Compassion and Carrots

Campassion and Carrots by Caroline Scattergood
In memory of Jason, my donkey. Thank you for 30 years of devotion.I wrote these words 3 years ago and share them now as a tribute to my boy who died yesterday, 16th February 2015.

A Letter to...

My Beloved Pet Donkey     

Dear Jason
Did you know that for 27 years you have been my greatest teacher, long before I discovered the practice of mindfulness and Tibetan Buddhist meditation? I hope you will understand when I tell you that your 'art' of being present in the moment, be it eating grass in your paddock or munching on your hay bag in the stable when the rain pours down outside, is a lesson to me in "being here now!"

I guess most people reading this will be thinking 'she's strange, writing a letter to a donkey' but they haven't witnessed your many years of patience, compassion, acceptance and of course, your generosity. Every summer, I have observed you with pride as you welcome the return of the swallows after their long, arduous flight from South Africa. You offer shelter and share your home, watching as they rebuild their three nests. You show acceptance of the babies practicing their flying skills, swooping around your head, sometimes even pooing on it! 

You don't know this, Jason, but Archbishop Desmond Tutu is a fan of yours. We are in touch by email and I always tell him when the swallows have arrived safely and also when they depart. You are full of acceptance as they leave but I am way behind you in this skill. I shed a tear when they gather in the air, flying around our farmhouse roof as if to say 'thank you, see you next year.

As I write this to you I experience a wave of panic - what will happen when the day comes, as it must, that you and I have to go and the next folk to follow on don't leave the top of the stable door open for the swallows' return? Oh Jason, you still have a lot to teach me on impermanence, I'm overwhelmed with my grief now.Your simple routine every day is the same but do I hear a complaint, like "I'm bored", oh no never. 

At 6am you chomp away at carrots, mints and herb treats while your servant, me, mindlessly flies around munching toast on the run. Then we take our gentle walk together side by side across the garden to your paddock where you graze all day. As we return the same way in the evening I think, oh my Jason, you have all the teachings of the Buddha and angels in your heart.

You probably don't know this but I wasn't looking for a donkey; you were a mistake. I went to get a Shetland pony. You were unwanted, needy and I was told 'very' badly behaved, so home you came. 27 years ago it was a different story as we had not prepared for you. There were no fences to stop you biting the heads off all the roses and running around and around kicking, not allowing me to catch you. You were young, bold, and full of joy but of course that is another Buddhist practice, joy, and who better an example of this is there than His Holiness the Dalai Lama who exudes joy, despite having no homeland.

Well, I've decided I didn't really need years of racing up the motorway to London to study Buddhism... I've had the greatest teacher beside me here, They say, "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear." I just wasn't awake before.One of the most powerful verses for training the mind is:"When others treat me wrongly with abuse, slander and scorn,May I take upon myself the defeat and offer to others victory."This makes my heart flutter as I think of all your donkey relations who are treated so badly. I wish they could all be loved like you.

It's with gratitude I sign off, dear Buddha Buddy.May we walk the spiritual path for many years to come.

Compassion and carrots to you,

Love Caroline


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