Candles in the dark

I was born. If there is one thing I can say without any doubt, it is that I was born. Sure as the sun returns after it dips below the darkening horizon, I was born. What an unlucky thing it is to be born. Wouldn’t it be so much easier to be nothing rather than something? I have never tilted my ear toward the wind and heard it pleading for mercy from an intangible deity in the heavens. God help me. I have yet to look up at the moon and witness it shivering in an alley lighted by orange tinted twilight in the depths of a New England winter. I can’t feel my toes. The sun has never risen worrying about whether it will or will not have anything to eat today. I haven’t eaten since Friday. A star has never squeezed the trigger that sent lead hurtling toward a neighboring star out of jealousy or misplaced aggression. I’m sure the children will hardly miss him.

Nothing is just so much more natural. Nothing is the untouched vastness of the Amazon. The rain drop that refracts light into a million different directions as the sun shines through after clouds, once casting shadows from their fortress in the sky, decide to hold captive some distant land.

Something is a dilapidated building. The city dump that smells like waste and decay. It is the smell of something attempting to become nothing again. Nothing is as fresh as odorless deodorant spread upon a wisp of wind. Something sure smells like shit.

On the day I was born I began mounting the wooden steps. I could not yet walk, but my feet still moved me upward. I felt the wood moan beneath the weight of my body. It sang a song of sorrow and regret. Maybe it wasn’t a song at all. It was a mournful prayer; a cry for help whispered to a deaf deity in an untouchable sky.

I was in Washington D.C. It was the heart of winter, and I could feel the chill cast upon me as I stood shivering in the shadow of American idealism and faux-democracy. The streets of Washington D.C. were rumored to be paved with gold, but beneath the lustrous surface were the bones of the faceless families lacking both homes and shelter.

Walking toward the Metro I came upon a man, with brown and gray-stained hair, standing motionless in the street. The wind whipped against the exposed flesh on the left side of my face. It was cold. It wasn’t an early autumn cold. It was a kind of unrelenting, middle-of-winter, wind-whipped cold. It was the kind of cold that made one surf the web in an attempt to find a way to get away from it all.

Look at that, a round-trip to the Barbados for only $629.99. Perfect.

He stood patiently. It was the kind of patient waiting around that people can only do when they have no other place to go. He was wearing a torn black sweatshirt with an assortment of bright colored stains, like the canvas of an artistically inclined second grader. His jeans were worn. In some places the jeans were a deep blue, while in other areas the denim was faded to an off-white hue.

Beside him was a bent and dented tin can. The edges were a reddish brown from rust. I stopped.

“How’s it going?” I said, my fingers fumbling around in my pocket as I rummage for the change from my morning coffee.

“I’ve been better, I’d reckon.” He laughed uneasily.

We both feel the tension in the air that is characteristic of casual conversation between two complete strangers. The air smells like a cocktail composed of listlessness and uncertainty, shaken and topped with a garnish smelling most like unfettering nervousness.

I threw a few dollars and whatever change was sitting in my pocket into the rusted tin. I hear the change clang against the bottom of the no-longer empty tin. The sound of metal-on-metal sent an echo that traveled toward the top of the can. The echo seemed to hang around as I stood looking up at this man who seemed lost in his aloneness. I saw every part of him without opening my eyes. I saw it all while I saw nothing.

“God bless ya,” he says. Why are blessings always given to those who don’t need them by those who do? 

I am now looking at myself. I am wearing a paisley tie with a white collared shirt and light blue stripes. My face is without wrinkles. I have a face that screams youthfulness. “I am young, fearless, and strong,” my face screams out to anyone who cares to listen. And then I see a wrinkle forming on my forehead. Then another crease forms on the corner of my left eye. My skin is losing its’ youthful sheen. I watch as jet black hair becomes speckled with gray. A moment later, my hair is silver with a patch of whitish scalp peaking through in an area where hair had ceased growing. I’m still wearing that shirt and tie though. I look down and see that I am wearing a black sweatshirt with stains in an assortment of different colors. And this is life. This is what I will be.

Without realizing, my lips form the words “god bless ya.” You’re gonna need it more than I will, thinking, I already know my fate, just wait until you discover yours.

I feel my feet beneath me again. I look down at the sidewalk and watch as my legs devour pavement. As my feet keep a steady pace, my mind moves ahead at a relentless sprint. My mind is a mile ahead of my body when it thinks to itself, “I hope he spends every penny I gave him on something with a kick. I hope he buys a barrel of whiskey and drinks it all in one long, drawn out sip. I hope he stays forever intoxicated. Please do not burden yourself with this pathetic reality. They will tell you that it was your fault, that you are too blame, when it was all set in motion long before you were even born. Don’t let them blame you for your actions when the world had already drawn out the blueprints for your life. You were just on the receiving end of an expensive bet that was made by someone long ago who never considered you before going all in.”

I’m sitting on my front porch. I look off toward the East as the milky morning light begins to do its’ morning stretches across a darkness-filled sky. “In 15 minutes,” I think to myself, “complete blackness will be drowned by a cascading wave of light.” When daytime washes over nighttime, nighttime becomes nothing more than a distant, unfathomable illusion. Light becomes all I know and all I remember until white light fades and twilight slithers across that dimming sky.


Ernest Hemingway was not nothing, and he said this: “The world is a fine place and worth fighting for.” When he was a little over 60, he killed himself with a shotgun blast to the head; it was his favorite shotgun.


When I turned 10, I had a birthday party at my house. It was nothing special, but it meant the world to me because it was my day and my birthday party – I share my birthday with millions of other people’s birthdays – it was pretty selfish to think that it was just my day. The presents were all wrapped in bright, pastel colored wrapping paper with the words “happy birthday” written across them. I got a board game that I never played and money that I spent on something that seemed meaningful at the time, but is worthless or broken now; or both. As I blew out the candles and prepared myself to make a wish, reality washed away like soap on the hood of a car as it is rinsed with water.

I had finally made it to the top of those moaning stairs. I could feel the sun radiating on my pale, whitish face. As I turned my head, I saw a man who was wearing what looked like a black pillowcase over his head. In the black pillowcase were two holes cut out for his eyes. His eyes looked like two moons lost in the same nighttime sky. No, wait, his eyes looked like two ivory billiard balls spaced evenly on a pool table covered with black felt. There’s no doubt that those eyes were as cold and emotionless as ivory. Beside him was a wooden lever. The wooden lever was worn smooth at the top in a way that wood can only get from ceaseless contact from human hands. A bead of sweat formed on the top of my forehead and began to crawl toward the bottom of my face. It was as if this droplet of water knew what was happening before my own consciousness did, and was moving with haste to escape an imminent fate.

I don’t remember what I wished for, but I know what I should have wished for. Nothing. I should have wished for nothing.

This time I’m in Haiti. Even a scenic paradise can be ugly. Palm trees bearing ripening coconuts rise from the ground alongside houses composed of nothing more than blue, weather-beaten tarps. Mounds of human waste are piled high along crystal clear Caribbean-blue water. It is filth that makes you recognize what actual beauty is. Garbage and endless beauty, divided like night and day.

I go to visit the hospital in Les Cayes.

“The American health system is such shit.” If only you knew.

I step off of the bus and I can feel vomit already rising in the back of my throat. It is the smell. There must be raw sewage nearby. It smells like human excrement and stale water mixed together as one. The two components mix together to form a gas hardly bearable and painfully unconquerable. As the group walks, the smell begins to become natural; however, and I soon grow accustomed to the bile that rests in the back of my throat.

We are going to the pediatric ward. As I approach, I am confronted with a nonnegotiable reality; the pediatric ward is a glorified tent. It is long and narrow with an off white coloring that most closely resembles beige. Maybe the tent was designed to be beige, or maybe it is just covered in dust and dirt. It might be 50 feet long and maybe 15 feet wide.

