I was about to exit my car, in the office parking lot this morning, when I looked down and saw the litter. No, this was not someone’s tossed out breakfast wrappers – but it would make some people just as crazy. This litter was a nice mix of bark and leaves, cascading over the curb to the pavement below. I smiled as I noticed a clue as to how so much litter had moved from the planted area to the pavement – several semi-circular ‘divots’ in the mulch, where the soil peeked through.
My smile was caused by imagining the bird who’d scratched out the mulch, in search of their breakfast of bugs, worms, or seeds. Sparrow? Jay? Turkey? As I mulled the possibilities, my mind turned to the many people I knew who would be upset with this little mess behind. Blowers would soon be called out, to return things to a sterile tidiness, if only for a brief time. The thought of such fussiness made me chuckle, as I gathered my belongings to head inside.
Life with animals, particularly horses, schools you in the art of accepting the messy. Oh, I’ve known many a horse owner who obsesses over neatness – but they and their horse are rarely particularly happy in their lives together. Some horses are certainly tidier, with themselves or their surroundings, than others – but I have yet to find a horse who really cares that they or their surroundings are spotless. We’ve never lived with a horse who didn’t love a good roll in damp sand – resulting in a mess that makes most humans shriek. I’ve never seen a horse embarrassed by said mess.
Home horsekeeping also takes time away from housekeeping. With the exception of those who can afford a house cleaner, I have yet to meet a home-horse owner whose house would meet the standards of a 1950’s television housewife. Most would have said housewife fainting at the sight! It’s a trade-off we accept. Time is a discreet resource, and we prioritize time with our horses over a clean floor. Not for nothing do you see memes proclaiming that some of us would rather clean stalls than clean dishes!
Embracing a messy life isn’t just about making a conscious choice to spend time with the horses, rather than tidying the house. Nature thrives on messy – so embracing Nature requires embracing mess. Our property is a perfect example. While our neighbors obsessively mow, spray, and cut nearly anything that grows, in an attempt to keep things as tidy as possible, we leave things as wild as we can get away with. While that makes our property unappealing to our neighbors, it is thoroughly appealing to a host of birds, insects, and reptiles. Most of our neighbors do not enjoy the variety of visitors, or host the number of ‘households’ that we do throughout the year.
Of course, most of my neighbors don’t care – and likely prefer it that way. As the population moved further away from a direct reliance upon Nature, it seems to have learned to dislike those messy things that go along with the beauty of it. Several years ago, a new housing development went up several miles away, with the mission of staying close to Nature. Built in a beautiful natural area, as much of the original landscape was kept as was possible – and housing landscape was done in a way to blend. A creek running through was home to a healthy population of a local frog. People flocked to this development, and paid high prices for these lovely homes in an idyllic setting … and within a year or two were calling for the removal of the frogs! It seems that the frogs’ evening songs were too disturbing to the humans. They wanted the beauty of nature as a movie set, constructed for their pleasure only, with none of the mess or noise that comes with real Nature.
Anyone who has raised children should recall that the most fun was had in the messiest times. The first time your child feeds herself. When he helps you bake cookies for the first time. Finger painting. Childhood is the time most recall as the most fun – and it was likely the most messy! Yet so many adults I know obsess over the least bit of untidiness. It is a head-scratcher. And it is bad for all of us. Those blowers that will remove the parking lot litter add to the pollution, and throw particles into the air that we asthmatics dread. Those close cropped lawns offer little in the way of cover or food stuffs needed by the birds, bees, and other wild things around us. Worse, they often come with pesticides that have all but eliminated praying mantis and lady beetles in our region – the very insects that could help us with the pests we spray for! Cleaning fluids and disinfectants are showing up in our water sources, and making some of them uninhabitable. At what cost comes the obsession with cleanliness?!
I will continue to embrace the messy. I will continue to enjoy the morning bird songs, and evening frog chorus, that accompany me in my messy surroundings. I will continue to smile at my horses enjoying a good roll, whatever the mess it results in. I will feel pleasure in the insect and animal life that multiplies within our surrounds. While others buy Japanese lady beetles for their gardens, each year, our native lady beetles are so numerous that a walk through our fields will result in an adornment of your pant legs with gleaming red ‘beads’. As I embrace the beauty of Nature, so shall I embrace the mess that comes with her!
Oh, and as I was leaving for lunch, I happened to spot one of the possible culprits in the parking lot litter – a juvenile turkey. Perhaps it is one of the flock of babies I saw, not long ago, ranging around their mother. I smiled again, thinking of all of the messes he is likely to create, and the people it will distress. “Come live with me, Mr. Turkey,” I thought. “You can make all the messes you want, here!”
Be good to Nature, and enjoy the messiness along the way!
Postscript: Among Nature’s mess is the sloppy ground we’ve lived with for months, now. The horses and I are all itching to reengage in our activities, but have to wait for Nature to bless us with more sunshine. When that happens, I will have more inspiration for equine subjects.