In 1999 I was newly installed in a country home, had animals on the property for the first time and was actively involved in an organization called Pegasus Special Riders. Pegasus helped me get back involved in horses after a long hiatus, and I loved being a part of the team. I volunteered with barn chores, sidewalking and leading during lessons and, finally, training volunteers. This last task brought me in contact with a woman who would change my life in myriad ways, and all for the better. Laura showed up one morning for volunteer training, and she claims she appreciated the straight-forward way I had during interaction with the volunteers. I knew right away she was an intelligent and sensitive person, and we became fast friends. Laura is unlike most other people I knew. She is a rural girl but not “country.” She is highly learned and very intelligent, but not arrogant.
I never knew much at all about native plants and plant communities when I met Laura, but it did not take long for her to expand my knowledge and create a solid appreciation for our natural resources and a desire to live more lightly on the land. Conscientious to a tee, animals under her care are always treated with respect and dignity.
When I think back I ask myself, “Which came first? The chicken or the coffee?” I was completely unfamiliar with either when I met Laura, and she unashamedly got me hooked on both! I knew I wanted chickens, and she said “You should, you will love them.” I had no idea I really WOULD love them and become enamored with their silly ways, their beautiful feather patterns and the precious warm gifts they would leave for us each morning. Six hens quickly turned to a dozen, then twenty. I had a go-around with meat birds, too, and while that didn’t turn out to be my thing it is not off the table yet for our new place. Likewise, the first time she encouraged me to try a Starbucks chilled Frappuchino with chocolate milk I was SOLD! That led to mochas at the local indy bookstore to brewing my own at home. *gasp!* Now I am adept at brewing a cup or two in my French press and making my own mochas at home with ground chocolate and coconut milk creamer.
Eager to return the enablement favor, I introduced Laura to my own horses. She had ridden and loved horses all her life, but loved being in contact with the Pegasus horses and taking opportunities to ride with me. When the time came for us to find a new home for one of ours she took the plunge and bought him! He was a great companion for her for a few years until life got too busy for her to spend enough quality time with him and he went on to a new home.
Laura and I had many great times together. When our kids were younger we would head to the local bookstore, drink coffee and chatter with the store-owner. We would read the organic gardening magazines together and talk about our fantasies of having our own, self-sufficient gardens and animals. She introduced me more fully to the world of art, and helped me fall in love with an artist or two. Many beautiful prints hang in my home now because of Laura’s influence.
Laura was a faithful friend. She still is. She never judged me, at least not to my face! She was always patient and kind and helped me reach my own conclusions on weighty matters. When I struggled she stood by and held me up. When rejoiced she sang with me. When I cried she cried.
Things are a little different now. We don’t talk as often, seldom, in fact. She is working full-time now, as am I. The farm here keeps me as busy as my professional work does, and spending time any friends is difficult, let alone the ones who also work much.
The other night we had a lovely conversation on the phone, and I was reminded again how much I care about and miss her, and what a precious gift she has been in my life. I can honestly say, without exaggeration, that there are several big aspects of my life now that would not be there except by her influence- my school and work careers being among them. It is probably safe to say that she helped me grow as a person more than any other person in my life.
The only picture I have of her and me together; a terrible one of me but one I cherish nonetheless; a morning we spent canoeing on the Rock River:
I hope I never take her for granted, and that she knows how important she is to me.
I think I’ll tell her.