I am taken back to my childhood. A high school graduation party (how lovely!) The house is filled with relatives and family friends who spend their time talking about nothing in particular, and everything imaginable all it once. It is gossip and laughter and humor and deceit all at the same time. It is a mixture of first impressions and timeworn judgment blended harmoniously.

Outside there is a tent. Beneath the tent are tables filled with ribs, hamburgers and other party food favorites. A table in the far right corner is filled with an assortment of money-filled cards and tissue paper-filled gift bags. The tent exudes the good life. It reeks of opportunity and tastes like tomorrow. I run to the ribs with a plastic plate in hand and pile on more food than I could possibly eat. This is the good life I think. This is it. What else is there to life?

In front of the tent I see a child in a white crib. There must not be enough room in the tent for him. He is naked. His mom stands alongside him as he looks up to her with big eyes that have experienced more in his short life than I ever will in all of mine. As if on cue, the mother grabs him by the waist and flips him over onto his stomach. As she flips him, I notice how his head seems to be uncontrollable. His head helplessly falls backward as he is lifted and then flops back forward after he is placed back into the crib. The child’s head moves like a pistol rolling around in an empty mortar. Once on his stomach, the child begins to defecate. I watch, helplessly as liquid brown oozes out of him and rolls down his naked leg.

My stomach hurts so bad, Mom. I feel like my insides are exploding. I think I’m dying. I must be dying. I have been so fucking dramatic.

I watch myself from afar now. I enter the tent cautiously. I am a young child about to cross a busy street. I try to listen as my mind tells my lifeless body to stay exactly where it is. Don’t go in there, don’t you dare enter that tent. I watch in horror as my legs continue to propel my body onward. From where I am watching, I look like a soldier who is about to run head on into enemy gunfire – I can hear the lead pinging against the steal barrack. Mines are exploding in my mind and my ears begin ringing. My eyes glaze over with a white film, but I can see perfectly.

There are nurses in white uniforms. They are standing helplessly near the front of the tent. I am probably such a joke. “Look at this ignorant prick,” they must be thinking to themselves. “You come into my country to judge me for the life my people live. It is greedy people like you in the greedy countries that you reside in that cause people like me, in countries like this, to suffer such poverty. Get the fuck out of my tent and get the hell out of my country.”

The nurses stand in the front of the tent because there is nothing they can do. There are no medical supplies at hand, and if there were, it is unlikely that the patient’s families would have the money to let the nurses utilize the supplies. The nurses might as well have been sitting in a car with the keys in the ignition without a drop of fuel in the gas tank. They might shift the car into neutral. It makes no difference; they are sitting at the bottom of a mountain.

I expected to have a car when I turned 17. I didn’t even question it. I just assumed, like one assumes that December will be cold, that I would have a car when I turned 17. I had maybe a hundred dollars to my name. In May, two months before my 17th birthday, my Mom showed up in “my” car. All I had to pay for was gas. I could climb to the top of any mountain. All I had to do was pay for gas!

The ringing in my ears is interrupted by the unique sound of plastic colliding with bone. There is a child sitting upright in his bunk. He is holding a green water bottle with both of his hands. Without breaking rhythm, he moves his hands toward his head and smacks the green water bottle against his forehead. The sound continues incessantly, methodically, and habitually. The bottle thudding against the child’s head pulses like the beating of a bass drum or the ticking of the second hand on an ancient clock tower. The blood in my head pounds along to the same hopeless rhythm.

The beds in the pediatric ward are laid out with no spaces between them. One bed sits next to the other. The beds are sardines packed tightly in a tin. The tin says that there are only eight sardines in it; I open it up and count 24.

I watch myself as my eyes dart toward a boy beneath a green, vomit colored mosquito net. His eyes are covered with some kind of moistened cloth. He goes to the bathroom on himself. On top of the mosquito nets dozens of flies patiently bide their time. “Any second now,” they must be thinking. It has got to be any second now. There is a shadow looming somewhere within this tent waiting to overtake this child. If I didn’t know it, the flies did. As I watch myself from outside the tent, I watch the shadow as it dances in the corner.

This isn’t a hospital. Something feels like shit.

I am laying lifeless in my bed. This is it. My body jolts; it is a subtle reminder that I am still alive. This is it. I think about death, and I think about life, and how the two are so different yet so inextricably bound together; sometimes I don’t know which category I fall into. This can’t be it. I see my parents, and I hope that this is what they always wanted. I am sure they dreamed of living in a greenish, three-bedroom house in suburbia. I tell myself that a 40-hour work week was everything they wanted – and more. It must be. My father is clean-shaven now. Youth nestles itself upon his cheek bones and jostles itself under his eyes. I see visions of a future both beautiful and miraculous, and realize nothing is familiar to me. Why must it be this? Then I see my mother. She is beautiful in the way that only young women can be; men are too prideful to tell themselves they are beautiful. Her eyes close, and behind her eyelids she sees herself covered in waves of silk. She is swinging across an endless ballroom with a faceless man. This is what we hope. I let my eyes close and am shaken awake by the sun as it struggles to conquer a fierce horizon. Here we go again.

This isn’t a hospital, I think. Children do not come here to get better. They come here to die, or watch the child beside them die. You do not come to this hospital to get better, I say again. You come to this hospital to die, I repeat. You don’t get better, you die. Something becomes nothing.

Reality can lift upward like a helium filled balloon, or it can press downward like an iron weight dropped on your chest. “We saw this young boy in the hospital.” I felt the weight pressing. “We hope that he is at peace…” My chest begins to bend, I hear the strain of bone struggling to maintain a natural shape. “…more than he was in his short life.” Snap. The weight falls through my chest and plunges into darkness. I know not where the weight fell to, but I know it has yet to stop falling; it drags me down with it.

The smell of damp Earth lingers in the still, early April air. I look up toward the sky; it is still clustered with ominous puffs of singed cotton. The storm will never pass. One last rumble of distant thunder reverberates through paper-thin air. The sky momentarily opens, and a pillar of light descends toward a world groping for something beautiful.


T.S. Eliot was something, and he said, “Humankind cannot bear very much reality.”


I begin my walk toward the center of the platform. The smell of sun bleached, long-dead pine rises from the boards beneath my feet, lingers momentarily, and then is swept away as a gentle Northerly wind slides past. The sun is pounding on my head. I feel eyes looking at me, but they aren’t looking at me; they are looking through me. A crowd has begun to gather. Everyone is exactly the same. Their faces are all round and their hair falls in exactly the same way. Everyone is male and female all at once. Every face is stoic and remorseless. I tell myself that they are silently hoping to be up on this platform alongside me. They don’t look at me because they can only see themselves. I notice how all the eyes are filled with cataracts. It occurs to me that all these people have never seen anything in their lives. The world has been nothing more than different shades of the same desperate shadow. They watch the outlines of the world in hopes that it may be the real thing. The world is only a different shade of darkness. I realize that I am staring at my shadow. I look up and I see the shadow of a noose.

When I was 12 years old I realized that I was too fat for the first time. My classmates had told me often that I was, but I never believed them. And then one day I looked in the mirror and could not recognize the person who was looking back at me. He looked like a stranger who I had heard of before, but had never seen in person. Who the hell is that guy. I was disgusted. I was revolted. The next few months flew away like a scrap of paper in a tornado.

I let those fuckers get to me. 

I was there in that not-so-comfortable chair, and she was over there, across that infinitely long desk forming words with her lips that my ears were deciding to ignore. I sat stone-faced, but I was a faceless rock after an early spring storm; water beaded and iron tears trickled down stone. I looked at her like a child looks upon a sunset; enthralled by the splash of colors spewing across the twilight sky. Her hair was illuminated by the yellow tint of fluorescent light. When I began to hear her words, they arrived late like the collision between bat and ball does for a spectator sitting in deep center field. The words floated momentarily and then fell like lead. It was the diagnosis and the realization – the facts trumping fallacy.

