A Change Of Direction!

001 CollageTo all the awesome bloggers and readers who have followed me and read, liked and commented on my posts, THANK YOU!!!!

I have added a new site titled “Confessions of a Novice Horsewoman” which will become a primary site for me. I realized (and at the suggestion of a fellow blogger) that the experiences I’ve been having as a new comer to all things equestrian could be of value, if even just for a good chuckle, to others who are new to horses or enjoying a new career direction in their lives.

As I’ve described my new site, it chronicles the good, the bad and the silly ūüėČ of the past year or so and will continue to chronicle the progress of my dream of putting horses together with kids and adults who need a “good dose of horse”.

I welcome you to come visit my site. Still getting things together technically so forgive me in advance if things don’t transition smoothly. But, hey, it’s kinda like what I’m experiencing on all levels of life :)!

Thank you all with all my heart for your continued interest! I appreciate each one of you!

You should soon be able to find me at http://www.confessionsofanovicehorsewoman.com

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The Four Wishes

 

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I recently made a new friend from Croatia.  She endured the war, made her way to America and is grateful and happy in her new homeland.  As she told me stories of her youth, however, there is one thing she misses.  Each year, at Christmas, her village would erect a Christmas tree in the center of town and each person would hang a written wish upon that tree.

She has created an ersatz wishing tree on the balcony of her home in Coral Springs, FL from a potted palm tree. Last year she wrote down four wishes which she hung upon it.  Three of them have already come true and the fourth is well on the way to manifesting itself.

So I decided that I would enjoy this tradition this year with my own wishing tree.¬† I am choosing a tree that I planted on my land in the Appalachian mountains that had been my Christmas Tree a few years back.¬† I like to get a “living” tree each year in order to be able to replant it after Christmas is over.¬† I know, I know, it may seem redundant to plant a pine tree where I live… in a pine forest :).¬†But I like to think that these trees I plant will each hold the laughter, the conversations enjoyed, the tears wept, the secrets shared and the songs I’ve sung to the mountains.¬†¬†Perhaps, after I¬†am long gone, someone with the sensitivity to listen will hear what these trees store in them.¬† Hopefully, since I’ve also planted three apple trees and¬†ten blueberry bushes, they will also be munching on¬†the delicious fruit that will also be left behind.

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In making my four wishes for 2015,¬†I plumbed the deepest chambers¬†of my heart and thus these four wishes shall remain private.¬† I will say, however, that the process can be surprisingly revealing and illuminate some parts of the heart that are often shrouded. Try it and you’ll see ūüôā

I will, though,¬†make four public wishes for 2015¬†on this page, in part to keep myself accountable when I revisit them throughout the year ūüôā

1. I wish to think, act  and speak with utmost integrity.  No shortcuts, no rationalizing, no equivocating.

2.  I wish to proceed even more fearlessly on the path towards my calling which includes rescuing horses and putting humans and horses together for mutual love, communication and healing.  Fearlessly means not worrying about how I will organize it, finance it, or where it will ultimately take place. Fearless means to continue to be led and walk in faith as I have this past year.

3.¬† I wish to listen more and certainly speak a bit less ūüôā

4.  I wish to laugh more, cry when I need to, but to let the laughter be more frequent than the tears.

The pictures at the beginning of this post are photos of my planted tree with my four private wishes.

The picture below is of the tree currently brightening my living room  symbolizing my public promises.

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In this, my last post of 2014, I wish one more thing.  May your lives be joyous, your sorrows be comforted, your health be abundant and may you keep inspiring me as you have done this past year!

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Thank You To Those Who Have Gone Before

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It’s Halloween. All Hallows Eve.¬† Samhain.¬† And as the veil thins this night, I sit here in the Georgia woods and give thanks to all those who have gone before.

Here, in these Appalachian Mountains, where I walked on this eve, one feels the presence of the Cherokee.  The feathers in the picture above were a visual gift to me on my walk, somehow stimulating so many memories.

I read somewhere that the Cherokee considered these mountains to be sacred land and not a place to live, but to honor. Sometimes when I walk the in the woods adjacent to my cabin, I feel this.  That, perhaps, we are not supposed to live here.  Perhaps we are just supposed to worship here.

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The walk I enjoyed this Halloween evening reminded me somewhat of Scout’s walk in the woods, costumed as a ham, in the book To Kill A Mockingbird.¬† The leaves were rustling, the branches were creaking, I was utterly alone, but,¬†like Scout, perhaps not utterly…¬† Just spooky enough for Halloween.

In my solitude, I not only thought of the indigenous folk and creatures to whom these forests belong, I also thought about my own ancestors.

On my paternal side, my  people came from Ukraine which was an ancient center for horse-partnered nomadic tribes.  Today they are engaged in complicated struggles for survival.  But this I know; the magical parts of my DNA come from my Ukranian forebears.  Thank you for these gifts of imagination, horses and magic.

