August the First was also the full moon. I sat out on the step and looked up at her, that particular white light of the moon shining on my legs in the warm night air. It was a rare experience to be sitting so still at that hour because the last 6 weeks have been very, very busy and un-still. Even late at night.

My last blog entry (good heavens, as long ago as June 20!) focused on the refurbishing aspects of my life and work – theatre and horses. Well, the refurbishment was so all consuming that for 5 weeks I was completely engrossed to the exclusion of almost everything else! My little grey horse took a back room as the play with all its challenge, delight and anxiety as well as ultimate success, required literally all of me.

I then had to take conscious steps to unwind, come down off the mountaintop of energy and focus of the play, that creative and administrative endeavor. It has been hard to allow the time for just sitting. It has also meant that the rest of my life, with the financial, human and logistical needs, now stands before vividly me, the abandoned orphan of the last 6 weeks saying, ‘What about me?’

So, when I actually stopped, under the light of the moon, I remembered all the times I have sat with her before. The long period in my life when I never missed saying goodnight to her, when I always knew when the full moon was due, when I wrote my book, was regular with the blog. When I was very alone.

However, I was also in a kind of holding pattern. That was time for creating space, building the foundation, preparing to fly. Then suddenly, I did fly off and crashed in some sense of the metaphor, but rose again right into the power and joy of creative endeavor with others, having been so solitary.

No wonder I am a little dizzy! I am a pendulum that has been swinging from one extreme to the other, accidentally tossed by tornadoes or selectively riding biggest waves I can find. In between swings I am deposited, sometimes not so gently, on a rocky beach.

So, as I perch on my pebbles today? I note that I have been sitting more, jogging regularly again, riding more often and paying attention the messengers from nature I meet along the way.

There was the Falcon who dived out of a tree, about 10 feet to my left as I rode along the trail, and then back up into the next door tree, where it sat quietly amidst the tangled limbs of the juniper. Stopping my horse I knew, ‘see the big picture and when you act do so at the right time with full commitment. Otherwise sit and wait.’

One day, when walking, the Heron standing patiently and alone at the edge if the marsh reminded me to be steady, independent and balanced. Deer have been with me since I came back to Sedona. Riding or walking they appear glimpsed in the trees along the water edge, sometimes in small groups, most recently singly. Strong and springy in step they are gentle, delicate creatures.

The Bobcat just 4 days ago zigged across a little back road barely 10 feet in front of Mariah and I, and then zagged back even closer, before vanishing, just out of sight at the moment of truth, in the edge of the bushes. There was a high scream and silence. Until the birds launched into a rather hysterical, full-throated discussion on what had happened right underneath them.

She was beautiful that cat – fast and focused, graceful and shiny-coated. My horse just stood and watched. I was mesmerized and suddenly very grateful for some reason. Perhaps she had just re-affirmed my capacity to switch on and off the creative torrent, to keep the secrets and be alone when I need to.

The Rattlesnake who lay stretched out near the path I was walking, didn’t move at all. His presence quietly urged me to toward careful awareness, healing and to embrace the transitions. Always with me is the Raven. They come to where I am, wander about, talking and arguing, laughing and mocking, daring me to be bold and see humor in life.

Traveling with all these visitors, though, the most consistent animal in my life is Horse. Ever since I was born and always since, I have been in close relationship with horses. So much so I perhaps take that energy for granted. So, to my horse totem, today in material form as Mariah, I thank her for encouraging and feeding my sense of freedom and power.
I have been out of balance (gloriously so) and am now landing back into center again. This means allowing the wild, boisterous sweeps of energy and ‘doingness’ to subside into a rhythm that will be once again provide a place of peace and calm.

In the Personal Magic book I note that we need to cultivate time for just being, in order to connect to that power greater than ourselves.

‘Investigate and experience a range of opportunities to open up your heart, blend the intellect with intuition, create ritual and rhythm in your life. Ultimately, how that is for you, how that magic works for you, is yours. There is the power, arising within your Being, expressed in the world.’

Paying attention to the nonhuman living creatures we meet in our daily lives is one way to make that connection. So, who have you met the last week? month? year? And what did they have to show you?

(Many thanks to this wonderful website for insight into understanding the  animal messengers. Lins Domain )

Hello All. It has been a long, strange, many-stringed journey since late  March this year. Much has changed, much has been released and more  has been added, blooming in the desert of letting go.