I ate because it was all I could do to find comfort. I ate compulsively. I ate even after the feeling of hunger had faded long ago. I ate out of nervousness. I ate for the sake of eating. I ate because it was the only thing that made sense at the time, until one day I decided that eating too much wasn’t the right thing to do. So then I started running and I stopped eating. I ran away from the person who I saw staring back at me in the mirror. I ran until my insides hurt and until my stomach roared. I ran away from the present moment like a dead beat father runs from his family. I ran steadily, greedily, and without any regard for the family I knew that I was harming. And then I cried. I cried because there was nothing left to do.

I could hear them whispering. “What’s wrong with him?” they would ask. “I think his uncle passed away.” “I hear that his dog died.” “Why is his head always down?” “He must be some kind of idiot.” I just want the wind to blow me away. Let me be dust in the wind.

That was when I saw my father cry for the first time. My father was a rock. He was the sturdy piece of furniture that occasionally wobbles, but never falls. I remember how it felt to watch the cabinet come hurdling downward. The doors flung open and the ceramic plates smashed on impact. Glass cups shattered and splintered into a million pieces on the linoleum floor. I watched as I shattered with all the dinnerware. His face seemed so unnatural as tears streamed down his dried out cheeks. It was like watching water being squeezed out of two oval shaped, emerald-colored rocks. His face wrinkled in places that had not been wrinkled in decades. My mom came into the room with the dustpan and began to sweep up the broken dinnerware. When you shatter into so many pieces, you never collect all the pieces that were strewn across the floor.

I left so much of myself on that damn floor. I lost so much time gluing myself back together. I made a mess that would never be completely cleaned up.

Sunlight envelops my sunglasses as white light trickles across my milky eyes. I continue to sit motionless as ropes of stringy light are pulled tautly across tinted lense


The noose floats in the air like an apparition. I feel the frayed rope in my hands. I look at the rope like I have never seen a rope before. It looks harder than cement, but as soft as cotton. It is welcoming and uninviting; exciting and terrifying.  I am drawn toward the noose like a child is drawn toward the campfire that a parent has just got finished saying should not be played with. As I approach the noose, I smell the natural aroma of dead fibers. It smells like death, but also like new beginnings. Death is an endpoint and a starting point.

I put my chin on the bottom of the loop of rope and rested it there for a second as I looked out at the stoic, blind faces in the crowd. They were silent. Their faces were beaten.

And then I did something miraculous. My legs were moving beneath me again. I was no longer in control of my body. I felt my arms grab the railing on the stage and catapult my legs over the rail in one clean, swift motion. I began to run like a man who had never run before would run. As I ran, I could feel the wind in my face trying to blow me back toward the fate that the world was conspiring to put me through. But I could also feel wind at my back pushing me forward toward the setting sun. I was running toward the sun in hopes that the sun would never set on me. I was running toward the light because I had unknowingly been in the dark for too long. As the wind pushed me toward the horizon, I thought to myself the wind that blows down the house is also the wind that blows away the storm and so I kept running.

When William Faulkner was still something, he said, “I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among the creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.”

And so we endure. Endlessly, tirelessly, and infinitely. Not because we want to, but because we need to; because we are candles burning in a darkened room.

Just a worm



I was three.

Grass rubbing against elbows. Crawling like a soldier. Wriggling forward like a poorly proportioned worm. Eyes fixed on the enemy. Don’t. Be. Seen. The grass is so cool and soft. It was early spring. Or fall. I think it was fall.

Robby, six, was my platoon leader. When he led, I would follow. He was so wise. Wisdom lingered on his every breath. He turned toward me, pressing his index finger toward his lip as he did so. I knew that this was the moment. I had to be quiet. The enemy was in view. We watched as they bounced that hideous orange ball up and down on the pavement. Doink, doink, doink. The sound echoed up and down the cracked pavement. A burst of noise followed by a moment of silence–then more noise. It was seconds ticking on a rhythmless clock.

The wind was still. The world was frozen. Clock hands stopped spinning until they were reluctantly stuck in place. Birds ceased their gleeful chatter. The sound of cars passing on the nearby highway faded. The world went to sleep for a moment.

I was still awake.

I looked at the enemy with disdain. I hated them. They were monsters.

Then the countdown. Three. My heart was racing. Two. My hand quivered. One. Why can’t I breathe?


My hands pushed off the ground. I felt my legs beneath me. I ran. Maybe it was more of a wobble. My legs were two bowling pins swaying to-and-fro.  The world was whizzing past me. I was gliding along the ground. I felt my hand slide toward the trigger. I squeezed and the cap gun exploded, releasing a fiery echo into the still morning air. The enemy jumped. They never saw it coming. We were the predators leaping out of grass on the unsuspecting prey. I was a taker of life and a breaker of rules.

I’m eight now.

The world is mine. The world is so small. How can it hold me? I am too big for this place. I am too grand for the universe.

I can write in script now. I am going to move mountains with this pencil. The world will shake as my pen flings itself across paper. This pen will create tragedies. Comedies. Dramas. There will be love stories! Readers will cry. Laugh. Reassess their lives.

Wait, how do I make a capital “Q,” again?

I am the duke of division. The master of multiplication. I know my multiplication tables up to zero. What about subtraction? I do it in my sleep, of course. And don’t get me started on addition. I am actually the archduke.

Somehow I’m 12.

I’m depressed. Well that’s what the doctor tells me. He gave me these pills to make me smile. I still can’t seem to smile. Sometimes I try to talk about why I am so sad. It is actually a pretty simple reason. Being happy is too much work. Tears are simple. Life is rough.

There was a psychologist and there was a psychiatrist; a nutritionist and the school counselor.

Some of my classmates called me fat too much. I didn’t like that. I got sad. I lost weight. Maybe too much weight–an eating disorder. But I’m just 12. Only girls have that. Not me. It is a fallacy.

Is that me?

I am not a worm in the grass. I am a worm cut in two. I am disjointed. Disconnected. Suffocating. I am gasping for air. Split in the middle, I am hoping to be put together. Praying. Please stitch me back together.

I really am not an outsider though. I promise. Don’t ask what’s wrong. Everything is fine. Nothing is ever wrong. I am perfection. This is perfection. The foundation collapses. The walls cave inward as I try to crawl outward.

I’m fine though. Fine.

15 now. High school. I am under the spell of young love. It has me on a string. It pulls me left. It pulls me right. It pulls me away from what I actually am; what I need to be. I am a stranger trapped in a familiar body. I am being molded into something I never was, but suddenly felt compelled to be. I am a block of clay in an amateur sculptor’s hands.

Love was golden hair covering a heart of crushed diamond. Love was icy blue eyes and those innocent lips and that blonde hair that seemed to reflect light back in the direction of anyone who was lucky enough to be caught in the blinding shimmer of silky locks. I thought love was Katie, but I discovered my love was the equivalent to the still reflection at the surface of a lake mirroring a sunless, blackened sky.

Young love has a habit of putting a veil over the truth. Imperfection seems perfect. Reality becomes smudged. But I am in love. Is this love? Of course it is. No it’s not. Oh, but it is how love looks. Is this how love feels? This love hurts so much.

When you’re young you will hold onto anything. I was squeezing my hand tightly around a razor. There were the mind games. I still told myself I should grip tighter. I feel my fingers tighten into a fist. The tears she made me cry to prove a point. The smell of iron rockets up my nose. Stealing away years I will never be given back. Streams of thin red liquid travel through the creases of my hands like water funneling through a flooded river. I eventually drop that wretched razor though and patiently wait for the wound to heal.

