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What the Animals Tell Us

Before there were plants, there were animals.

Okay, that statement is totally false in the cosmic sense, but ridiculously true in my personal experience.

Family myth has it that the first word out of my mouth was “horsey.” For years I thought my love of horses was a weird genetic anomaly, maybe harkening back to some long lost ancestor who rode with the Mongolian horde (my mother’s side of the family immigrated from the Russian side of the Mongolian border, which was close enough to Mongolia for my teenage imagination).

But it turned out that our horse-loving lineage was closer than any of us thought: as a girl, my grandmother would steal her dad’s work horse which pulled the ice cart he used to deliver blocks of ice (back when ice boxes really were boxes that held a huge chunk of ice to keep your food cool). When great-granddad came home for lunch, my grandmother would unhitch the horse, hop up bareback, and ride unhindered through the streets of Philadelphia. When lunch break was over, my grandmother’s brothers would run through the streets calling her name; she’d give the horse back, and with it, give up her few moments of freedom.

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When I arrived, she washed my feet in flowered water and dried them with her long red hair. This is how my studies in Ireland begin. (Admit it: you thought I was working on a sappy romance novel! Hmmm…..) The trip to the farmette, where my teacher Gina lived, involved...

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