I find myself invigorated through the deep work of live theatre even as I am almost totally bobbing like a cork on the oceans of uncertainty. The energy of creating in collaborative endeavor is like the sun and rain that feeds the vastness of an otherwise desolate terra firma. Fred & Mary, the world premier production that I began with in September last year, is finally fully underway. 14 actors, 4 designers, the playwright and director, stage manager and volunteers – we are all only 2.5 weeks from that surely coming opening.

Directing!

With so much of my life spread out among 4 different locations as I slowly drift into the unfolding of this next chapter there are two pillars of strength. One is the daily responsibility and community of the theatre work. It reminds me I am valuable, worthy, capable and smart. The other is the little grey horse who has managed to stay pretty close to me as I survey the possibilities while living in the moment.

Riding in the red rocks of Sedona, my path blessed by the heron, coyote and deer whose creeks and land I travel through on my four-footed partner, any fear and doubt is gently lifted. I am reminded that the universe is far greater than the tiny piece of my corner of it. Conversely ,and perfectly aligned, is also knowing that my corner of it is the most valuable gift that I have been offered.

Magic indeed is all around me and while there are times when it seems almost impossible that any order will come from the chaos, I am nestled in the arms of something as ordered, as calm and as powerful as any reality I could conjure.

Red Rocks/Grey Horse

As I say in the very first paragraph of the introduction to the Personal Magic book, ‘Personal Magic offers a way of being in the world, a way to live your life with power, resilience, hopefulness  and – ultimately – with joy.’

I am glad that I have spent a life time uncovering and embracing my personal magic, that I took time last year to articulate that in a book. It is guiding my ‘walk’ now as I have to follow up on that ‘talk’.

There will be more work and sharing of the book, more blogs and newsletters. For now I am busy and spreading out into myself again after a hiatus both of choice and circumstance. The balancing opposite poles of my life, the creative arts (theatre) and the earth (horses) are both, in their own ways, giving me haven and strength to nurture and share my magic.

I can only wish you similar opportunity and joy.

It has been a week of little things. I am not sure what I have actually done the last 5 days although I can feel the wheels starting to move, as the gears shift.  And there were a couple of biggies.

Last weekend the man with whom I live, as a well as being a potter, proved that he can apparently change out a radiator on a Honda! It was most impressive, and done with very little angst. The car no longer spews antifreeze everywhere. That was The Big Thing. As a couple, in the house we share, we hosted our first dinner guests. That was a big thing and much fun.

However, it is those little unexpected moments that are vibrating for me as I sit to write this morning. Maybe there is so much that is BIG coming my way that this period with time and awareness of the ‘little’ is grounding me in some way. Here follows a series of snapshots of the Little Things.

Morning School Kids
Each morning when I go to feed the horses, I notice the kids wandering their way to the places where the school bus picks them up, or if I am a little later, standing in slightly disorientated looking attitudes. Maybe one is digesting breakfast, another coming up with excuses why homework isn’t ready. Some are clearly not even awake. They have large brightly colored coats, skinny legs, ponytails and baseball caps. Some swing their bags around their bodies as if about to launch a shot put, and others are hunched beneath them like over-housed snails.

Mariah in the Zone
Down at the horse yards later in the day, I often turn out Mariah while I clean her stable area. Most days she fairly races up and down the perimeter nearest the stables working herself into a lather. This week, on a day when the wind had surprisingly actually ceased, the sun was hot and the environment very quiet around the stable area, she connected to the surrounding atmosphere.

Looking up from the rake and barrow, dry manure dust in my nose, I watch her mooch slowly about the entire area. She stops and stares off in the opposite direction across the lake, and then she carefully picks a spot and rolls – long and thoroughly. Eventually, she stands up, shakes herself with all her legs splayed, and proceeds to pick at the green in the yard. One relaxed little horse.

Running Again
The warmer weather and longer daylight hours have inspired me to start running again. Not far and not fast, careful not to aggravate the knee beyond a point of no return, I jog around the ‘block’ adding a few more minutes each time out. Stretching my legs out on the downward side of the small hill up which I have just puffed, I feel a bit like my old running self. Free, light, expansive.

Coming toward me is an older woman on one of those little scooters. We pass each other on the road. She looks right at me, her hands on the handlebars of her motorized transport. I am hoping I haven’t added too many more yards to the run by detouring on this side road. She calls out, ‘I wish I could still do that.’ I am suddenly aware. ‘Yes’, I call back, ‘I am grateful that I can still do it.”