It was never love. It was just a walk on the edge of an icy well until I slipped and fell into the bottom of that bottomless well.

I wanted love. I looked for love. I still was a boy. My voice was changing. I had some hair sprouting above my upper lip. I still struggled with the past. My appearance was still unbearable, but I kept it in control. Once you begin to worry about your appearance, you never really stop. So I walk; just one foot in front of the other. Breathe in and then exhale: repeat as needed.

I was still that worm though. I was blind and covered in teenage muck. Digging. Squirming. Which tunnel is the quickest way to the surface? I think I am surrounded by rocks. I am my own worst enemy.

High school isn’t about the words, it is about the appearance. I can always find the words, but I can never paint the picture. I can’t even choose the frame. How do you thrive in a world so obsessed with image when all you have is words? So you don’t. You get by to the best of your ability. You laugh, you smile and you play your role. And then you move on.

You move on and you forget about it all. You move on because you can’t go back. Only forward. So you march. You march without direction and with eyes shut tightly. It is a march without a purpose–an aimless stumble into a lifeless forest.

I’d like to feel that grass again though. It was careless. It was cool. I felt right. I felt… almost human.

I’m an adult. 18. I feel the change. Does my facial hair look thicker? Wow, and my chest hair. I am man. I am indestructible. The world will know this name as well as I know the world. I will not be silent. Hear me as I scream my stories from the top of buildings. Fear me. Love me. Hate me. Know me.

Who am I?

I’m not an adult. Life is no different than what it had been. I still feel helplessly awkward. Why is it that I still find that words hide in the back of my mouth? I am a thinker, not a doer. I sit back and watch the show as it plays out in front of me. I never take a lead role. Not even a supporting role. I did not get the part in my own movie.

I can hear my voice, but it is not my own. It is foreign. Alien. I am an extraterrestrial. Space is my home. Give me space. Let me drift along eternal emptiness and dance across a dying, lonely star.

I am just a worm though. Worms can’t speak anyway. No need to worry. This is normal. I will just crawl around in the depths of the Earth. No one will see me and I will see no one. It is a win-win. I won’t disturb the world and it won’t disturb me.

I will flip the world head-over-heels. But maybe I won’t. I will. Not.

I am 19. I think I am finding a voice. My words do not escape like they used to. Instead they linger. My words are the wind; infinite, far reaching and forever moving onward. Sometimes my words create art. At other times, they fall apart like cheap paper mâché.

I look in the mirror and I see something familiar. The image staring back seems so close to me. It might be me. It is me.

God I hope it’s me.

I worry less now. I worry less because worry has done so little. I feel myself filled with more life with each breathe I inhale.

I’m still a worm. I see the light though. I am so damn close that I can feel the heat of the sun. The light. It is spectacular. It is so white. Clean. Perfect. I am just inches away from the surface.

Please don’t be a lamp. I need the sun.

I’m tired of the dark. We are all tired of the dark.

It’s because we are all worms until we aren’t anymore; just so damn useless until we formulate some fictitious meaning. We create meaning so we can die smiling. We carve our own smiles like gutless Halloween pumpkins.

We are all worms, that’s why. Worms are nothing but bird food and fish bait.

I hope my life tastes good salted.

Let the world sink in



Have you ever let the world seep into your pores? I rarely do. It is an unfortunate calamity. I am quite certain that there are actions far worse than this, but I feel ashamed that I don’t. I should let the wind blow straight through me. The world should pour directly into me and fill me to the brim.

But I rarely let it do so.

I always hear the world, but I rarely listen. I sit with eyes wide open, but I have seen nothing. I chomp on life, but have yet to taste anything. I think thoughtlessly.

“Do you want a half or a whole?”

I see him in his entirety. His skin is a smooth carmel color. He’s someones father. You can just tell. He has a family. Something to live for. He spends his day working for someone else. Not because he wants to, but because he needs to. his family is worth working for.A thick black mustache sits above his lip. Coarse, well kept and jet black. His apron hugs him. It comforts him. It gets him through the day.

He cannot wait to be wrapped in the warm arms of his family. An apron is just too damn cold.

He smiles. It is not labored. He smiles because he knows that things could be so much worse than they are. The world is not balanced. It is not a scale. Goodness does not equal the horror. Good times do not have an equal amount of bad times. Some live a life served upon a golden platter. They drink ambrosia from a crystal cup. Grapes fresh from the vineyard. Others eat from a dumpster. Every day. Then they die. So this is good a good day.

It could have been bad for so long. A victory, no matter how small is a victory. So he smiles because it sure as hell beats the other option.

“Okay, so a half with roast beef. You got it.”

His smile isn’t labored. It was not placed there. It was meant to be.

His smile is broken only when the gentle rhythm of his voice is ready to flow, not from his lips, but from his soul. There’s a calming cadence to his voice. A wisdom that comes from doing, not watching. His voice tells a story. A story of experience. I think there is an accent, too. New York. Or maybe Boston. Could it be a bit of a Southern twang?

Experience. He’s lived. He’s been a part of it. Some of us never are.

“And what kind of bread did you want it on again?”

His hazel eyes hide behind rounded spectacles. Eyes that have seen so much. Is that not what eyes are for? He probably had to look at the sun. You can only stare at the sun for so long before you go blind. Sometimes you have to look at the sun. Life makes you. Life is too bright. Reality burns yellow and scatters color like shattered glass.

Why not look toward those shadows? It could be better to go out at night. That’s what I do. My eyes are protected. Safety. I am not meant to disturb the universe. The shadow of the entity is just good enough. The outline is more comforting than the actual object. The real is imperfect. Troubling. The shadow leaves a little to the imagination. Imagine perfection. See tragedy.

So I imagine. He sees.

“How does that look?”

He was an average height. Maybe 5’11” or so. Okay, fine 6′.

He was a giant. He loomed over all others. Experience nurtured his youthful body. Every day, he grew. He still grows. He is middle aged. But he grows. Endlessly. He grew. Just like a flower would. He grew most on rainy days. Sunny days made him stagnant. The sun can burn things into place.

So it rained. And he grew. And it still rains. So it grows.

I stand 1′ small. The sun dried me out. I am a sun bleached rock in a tired tourist destination. I am withered. Burnt out. I was afraid of the rain. So it will never rain. I fear the tempest. There is uncertainty in the storm so I set my sails for sunnier weather.

And then look only at the shadows.

“Great. Have a nice day now.”

Thank you. Same to you.




Unadilla: The story from a different perspective

Hello everybody,

So this morning I awoke to a comment on one of my posts that I thought I should place in its’ own blog post. This comment was from the young woman who two women from the rescue I was with donated money in order to help rescue one more horse. Here is what it said (I did not edit anything, all that you read is what she wrote):


Hi Andy. I admired your blog a lot! I was there that night. I was there looking at tack, to find myself wondering to the horses. I looked around and around watching as the frightful creatures pulled against their bailing twine ropes. Yet one, one seemed to be so quiet as if he knew what was about to come. I watched people walking behind the horses that he was with, but no one seemed to care for the poor boy. I walked up to him and I see what he was thinking. He looked at me as if to say “Help”. I reached out to pet him and his eyes lit up, like a spark. I knew he was not like others. I sat there, talked to him, But I couldn’t say it was going to be ok, I wished I could. I am 16 and work for my horses, feeding, vet care everything. I wondered around some more wishing things didn’t have to be this way, I knew for a fact that some horses were not going to get homes that night. I wondered back to wear I sat in the auction, only finding myself go back to the horse That I reached out and touched 5 minuets later. I cried, fearing the worst for the poor boy, as skinny as he was. I reached out and stroked his face only to find tears flowing from my eyes. This boy was looking through me, he saw my soft heart and I saw his delicate eyes. He nudged me as if to say “I will be Ok”. I went back out and sat and pondered some more only to find myself back out there. The time comes as he comes out, within an instant a flick he was gone before I could raise my hand the boy was gone. I argued with the Kill buyer, only to come up 100 dollars short. I went back to say my goodbyes not knowing what else I could do. I then find the very nice, amazing people that help with rescues. They were amazing! As this boy was head butting me as if to say “Don’t Cry” I couldn’t help it, I lost it I felt terrible, the images the guilt in my head, I couldn’t shake. I knew this boy and all the other Horses going, knew what was happening. Those rescue people helped me get this boy, amazed at what happened that night I went home, thought about it, and was proud of myself for not giving up on this boy. And so I can say I cant Thank you Rescuers enough. Andy. As that night I went home happier than ever to call this boy my own. “Second Chances” AKA “Chance”. (The horse photo, the one that is labeled “Dark Aisled Horse”), Is “Second Chances”. I can not thank you rescuers enough, I would have been devastated without this boy.