On my maternal side, my grandmother had an Irish mother, but was orphaned and sent on the “slave trains” to work on a farm in North Dakota from the age of eight years old.¬† She somehow met my British grandfather, who had trained jumpers for the royal family in England,¬†and lived with him on a farm in Manitoba.

My Uncle Norman was named for the cowboy who sat around the fire outside with the three older children on the farm as my grandmother gave birth to my uncle at the farmhouse.

My grandfather was deported back to England after the farm had¬†failed and he had moved the family to California in order¬†to work in a factory.¬† A “friend” reported him as being there illegally.¬† My mother still remembers him being taken away by two men in suits¬†driving a black¬† car.¬† The children¬†never saw him again.¬† The family tattered without him.

My Uncle John, who was the oldest and had once been so strong…my mother has memories of him driving the brothers and sister from the farm in Manitoba to the farm in North Dakota in a horse-drawn wagon during an emergency and being the man of the family, for a while at least, after grandfather was deported…. My Uncle John eventually slid into depression and disappeared too.¬† He was known for years as “crazy Uncle John”.¬† Not crazy¬†really… just sad, overwhelmed and lost…

I thank these folk, who endured so much, for my own strength of character, my love of horses, my love of land, and for my own endurance in this, my life, that has been so challenging.

164On¬†this hallowed night, none are lost.¬† Not to me.¬† I remember you all, even if I never met you in this life.¬† Your blood flows in my veins.¬† Your lives express themselves in my life. My love for nature, for land, for animals, for horses, for humans, for all the¬†arts, for the indigenous folk…all these loves came from you.¬† Thank you.

“Oh pioneer
I sing your song
It’s the hymn of those who’ve gone before and those who carry on
Pioneer
Your work is hard
But the future of us all rests on the shoulders of your heart…”¬† (Pioneer–The Band Perry)

Hmmm.. as I write this, it¬†just started snowing here in the mountains…

…echoing the white of the feathers I saw earlier in the woods…:)

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“Now It Begins, Now It Starts”

Today, October 20, 2014, marks the beginning of the realization of a vision, a “calling”, if you will, that our Creator assigned me two years ago. I had to read¬†back to some of my posts, “The Paths We Follow” and “Be Careful Of The Careful Souls Who Doubt You On The Way”, ¬†to remember the “me” I was and compare it to the “me” I’m becoming

Today was the “first day of the rest of my life”. Today, I was able to organize putting autistic teenagers together with my horses to have a day of connection and feeling. I certainly did not accomplish this by myself. Trainer, Bryan, facilitated the teens riding either little pony, Jay, or big Paint horse (17 hands), Fritz, as did barn manager, Phyllis. 030028

Phyllis’ special needs autistic teens class were the participants as well as some volunteer parents, a dear friend, William, who is a “natural” with his healing hands and voice, and teacher, Pat, who accomplished turning white, noble horse Gismo into a Picasso mural ūüôā

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My darling boy, Spirit, stood in makeshift cross ties, patiently… sort of :)…¬†for over an hour while I guided these children¬†in the ways to groom him.¬† And beyond grooming…how to feel his muscles, lay their cheeks on his sides, smell his sweet three-year-old horse baby smell, brush his forelock, feel the swirl in the middle of his forehead and…every single one of them…how to kiss his dear, soft nostrils and feel the hot nose breath from his baby horse lungs. To see autistic children smile, connect, love and sensate these things brought me to tears more than once.

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I had to take time this evening to put into perspective the choices I’ve made in this life as I begin this new and marvel-filled¬†adventure.¬† I have always taken “the road less traveled”.¬† It is¬†so NOT¬†an easy road.¬† It wasn’t in my destiny to marry, have children, bake cookies, live close to beloved family members, to stay put in one place.¬† Not for me, planned vacations, reliable holidays, a cozy home and the man of my dreams.¬† I look at that safe, predictable life with yearning and loneliness.

One of my favorite lines in “The Lion, Witch and The Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis is how Aslan the Lion, King of all Narnia, is described: “He is not a tame Lion”.

Well, I am not a “tame woman” and I pay a price for that.

But, oh, the joy and oh, the rewards!

Today I began the rest of my life.¬† Today the Creator began to show the fulfillment of just how clearly and step by step I’ve been led.

One last poignant and breathtaking miracle occurred last Friday.¬† Our barn opens up directly to a large, beautiful multi-use park.¬† In fact, it is, historically, ¬†the site of the Seminole Indians’ last stand.¬† There are acres of horse trails, lakes, streams and hardwood trees.¬† I was grooming my boy, Spirit, when I saw a family approaching the gate that opens to the park.¬† The mother and children were smiling and excited to see horses.¬† I usually am wary of strangers that approach, but these folk had light emanating from them.¬† As we exchanged greetings and I answered questions, I eventually led Spirit out through the gate towards them.¬† Much petting ensued as well as giving a bit of ”¬†horsie education” on my part ūüôā

Then the mother said, “We have another child.¬† She is 15 years old with cerebral palsy. We’ve heard that equine therapy is quite beneficial.” Then she turned towards a van, parked¬†a distance away, where her husband stood with¬†his beautiful, disabled daughter in his arms.