Arriving home 15 minutes later, red-faced, sweating and happy, I am indeed grateful that I can still do it.

Roadside Night Horse
Driving back from rehearsal, it is about 9.30 pm and dark. Zipping along at the speed limit of 65mph traveling East, when suddenly, startlingly, on the side of the road, a horse heading West! Chestnut, tacked up in western gear, a rider in a large cowboy hat. Male or female?  Too fast and dark to tell.

I nearly turnaround, cross the center line, wait for a break in the traffic and loop around to come back past them again. What are they doing along the highway at that hour?  A story I can’t know but it stays with me. In that brief passing, the horse looked alert but calm, the rider was invisible except for the hat. I am heading home in my car. Where are they going?

Supermarket Vision
Late at night, again after rehearsal, (different night) I am pushing the cart around. I always feel disorientated and as if I have been dropped onto an entirely different planet in a supermarket. It is more pronounced at night and requires all my self discipline to focus on the task at hand, stay in the store and see the list through.

Scanning the wrinkled piece of paper, I just barely look up. Ahead of me are a very high pair of black spiky heels, two perfectly straight black seams heading up a pair of long, shapely legs. Cut on the extreme bias, hanging longer on one side than the other, a black skirt is barely met by a black and white hound’s tooth jacket slung across a pair of straight, wide shoulders. Very black hair, pulled back and curled up at the sides, with a red bow tying it 40s style completes the vision.

She is holding her list up in beautifully manicured red-nailed hands, and turns her head slightly. I nearly fall over. I think I have landed in a Disney movie or an MTV  video. She is a sort of cross between Cruella de Ville, Jessica Rabbit, Annette Benning in ‘Bugsy’ and  Madonna in the mid 80s. White makeup; huge brown eyes with dark liner and enormous lashes; full, perfectly red lips and a swatch of white bleached hair on one side right through the dark black!

I am wide awake and fascinated by this planet! We end up side by side at the end of a long line. (Only one checkout open and Good Lord, who knew so many people shopped at 10 at night?) I have to tell her how incredible she looks and how bold to be in here like that.

This young woman is on her way to a last minute ‘dress up and cook’ party. Her cart is loaded with great looking ‘to cook’ food and chocolate cookies. She is allergic to cats which are all over her friend’s house, and thinks her eyes are red. As I tell her, if anyone notices her eyes are red (which they might have be when one looks very closely and with that in mind) then they are missing the big picture entirely.

Then they open another lane, we go our separate ways. I hear some old guy say, ‘Well, look at you little lady. You’re all dressed up.’ What delight she is giving so many out of place, late night shoppers!

Weeding
The yard around the house that we rent is an Arizona desert garden. It sports aloe plants, cactus, low shrubby creeping stuff just emerging green shoots under the old grey-brown after the winter and some pines. Much of the yard has been carefully paved with stones/rocks laid down years ago, surrounded by gravel sections.

Also over the years, weeds and grasses have found their way up through the spaces between the stones and rocks, through the splits in the plastic beneath the gravel and into the few garden beds.

I have been gradually removing them, which includes realigning the stones and re-spreading the gravel in many places. One circular area was almost entirely thick grass and weeds, around the wide, paved base of a small, gnarly peach tree. This little tree was twisted, had been bandaged in a couple of places and indeed looked very sick all winter.

I started the weeding process as a few little pink blossoms were emerging on a couple of  the little skinny twigs. I trimmed the naked twigs from the base of the tree and we looked at it, hoping it’d be alright. Most of the circle around it had been cleared when I went out after a day or two unable to be out there, and was stunned with delight!

In 24 hours the entire tree, anywhere it’s branches are exposed to the light, has become a mass of pink blossoms. I spend an hour and complete freeing the  rocks and stones from weeds. Today this amazing, awkward looking little tree, with some dead stumps, the odd bandaged limbs and the multitude of blossoms, stands free of weeds, in a circular bed of beautiful, natural rocks and stones. She is gorgeous.

Clay Play
We have a clay studio in the house. There have been bursts of activity in there. When my daughter was here, when I wanted to make something each for the cast in the play I directed, when David has work to do. We have just begun a special joint project.

A couple of nights this week we quietly worked in there, sometimes with music, sometimes without. We work together on the same project, but each doing different pieces of the work. Sometimes I am shaping the clay, sometimes under-glazing. Not having to talk alot, working out the form, agreeing on the direction and then proceeding with the art and technique of creation. Restful, beautiful, easy.

