Align | In Residence

poppy & thistle
March 8th, 2017

Align | In Residence

poppy & thistle

March 8th, 2017

The early rays of sun slice through the mist and travel in sync with the gentle pine perfumed breeze, while the bird songs play out interjected with crisp notes—dewy grass munched and crunched by two incredibly handsome creatures—Poppy and Thistle. *

Kissed by a golden glow, Poppy and Thistle inch closer, slathering on their charm to disarm me. And I walk right into it, no different than I did the previous day or the day before. So joyous am I to get Poppy and Thistle fresh treats, I get on the bike and ride past orchards to pick fresh fruit. As I pedal in the quiet of the morning, I reminisce stealing from various orchards in different countries (I do.). Bucketing down rain or ferocious guard dogs (that have me scrambling for the car) hasn’t stopped me. I have polished my act, just a tad—I tack thank you notes to trees and when possible introduce myself to the orchard’s owner or caretaker. Often intrigued with my direct explanation or learning of my contentment—to pick a few fruit of the ground—they extend me their generosity: “Let me show you where the ripe ones are,” they lead me to their picking ladders, “See you tomorrow. Let us know how your friends enjoyed the fruit!”

I receive an equally warm reception on my return. What appears to be a howl of laughter from Poppy is excited snorting. Dashing towards me, Poppy kicks her hoofs and contorts her mouth assuming she can scarf down Thistle’s portion of the treat. Not one to be content diddling on the side, Thistle establishes his assertiveness, packing quite the punch for his small size. The message is clear: “I love you Poppy, but I enjoy my treat just as much as you do yours.” This burro means business.

To watch Poppy and Thistle in action is a barrel of laughter! And my hands are no laughing matter either—they are coated with a gooey-pokey concoction of fruit juice, saliva, and hay. Seeing me wash my hands at a distance, Poppy neighs. It’s her way of demanding treats. The easiest thing would be to give into Poppy’s cravings, feed her more fruit. But to buckle to her whims and fancies would be reinforcing an unhealthy behavior. Moreover, I don’t want Poppy (or Thistle) to waddle with a belly full of fruit. Firm loving is about being gentle and giving, at the same time exercising responsibility.

To counter Poppy’s impatience, I move away to her calmer friend, Thistle, to have a talk. I then walk away.

Sure enough, Thistle calms his friend with wholesome, no-nonsense nudges. Vocal cords rested, the darling duo approach me like well-behaved Labradors, their postures do the speaking: we are obedient and charming, and yes, a treat or two or three is welcome.

Poppy’s world would not have been as loving and secure if not for Thistle, who was brought in as a baby burro, to be a soothing friend to Poppy. To see these physically strong animals display unpretentious tenderness infuses me with optimism in the same manner that (rare) people with strength of character exude great sensitivity.

There is more than meets the eye in this friendship—in all of Poppy and Thistle’s playfulness, there is depth. Their mutual affection is clearly visible from the way they lean into each other and hover around close, grazing non-stop.

On gloomy days, when Poppy is stressed, Thistle horses around and soothes her anxiety: “Cheer up buddy, the gray clouds are clearing to reveal brilliant blue skies. And you are going to be fine,” he perks Poppy.

The inspiring trust between a burro and a horse teaches valuable lessons in recognizing a farce from real. Unlike ass-kissing between Poppy and Thistle, which is pure, the intention of “human ass-kissing” is deceit—to mislead and manipulate. In this emotional poverty ridden space, the players’ resort to trickery, entertaining fragile egos.

Poppy and Thistle’s friendship is the manifestation of trust and care, similar to genuine people who have the attributes of clarity, wisdom, and compassion and don’t resort to theatrics. In the space they create, each gesture is one cemented in wellness. With a well-developed healthy self-esteem, you can value people from a deeper level—cultivate relationships for who people are and not for what they “appear” to be.

Through Poppy and Thistle’s friendship, I discover that one does not find gems in the midst of glitter—it is a place where lack-luster congregates to feel “sparkly”; it is in ordinariness that you will find individuals who glow with their natural light. Poppy and Thistle’s sincerity also reaffirms that the essence of kissing should be one of connection, comfort, and compassion.

With gratitude to animals—my teachers, my first love.



* Names have been changed, as Poppy and Thistle are big on privacy!