“Ask them to come over”, I invited.¬†¬†He carried her towards us and set her standing near to Spirit.¬† Holding tightly to the lead rope, not knowing how he would respond, I¬†guided his nose to her sweet, clenched hand.¬† He quietly sniffed her hand, touching it for quite awhile with his velvet nose, breathing his dear breath onto her hand.¬† He knew exactly what to do.

When he was finished, this angelic, non-verbal girl just held her hand to her heart and sighed and made sounds of such pleasure that she had experienced his kind love and nose softness.¬† Her¬†mother said, in a whisper, “They know, don’t they?”¬† We both had tears streaming¬†down out cheeks.

This lonely road of mine, this road less-traveled is my destiny.¬†¬†¬†To have these experiences and to fulfill our Creator’s will, with angels surrounding me…

… I feel, for¬†this evening, at least…

…happy.

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“Try To Remember The Kind Of September”….

….And on the eve of my birthday, I can’t ever remember the kind of September I just had ūüôā¬† Just when I thought that the inner journey and strengthening Year of 2014 was about to let up on the pressure needed to create the diamond that I’m striving to become, our Creator wasn’t done with¬†me yet.

The “Baptism by Fire”¬†of my beloved mare’s colicking and surviving had just barely cooled when another fire was lit in the form of a severe hand infection that I contracted through a tiny nick that hardly bled.¬† Note to self: when one has a tiny nick at the barn, do not, I repeat, DO NOT wipe the blood off on one’s jeans.¬†¬†The next¬†day, my hand blew up like an ugly purple balloon.¬† Urgent Care took care of the basics, tetanus shot, antibiotics, etc. but two days later it was even uglier.

Thank goodness for a best friend who dragged me kicking and screaming to the emergency room where I was immediately admitted to the hospital for 4 days of intravenous antibiotics.¬† Really?¬†¬†If left to my own devices I would probably be on life support for a totally septic body so… note to self:¬† listen to your friends and family and don’t be such a stubborn piece of work.

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After that, only a week had gone¬†by when, once more,¬†an emergency struck!¬† I woke on a Thursday morning and couldn’t find my beloved boy cat, Hercules.¬† After panicking around the whole apartment, there he was in a corner of my closet. “Come on,¬†Hercie, breakfast!”¬† A few¬†moments later, I realized my “breakfast enthusiast” of a cat was still lying in the closet.¬† I pulled him out and laid him on the bed and knew something was very, very wrong.

I got him to the vet before they even opened.  He stayed the day to get intravenous fluids and tests.  Then I brought him home to see if anything had improved.  Another all night vigil.

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By early a.m. it was clear he needed to go to the kitty cat hospital.¬† He had a serious infection and needed…oh my goodness, too eerie…intravenous antibiotics for 4 days.¬† An ultrasound showed an enlarged lymph node in his tummy and we are still not sure if it was the infection or if he has some sort of tumor.

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My deep instinct says, it was just the infection and he is and will continue to be fine.

Note to self:¬† if one sees even slightly different behaviors in one’s animal companions, pay attention.¬† My little boy cat had been sleeping a lot and had had discomfort in the litter box.¬† Where was my brain?¬† How long had he been quietly enduring this tremendous abdominal pain with patience and quiet long-suffering?

This is how this memorable September has ended.¬†My glorious mare is at a barn now where she can graze (the grass being essential to preventing colic) and is with her brother, whom she hadn’t seen for years.¬† She is one happy mare!

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My hand is improving and I am preaching the glories of neosporin, bandaids and not taking anything for granted.

My boy cat is back to demanding his evening snack and trying to run out the front door.¬† He’s himself.

So, on this birthday eve, I say, thank you Creator for strengthening me even more.  Thank you for giving me the opportunities to be calm and clear minded in incredibly stressful emergencies this past month.

And, guess what?  My dream is taking form.  My boarding buddy, the special needs teacher, has taken over management of our barn and both my horses have been moved there and are happy and comfy.  Two of her special needs teenagers have volunteered to help out weekly with mucking and grooming.  This month we will be hosting a field trip for her class of 15 special needs teenagers at the barn.  We are ready.  The horses are ready.  Our Creator has made me ready.

Thank you, Creator, for this September to remember.

I can’t end this without a picture of Spirit, my 3-year-old Appaloosa gelding.¬† He is truly made of spirit and is a very, very special little horse.¬† He is making such a difference in my life and I know he will be making a huge difference in others’ lives.

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A “Trip” To The Stars

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Among the kaleidoscope of experiences and emotions experienced on our “Literature and The Landscape of the Horse” retreat, there is one image that hovers just outside my conscious mind as I go through the every day tasks and demands upon returning to what serves as my “real life” currently.