In the morning, when I go out with my coffee to the studio, I am greeted by a line of perfect little pieces almost floating in the gentle light coming in through the windows. Gifts made and given, and to be given again.

……..

There are huge events ahead. Some I know about and am planning for, others are intimations and there will be the complete surprises. This period as spring emerges, as I have time to observe and participate in the small delights, is precious.

Like tiny streams that begin the highlands, gathering size and power flowing toward their destination, so are the little things in our lives. All water flows to the hugeness of the sea, all our events and moments flow into the heart and the Soul. I choose to really be aware of those that feed and nourish me. Those that hurt and harm I will release.

The little things that empower my being as a living, breathing, spiritual creature are the many streams and rivers that provide nuance, color and depth on the journey. I will also travel through the big things on my way to that ultimate destination. The little things are foundational to my evolution.

I hope that you find the little things in your days and nights that fill your core being, nourishing you on your journey. The little things prepare you for the big things and see you safely to the end.

Today began with the soft whisper of coming summer heat. The last few months when I went to feed the horses at 7am. I have gasped in the cold air as I exited the warmth of the kitchen. I have been rugged up in layers, and wondering how to open little metal clips on the metal yard gates with gloves on or how to withstand the freezing touch of the metal if I don’t have the gloves! In short, it has been darned cold!

The days have been improving as the sun comes out sooner, stays up a little longer and mostly is able to at least balance the bitingly cold winds. Of course as soon as the sun slips down behind the hills then it is COLD again.

However, tantalizingly enough, a few days have been shorts and spaghetti-strap days, leading to pink faces, lightly browned legs and that scoop-neck tan-line. We don’t have the heater on in the bedroom at night and the garden has benefited from time and attention. In short, the winter is on the way out and the spring is right around the corner.

However for me, the real tipping point is when that morning air is softer, its touch like fine cotton and not burlap, although not quite silk yet. The promise of summer ahead arrives when the wind carries barely recognizable scents like faintly inscribed reminders of the plethora of opportunity, rather than the hard, crisp, single clarion note of the winter air. I believe in the coming warmth when I have only 3 cotton layers, when I don’t notice the cold of metal clips and when I can stand quietly by my little grey horse without freezing my feet in their boots.

Yesterday I rode Mariah, that little grey horse, from Cordes Lakes where I live to Arcosanti where my sweetie works. We met below the extraordinary concrete buildings, on the flat land beneath the mesa. The three of us walked down and across the trickling Agua Fria. Sitting on a rock, the sun coming through the still naked trees, we humans shared with our equine friend lettuce from the salad and a piece of banana. (Mariah turned down the orange and would have liked the almond butter/blackberry preserve sandwich but we didn’t offer to share that with her!)

Then we walked down the riverbed, the three of us side by side, along the wide, ancient swathe of the high-walled travel-way, on a myriad of extraordinarily colored rocks. Perched on the steep edges above us were old, old trees that have survived high floodwater, drought, development and falling water-table levels through the eons. Their roots are exposed as the earth falls away and their limbs twist and turn to continue to support the tree in its connection to life.

On one hand the trees reach upward to the sun, on the other they dig deep into the earth for water. So it is for me as the warmth creeps back into the mornings.

I love my house and the warmth within it, the home we are creating with the books, clay, music, art and apparently endless supply of olives and red wine. I settled into that embrace, sinking roots into the nurturing depth of stillness and calm.

At the same time, I lean up and out to the outside energy and power of the air, space and sun’s heat. There I can fly and expand, taking my chances in the world beyond the confines of the safe home/cave.

I know the Winter is not over and that Spring is a time of rapid change through a variety of weather. Indeed as I write this, looking out, the clouds have moved in, wind is ripping through the trees and there is barely a shadow on the ground. But, there is also a softness in color, movement and scent, as if this is a last ditch effort of Winter, habitual passage without a deep purpose. Summer is coming and this is the last kick of the outgoing.

Riding high on the mesa over the rough, rocky, ancient land where I am living; then walking, horse at one shoulder and partner at the other, down low in the riverbed, I felt the opening of new growth, from deep within the ancient history of my evolution. I know that I will survive the seasons, that my leaves will come again, my roots find their way to the water table.