-With Love Kyleena

Absolutely beautiful. Thanks for reading.

Unadilla: From a bitter beginning comes a beloved buddy

img_1186.jpgLike all stories ever written or reflected upon, there is always a beginning. Sometimes you know when your own personal narrative starts, and other times your story begins without you even knowing. Your tale catches you by surprise while it sweeps you off your feet and begins to move you toward an unknown climax to your story. The plot twists, the characters interact and the story deepens.

I can still remember when my story started.

My story came upon me unexpectedly, and it walked, or should i say gaited, into my life on four sturdy black legs and a saddle on her back. Her name was Gypsy.

Prior to my sophomore year in high school, I had little to no understanding about anything horse related. In all honesty, I do not think that I had ever touched a horse at that point in my life. I knew exactly what horses were, but I could not understand them in any respects. That was where my knowledge about horses began and subsequently ended.

While I was leading a horseless existence, fate was concocting a chain of events that would end in a reexamination of my life and that would ultimately result in my introduction into the equestrian world. While I was doing something irrelevant and most likely unmemorable to my overall life, 125 miles away in Unadilla New York, a black mare named Blackberry was being pulled from the Unadilla horse auction. She was a spirited, middle-aged horse who was placed in the dark aisle, making her chances of finding a home slimmer than it would have otherwise been.

However, like all of life’s seemingly random events, this horse would be given a second chance. If we think of individual lives like a ball of yarn, this piece of fabric would continue to be pulled rather than cut. This horses string would be given the chance to play out, a chance it would not have had if a culmination of perfectly laid out moments had not happened.

And while I sat nearly three hours away, the string of my life began heading toward Blackberry’s string. I did not know it at the time, but eventually our strings would tangle, merge and begin to be pulled in the same direction. Whether I knew it or not, our strings were meant to be lie next to one another’s. If you told me at the time, however, I would not believe a word you were saying.

IMG_1323Fast forward about a month, and I was receiving news that my Mom was buying a horse. I knew that she was beginning to discover her love for the equestrian world, and it was a love that I had no concept of. She was purchasing a new horse. I knew that. It was a black mare. I understood that, too. The horses name was going to be Gypsy. Her old name, as it turns out, was Blackberry. Blackberry was rescued, brought back to a level of good health and now she was a member of my family.

Our first meeting was awkward to say the least. I was uncertain of this immense being. I had no prior knowledge that could give me some sort of solstice or act as a spring board to help me connect with her. Should I pet her? I had more questions than answers, and that scared me, but it also left me with an unrelenting hunger for answers. I left after our first encounter without knowing that I would come to love this black mare with that little patch of white between her eyes, and short, almost nonexistent mane.

As time began to pass, I found that I was spending an increasing amount of time at the stable that Gypsy lived in. Before I knew it, I had landed a job as a farm hand there. On the days I was not working, I found that I was taking the 20-minute drive over to the stable just to say hello. There was something about being with the horses. It was a nice reprieve from everything else in life.It was simple comfort. They were fascinating and yet so unbelievably real.

935666_10201160929605432_584923867_nGypsy, as I began to learn, loved Nature Valley bars. Honestly, however, I think it was just that she loves to eat, but then again, who doesn’t? I discovered that she enjoyed having the back of her ears gently rubbed. She was a pro at losing her fly mask. Great in cross ties and more than willing to be groomed. A little cranky when getting her girth tightened and impatient when dinner was being served. Endlessly gentle and unbelievably sweet. For all of her imperfections, I still began to uncover perfection.

For all that Unadilla gives away, it also gives back. I was given the chance to meet Gypsy. I was also handed the opportunity to become devoted to a cause.

And then there’s Gypsy. Gypsy was given a loving home. She was given somewhere to be loved, nurtured and grow old. Most importantly, she was given a second chance.

For all the second chances that are not given at Unadilla, there are also many that are handed out. And each new chance gives with it the propensity of changing many lives in varied and differing ways. This second chance gave one horse a new home, a mother her first horse and a young man an entirely new perspective on the world.

This is only one story. I would love to hear more about your stories. Please comment and share your stories below.


Unadilla: A short reflection

Two weeks seem as if it is a short amount of time when you compare it to our relatively long lives. For myself, however, it feels like it was a lifetime ago.

Two weeks ago, I understood very little about how a horse auction was run. It wasn’t that I was ignorant, but rather that I just did not want to even have to imagine what a horse auction was like. So going into it, I had no expectations; I was a blank slate ready to be covered with feelings and emotions based off an experience that I had no prior expertise in. I did not even have previously seen photos to prepare myself for what I would be seeing.

But now I am no longer a blank slate.

At the auction I saw things that I will never be able to un-see. I felt feelings that I will never un-feel. I had emotions run through me that I did not even have words to express. I tried to convey my experience using the best words that I could, but sometimes words are just not enough. I took pictures, yet those pictures still do not adequately portray what it is like to actually be there. Pictures may paint a thousand words, but actual experience of an event writes a novel.

Despite having to be a part of something that was truly heartbreaking, I can confidently say that I do not regret going to the Unadilla horse auction. If nothing else, it acted as an event that will now forever mold the rest of my life. Witnessing a horse auction created an infinite amount of desire in me to do what I can to raise awareness about a cause that I personally saw the darkness of. At the same time,however, I also got to feel the joy that comes with saving another living creatures life. It is this mixture of emotions that I felt within myself that I hope to use as fuel for motivating myself to continue writing about this topic.

Right now as I sit here, I understand that the horses that I saw sold to slaughter are no longer mortal, living things. They are no longer bodies filled with light and the peppiness of life. They will never again be someones pet. Eyes once radiating with light, enthusiasm and hopefulness have now grown dim. They will, however, live on in my memory. I will never forget the look of that one chestnut mare awaiting death in the stable after the auction. I was the last friendly touch she would ever feel.

With a heart full of remembrance and a mind in constant recollection of my first auction, I will continue to promote the stories of those who go to these rescues. The people who consistently see what most are too afraid to see. The people who change the lives of horses, one auction at a time. Those who give hope to horses who do not understand that their hope was slowly running out. They are the people who, by saving one horses lives, have the possibility of bringing a once abandoned horse to the home of someone who will love them unconditionally. In saving one life, you have the capacity to enhance others.

These are the people who are true heroes. Changing the world for one horse at a time. People who give their time so that horses can have more time.

More to come soon.

Unadilla: When the auction ends

Slaughter Isle After Auction

Slaughter Isle After Auction

For me, this will undoubtably be my most difficult post to write. It is a post that will mark an irrevocable finality for myself in every way to my day at Unadilla. This post is my last memory from Unadilla on that fateful Friday, and final impressions, as I am certainly finding out, are what truly stick with you. At Unadilla, the end of the night is unbelievably moving because it tugs most on your heart. When the auction closes for the evening, you know that lines have been drawn and the unpredictability that fate often is has already drawn its’ unrelenting line in the sand; a line that separates the living from the soon-to-be dead.

