Over the past few months Compassion Arts has been receiving stories and articles from people sharing about animals and experiences with animals that have transformed their lives in small and large ways. We’ve found these stories to be deeply fortifying and inspiring, and so we’ve decided to post a different selection each month on our guest blog as an “Animal Story Share.” We’ve chosen this month of Be Kind To Animals Week to launch the first one with a post from artist Kim Salinas Silva, who writes about volunteering at a farm animal sanctuary. (Kim will also be sharing a separate blog in the future that focuses on her artistry about animals and her upcoming exhibit in July.)
If you have a story about an animal that has changed your life that you would like to share, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn about submission guidelines and how you can contribute. Animals are changing the world every day with their love and their “being.” Their story matters. It is the story of all of us.
“Animals are our teachers and healers. In their innocence and wisdom,
they offer us a way back to a home they have never left.”
(Susan Chernak MacElroy from Animals as Teachers and Healers)
Round-About Kindness: The Shimmering Strands of Connection
by Kim Salinas Silva
For most of us, kindness to animals comes naturally. Usually, this means being kind to our pets. Now, with the exposure of factory farm abuses, farm animals have found safety and kindness in sanctuaries. Exposed to horrible conditions, pigs, cows, and goats now run and kick up their heels in green pastures, living their lives in peace due to the kindness of their benefactors. Visitors give them lots of hugs and belly rubs; they make friends not only with people but with their fellow animal refugees. It’s not unusual for persons to reconsider eating meat and dairy, once they experience their innate kindness and innocence. Animals reflect the better part of our humanity. They are kind without manipulation; expecting nothing in return.
Recently, I visited a nearby farm sanctuary to help a friend with her volunteer duties. With the exception of horses, I had never been around farm animals and was a little nervous. Inside the warm, intimate barn were several stalls in which the animals convened. Pigs, roosters, goats, sheep and llamas escaped the late afternoon chill. An enormous pig, named Jonathan, lumbered into the cozy barn from outside. Three or four llamas, lounging and chewing, blocked his path. He gingerly picked his way through them to get to his spot in the corner. Another llama, however, had already claimed that spot. Jonathan glowered before her, as if to say, Excuse me, but I believe there’s been some mistake. Kindly remove yourself from my spot, please. She gazed back at him, this rude interruption in her daydreaming. Deep, rumbling noises, eerily like those of a crocodile’s, rattled from 12-year-old Jonathan’s massive chest. Oh, my. I thought. He means business!
Unimpressed; she chewed away, not missing a beat. In frustration, he swung around to assess the llamas, all grouped together, chewing in unison. Jonathan lowered his head, grunting in a disapproving manner. Now you all, you’re just not helping a bit. It’s not so easy, you know, trying to cohabitate like this…it’s…well, it’s just NOT. His attempts to reach them fell on deaf ears. They seemed not unlike hippies, lacking only the psychedelics and ponchos. Batting their insolent, dreamy lashes, they rolled their eyes: What a draaaaag, man.
Llama-Lady sat, eyes half closed. Her protruding lower teeth and long, vertical neck gave her a regal elegance reminiscent of another planet’s beauty notions. Flustered, Jonathan began picking up wads of straw with his mouth and then moved behind her to gently but forcefully push at her rump with his snout. Push, push, push. He tossed straw onto her wide, thick-furred rear, as if to say Fine! Don’t move! Then, you’ll be the bed! As the pile thickened, she seemed to register that some kind of disturbance was going on. Slowly drawing herself up, she shook off the straw, and turned, peering down at this perplexing beast. Seizing the opportunity, Jonathan patted the piles of straw onto on the floor. Soon, a plush, comfy bed appeared.
Cozy in his corner, he stretched belly-down on the bed and closed his eyes. Miss Llama stood awkwardly, like a queen robbed of her throne. Blinking, she assessed her nemesis. Oh, well…maybe he’s not so bad when he’s asleep. She wandered over to the pig and knelt down. Leaning against his immense bulk, she nestled in and resumed her peaceful chewing, as if nothing had ever happened. Jonathan dozed away. Except for little peeps and chirps here and there, the barn filled with a rich, palpable silence. Frost from the animals’ breathing rose in the air and disappeared. All rested together.
Farm animals are incredibly abused, yet in spite of it they retain the capacity for gentle kindness, even though seen as nothing more than commodities bred to appease our misguided appetites. But, thanks to a multitude of online videos, for instance, we now see them playing and interacting. Their individual personalities are quite apparent!
We share with them poignant similarities—and differences. They quickly let go of conflicts. They aren’t cruel or wantonly destructive. Being kind to animals means not just caring for our pets, but for all animals. The world is so noisy, conflicts and minutiae consume us. For the most part, animals live in peace and harmony. We might ponder, in this special week, how kindness might be shown both towards animals along with appreciating them for the ways they, too embody this quality. It’s a circular flow; we mirror each other. In a round-about way, we experience kindness as shimmering strands that connect us all.
About the author: Kim Salinas Silva was born in Minden, Louisiana. She has always been an artist and an animal lover. Growing up in Louisiana, she loved roaming the pastures and creeks behind her house, fascinated by the creatures she found there. She is now vegan and an animal activist. She paints about the plight of animals, seeking to raise awareness about their treatment, as well as addressing other marginalized populations and classism. In addition to her paintings, Kim also creates sacred geometry “healing pieces,” using glass, gemstones, and earth paints. Kim earned an MFA from Savannah College of Art and Design and has exhibited in New York City, Hong Kong, Houston, TX, and Savannah, GA. Her new work can be seen in her next solo show July 15-30 at Periphery Gallery, 80 Fountain St., Pawtucket, RI. For more about Kim’s artistry visit http://kimsalinas.weebly.com or http://kimlightrays.weebly.com.