This Valentine’s Day I gave David and the house a beautifully carved Balinese Quan Yin. She sits on the little wooden table that David made years ago. Miraculously, although coming together across many years apart, they match. The morning sun enters through the clay studio window, caressing her face with its grace and sweetness etched into the wooden contours, carved by a master’s knife, created from a block of teak.

The confluence of high mesa and its deeply etched river bed, ancient trees and trickling water, food shared between humans and grey equine, all beneath life-giving sun, is (oddly) embodied in this wooden statue. Grace, compassion, mercy and unconditional love – changes in the season, evolution of relationship, growth of each individual into their full truth and capacity. They all go together, fed by deep roots in the earth to the water, and high-reaching arms to the sun and warmth.

So as Winter begins its departure this year and the gentle warmth of the morning greets me in the horse yards, I am deeply aware of all that is awakening, and profoundly grateful for all that makes it possible for me to be here, now. The creative endeavor that is my life path will continue sustained by the earthly basics, nurtured by the qualities of spirit as embodied in the Quan Yin on the table in the morning sun.

May you also find your sun and water, high upward motion, and deep sustaining roots as you walk your path. May your journey be surrounded by love and compassion to and from your friends, family, strangers and most vitally, to and from yourself.

Last night the cold and storms that have been lashing the rest of the USA hit us here in Nthn Arizona – in particular this little corner of Cordes Lakes. The sun, as welcome as it is here and as home as it usually seems to feel (given its cheerful presence most of the time), hid from us most of the day. By mid-afternoon it was definitely cold, wet and windy.

On Tuesday while it was the sort of winter’s day we expect and why we live here (sun, gentle breezes and blue skies) Mariah, the little grey Arab mare who I am proud to say I own (have the papers and all to prove it!) arrived. We had been living up in the Rimrock area and when I made the move down here a month ago she stayed until I had the new abode ready for her.

I had planned to bring her down with friends on Wednesday (that’d be yesterday) and was blithely ignoring the weather reports. (After all, I know that people who aren’t used to ‘weather’ get quite excitable about a bit of the white stuff…) However, the friends took it upon themselves to announce they were bringing her that morning – Tuesday.

As they were doing the driving, were quite capable of loading her into the trailer and were also very good horseman I was not in a position to argue! My plan to drive up and be there to load her, then follow the trailer back was moot. I allowed that others could do what I can and could help me make this work better than I had foreseen, as the weather reports seemed to be more dire than I had wanted to believe. I moved the days’ plans about (also perfectly easy to do) and prepared the yard at the community co-op stables a mile from my house.

About 90 minutes later there she was, calmly leaving the large stock trailer. (She was able to turn around and come off facing the way out, her preferred method of disembarking and thus far less stressful than barreling off backwards, hitting her head as often as not.) To my surprise and relief, Mariah, this light, narrow-bodied, flecked grey Arab mare, was interested and relaxed, rather than antsy and anxious.

Ignoring the horse next door who was doing its best to intimidate, startle and generally make a scene, she wandered around, looked near and far, ate the alfalfa, slurped the water and that was that. Even the local old cowboy were impressed by this little A-rab mare!

The next day, the day of her planned arrival, the weather really moved in. She was by then fully settled and comfortable. Although she had been fed late afternoon, I was concerned with the extreme weather change and wanted to give her some extra feed that night. (A late night snack also meant I wouldn’t have to be down here at 6am!)

Making the little trek down there in the dark, the wind whipping about, everything soaked, I was grateful that someone else was driving and all I had to do was jump out and take the grain to her. (Mariah was quite unperturbed by the late night visitation of the Feeding Fairies, taking this odd event in her stride.)

This morning the two of us who share this house, split the mornings’ tasks between us. I finished the dishes from last night, made the coffee, checked in with the news of the road closures, (canceling a days’ trip out) and David made the dash to feed the little grey horse.

(I would have, but his truck was parked behind mine and I am not yet at all ready to drive his big Nissan, let alone in challenging weather! It was a little odd to be in the house, by choice, while someone else fed my horse. I cannot say when that last happened.)

Later I went down to clean the yards. There she was, standing in the shelter, amidst the deeply biting cold, looking as if she had been there forever. We stepped into our old routine, little extra feed, cleaning the yard and exchanging a greeting and rubs.

Feeling my cold hands in her long rough hair, warm breath on my face as she reached to find the feed, surrounded by the chill of the hard snow flecks and the smell of mud and wet manure, I was comforted. Carrying sweet green alfalfa, the exertion of wheeling the barrow to the manure pile, my feet frozen in their boots, I knew I had finally moved into my new home.