Like every other human at the ranch on our retreat, whether guest, facilitator or wrangler, none of us could get enough of the horses. I fell in love with my horse partner, Stormy (Smokey) as well as with many of the beloved horses in the Vee Bar herd. How I loved to watch them in their ferocious runs to and from the barn both morning and evening. How I cherished our free time to groom and love on our horses. How I loved watching them in the pasture or in the holding pen, observing horses being horses.

Since our partner horses retreated to the pasture each evening; after dinner, my best friend/sister, Gwen and I would get “itchy” to have horse contact. So in her generosity, Sheri, permitted us to visit, treat, scratch, kiss, bless and generally just love all over her two glorious horses, Diego and Trip, whom she had brought with her from Moab and who would spend their nights in a very accessible paddock.

Both these horses have distinct personalities and are beautiful and intelligent as well as well-mannered. But the white Arabian, Trip, had caught my eye and ear ūüôā from Day 1 when, not allowed to go on trail or participate in certain events due to health issues, he would protest loudly with unending whinnying while tossing his glorious mane, exhibiting many facial expressions clearly engineered to evoke our sympathy at his “plight” and generally prancing about, creating a new exquisite sculpture with each position. He ” had me at hello” or, in his case, at “neeeeiiiiiiggghhhh!!!!”

During our evening visits with him, he was sweet, tender, affectionate and so very funny. It always caught me by surprise that this creature of wonder and beauty could also come down to earth to lick our hands and cheeks, nuzzle and play.

Overarching our times with him was always the awareness that he could lose one of his perfect eyes due to melanoma and that melanoma growths were black and hideous under his tail. Sheri with her faith, knowledge and experience, is, I know, going to pull him back to perfect health with acupuncture, herbs and homeopathy, but still, as a slowly throbbing ostinato under the soaring violin of his Arabian glory…his illness weighed on and still weighs on our hearts.

Yet, in spite of all corporeal and earthly things in his AND our paths, he left me with an image that will haunt me until my own end of days…

… Earlier that day, Gwen, being given an eagle feather as a gift and, being Native American, lawfully permitted to retain that gift, used her feather to bless Trip all over his body and especially on his diseased eye. She murmured words, perhaps in English or in Navajo, I wasn’t sure…all I knew is that Trip absorbed every bit of that blessing. That evening while playing with him and Diego, we hardly noticed as darkness fell.
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Then it happened. In a moment that could have been one second or one hour, I looked up at Trip as he stood still with moonlight upon his white being, looking as though the moonlight emanated from inside of him outward to reflect off our faces. Just above his head was a single star. This star looked as though it was crowning his superb head in extraterrestrial light. Then, in a moment, his whole head was surrounded by a diadem of stars. I was instantly aware that this being, here on earth known as Trip, was an eternal spirit being made of starlight, moonlight, sky, earth and forever-ness. As are we all. And in that timeless moment, all was calm, all was bright…

New moon in WY

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A Tail of Four Cats

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When I was little, my father would permit no animals in the house as pets; outside of turtles, fish and parakeets. I loved every single sad little turtle, chirpy little bird and silent swimming fish with a fierce devotion and passion. I yearned for a dog. I longed for a cat. It seems I was born loving animals :)! I often felt very sad that I wasn’t allowed to have them.

Then one summer, a little feral kitten changed that. It was one of those summers that just brimmed with expectation! We had an old yellow glider swing on our back patio and each day at dawn I would crawl into it and just revel in the magical summer mornings. On one of these mornings I heard a tiny mew and spied a little grey wisp of a kitten in the nearby Lilies of the Nile flowering on the sides of our patio. We stared each other down for a bit and then she came a bit closer. I sat very still. Before I knew it, she had hopped up on the swing seat beside me. That began my summer with Cacao (as I soon named her) the cat. We began a ritual of morning meetings and eventually she let me pet her and hold her. Sometimes her feral nature would get the best of her and she would, out of the clear blue, hiss, scratch me and run away. But I never minded. For that summer, I knew all the joy and love a little cat could bring into one’s life. I experienced the wonder of being trusted by a wild creature.

When summer was over and I had to go back to school, Cacao and I still had our “rendezvous” but they grew more and more infrequent. I still couldn’t wait for mornings to spend a few minutes with her and even after school she would come around. Until one day, she stopped appearing. After a few days I felt sad, confused and somewhat abandoned. It was then my mother finally found the courage to tell me that Cacao had been found in the street…run over. In my home, one was not really allowed to show tremendous emotion, so I retreated to the old yellow glider to grieve alone. My tears were the ferocious tears of a child who experienced its first acknowledged loss. But also of a child who had experienced the wonder of the love between a human and a critter.

The next cat to grace my life, Regina della Notte (Queen of the Night), truly became my “mostly companion” and ersatz soul mate. Adopted from the ASPCA which at the time was a “kill shelter”, I guess I saved her life. But truly, she saved mine. She taught me many lessons by just being herself. She traveled with me everywhere. She had a strong personality and a depth of caring. She was also, in her early years, the “fastest paw in the West” ūüôā as she could take out a fly with a single swipe. More about her in a moment.

