Think about this concept, if you’ve not done so before: everything has an expiration date.
Everything. Let’s start with the basics: a carton of milk, a can of soup, special offers from your favorite restaurant. These are expiration dates that we see every day: remember the last time you grabbed a big glass of milk, only to discover that the beverage was far beyond its “good by” date? Blech.
Ignoring the expiration date in that case resulted in a less-than-satisfactory experience. And that’s just milk.
But everything in Life–in the Universe, in fact–has an expiration date: stars, galaxies, trees, bodies of water. Nothing disappears, of course–it gets “recycled,” as it were, into a different form of energy, molecules, etc.
The expiration date relates to the form as we know it: that pretty star that we see in the sky? It was there a billion years ago, and now all we’re seeing is leftover Star Shrapnel. The orange leaf on our favorite tree? Will be gone in a few weeks, turned to brown, crunchy, dry mulch.
But in turn that leaf will feed the tree and other plants and microscopic critters in its surrounding environment, and will live again next year, in the form of a bigger, stronger tree and even more-vibrant leaves.
Ah, now we get to the part of the Theory of Expiration Dates that make some people feel uncomfortable. Not one aspect of Life is exempt from the Theory, for the Theory speaks of growth, and of the future’s need to clear space. Out with the old, in with the new. Everything expires, whether or not we think we’re ready for it: Relationships. Jobs. Living situations. Life, itself, is subject to expiration of one form, in order that another form can be born…
I’m quite comfortable with expiration dates–they put borders on a situation. It’s true, isn’t it?, that–if we try to extend the deadline, artificially (force a relationship “to work”; stay at a job long after we stopped caring; didn’t move out of that neighborhood, even though we saw the drug dealers, perching on the porch)–if we dig in our heels and try to force a situation to remain the same, because we’re comfortable there (or afraid of the unknown)–it will go bad.
It’s a guarantee. Trust me, I’ve been there. Almost immediately, the relationship will go from bad to horrible. The job, well, the boss will fire you, or you’ll go nuts. (One day you’ll just jump up on your desk, sing La Bamba and do a jaunty little Flamenco.) And the living situation? The drug dealers will come right into your living room, via the BoGo offer they extend to your 13-year-old.
Expiration Dates. Gotta respect ’em.
But if you do respect the “best if used by” date on the bottom of the packaging–including Life situations–you find that the next step is a perfect fit. The next step most often reveals itself in a synchronistic fashion, and–if you’re tuned into Synchronicity, divine orchestration–you end up not only moving on, but also sitting back in wonderment for a moment. You know for sure that you’re part of The Whole Enchilada, a vital, colorful thread in the Big Tapestry of Life.
So where’s the part about a horse?
Ah, it’s a horse you want, to illustrate the Theory. We’re here: Allow me to tell you about a groovy thing that happened to me this summer. An expiration date arrived, and I’m grateful that I had the wherewithal to read the signs, and to comply–thereby I became part of The Plan, not just an observer, or roadkill on the Inevitable Highway.
On August 4th I attended the Equine Advocates gala dinner in Saratoga. Always a lovely affair. I was seated with some media colleagues for the supper. Nice folks, all–but I speak with these particular people all the time–most at the table were friends. So I was jonesin’ for some conversation with people I don’t see very often.
With joy in my heart, I welcomed the distraction when the beautiful Suzie O’Cain beckoned me from her table, right behind. She called on that part of me that feels…sassy…when she said “…C’mon over here! We need a laugh!”
(Re. “sassy”: you see, the gleam in Suzie’s eye always makes me smile, something about her brings out the Rowdy Girl in me, and many other women who know and adore her.)
I moved over, and parked my gleeful self at her table, next to a lovely woman whom I knew I’d met somewhere before. The minute Suzie introduced me to the gracious, funny lady–I knew that an Expiration Date had been dumped into my lap. Wow.
Let’s step back for a minute: this story actually began about eight years ago. My friend, Landa, lived in Bedford, New York, across a dirt road from a Thoroughbred farm. The main entrance to the farm was on a paved road–but her dirt road formed another border of the farm, ‘way away from the barns and such.
Landa’s a lovely person, not necessarily a horse fanatic like me. She had in her home something that she’d found–and valued–in spite of the fact that she’s not obsessive about horses, and she was eager to show it to me.
It was a bird’s nest made entirely of horse hair. A teeny, itty-bitty bird’s nest–no wider than 2″ across. We guessed that it may have been a hummingbird’s nest, it was that small. We couldn’t fathom how tiny and fragile had been the little eggs planted there by the Mother.
This nest was one of the most magnificent things I ever, ever have seen. Not a twig, not a feather–no building materials except long, chestnut, grey and bay hairs from the tail and mane of a horse.
And the horse, Landa informed me, was a big old fellow who hung out every day beneath his favorite tree–right across from my her front yard. His tree was quite a walk from the barns, but my friend said that every day, that gorgeous boy would leave his barn in the morning and walk across the enormous paddocks to get to his special tree.