It has been like this the whole month of December. Plans made and changed, a gradual settling into place and home, unexpected moments of great joy and sudden anxiety. Visions dancing like the proverbial sugarplums in my head, and then reality.

The winds of the season, storms and tempests, gorgeous blue skies and hot sun, stunning sunsets, have come and gone with little warning and no real lasting effect at all. The one constant is the unfolding life I have chosen.

My daughter came here for almost a week, leaving the day after Christmas. This became a house-full. Even though the moving in is not complete it felt like a real home.  David and I sharing our first ever December together, a daughter coming to visit me in a place where at last there was room for her to spread out, his daughter on the phone first thing Christmas morning. (‘Have you opened the gift I sent yet? Hurry up! I am dying of anticipation!’)

We have a clay studio in the house. David is a ceramist. I had thought my daughter and I would drive up to where I used to live (where Mariah still was) and ride the horses there, we’d paint the bedroom, maybe the three of us would hike. I knew she’d be interested in the clay studio and assumed we’d do some things there, but I still thought of her as, well, just her and I.

However, this place, this home for family that David and I had created for ourselves and then extended open always-anytime invitation to our daughters, wove its own spell. The rumpled look of not being quite moved in, two small dogs who greet all with enthusiasm and delight, the sofa with old cushions, and candles that are always burning, defined Welcome. Piano, guitar, shelves of books and, seen through the two openings leading from the living room into the studio, a potters wheel and benches urged creation.

This house creates its own space for freedom and creative endeavor. Welcome, it says, come and play, be who you are.

So she did, we did. Alexa set a new tone as she embraced the home that we had been working so hard and busily to create. Along with the late sleeping and much eating, there was sitting in the comfy chair. David and I had looked at it where we put it knowing it’d be a great place to hang and read, but had not actually been able to find the time to sit. It took the daughter visiting, feeling at home, to actually use it! (And dub it the Comfy Chair.)

Of all that we did (and we didn’t paint the room or ride or hike!) the activity and energy in this house with the three of us came from the studio. One by one my daughter and I had guidance in making pots from David, patient artist/teacher who so generously and joyously shared this craft with us. He did so in a way that allowed us to find our own artist within, through a medium with which he has journeyed since his early teen years.

Pots were made late at night and the last of the under-glazing completed the morning she had to leave for the airport. Sometimes two people were in there, sometimes one, sometimes all three of us engrossed in creating art. Against the backdrop of Christmas, this family and this home came to life emerging through the womb of the clay studio.

Today, observing that little grey horse who arrived and accepted her new surroundings with grace and calm interest, who ate, drank and looked near and far, and who turns her tail to the wind but greets me with an open eye and ears forward, this awareness is the great gift of this holiday season. I cannot always control how each detail of my life turns out. I can just be in it.

It took my daughter to really open me to the home we had. The glimpses I had had in the making of it had been overwhelmed by the effort of moving, maintaining work and shifting from who I was and how I used to live to who I am and how I now live.

Remembering how she moved into this place, accepting its embrace, while maintaining in her true essence, I become more aware of my own inner strength. I can accept the gifts and the changes and know I will not lose myself.

The weather will do what it does, people will step in and be there even when I don’t ask. I will sometimes be lost and sometimes overwhelmed, losing sight of what is right in front of me. It won’t matter because when I sit in the comfy chair I will look about near and far.

What is right in front of me: I have my piano and horse here, my books out and a writing space set up. I have a home.

And, more than all of that, more than the things and the place and the stuff, I have been given by the universe someone with whom to share it all. Someone who will also feed my horse, create art with my daughter and most of all, greet me in the home we are making. A gift indeed for the new year and a blessing from the old.

May your year end as sweetly and the new year, 2011, bring such visions and reality to you. May you have a creative space in which to play, discover and rest. May you share love and home however that is for your heart and place. May you be well.

Sometimes a blog just kind of decides for itself what it will be about. I thought I knew  what I was going to write, and had even started but couldn’t get it to flow. Then last night I went and saw a film with the local film club and today is the day before the second anniversary of my Father’s passing. And here is the blog.

The film was The Horse Boy and it was a remarkable experience. Exploring so many things through the true story a family’s commitment to help their little boy diagnosed with Autism, for me it had a particular resonance. The power of love between parents and children, which in this story included a journey to Mongolia and the relationship between horses and Human Beings, Spirit and healing, has vibrated with me throughout the day.