My current two clowns, Hercules and Athena, are dear, funny, loving and loveable darlings. I adopted them from The North Shore Animal League where they were in a cage together, perhaps litter mates, perhaps not, but certainly had been rescued by North Shore from some “kill shelter”. The sign on their cage was “Sick Kittens”. I seemed not even to notice that sign when I laid eyes on them, fell in love at first sight and fell hard! Yes, they were ill and I needed to administer a variety of meds daily for a lengthy period of time. I never minded it for a moment. And to this day, yes, they still have the herpes virus and there are some health issues the crop up from their early illnesses. But they are active, healthy, funny, good sports that have taken many lengthy road trips with me and who happily adapt to any environment that my somewhat gypsy life provides. I feel so amazingly blessed each morning when I’m greeted with purrs and demands for much petting by her and a slightly rusty meow from him, indicating extreme weakness from the starvation he is clearly enduring due to his “mean mommy” as he pleads for just a bit of breakfast :). “Please, Sir, more”, is implied when his stomach, impervious to Daylight Savings time changes, says that food must be supplied…NOW! (Rhyming beautifully with his piteous “Meeerow”)
I save the last bit of my “tail” to describe how as gracefully as my soul mate, Regina lived and, by example, showed me how to live; so, with dignity and grace, she died.

About a year before her death, she became very tender with me. Most of those mornings she would crawl up into my lap as I sat in my wicker rocker looking out at the river and I would hold her as we just rocked quietly for lengthy periods of time. She began a nightly ritual which I named “the circle of love” where, when I went to bed, she would crawl into my encircling arms and just be with me for a few moments before retiring to her favorite spot at the end of the bed. She also started creating a “land” under my bed which consisted of much cat-torn cambric making hammocks and drapes in the shadowy space. Sometimes, when I couldn’t find her, she would be there, just lying quietly. Of course, I had no idea she was to die that year. She was aging, yes, but she was aging beautifully and healthily. She had some minor issues but all were fixed with a vet visit. And she was fine all that year until one day…she wasn’t.

On a Sunday morning, I got up and noticed her hind legs were weak and sort of seemed creaky. Bacon was always a good inducement to activity but this morning, even bacon was not getting the job done. First thing Monday, I got her to the vet ( he was a total cat man) and he hospitalized her immediately suspecting kidney failure. Each day, I would visit her. She was sweet and quiet, yet on her cage was a sign warning the techs “Dangerous Cat”. I had to laugh because I knew that my little Queen of the Night was not taking kindly to this place and obviously had enough left in her to be “dangerous”. At the end of the week, the vet told me he had done everything possible and that I could take her home with meds and instructions for intravenous liquids to keep her hydrated. She retreated to “The Land that Regina Created” under the bed and I would periodically bring her out and carry her into the living room for some cuddles on the couch. She could barely move.

The next morning, I found her under the bed with her face in the bowl of water I had placed there, breathing shallowly. It was Memorial Day weekend and I couldn’t reach the vet. I still refused to believe she wasn’t going to pull out of this. I placed her in the wicker rocker and we sat together that day as I waited, in vain, for her breathing to return to normal. I made a little tent for her under the piano bench and put on a CD of Kiri Te Kanawa singing the “Four Last Songs” of Richard Strauss, which seemed to relax her a bit. When the CD finished, she wanted to leave the tent. I tried to prevent this. But my darling cat, who could no longer walk, picked herself up and resolutely power marched down the hall into the bedroom and back under the bed. I checked on her every few minutes. The one time I was gone for more than a few minutes was the time she chose to cross over the rainbow bridge. She had stayed with me in this life long enough to see my career established, settled in a lovely apartment, beyond a difficult trial situation and living with a man that I loved deeply. She “grew me up”.

That glorious cat chose to die in her own way, in her own time, with dignity… with quiet strength and grace. I will forever thank that good vet who let me bring her home. She stayed well enough while in the hospital that I didn’t have to make the egregious decision to put her down. She spared me that. And she spent the last year of her life, preparing herself and preparing me with all the tenderness and love she could muster. I only pray that I can use the lessons of her dying when my own time comes.

Addendum: That same night, we snuck down to the park under the George Washington Bridge where The Little Red Lighthouse stands. We buried her under the grasses beneath a tree on that windy, desolate night. My grief was unrelenting. As a last gesture, I planted a package of wildflowers on top of her grave. Each week I would visit and leave some bacon on her grave. No flowers grew that summer where I had planted them atop her grave. Then 9/11 happened and no one was allowed under the bridge for months. On Christmas Eve of that year, my boyfriend said, “Let’s give it a shot. Let’s see if we can visit her. And, oh by the way, bring some of your fresh baked chocolate chip cookies.” When we got down there, indeed a police van stood guard. We approached, explained why we were there and asked for just a few moments. Then we shared the cookies with the officers. We approached her grave, knelt down and were startled! Glowing dimly in the Christmas Eve midwinter darkness were…flowers…white flowers. My boyfriend, who was at heart a pretty skeptical guy said, “I’ve lived in New York my whole life and NEVER have I seen flowers bloom in December like this!” Of all the variety of wildflowers I had planted, the ones that had bloomed and bloomed just for that Christmas Eve… the first time we could get there since early September… were…Queen Anne’s Lace! My beloved little queen had planned this Christmas miracle and message from across the rainbow bridge to let me know, in my grief, she really wasn’t so far away after all…

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Consider Tears…

I am a crier. I cry for sadness, for happiness, when my heart is touched, when I laugh hard, when I grieve and…often…at Purina Cat Chow commercials :).

