By: Deb Kitchenmaster

As the invisible plague has come to interrupt our varied daily activities, I have noticed STORYTELLING has showed up again and again to connect people. There are annual events centered on storytelling, there are individuals in households who carry the stories of the family, and there is the campfire’s warmth on a starlit night with story after story by people, of people and about people. Truly we are social people. Horses are social beings also.

I would like to tell you a story. I hope you enjoy. It’s about a rabbit and a little boy. Anything come to mind? If Margery Williams’s The Velveteen Rabbit comes to mind, we are on the same page. The rabbit (a stuffed bunny covered with inexpensive fabric) is a new arrival in the nursery surrounded by other toys, puzzles, games, and stuffed animals. The rabbit has two desires: fit in with his peers and become special to the boy. Christmas comes and new toys are unwrapped. The rabbit is abandoned as the boy gives his attention to the ‘newness’ in his room. Who comes to soothe the rabbit? The wise, old Skin Horse! The horse tells the rabbit that eventually the boy will love him. The horse is right, and the Velveteen Rabbit is selected to comfort the boy through a terrible illness. The boy’s relationship with the bunny and the experiences they have together transform it from a toy into something the Skin Horse calls REAL. Quote from Skin Horse, “Real is what happens when you become your true self — not a contrived, shiny, pretend thing — and are loved despite, and maybe even because of, your imperfections.”

You have heard it said before and it is worth repeating, “Horses are mirrors.” They reflect YOU; a reflection of your mental frame, your emotional networking, even your belief system. In a time when the stresses of daily life can steal your peace (if you don’t guard your heart/soul with all diligence) a horse holds INSIDE an invitation to lead us toward peace, self-acceptance, and true love. This is what the Skin Horse offers the rabbit in this story. “Real isn’t how you are made, “says the Skin Horse. It’s a thing that happens to you. When you are REALLY loved, then you become real! The rabbit asks, “Does it hurt?” “Sometimes,” says the Skin Horse, for he is always truthful. “When you are real you don’t mind being hurt.” “Does it happen all at once?” he asks, “or bit by bit?” “It doesn’t happen all at once,” says the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But those things don’t matter at all; because once you are real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

The rabbit sees something in the oldest and wisest resident of the nursery, the Skin Horse. This horse is a stuffed animal that has been loved so much and so hard that all of his hair has been rubbed off. However, the rabbit notices that the horse is happy, content, and secure in a way the other toys are not. The rabbit becomes intensely curious about how that might happen.

I was intrigued with the horses at Mardi Gras. In the sea of people, much commotion, surrounded by sundry motions, these horses (though ears moved back and forth continually), their feet did not move as they stood tied to a lamp post while their handlers entered a cafe for a coffee break. I saw ‘relationship training.’ What a visual!

Let’s consider REAL. Real is Possible. Real is a Process. Real is Emotional. Real is Empathetic. Real is Courageous. Real is Honest. Real is Generous. Real is Grateful. Real can be Painful. Real is Flexible. Real love Endures.

A Friend of mine said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me you might have peace. In the world you will have tribulations: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. And remember neighbor, this same Friend is coming back on a white (skin) horse! Not because everything is such a mess but because it’s time to attend a wedding!