When my father was traveling through his last few weeks on earth, I was there, and it was the foaling season on the horse property where he lived in Australia. The following year I wrote a story about that time and rather than rewrite it today, I include it below in its entirety.

The parallel between the two stories, of Rowan and his parents, myself and my Father may be tenuous to some. To me it is clear. When we can steep ourselves in the world of another with love and compassion even when we don’t fully understand their journey, when we stay open to the world and space about us – nature, horses and the people with whom we share that experience – then we are empowered, enlarged and aware of the blessings love bestows.

There are small miracles everyday and they often come through the mundane, the unexpected and during the times of great emotional turmoil. Whether as the child or the parent, those we love can, simply through their life lived, offer many opportunities for awareness, joy and wonder to the one who loves them.

This was my experience with my Father, and it was the experience of the Isaacson’s family on their journey with their son. May your love bring you such strength and memories and may you know that in turn you will provide the same to those who love you.

FOALING SEASON

The old black thoroughbred stallion lived in a gum-tree ringed, deep sand paddock, with a corrugated tin shed and wooden manger, fresh water trough and a wonderful view. I know that it is anthropomorphizing to say this, and my father would point it out to me, but I am sure Saul appreciated that view.

Whenever I went to visit the thoroughbred and cattle property in Victoria, I always made time to go and visit that horse. We’d stand quietly, almost side by side, with the electric fence between us and after a brief nod to each other – I didn’t have the courage to risk putting my hand through that fence – look out across the green pasture down the lane where the yearlings  cavorted. Some years there were up to 15 of them, boys growing into their legs and trying out their speed in short bursts.

To the right the girls, also leggy and given to heart-stopping bursts of racing through the old orchard, barely seemed to interest this grand old man, any more than the lads did. He still had a mare or two and always came through – gentlemanly, efficient and 100% successful.

The only time he crossed the sand to greet anyone was when my father came down to the yard just beyond the house. Sometimes it was with feed, or to lead one of those dancing youngsters up to the house yards. But more often in the last year it was for a walk, to see if the koalas were still in the big red gum, admire the new grass after the first rain of the autumn, or to listen to the many birds that lived in and around the river and surrounding land. But he always stopped to say hello and the horse always came over.

I remember I was living in the USA when he arrived, this fine new stallion on which my father planned to build his dream of breeding the best racehorse he could, maybe even a Melbourne Cup winner. Glossy pictures and later digital images of this handsome horse crossed the ocean, and while I bred Arabians and had a sexy little chestnut stallion of that breed, this big, black horse effortlessly commanded my respect and awe.

I had grown up with horses, working cattle, riding miles over the property in school holidays, and later helping with breeding and breaking in. Only then it was Arabs and that was what I stayed with. But there were always thoroughbreds in my family and with it that essential optimism in the face of seemingly nonstop setbacks and disappointments. I am an optimist myself but never tested the depth of that gift with the thoroughbred industry.

The first thoroughbred I can remember was a big red horse in my grandfathers’ huge wooden round yard, when I was maybe eight or so. I can’t remember his name but I do remember being told not to go in with him, even though there were other horses I helped with and even a pony to ride when I went there. I stood right up against the rubbed-shiny railings, twisted from the gum-tree limbs of which they were made, and let the smell and dirt he kicked up as he went by wash over me. It was thrilling in a scary way. I am sure that I have seen pictures of that same horse, enshrined in the photos of horses charging past the finishing post, necks stretched out in front of whomever is behind.

The names of the thoroughbreds I knew float through memory not necessarily attached to a horse, but more as a kind of song – Hasty Heart, Rougette, Daylight Dreams, Red Heights, My Pay Packet. My grandfather always had a racehorse or two, my Aunt and Uncle trained racehorses, quite successfully too, for many years. I had a boyfriend who was keen on racing and sometimes, at least when we were together, I went to the races.

But I never got what the fuss was about. It seemed very risky to me and I didn’t like betting, and won’t go to a casino. (I have other ways than gambling to lose my money!)

When my father, years after I had grown and moved to the USA, dived into thoroughbreds it was more for the breeding. Of course if you are a breeder you need winners and thus it is pretty much the same thing, just a different entry point.

