This weeks blog will be one of the hardest that I have written in a very long time. I apologize in advance as I fear this blog post may bounce around much like my emotions lately. I am not going to lie, the past couple weeks have been really difficult for me, and this past week has been especially challenging. For that reason, this week I will not be telling a GotW story, but I will be memorializing a recent one. Sadly this past week, we had to say goodbye to our dear SRM Aphrodite. This is not a loss that I am taking well, and to be honest it has had me going through some big waves of emotions. I'll get back to what happened to Dite, but first I need to address something else.
This past week has also been especially painful and difficult as my entire country comes to terms with the mass shootings that occurred in Nova Scotia, and the terrible and tragic loss of so many lives TAKEN by a very ill person. My heart breaks for the victims of such terrible violence, and also for the loved ones left behind. As the information about the events that took place come out, I admit I am stunned speechless. This can't be real! Not in Canada! My brain is really struggling to cope with all of the suffering that occurred, and at a time when the entire human race is struggling to cope through a pandemic. This is all honestly too horrible to bear at times.
Emotions are at an all time high everywhere. Countries are struggling to balance between protecting the health of their people vs the stability of the economy. Small businesses are closing at an alarming rate. The vulnerability of our aging and elderly populations, and the conditions of the care homes they reside in. The heartbreaking stories of loved ones dying alone in hospitals or long term care facilities due to the restrictions of social isolation. Everywhere we turn right now, we can't escape the realities of the current situation. This level of stress definitely has a HUGE impact on everyone and the effects can be long lasting. As the days pass and the lockdown continues, what more will we have to face? One thing is for sure, although some of us go through more hardships than others through life's journey, no one gets through life without some level of loss, suffering and/or sacrifice.
Something else has also been sticking out to me lately as I speak to people. Although we are "all in this together", we are not all necessarily going through the same experience. The challenges and struggles we each face will be very different from each other. While some may face a major financial crisis, they may not be suffering from the isolation aspect. Alternatively, someone who may not be struggling to make ends meet, may be suffering a major emotional crisis while being isolated from everyone and thing familiar and comforting. Some of us will be directly impacted by the virus and may become sick, or know someone who does. For others, they may never know someone personally who was ever infected with it. I have friends who have had to choose to send their own children away for safety due to being front line or essential workers. Others who don't have that option face the additional fear of potentially bringing the virus home to their own loved ones. We may all be facing the same storm during this crisis, but we are not all facing the same daily choices, challenges or obstacles. This is why I feel that love, kindness and compassion are even more important right now. Regardless of age, race, economic status, religion, political leanings or otherwise, we are all impacted. How can we not all feel compassion for one another at a time like this? I consider each group and the changes and adjustments in everyone's lives, and I see how devastating and dangerous the ripple effects of this crisis will have on every aspect of everyone's lives for potentially a very long time. I worry most for the children who can't yet understand what is happening, and for those most vulnerable. I worry for the victims of domestic violence, as I understand that they may be suffering worse during this time do to heightened stress of their abusers, and the isolation from the lockdown. Each person we see, pass by or otherwise every single day is going through something. Let's please all remember that and work to be kind and compassionate to each other. Love really is the right choice right now <3
One my biggest personal struggles in coping at the moment is the essential shopping trips for the things my farm and family need. The entire ordeal of trying to go into a store is completely exhausting physically, mentally and emotionally now. My psyche shudders to grasp the new reality of what it means to go shopping. I am sure many have experienced this same thing recently and are also trying to cope. A week ago I went to the grocery store to get some basic items. I lined up outside in the freezing cold and stood in that line for over an hour and a half to get inside to shop. Having been spoiled in the past with instant access to stores, I did not dress to stand there in the cold for so long. It was a sobering wait, with occasional snow which brought me plenty of time to reflect and practice gratitude :) When it was finally my turn to go shopping amongst the near bare aisles, I found myself once again struggling emotionally, as almost nothing on my list was available in the store. Initially I felt overwhelmed and rather devastated, this could not be real right? It was a moment I will never forget as long as I live. From the masked faces in the aisles, to the empty shelves, to the lines on the floor, to how I was feeling personally, to the plexiglass barrier between myself and the cashier, all images forever burned in my memory. So please consider for a moment - my personal biggest struggle at the moment is SHOPPING. I honestly feel blessed that I can say that shopping is my biggest struggle right now. I am far luckier than most, and for that I am grateful. Wow, let me also tell you how grateful I am, that I have an ability to remain optimistic through the roughest times. Instead of giving into emotion during my shopping experience, I chose instead to browse the aisles of what remained, hoping for inspiration or new ideas of foods to try and experiment with. I've always enjoyed cooking, but lately it has felt therapeutic. I have been finding a great deal of stress relief in learning to bake breads, bagels and other tasty things. Perhaps it is the kneading of dough, or the delicious smells of fresh baked breads filling my house. Right now we all need joy, so if it brings joy - do it!