Tears are so beautiful. They taste good. They feel good.

I love the release that tears give. When one is so sad that one’s throat feels like it’s collapsing in on itself, the flow of tears opens it right back up again.

There’s an aria from Massenet’s opera Werther, that I often sang, titled “Va, laisse couler mes larmes”. Charlotte sings this to her younger sister as she is weeping for love and loss.

Va! Laisse couler mes larmes! Go! Let flow my tears!
elles font du bien, ma chérie ! they do (me) good, my darling!
Les larmes qu’on ne pleure pas The tears which one does not cry
Dans notre √Ęme retombent toutes, Inside our soul fall again, all of them,
et de leurs patientes goutes And with their patient drops
Martèlent le coeur triste et las. Hammer the heart sad and weary.
Sa résistance enfin s’épuise; Its resistance finally exhausts itself;
le coeur se creuse et s’affaiblit; The heart collapses and weakens;
il est trop grand, rien ne l’emplit; It is too big; nothing fills it
et trop fragile, tout le brise! And too fragile, everything breaks it!

(translation by Lea Frey)

Let us consider tears….they are certainly nothing to be ashamed of. Yes, the heart can weaken and break with the ceaseless hammering of unshed tears. When strong people shed tears whether for joy or sorrow, it is tremendously inspiring because of their courage to release these fine drops of salted emotion. When we are laughing so hard with friends that we are crying, how wonderful it is to look at each others’ tears and feel the commonality of them. When we’re watching the movie, It’s A Wonderful Life, for the 500th time and all cry in synchronicity at the line “Attaboy, Clarence”, how poignant and unifying are these tears.

I had an unusual tear experience when I was with the horse, Serenity, at the barn the other day. We were all alone and I was grooming her in the slow pampering way we both so enjoy. There are many tender moments of horse sighing, horse lip licking, my kissing her soft, large nostrils and long amounts of time stroking her forelock in a way that she particularly loves. This day, on a luscious sunny afternoon, with breezes tugging at the leaves and birds having a festival of song, as Serenity and I did our routine, I found myself with tears streaming down my face. There was no reason, there was no warning. It was simply crying for the sake of crying. I stood next to her for quite awhile and just allowed all those tears to flow while she waited patiently in horsie fashion.

Consider tears…let us not underestimate their importance. Let us consider them yet another tremendous gift from heaven that affirms and releases the best in all of us.

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3 Essential Lessons On How To Be An Improving Human; Taught To Me By Serenity, The Horse

 
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Lesson Number One: Release your over-cleanliness issues, germ-o-phobia, vanity and more-than-slightly-compulsive neatness!

I had ridden horses a lot in my life but never with any knowledge or instruction. Galloping and hanging on for dear life on a beach in Punta Cana seemed fine with me. After all, the water and sand would break my fall ;). But as I approach a retreat in Wyoming titled, Literature and the Landscape of the Horse, during which we will not only be writing, learning about the history of humans and horses and enjoying renewal; we will also be assigned to a horse all day for five days as part of the experience. Since I am generally a shy and embarrassed person, I didn’t want to spend those five days in the agony of my embarrassment at horse ignorance, so I asked a friend and yoga teacher who is “mommy” to a superb horse, to instruct me in the finer points of horsemanship.

When I first arrived at the barn, I asked to use the restroom. This was a barn, not a fancy stable. Thus, my first lesson in horsemanship was…and I quote…”Pee in her stall.” What????? I couldn’t possibly. Oh my goodness, no!!!! I may consider myself kind of a rustic-able girl but this was unheard of!!!! Then she demonstrated how to brace yourself against the stall wall and…well…pee. No water, no handi-wipes, no tissue. Just do it. So I did. Liberating!!!!! Now I don’t even think twice about it :).

Secondly, when one is mucking out a stall, it is akin to standing in a large cat litter box with a large scoop and taking care of business. Somehow, one’s squeamishness over bodily functions disappears…rapidly. One is searching for “buried treasure”. In the case of Serenity, she is such a princess, that I want her stall to be pristine and covered with clean shavings at all times. Here’s what I learned: a cleaned stall is a clear invitation to a horse to produce…um… more manure. Serenity goes delicately into a corner with a twinkle in her eye, finishes with a satisfied horse groan and there I rush, rake in hand…! Horses are superb in that, when “producing manure”, they lift their tails cleanly and beautifully! What I didn’t know is that they do that when passing gas as well! In Serenity’s case, whereas she’s delicately in a corner for the former…for the latter, she truly enjoys gracing me with her tail lift when I’m, say, cleaning a rear hoof or brushing her rump. Again, with a twinkle and sly look in her eye. Yuck, Serenity!!!!!!!!!