He loved his tree.
And the Mother bird who chose his special hair to build a home for her babies–she must have loved that horse. Together, the giant Thoroughbred and the Thumbelina-esque bird shared a tree, and something very intimate: part of his very body was used by the wise Mother to create the place to plant and nurture her own children.
That must have been some precious relationship.
Well, Landa moved to New England a few years later, and shortly thereafter, I received a light-weight box in the mail. Inside bubble-wrap, inside tissue paper, inside a tiny silver cardboard box–lay that small nest. Her note explained that, since she no longer lived across the road from the horse who kept her company every day–and that I was in Saratoga, and such a rabid horseperson–she felt that the nest was mine, by rights.
Of course, you know me–I wept.
I treasured that nest, and displayed the tiny home in my own home for five years, with no idea that ever would I let go of that darling reminder of the tenderness of animals, and of their God.
That brings us back to 2011, and to the party in Saratoga. As Suzie introduced me to her friend, the horsewoman, I recognized her name and face. I yelped, “You own a farm in Bedford, don’t you?!?” She may have been taken aback, but she laughed, smiled and allowed me to gush out the story of Landa and the nest.
She was so happy to hear about it: she loved that old horse, yes, she concurred, he spent every day under his special tree. I believe that she said his name was Nero–to be honest, I was so jazzed about this Synchronicity that I couldn’t hear very well, for the rushing of blood in my ears.
I asked if she was going to be around Saratoga for a few days: yes, she was here for the horse sales.
I promised to show the nest to her–you see, I’d not-yet accepted that, as of that meeting–the nest was no longer mine. We agreed that I would show the nest to her if I ran into her–I didn’t offer to hand it off, even though she was the rightful owner.
A few days later, I attended the Fasig-Tipton (horse) sales. The second night of the sales, I had a million-billion things on my mind, and was tired. It began to rain, so I decided to pack it in about 2/3 of the way through the evening. I hated to leave, but I was utterly exhausted, and had a long few days ahead of me.
As I sloshed through the rain, I decided at the last minute that, perhaps I should duck into the women’s room before I left the vicinity. I dashed into the closest loo, an almost sinfully beautifully bathroom in the pavilion building. (Well, I guess if you’re spending a million bucks on a horse, you might expect to have mahogany-walled stalls, yes?)
As I whipped open the big door into the room, whom did I almost belt with the heavy door, and run over?
Of course–the horselady from Bedford.
She smiled, we hugged each other and agreed to meet the next day so that I could show the nest to her.
I knew, even as we exchanged that hug and conversation, that the next day I would give her the nest–it was not mine.
Had I not left the sales early;
had I not decided to use the women’s room;
had I not gone into that particular women’s room;
had she not been there, at that moment–
I might not have given the nest to her.
I might have convinced myself that the Expiration Date had not-yet arrived. That it was just a cool “coincidence” that I met the woman who owned the farm where lived the horse whose hair had made my nest.
But that second meeting–ah, that was the synchronistic thump on the head from God, telling me that, yes, it was time to hand off that lovely piece of Nature.
The nest was no longer mine–in fact, I knew from the experience that the nest was never mine, in the first place.
I’m sure that Landa would have given the nest to the horse’s owner, if she’d known her well. But in her friendship for me, and knowing of my love for horses, she gave it to me. Landa wanted the nest to have a good home, and it did–but really, I was just taking care of it for the rightful owner, until the time was right.
Five years after I received that delicate package in the mail, I sent the nest home. The lovely lady and I met up the next day, and as I handed it to her, I explained that it was hers, not mine.
I won’t pretend that I did so with no emotion: I felt a tug, as I let go of the darling little home that told such a big story about the connection of those two animals. But, tug as it may’ve–the nest had to be given to the woman whose heart so loved her beautiful, big horse–and now had this sweet piece of him, forever.
This tale-of-a-tail may sound overly sentimental to some of you, and to others, it will make perfect sense.
I had in my possession something so dear, so special–a connection between two very different animals. I loved it. It made me smile, every time I looked at it, and thought about the two beings and their relationship.
But it was not mine, never was: I was merely the (blessed) caretaker of the delicate abode, until time, space and God conspired to give it to its rightful owner. It was entrusted to me for five years, and then it was gone.
The Expiration Date had arrived, and I went with it. Had I not done as I was being instructed, I’d feel lousy today, because I’d had the opportunity to play a role in a small, yet spiritually-significant Horse Tale–and chose to ignore the signs.
Watch the signs for Expiration Dates in your own Life, my friends Whether it’s a relationship with another human, or with a possession, or even with your horse or pet cat–fear not the date, for as soon as you hand over the thing that you prize–you’ll be rewarded with something far-more meaningful.
Even if that thing is “just” a lesson, or the great peace that comes from having listened, and done The Right Thing.
Even when they’re not aware that they’re doing it–horses teach us lessons, if only we listen, watch and open our hearts to the possibilities.