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On Love & Llamas: Healing & Feeling

healing & feeling This morning, I am tired. Zapped from heat and humility.

Yesterday, Husband, the girls and I spent the day at the farm.

What farm? you ask. And rightfully so. For it's not every day that this city blonde hangs with pigs. The answer: Green Chimneys Farm in Brewster, New York. I have written about Green Chimneys before on this blog. I detailed an exquisite evening in which I quasi-mingled with Martha Stewart (who just featured the organization on her show on Thursday).

But this post is not about Martha.

This post is about more. About place and purpose. About Green Chimneys itself. A world dear to me. A place steeped in family legacy and natural love. It is not just a farm. It is a school. And a retreat for children and animals who are a bit broken. By systems. By structures. By schools. By life. Children and animals who have suffered and struggled and need some time and attention to heal.

And so. Yesterday, we piled into the rental van. And we drove. Out of our bubble. Along highways. And within a little more than an hour, we were there. A place where miracles happen daily. A place where hearts and heads and homes are mended.

And today I am overwhelmed by it all. A bit paralyzed by what I'm feeling. I've started this post over four times. But I'm not going to give up. Because this matters to me.

Yesterday was Is Your Mama a Llama? Family Day at the Farm. A good friend and I planned the day. I came up with the idea because we Rowleys love the book Is Your Mama a Llama? Amazingly, we were able to get the book's author Deborah Guarino to come for the day, to read her wonderful story, and talk with the kids. It was the perfect theme because of Green Chimneys' pair of celebrity llamas, creatures who greeted us when we arrived.

And so the kids sat at picnic tables, a week shy of Mother's Day, and listened to the story. And then we all savored a wonderful farm fresh lunch prepared by Green Chimneys fantastic resident chef. After lunch, we all sat in the ninety degree heat, for a Birds of Prey show. The kids were giddy with excitement in the presence of hawks and owls. And then there was a hayride. And a barn and wildlife tour.

On the barn tour, a student of Green Chimneys, a boy who was probably twelve or so, introduced our children to the animals. He crouched down so Toddler and Baby could pet tiny chicks. He cradled a young goat and explained why he was missing his horns. He led us to the pair of pigs who grunted hello. This young man was full of knowledge and palpable affection for the animals to whom he introduced us.

By the end of the day, our kids were sweaty and tired. Amazingly, all of them had forgone their afternoon naps and there were few tears. Just bright eyes. And big smiles. And pink cheeks.

Last night, back in our cozy home and cozy bubble, Husband and I climbed into bed. Our girls were asleep in their respective air-conditioned rooms. Husband asked me something.

"Did you hear what that kid who gave us the tour said about the chicken?"

"No," I said.

"He said that when he arrived at Green Chimneys, he had major anger issues. But that he would go and talk to that chicken about what he was feeling. He said that chicken was his best friend."

Minutes before nodding off, I heard this. These words. This simple retelling. This tiny tidbit about a boy and a chicken and I felt a surge of emotion. Emotion far too complicated to convey here.

What I can convey is that Green Chimneys is the real deal. A place that is doing the most important thing in my estimation: Healing creatures and creating hope.

And today is a new day. I am back in my city home. Back in that bubble that protects and blinds. But this morning, this Monday morning, feels different than most. It feels raw. In a good way. Today, I am aware of things, simple things, which I so often, too often, take for granted:

That I am able live with my children.

That my children can talk to me when they are angry and sad. And that they do.

That I am so fortunate to be here, safe and secure and smart, talking abstractly about healing and feeling.

That I am able to be involved, truly involved, in a place like Green Chimneys.

So now. I will fight the urge to edit and polish these words. I will instead just publish. And then I will get on with my day. My privileged day. And as I motor through my hours, I will do so with some brilliant images in my mind. Of a young boy, prideful and grinning, cupping two tiny chicks in steady hands. Of the sweet smiles of city kids caressing the heads of toothy llamas. Of picnic tables and profound change. Of green grass and sturdy sun. Of life unvarnished.

Of love.

(Because that's the bottom line, isn't it?)


  • Have you spent time on a farm?
  • How often do you expose your children to different environments? To nature and animals?
  • Have you encountered disadvantaged kids and creatures in your life? If so, has this experience paralyzed or emboldened you?
  • Is your mama a llama? :)

* For every comment left here before 6am tomorrow (5/4/10), I will donate $5 to Green Chimneys. I am aware that this could add up. But I feel strongly that there are creatures who need my and our support far more than I need a new pair of shoes for my book party.*

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