But sometimes this line can be scuffed. At times it is possible to reach across this line and grab a life that was nearly assigned to an early death. And this too is an aspect of fate, I guess. The fate that brings so many horses to Canada also has an undeniable capacity for bringing some home, too. Fate is devastatingly brutal, but also understanding.

When the auction ended, myself and the other members (again, names will not be offered in order to respect the rescues interest) of the rescue that I was with made our way to the ring where moments before horses were facing their final judgements. At the time, I believe we had pulled four horses, or maybe it was five. Regardless, we still had it within our power to pull one or two more horses from Unadilla. As many spectators piled out of the auction room to make their way to the office to settle their payments, our small group approached, who I came to understand, was the most known kill buyer at this auction (I will not mention a name).

While waiting to speak with him, I realized something about this man. He was helplessly average. He wore a wrinkled button down shirt, lazy fitting blue jeans and a Dallas Cowboys hat. He was not thin, but he was also not over weight; just average. This being said, it seemed as if he was regarded as a celebrity by the staff and locals in Unadilla. People approached him with “hellos” and “how are yous?” as they stuck out their hands offering him a handshake. It was a status that you could tell he was used to. He was not cocky sounding, but he was aware of the power he had, and it was a power that I do not think any man deserves to possess; the power over another living being.

Horse Destined for Slaughter

Horse Destined for Slaughter

As people began to finish their conversations, I realized that it was now our turn to speak to him. It was going to be a barter for life. We began enquiring about a younger horse, I recall, and maybe one more, but it appears that my memory is unclear about this (I know for certain that we at least talked about one, and left the auction with six that night). After we made our enquiry about this horse (or horses) the kill buyer wanted to see which horse we were talking about so that he could offer us a price.

And this is when I became overwhelmed with emotion.

We stepped out of the auction room and into the stable. It felt as if we were crossing what the Greeks referred to as the River Styx. In the lower part of the stable stood the nearly 30 horses that this one kill buyer had pulled from the auction that night. And all at once, I felt my eyes becoming moist. As I stepped into the actual stable area, I felt alone, tired and numb in my face. I no longer heard the conversation between the kill buyer and my friends from the rescue. Everything was being drowned out as my eyes fought to take in everything that was laid out in front of me in the dim lighting of the stable.

One horse caught my eye. It is a horse that I will never forget despite the fact that I would never have the chance to get to know it. The horse was a chestnut mare with a thin white stripe down her nose. She was thin, but not emaciated. As I walked past, I made eye contact momentarily, and felt the need to offer a light pat on her side, as if this condolence could somehow ease the pain from the fate that she was now destined to endure. As I patted her side, she looked at me in a way that made me believe that she knew what was awaiting her on the other side of the Canadian border. It was an inquisitive look as if she were asking, “Why not me? Why can’t you save me?” It was a question I do not think I could rightfully answer.

As I walked away from this horse, it seemed as if something snapped within her. Maybe it was because there was no more hay for her, or maybe it was the water she did not have that made her lose it, but for some reason, she began to start kicking a horse directly behind her. The horse she was kicking, due to how it was tied to the wooden beam, was unable to move away from the constant blows, and stood there helplessly. I think at this point we were all helpless.

After we managed to make a deal that would save another horse, the kill buyer who had just done us a “favor” asked if we could do one for him. He took us to the furthest corner of the stable area where IMG_1584his horses were and brought us to a black horse that seemed to be in immense pain. This was a horse that we could tell was exposed to difficult and relentless working conditions. Its’ back legs were barely capable of holding up the weight of its’ own body. This horse, in the kill buyers opinion, would not be able to make the trip to Canada. He asked if we would take it so that it could just be euthanized humanely rather than suffering in a trailer to Canada. With two full trailers, however, there was nothing that could be done. This horse would have to try to endure a painful ride, and if it survived, the only thing that would be waiting for it would be slaughter.

Walking around the stables after an auction is haunting. It is quiet, but it is also immensely noisy. The sound of horses moving and nickering.It was the sound of desperation. The sound of hunger, of thirst and yearning to just go home. You could hear horses pulling on their bailing twine, struggling to free themselves as if they knew what their destiny was. Maybe they were freeing themselves in hopes that if they were able to free themselves from the bailing twine, they could free themselves from their fate too. If only this was true – it wasn’t. There are some places that I have found you are allowed to hold onto hope, a horse auction is not one of those places.

And then I heard the sound of a young girl crying. It was not just a gentle tear shed, but a full sob. Tears poured down her face and onto the ground like stars falling from the heavens. She came to the auction in hopes of rescuing a horse. Equipped with $100, she thought that she had a chance. She came up short. I watched her cry while she clung onto the horse that she had hoped to save. Tears that could have been tears of joy were now tainted with sorrow. The kill buyer wanted $200 for this horse from the young girl if she was going to take it home. With a little thought, one of the women in the group gave her the extra $100.

And once again,  the line between life and death was blurred.

As we began to load the six horses onto the trailer, one other woman and myself found ourselves in an encounter with an older man. “You’re tree-huggers,” he claimed as his words slurred and the smell of alcohol hung in the air. This man held onto a can of some sort of cheap beer, Budweiser I believe, and had a large white beard covering the vast majority of the lower part of his face. He wore blue jeans with suspenders, which held his jeans over his large belly. He continued by saying that, “Those horses deserved to be dead.”  We were tree-huggers, and we were somehow morally wrong whilst this guy sat around at a horse auction getting drunk and preaching about how his view points were unquestioningly superior to all others. If caring about living things other than humans equated to being a tree-hugger, then I was going to wear that title with pride. I kept my mouth quiet, although I found it difficult. I found myself thinking that I would much rather be a tree-hugger than a man of considerable age stuck in such ignorant ways. I would rather not be a man who finds his answers in the bottom of a beer can and dismisses all people who do not agree with him. I will keep being a tree-hugger, I thought, and  he could continue being a drunk.

On the drive home, I was hit with a final thought before I drifted away into sleep in the passenger seat of the truck I was in. With six horses in our trailers, we were driving south toward what would be the beginning of something new. There was hope, possibility and the prospect that these horses were headed toward a love that they had never experienced before. The future was wide open.IMG_1585

And then I thought there were also horses headed north toward Canada. Victims of circumstance and casualties of chance. They would not feel the warm hand of love ever again, but would instead have to welcome the cold hand of an unwelcome death. Their future, as it turned out, was a closing door. With each mile driven, the door shut a little more.

It was an irony that I now understand can only be found in Unadilla. Where one door opens, another door closes; where life is given, it is also taken.

Don’t Cry For The Horses”
Brenda Riley-Seymore

Don’t cry for the horses
That life has set free
A million white horses
Forever to be

Don’t cry for the horses
Now in God’s hands
As they dance and they prance
To a heavenly band

They were ours as a gift
But never to keep
As they close their eyes
Forever to sleep

Their spirits unbound
On silver wings they fly
A million white horses
Against the blue sky

Look up into heaven
You’ll see them above
The horses we lost
The horses we loved

Manes and tails flowing
They gallop through time
They were never yours
They were never mine

Don’t cry for the horses
They will be back someday
When our time has come
They will show us the way

On silver wings they will lift us
To the warmth of the sun
When our life is over
And eternity has begun

We will jump the sun
And dance over the moon
A ballet of horses and riders on the winds
Of a heavenly tune

Do you hear that soft nicker
Close to your ear
Don’t cry for the horses
Love the ones that are here

Don’t cry for the horses
Lift up your sad eyes
Can’t you see them
As they fly by

A million white horses
Free from hunger and pain
Their spirits set free
Until we ride again

Unadilla: The auction begins

IMG_1562I think we all run into moments that serve as a starting point for the rest of our lives; moments from which a map can be laid out and the path that your life was meant to journey down begins. It is a moment that lights a fire beneath us. It is a passion to ignite change or maybe even a desire to change the course of fate for someone or something other than yourself. This is the moment that changes your perspective and makes you see the world in a new context. For each person, this moment is varying. For some, it could be nothing more than a thought that they find ideologically appealing; a thought found on the outer edges of their minds. For others it may be an idea or inspiration that comes to them in a dream as if some divinity had placed it there to perplex and inspire them.