Then there’s my now unrecognizable vehicle! I had kept my 13 year old Toyota Rav 4 washed, vacuumed and clear of any clutter. My vehicle was formerly a zen experience. Now? You are likely to find manure laced boots on the back seat floor alongside of a sweaty hat, yoga bag and mat, a huge sack of apples, a huge sack of carrots, a 12 pack of water, certain items I don’t want to keep in the tack room until I get a footlocker to keep them under lock and key (sadly, there are some folk who “borrow” stuff at a barn and don’t return it.) There are bits of hay and grass everywhere, a loose pistachio nutshell or two ( I don’t have much time to eat, so pistachios are my “go to”) and the detrius of driving here and there with no available trash receptacle. My formerly weekly carwash accomplishes nothing anymore so I’ve ceased that exercise in futility. Certainly a “not me” situation but really, more me than ever because I am learning the lesson of being me instead of being an appearance.

Appearance? I’m a girlie girl so mascara and lipgloss are still a MUST. But beyond that, my hair is now never worn down and blow dried to perfection, my manicurist asks me if I’ve been playing in the dirt, I don’t wear perfume anymore because I think Serenity wants me to smell like me, not some manufactured scent. I, more often than not ,wear the same clothes two days (well, alright…maybe three days) in a row ( now, certainly, not haute couture) and I’ve worn high heels about three times in the past three months. Yikes! I don’t recognize myself. And I am happy! Serenity thinks I’m quite beautiful when I’m brushing her tail or massaging that special place at the base of her ears. And I FEEL beautiful when I’m doing it ūüôā
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Lesson Number Two: “Respond with Courage”. I take that phrase from Mark Miller’s simple and profound book, The Heart of Leadership . As my supervisory staff and I studied the concepts in this book, I came to realize that one of the traits of leadership character that I needed to improve was “respond with courage”. I’m such a people-pleaser and “warm & fuzzy” leader that I think, hesitate and analyze before correcting a situation. The results of this have not been optimal.

Leave it to Serenity, the horse, to school me in this lesson as well! With a horse, as Buck Brannaman instructs in his book, Believe, it does not help the horse to yield to it. A horse needs to know what its job is. A horse needs to know you’re the leader, without any cruelty, harshness or “breaking”. But by “responding with courage”, in the moment, both human and horse benefit.

I began learning this as my teacher improved my rein hands and leg signals. Since her recent nighttime escape injury, Serenity can’t be ridden for another month or so. But she now is able to go for a walk, graze and get her horsie sunbath. When walking her, by responding immediately when she would lower her head to graze and gently but firmly closing in on the lead rope to lift her head, we both benefited because she’d remain walking. When she goes too fast for me, I stop her, say “easy” and start again at MY pace. A huge “respond with courage moment” has come as she and I work on her not exiting her stall in a frantic run and not returning to her stall pushing me aside in her hurry. I have to stop her each time. If it doesn’t go well, we do it again and again. But if I don’t have the courage, as a 5’3″ petite woman, to let her know what we’re doing, I don’t help her and I certainly don’t help me.

One of the biggest lessons in “respond with courage” has come as antibiotics have had to be administered as a result of her injury. Just putting the powder in her grain wasn’t cutting it. No amount of added applesauce or chopped carrots or hand feeding her with applesauce, chopped carrots and horsie treats would convince her. So the vet recommended a large syringe with mixing the antibiotic with molasses. At the sight of the syringe, Serenity, already syringe phobic, goes into wild-eyed, horsie panic. Still, the first few administrations were accomplished by me courageously holding her halter and even as she was raising her head, wiping some of the concoction on her lips and front teeth. This lowered her head enough for me to quickly shove the syringe over her tongue and the molasses/antibiotic down her throat….until last Sunday. This day she had finally HAD IT! I would hold her halter but she kept pulling me up off the ground into the air with the ferocity of her lifted head. My sweet fella, who was with me, marched right in, grabbed her halter, looked her in the eye, said “Easy girl or I’ll pull you down”in a courageously firm voice ūüôā and she meekly lowered her head and I did the molasses/antibiotic squirt. Now THAT was responding with courage! I learned so much by watching his definite, firm but kind action.

Still, the next day, when alone with her, I was wise enough to know I hadn’t reached that level of “respond with courage” yet. So as Serenity and I gazed at each other. while I was figuring out how to get this last dose into her…a small, horsie-accented voice in my head said, “Maybe if you cut an apple in half and cored it, stuck the nasty concoction in the center, put a ‘nickerdoodle’ on top of that, covered that with more molasses and stuck the apple back together again, maybe just maybe I’d eat it.’ I did and she did :). Not as courageous as my fella, perhaps, but that leads me to the third lesson.

