Tolerating Flies

“Whenever I was upset by something in the papers, Jack always told me to be more tolerant, like a horse flicking away flies in the summer.” Jackie Kennedy

At the end of this September, we are having some August weather. Flies are still abundant and in the later afternoon, the herd is streaked with dried sweat, leaving salty crystals along the their backs. Water troughs are replenished with frequency, and shade is most welcome. It seems the flies are victorious and vicious. At the farm, it is a constant annoyance to balance heat and flies. Not enough movement invites the flies, too much movement within the thick heat is exhausting. Sometimes I will stand near the horses as they balance heat and flies while munching hay or napping in the shade of the shed. They sense the pesky creatures and ripple their skin in warning. A strategic flick of a tail sends a tenacious fly off and away. Occasionally, a foot stomp or a head shake evokes the frustration. It is a constant unsatisfactory dance and it reminds me of upset and tolerance.

Our current climate lacks tolerance; the focus is on the upset, of being appalled, of blame and shame. With the focus on the upset, it creates a more narrow space for tolerance. Tolerance is not agreement or approval, but tolerance is a conscious act of allowing. What transpires when we allow? It illustrates our endurance to withstand hardship. When we allow, we can withstand and not cower from differences, conflicts, and variability. When we truly allow, we suspend judgment without compromising our own boundaries. The horses seem to have endless endurance to withstand those pesky summer flies, and they never seem lost in the upset of being bitten. They exercise tolerance: their willingness to simply allow sets the tone that there will always be summer (even a late one after a wet August), there will be heat, and a few weeks where the flies seem assured victory, and then there is reprieve. Tolerance is an endurance race, and it is an act requiring true engagement. When we really allow, we counter-intuitively secure our place, be it in the shade of the shed, or in the face of daunting newsworthy events, or in our relationships. When we exercise tolerance, we can remind ourselves to flick away the flies with the innate wisdom that the summer slips to cooler weather, the flies retreat, and we are still standing, allowing, enduring, belonging.

Fans help, too.

Jackie Kennedy, a lifelong horsewoman, on White House lawn with Macaroni, John, Jr, and Empress Farah Pahlavi, 1962   I  mage from the JFK Presidential Library

Jackie Kennedy, a lifelong horsewoman, on White House lawn with Macaroni, John, Jr, and Empress Farah Pahlavi, 1962

Image from the JFK Presidential Library