I’d like to think that my moment came to me on August 30th, 2013 at 6pm in Unadilla, New York.

The auction began with an elderly man speaking to a crowd of what I would estimate as being 100 people. In a tired but sturdy voice, the man spoke proudly about the auctions 76th year of business. As he spoke, people in the auction house were listless. Talking, the sound of feet sliding across wood and the faint sound of horses impatiently waiting on the other side of a weathered wooden door drowned out the sound of a not-loud-enough microphone. And then seemingly all at once, although it seemed to me that this moment will play out forever, the call for the auction to begin came and that wooden door opened.

I was sitting in the middle of the bleachers in the front row. Directly in front of me was a large white fence, which was where the horses were either ridden or lead around while people bid on them. The fenced in are was about 30 feet in length and maybe 10 – 15 feet in width, but this is just a rough estimate. To the left of where I was sitting sat a few of, who I had gotten word, were kill buyers. They sat in desks in the front row, although others decided to stand inside the ring.

The first horse to come out was a chestnut gelding. A teenage girl sat on his back, giving the audience proof that the horse was ridable. She circled the horse from one side of the fence to the other, back in forth while the bidding process was carried out. And then the verdict came; sold – privately.

This horse would see another green pasture. This horse would feel the unmistakable weight of another human on their back. For this lucky gelding, his future was no longer in question. His day at Unadilla would just be the final day of his old life and the first day of his new beginning, the starting point for what could be a bright future. Another wooden door on the opposite side of the fenced area was opened, and as the horse exited, he was marked with an orange marker. As the gelding left I thought to myself that not every story has to have a tragic ending.

Early on in the auction, things were going well. It seemed like every sale was private, but like all things that go well, things had to take a turn for the worse. And they did. Dark isle bidding was beginning.

The first horse shown from this isle was sold for slaughter. In one swift moment, I felt as if I was kicked in the stomach. It was not so much a physical pain, as it was a numbness that I felt. It was a feeling inside me that I could only equate to helplessness. A verdict had been delivered and there was very little if anything that I could do to change what had transpired. I was just a leaf stuck in the breeze, I had no control over what would happen to that horse. I think it was just the knowledge of not knowing that hurt most. Knowing that I would not know what would lie ahead for this unlucky horse who was nothing more than a casualty of circumstance. There would be no way to know what its’ trip to Canada would be like. Would this horse be comfortable? Would this horse’s final thoughts be beautiful, or will its’ final thoughts be one of terror, fear and one filled with the knowledge of what lies just moments away.

I thought about the concept of literally auctioning away a life. The idea that somehow one life had a higher price tag than another. This flawed thinking that, well since I will pay more for your life, you get to live, but since I do not want to pay that much for your life, you will die. I felt like people in the auction house were playing god. Some horses would be granted life while others were granted death. Salvation in a battle against destruction; good versus bad. An auction religious in scope, but human in nature. Each decision made had long term and short term consequences, and every decision made affected the course of many lives both directly and indirectly.

During the middle of the auction, a woman, who I had met earlier in the day, stepped into the ring as a horse was brought out to be auctioned. It turns out, she said, that she had given a horse to a man the evening before to train and take care of. When she arrived at the auction the following day, that same horse was already at the auction ready to be sold. With picture evidence as the only proof, she had no claim with the police, and pleaded for the people attending the auction to let her buy her horse back for a dollar. Her horse sold for around 350. Private. Safe, but no longer hers.

Toward the end of the auction, with a feeling of emptiness already welling up inside me, I watched as the white, supposedly non-pregnant, mare stepped into the auction room; there was no way that she was not pregnant. In an earlier examination of the mare, one of the the people who I attended the auction with noticed that the mare was, in fact, lactating. It was a finding that I did confront the owner about, and in a not-so-surprising turn of events, he denied that she was pregnant. “She’s not,” he said. “Don’t you think I would know my own horse.” Obviously he knew his horse so well that he was going to sell it. I can understand and excuse ignorance sometimes, but when ignorance is exposed and confronted, the party informed should accept their wrong and work to fix it. I quickly learned that this wrong would not be made right, and that some people would rather believe their own lie to make a few bucks than do what’s ethically and morally correct.

She was sold to slaughter.

And just as quickly as the auction had started, it had ended. We had pulled five horses at this point and were preparing to barter for one more. Overall, around 30-40 horses were sold to slaughter, while around the same number were also sold privately. I was left thoughtless, but the worst was still to come; it normally takes time for shock to sink in. As I left the auction room and walked toward the stable, I was walking toward what would be the most upsetting part of the day. Before while walking around the stable I felt that at least there was hope, but now as I walked into that stable I could feel a thickness in the air. I knew I would see horses alive, but no longer living, breathing, but soon to be breathless. Horses that were once friends, loved ones and companions that would, in due time, be nothing.

More to come.

Unadilla: Arriving at the auction house

Trailer pulls into auction house lot.

Trailer pulls into auction house parking lot

My day in Unadilla began approximately seven hours before the horse auction was slated to begin. As our small group pulled into the parking lot of the D.R. Chambers auction house, there were already horse trailers in the parking lot. Equipped with two-horse trailers (room for six horses total) myself and four others (I won’t refer to exact names in order to protect the rescues interest at the auction) backed into our spots in the dusty, rock covered parking lot.


Dark aisle horse

As we opened our doors and stepped onto the uneven ground, a grey truck with a picture of a horse on the driver’s side door and an electric blue trailer hitched to its’ back pulled into the spot directly next to ours. The movement of a horse could be heard from the back of the dilapidated-looking trailer. A little man wearing a cowboy hat, a snug fitting Coca Cola shirt and jeans jumped out from the driver’s side door of the truck and came around to the back of his trailer as the others and myself waited to ask about the horse that was locked away inside the tiny blue trailer.

Waiting inside was a 22 year-old gelding with smooth brown hair and a slight cut over the bridge of his nose. As we sat listening to the story about why that horse was placed in auction, my mind began to drift away as I wondered whether or not you can believe any of the stories that anybody at these auctions say. If he was such a wonderful horse, why would you be selling him at an auction that could possibly lead to your horse ending up in a Canadian slaughter-house. When asked why, he was selling his horse, there was no answer, as if he just did not hear the question directed at him, or maybe it was that he did not want to hear it. Stories at these auctions, as it turns out, were as flimsy and fake as the people telling them were.

Number 1555

Number 1555

At around 1130 a.m., we made our way into the auction stable area where the horses are left to wait, some waiting for rescue, others waiting for death, the line between blurry and indecipherable. With six and a half hours until auction, there were already about 10-15 horses tied with bailing twine to a wooden beam. In the dark aisle, the aisle in which the majority will go to slaughter, there were horses of all different shapes, sizes and colors. The only way of really referencing them, however was through the green circular tags placed on their rears with numbers on them. These horses were nothing more than numbers. They were no longer somebody’s pet, a little girls dream present or even animals. Just number 1548, a white pregnant mare. She was living, breathing, but at the same time she was now just a number; numbers don’t breathe and they don’t come alive. Names are too personal. Names belong to things that have futures. Numbers are assigned to products, to anything that needs to be impersonal, to anything that won’t be around long enough to need a name anymore.

