The TALE: Tehachapi Art, Literature and Entertainment
August 5, 2023
Did you ever think you would be encouraged to "embrace your inner donkey?" Evidently there is a pretty full collection of donkey books that lead to that advice, from Socrates and Shakespeare to "The Bible" and the adventures of Don Quixote. Mentions of donkeys are widely spread through both literature and history.
The donkey was domesticated as early as 5,000 to 7,000 B.C. in Africa, and has been used as a working animal since. A beast of burden. Their bodies are strong, their spindly legs taking sure steps, they can go without water for days at a time and have such a strong sense of smell, they are alert to their dinner growing from several miles away.
They also have a great respect for self preservation. When asked to do something they feel is dangerous, they are stubborn. Yet, when life or man hits them with unconscionable cruelty, they humbly withstand the attacks. They bear both physical and emotional onslaughts quietly... and when possible, resume their lives with both patience and perseverance afterward.
Well, there may be one exception. Winnie the Pooh's friend Eeyore does moan and groan a lot. But even Eeyore can come up with wisdoms for both the Pooh gang and its readers. Eeyore once brayed in his slow gravelly voice, "A little consideration, a little thought for others, make all the difference." That is good advice indeed.
Donkeys have held an important place in history, from building pyramids and the great roads of the Romans, to hauling water and necessities in third world countries. There are over 40 million donkeys in the world today and though some donkeys are allowed to roam free in places in Italy and Hawaii, these beasts of burden still pay the price for man's dominion. Patrick Barrett writes of his own story in "Sanctuary," sharing his childhood with parents who took care of retired and injured donkeys in Ireland. I had no idea sanctuaries of this kind actually existed until reading Barrett's story. After serving in the war and coming home with PTSD, he found his way to healing and hope while caring for those sanctuary donkeys. They In turn reciprocated.
Rachael Anne Ridge has written four books about her experience with donkeys. The first is "Flash" about a donkey who needed a home and her family who needed a donkey. Learning about love and trust while breaking down fences and rebuilding relationships, Flash was their unlikely hero with a great big hee-haw voice. "Walking with Henry" was published next, as the family takes in a second donkey as a companion to Flash. "The Donkey Principle'' shows the difference between flashy race horses and the donkey that consistently shows strength, determination and how to stay in life for the long haul. Ridge also published the children's book "Flash the Donkey Makes New Friends" illustrated with pictures in the simplicity I think a donkey would admire.
The one donkey book I found to be the most compelling (but not for everyone) is written through the voice of Andy Merrifield in "The Wisdom of Donkeys: Finding Tranquility in a Chaotic World." I was first caught up in the opening chapter so full of big wonderful words. Words are pure joy to me and he used them so thoughtfully, poetically and also with a sharp edge that brutally cuts away the mundane to show another world. This world is a choice. He starts out by saying that a donkey taught him the meaning of compassion. Then he proceeds to give practical information about donkeys, philosophical snapshots of human souls and a humbling experience of walking through the many forests and villages of France. He purposefully chooses a donkey to walk by his side. He speaks of their everyday experiences and memories they trigger, his own and those shared by others. He expresses views of books and insights of their authors. He takes the reader down a long road that always circles back to his donkey and the simple sound he makes munching on the grasses, rolling in the dirt with pure joy when backpack free and watching the stars together in the night sky.
Each donkey has its own tenacious story of toil, sometimes amidst great abuse. They hide their pain in silence. They carefully and patiently carry the burdens of man. But if you take a walk with a donkey by your side, they are so willing to help slow you down and quiet the world around you and show you just how to "be." If you can't find a donkey of your own, share the ones these authors offer you. There is a journey and wisdom waiting.
*Midge Lyn'dee is a fictional character used for the purpose of entertainment though the reviews are real and sincere.