Lesson Number Three: Horses are ONLY capable of being honest and you must be too. You must be absolutely openly and honestly YOU or there will be no true communication. By admitting to myself that I still had a lot to learn about dealing with a 1,000 pound animal who is resisting a syringe and that I was NO Buck Brannaman, I opened a channel of communication with Serenity. She actually was able to demonstrate to me that if I would lose that nasty syringe and offer an irresistible presentation of the dreaded antibiotic that she would honor my honesty about my” green-ness” with a suggestion of her own. Indeed, if one just stays present and quiet…if one just observes the body language of a horse…if one stops their infernal multi-tasking and does each horsie task as it comes…a horse will tell you everything about itself that you need to know.

I sit in a place of honesty with Serenity because there is no other acceptable option. In that place of honesty, I am confronted with all my own beauty, power, weakness, silliness, fear, courage,intelligence, sensitivity, hyper-sensitivity, shyness, open-mindedness, close-mindedness, stubbornness, compassion, and passion. And there she is with her sensitive, intelligent, complicated, prey animal self with all her quirks but open and trusting with me.

I am an improving human. She is a perfect horse.
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Thank you, beloved Serenity, for helping me be a better me ūüôā

 

 

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” Be Careful Of The Careful Souls Who Doubt You Along The way” — The Band Perry

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Recently, I had the privilege of hearing The Band Perry sing the song “Pioneer” from which this title is extracted, at a music festival here in South Florida.

The Band Perry - lyrics

I smiled from ear to ear, remembering how the dear friend who introduced me to this song, was also my cheerleader as I began putting the pieces of my life’s passion together. He said this song reminded him of me. And somehow, just his saying that helped me “grow into” the beginning of putting the pieces together to develop my life’s passion.

The opening words of the song spoke to how willing I am to be led and to lead in order to accomplish my dream of creating a sanctuary for humans and animals who are rejected, hurt or neglected to come together for mutual healing and health.

Oh Pioneer, I sing your song. It’s the hymn of those who’ve gone before and those who carry on. Pioneer, Your work is hard. But the future of us all rests on the shoulders of your heart.

Where are we going. Oh I don’t know. But still I’ve got to go. What will become of us? Oh I don’t care. All I know is I’ll go anywhere Pioneer…”

The next verse reminded me that I am not going to be leading nor ever have led a normal sort of life. I was, as described in previous posts, sort of left on my own at an early age…an “orphaned child”…to figure life out by myself. But that gave me strength and an openness to adventure and all things of the wild:

“…Pioneer, You orphaned child. Your mother is adventure and your father is the wild…”

Then came the phrase that gave me much to consider:

“…Oh Pioneer. So young and brave. Be careful of the careful souls who doubt you along the way …”

Who are these careful souls? Are they those family, lovers and friends who surround us? You know…the ones that tell us to “be realistic”. The ones who ask, “Is that really practical? What’s your plan?” Sometimes this is asked before we’ve even finished describing our dream to them. I call these folk “dream stealers”. They are often wonderful, well-meaning people in our lives who want the very best for us and are “careful souls”, the non-dreamers, who want to be sure we don’t get into financial trouble or take on more than they think we are capable of handling. They “doubt” that we can rise to the challenge, dig in our heels, put our heads into the wind and create the dream we’ve just articulated. Be, therefore, careful of these. They do it out of love…but…

Then again, we all have our own internal “careful souls” that doubt us along the way. The voices in our head saying: we’re not talented enough, not smart enough, not knowledgeable enough… we’ll never make it as a…singer, dancer, writer, photographer, actor, scientist, lawyer, doctor, ranch owner…you name it. We think of our “must dos” rather than our “want to dos”. How do we deal with the inner careful, doubting soul?

Here again, the lyrics of this song give some clues:

“…I won’t run when bullets chase me. I won’t rest where arms embrace me. I will love when people hate me. I won’t hush, no you can’t make me. Send the dark but it won’t break me. You can try but you can’t change me. Take my life, they will replace me. I won’t hush, no you can’t make me. I won’t hush…”

It’s tough not to know the future. It’s tough not to re-create the lives we’ve always known like old shoes in comfortable, outworn molds. It’s especially tough to trust and know that if there is something we love and MUST do that, eventually, we might get kind of good at it. Even if right now we are still “works in progress”.

I have certainly encountered this recently, as part of my dream has involved horses and I’m not someone who has grown up with them. I have SO much to learn. But each piece of this learning has been fascinating and a joy. In fact, it’s been more fun and more wonderful than I could have imagined! Am I outside my comfort zone? Yes!!!! Might I end up without a comfy home, a boyfriend, worldly goods, a secure retirement? Yes and yes!!! But the careful souls both inside and outside of me have had their say and now… I’m having mine!!

“…Where are we going. Oh I don’t know. But still I’ve got to go. What will become of us? Oh I don’t care. All I know is I’ll go anywhere Pioneer…”

“Let your heart not be troubled”025

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p.s. Thanks, Cowboy!




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