In a small stall further inside the confines of the auction stable I found where the minis were kept. As I approached I could tell that something was wrong. Upon further inspection I found that this mini had gotten its’ leg tangled in the bailing string that also kept it tied to a wooden beam. I watched as this horse helplessly struggled to remove its’ foot from the twine that it had wrapped around its’ leg. The horse began to jump and smash into the side of the wooden stall as it struggled with no avail to free itself from the bailing twine. I pulled out my keys and began to cut off the bailing twine while I began to also wish that I had brought some sort of knife so that I could have helped cut the horse free quicker. While I struggled with cutting the twine, I heard voices approaching and had to stop. I started to walk away as two chubby men approached where I had been moments before. They watched as the horse jumped, continuing to try to free its’ foot. One of the men was amused by the horses struggle and said, “We got a jumper here boy.” Where I found horror, another found humor, and just like that, the two men walked off without even thinking of helping the tangled mini. Apparently they had clear consciences and untroubled minds.



As the sun began to rise, so did the number of horses being brought into the stables. It was one trailer after another. A continuous stream of unwanted, or unneeded horses. Horses that were used and then tossed away like cigarette butts. As I watched the trailers come in, I felt myself beginning to go numb. There seemed to be no end to the flow of them. But the auction house employees handled it with perfect precision. They worked like clockwork, and trailer after trailer was emptied with little or no difficulty at all. It was not their first rodeo. By 430, the total number of horses (not including minis and mules) was at 70.

At around 430, the Amish began to arrive, which was a contradiction in itself. The Amish showed up in trucks, something that I had previously believed was not something they were supposed to use. The Amish brought horses that were virtually beaten into the ground. Horses used to do work until they physically could not do anymore work, at which point these horses would just be discarded at the auction. Horses who made life possible for the Amish were sold to slaughter without any type of pity, as if years of hard work was still not enough for these horses to deserve reprieve.

Dark aisle

Dark aisle

In the parking lot there was pandemonium. Men and women sat atop horses as they rode walked, trotted and cantered through a parking lot full of rocks. This act in itself could be devastating for some of the horses due in part to the fact that if the rocks bruised their hoofs and they became lame, buyers could interpret this as being a bigger problem than it was, resulting in some perfectly healthy horses being sold to slaughter because of nothing more than being a little sore.

As 6 approached, the stable was nearly at full capacity. You could feel the energy. It was a dark energy, the kind of feeling that made the hair on the back of your neck rise. It was a feeling of anxiety, nervousness and maybe even emptiness. With only room for six, I felt myself realizing that not every horse in this stable would be finding a happy ending. I looked around realizing for maybe the first time that day that there were going to be a lot of horses there that would never again be put out to pasture. Many horses would not feel the softness of green grass beneath their hooves ever again. When 6 rolled around, it would be the beginning of the end for many, but at the same time, some of these horses would also find new beginnings. For every life taken, there would also be the chance that a new lease on life would also be given.

There would only be six horses that would be coming home with us, and with nearly 100 horses there,



this seemed too small, but we also were not alone. Others were there who were not kill buyers. Not everyone who shows up at auctions are people looking to sell for slaughter.

It was in this moment that I began to realize the enormity of what we were doing. We were going to be a part of change. There was no way that we could save them all, but we would be able to save a few, and sometimes that was all there was too it. You save what you can, you act as the change that you hope others will be someday too. Change, I realized, was the sum of all the intricately small actions directed at a larger goal, and that day, our change was going to be six horses; six lives.

Unadilla: A clash between hope and despair

IMG_1481Unadilla New York. It is the picturesque American town. A place where yesterday’s beauty battles with today’s modernity and the product results in a melting pot of culture with a tinge of new flair. It is a place where pride flutters on flags perched upon the front porches of all its’ residents in the form of red and white stripes with a vast ocean of blue.

Going down the quaint town’s Main Street, the old town feel is evident in the way the houses look. Old colonial style houses are ordinary, while anything built after the 50s looks a bit too modern, maybe even a little out of place.

Main Street is home to the town’s Public Library. A lovely white building with intricate molding that looks more like a Southern plantation house than a library.

A church stands nearly 100 feet down the road from the library, looking over the

IMG_1530people of Unadilla with an unspoken authority. A sign in front poses a question to the townspeople, “God has answers. Are you listening?” Behind the church lies an ancient graveyard, full of the bodies of the townspeople deceased families. It was evident that the town cared about its’ dead. Flowers sat upon the tops of nearly all graves, a little reminder that those gone were not forgotten, but rather unforgettable.

Further down the road you come across the local family run store (it is the kind of place where big business appears to have been ostracized) you will run into a store called the Village Variety. The Village Variety looks like the kind of store that has never not been a part of Unadilla life. It is a store with roots that go deep into the foundation of the town. The store is a place for residents to purchase all of their needs whether it be a few groceries, or maybe a shovel and a pitch fork.

IMG_1533As you continue your stroll down Main Street you realize that the residents of Unadilla are not shy about their political beliefs. Politically motivated signs stick out of front lawns like bland decorations as they plead to someone for an end to drilling for oil, or ask the residents to support Republican Candidate Westinghouse. A small park sits on the Main stretch with young children’s shrill laughter floating through the air as you pass. The park offers a memorial for past Revolutionary War Generals John Sullivan and James Quinto. Aside this memorial sits a plaque in the ground commemorating the burying of a bicentennial time capsule in 1976; only 13 years until the contents hidden are unearthed for the first time in 50 years. Boy Scout flags for Unadilla Troop number 1 adorn every other telephone pole.

And then came the horse trailers. The first one seen makes one think of open pastures and a young girl riding her pony out into an endless field, but then you see another. And then one more. And then you see 10. 20. 30 trailers. It’s a Friday. Friday is normally many people’s favorite day of the week; it is the beginning of the weekend. It is a time when 40-hour work week ends and family time begins. But Unadilla is a town of stark contradictions.

It is in America’s most quaint towns that the darkest secrets are harbored. These towns are where the American dream meets an American nightmare and where life meets death. Unadilla is where hope meets to dance with despair during a gloomy ballad.

IMG_1500On the corner of Main Street and Mill Street, there sits a Kwik Fill gas station and a Red Apple convenience store. If you make this turn, you will begin walking down a road much different than the towns Main Street. Broken down buildings litter the side of the road. “For Sale” signs stapled onto houses that have seen better days.


And then you come to a railroad crossing. On both sides of the tracks sit two abandoned buildings that once served as train stations. A place for trains to come and pick up people to bring them to their futures. This train station was once a place where the people of Unadilla may have came to escape or maybe even just move forward with their lives. Now it serves as a crossroads. One side of the track is life, a prospect full of hope and all the pretty things, and the other side is death, a prospect full of darkness and everything that we fear. And as trailer after trailer crossed these tracks, every horse locked in those metal cages began to straddle the line between these two prospects. These horses, from the moment they crossed over these railroad tracks, began to walk a proverbial straight line between the two tracks of the railroad. IMG_1476Straying one way would result in life, and going a bit far in the other direction would result in an unmistakable death.

As you follow the continuous flow of horse trailers further down the road, the sound of horses wailing carried through the air. The idling of trucks roared through the still country air. And then you can hear the sound of an upbeat country song blaring from a radio. A song playing as if the angel of death was a country fan.

And then there came the sign D.R. Chambers: Cattle Wed., Horses Fri.

IMG_1464For some horses, this would be the beginning of the end. A needless end to a life that may have barely been lived. It is in this town, the picturesque town of Unadilla New York where horses come to find out their fate. Unadilla is home to a 76-year-old auction house that specializes in the sale of livestock. At D.R. Chambers, the good meet with the bad, and life and death hang in the balance.

In Unadilla some horses are lucky enough to find their greener pastures, and the rest, well they take a one way trip to Canada for slaughter so that some men can turn a quick buck.

More coming soon.