Peg. I wanted to ride away into the hills with you but I realized that it was not to be. Stanley came and leaned his head into mine and just sighed. I wept and he just stood there silently. I laughed eventually and he shook his head and snorted and I walked away feeling grateful for his wise presence. We are off to find our haven in "Oz" and I must go one day at a time as we give in to the process it requires. The kids are smiling different smiles as am I and it is largely due to the solace and wonder we found at Square Peg and on the coast. Thank you for all you do and for all that you touch. Happy holidays. Take the time for you and yours and remember all that you are grateful for. Blessings.

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