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From the Stench of Manure Flowers Bloom

 

I sift. Through the wood shavings, a cloud of dust surrounds me in the heavy, humid air. A thin film of grit covers my skin, parallel to oil and turpentine on canvas, a clouded broth in a Petri dish. I am a volunteer at Quantum Leap Farm, a non-profit equestrian program for the injured and disabled. Hoisting up, sifting, I collect nuggets of manure and scoop up piles of bedding soaked in urine. There are piles, some clumped others scattered, but I scoop them all, dumping them into a large plastic barrel with rope handles. My own thoughts are digested in my head as I perform the rhythmic shoveling. Farther back in the stall, slightly covered with straw, there are piles: seven states, thirteen houses. Nine schools, eight overseas deployments my dad went away.

Another large pile in the corner from the night before— hadn’t seen it earlier, reminding me of the unexpected like the loss of my dad’s friend in Afghanistan, being jumped the first week of sixth grade during P.E. class in Baltimore, or the blessing of receiving a full ride scholarship to my current high school.

 

And a fresh dump from early this morning—remnants of the hours studying, the sipping of coffee to stay awake after coming home from an evening softball game.

 

I know I’ve just started, but my barrel is pretty full. I am glad I can be out here today, to get a breather, to give back, to know that I can fill my bucket up even more.

 

A father is in the stall next to me. He scoops while his son is in the arena, participating in a riding therapy session for disabled veterans. There are seen and unseen wounds, even on family. But our sutures are ripped out to reveal a scarring tissue that leaves our minds and bodies stronger, and us more willing to push through the crap to fight for what we cherish most.

I hoist and push our full buckets on a wagon, to the heaping dump pile located away from the stables and arena, close to the fields. When I march back, my name is soon called. I head to the field, then arena, with a bridal rope in hand.  

I lead a horse named Tampa Bay to the ramp on the edge of the riding area. With help, a four year old girl with autism gets on her saddle. She is about the same age as my brother, the same age I first got on a horse. As we go around the ring, a sparkle forms in the girl’s eyes. She squeezes the saddle horn, squeals when circling around a cone, and shouts with laughter when she sees the other horses in the fields, munching on grass and straw. Although I am just a pace in front of the horse’s head, the little girl is in her own world, her own time. For her, it’s not about how fast she’s going or having a proper Equestrian posture. It’s about savoring the moment, while seizing the day, to the fields and beyond the horizon. With grime under my nails, straw in my hair, and dirt collecting in my boots, I carry on because I am a humbled fighter. From the sweat and muck, a greater good shines from within, leaving a clean stall, and more importantly— smiles from the people looking on, the Rider, and the person firmly grasping the bridal next to them in this arena we call Life.   

 

 

- Karaghen Hudson, August 2013 

 

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