OK, so no more beating around the bush on this. The farm suffered a big loss this past week. I even struggle to say I suffered a big loss this week. This death is one that I can't explain, and to be honest is down right shitty. This is the side of the farming lifestyle that I find to be the real challenge. The divide between life and death is so thin sometimes. Last weekend SRM Aphrodite became ill. She went downhill fast and was showing signs of suffering from polio, which in goats causes a cascade effect of health challenges that can lead to blindness, encephalitis and death. In the past I've been successful with saving some from polio, but this was a battle I was not meant to win. For five exhausting days I fought by her side, but in the end she chose to be at peace. My dear Dite. My Goddess of Love. I was not ready to say good-bye. What a sad irony that during this time when love is needed the most, the one member of my herd that is representative of love dies. I have bounced back and forth between waves of anger and frustration, mixed with deep sadness and grief this past week. It isn't all likely due to the passing of Dite, but a culmination of many things. However, her passing in the midst of it all seems somehow completely unfair. She wasn't old or sick, she was in her prime! One thing is for certain, this special goat was very loved by many people. She was part of a few different herds and spent time with a few different people during her days. She healed the hearts of many in her five short years of life. Each of us that were blessed to have her in our lives were so lucky. How grateful I am to have had the privilege of knowing her, and for her bearing the name of my farm. May her spirit always roam free through the meadows surrounding my farm and may she follow wherever her herd roams.
OK, I don't want to dwell on her passing, so I want to change the vibe of this post to be more reflective of the message of LOVE I want to send out, as that is who Dite really was. There is a bigger message here that I also need to try to share, and words do not always come easily to this kind of sharing. This past week with Aphrodite has given me another lesson to grow from. As I spent many hours thinking back to why I chose her name and the significance and meaning it had for me then, and what it signifies for me now. Aphrodite was born the summer of 2014, the year that I lost Geordon. She was literally born from a living miracle in my opinion. Her mother Neveah had a traumatic birth and by all rights shouldn't have even been alive. For her to give birth to triplets in 2014 was significant for me as it was the year I was originally set to begin my therapeutic programs on the farm. All of that changed with Geordon's death and the financial crisis I found myself in thereafter. I am not sure if I have shared this with anyone, or if anyone ever made the connection, but I named Neveah's triplets Phoenix, Soleil and Aphrodite. Literally to me they signified my need and desire to raise myself from the ashes of my life, and in rebirth, to shine and spread love. Sadly for me at the time though, apparently I wasn't meant to open my doors (yet), and had to sell of most of my herd - including Aphrodite and Phoenix. A year ago though, I was reunited with Aphrodite when she returned to the farm to retire. Now she has passed and has been placed in a SE facing spot on my farm. For anyone who ever doubts whether animals have emotions, or intelligence, I want to share something that happened on Saturday afternoon. At this time of year my bucks are as mild mannered as kittens and I often just let them roam freely on my yard during the day as we don't have a separate fenced space for them outside yet. As I was working in the yard doing poo patrol with a couple volunteers, I witnessed Rembo walk from where the boys were browsing in the field, walk directly to lie down on top of Aphrodite's fresh grave. I know how deeply connected my herd is to each other, but rarely are there events such as this to be witnessed that can't be denied. I called to both Bailey and Erik to see for themselves. Rembo lay upon her grave for a good hour on Saturday afternoon, in silent love and respect. As I watched in awe, and as it continued to hit me in the FEELS bigtime, I continued to work and process the lessons that moment held.
So, here is my 2020 so far: in January I officially opened my business, my FEEL practice, and farm doors. On March 6, 2020, the farm was featured on CTV News Barrie, and on March 9, 2020 I was interviewed on CBC Radio. What a high!!! Four days later on March 13, 2020 I was forced to close my doors and my business due to the COVID-19 health crisis. Now I am unable to earn an income doing what I've spent the last 12 years creating. No way is this my reality! I refuse to accept that and absolutely will find a way to make this work by adapting to the present situation... somehow. My herd and I have worked too hard for too many years, fighting to earn credibility and trust to give up or stop now. I love my Muskoka community and have worked hard to create this farm. I want to be able to support my community the best way I know how - through connective, healing experiences with animals. I am so happy to say that by holding true to love, I think I have found a way to at least begin to help and support my community during this crisis. I may not be able to earn an income, but I can still go and make people feel better. So starting this week, Yara and I, and perhaps a few others, plan to start visiting in the community. With the help of some great friends at local long term care facilities, we will be making window visits with seniors who currently are in real need of having their spirits lifted <3 I truly believe that if we want to receive love in our lives, we must be freely willing to give it. There is no greater need for love than right now, and I have love to give in spades! My hope is to spread as much love, smiles and hope to my community, so that it will come back to my family and continue to grow. If you know of someone who could really use a visit from a couple of crazy goats, get in touch and let's see what we can do! I'll also be reaching out and connecting in ways that I can think up. Sky River Meadows may not be open for visits, but the goats and I will be popping up here and there to remind everyone that we will be here when you're finally able to come visit us. Hang in there. This too shall pass. Find small ways to take care of yourself, and each other, each and every day. When in doubt, choose love. <3 ~ Angee
P.S. In case of interest, here is the link to Aphrodite's GotW story from earlier this year. https://www.skyrivermeadows.com/healing-with-the-herd---blog/goat-of-the-week-sky-river-meadows-aphrodite