I would come back every 3-4 years and the convoluted names and lines of breeding, the numbers of horses filling up the place – neatly separated by age, gender, stage and potential – increased almost manically. Books and magazines, newspapers and photos, a few trophies and other objects won sitting on sideboards and bookcases multiplied. Two more stallions joined the big black one, each a different line, bringing a new hope, a slightly new angle into the dream.

I don’t remember all the horses, or any of bloodlines, or where each of the items of recognition came from. I do remember how my father’s sheer enthusiasm and hard work drew me in, carried me along into the marvelous future, a belief that this time, this stallion, this mare, this trainer, this race would be what we had been waiting for, what he had been working for. When I was there, driving out to a pasture, leading a mare, admiring a new foal, surrounded by all those the beautiful horses, in that rich Victorian river land, I forgot why I didn’t like racing.

Under the spell of my father’s knowledge, his whirring mind embracing the game, and his genuine love of the horses, all I saw was the great hope, the magnificent dream and the incredibly hard work.

He didn’t do it alone of course. He had a partner in life who was every inch the worker and possessed as much knowledge and skill as he did with horses. Together they built up the numbers, prepared yearlings for sales, sold some, leased some and bred more.

He didn’t believe in God or have a particular religion. But he had faith. Faith in the land, birds, animals and the possibility of hard work alone. He struggled to be practical when in his heart he was a dreamer. Inspired by ideas, enthused by stories and powered by an inherent optimism and delight in life itself.

And most of all, he loved the horses even when they were eating every penny, providing the local vet with more work than he could handle, when the time and effort necessary was 24/7, when he could hardly make the walk to the yard where the old, black thoroughbred lived.

I have watched replays of horses who were galloped until their front legs snapped; I have seen horses, rail-thin, in muddy yards with dilapidated horse trailers in the corner; I have attended sales where horses went through simply as dollar signs – as few as possible out against all the potential possible dollars in.

I have also pushed back a great swell of tears as I witnessed a horse miraculously make it past the line of horses in front as it rounded the turn, until its nose bobbed first across that magic line. I have laughed at a field of foals dancing around their shining-coated mothers under huge gum-trees on green carpets of grass. I have seen a man lean on a fence and simply watch the horses in front of him, for a moment not counting money in and out or dreaming, but just marveling.

However it wasn’t until I spent eight weeks at the property, with my father and his wife that I really got what these horses meant to my family. Much of that time was the foaling season. Twelve foals born, always in the middle of night, often needing assistance, while my father was dying. We’d go out in the night and for a while we could tell him the next morning what we had been doing. His face would light up and there would be discussionabout how its legs looked, what its full brother or sister had done, a name.

For a while we were keeping one of the foals alive, encouraging it to drink often enough and long  enough to gain strength enough to keep itself alive, and at the same time the man in the house was becoming less and less interested in food and the world outside.

Later he couldn’t know. The foal alarm would go off, the lights in the house come on, we’d troop out in the rain or fog, and he’d sleep through it, blissfully released from the pain of the cancer that was slowly taking him further and further away.

I remember the last time I went with my father to see Saul. It took a long time to walk what used to take just a few minutes. I had been trying to interest him in what was happening on the place – the dogs, the birds, the garden. It was hard for both of us. I said, ‘Let’s go down and see Saul.’ He agreed. We walked, it wasn’t far. But it was for a man whose strength was fading and whose heart was sad. We did it. I had to slow my pace, reduce the length of my steps, when I used to have lengthen and speed up my stride almost to a trot to keep up with him.

We had to walk through some yards just before the electric fence that kept Saul’s world the safe haven it was. It was muddier than I had expected and I was anxious my father would lose his balance, but I knew better than to reach out to take his arm. He clearly wanted to go back, this was taking far more effort than either of us had imagined. However, the stubbornness of a man who had leapt into the thoroughbred industry at an age when many were quitting it, kept him moving forward. That and the horse standing in the deep sand yard, his head facing away from us watching the view. He didn’t hear so well now and who knows what he was remembering – races, the dreams and hopes, and the times when he was The One.  (Here I go, anthropomorphizing again.)

As we approached the fence, having somehow made it safely across the muddy yard, my father raised his head, the light came back into his eyes and a smile crossed, ghostlike, over his face. He even quickened his step and suddenly he spoke. ‘Saul.’ He sounded like he always sounded. The tenor, volume, confidence and warmth was all there. Saul turned, and slowly came over as he always did. Not hurrying but sure and steady – wins the race.

The two of them stood side by side with the electric fence barely between them, and my father, without thought, in all his old confidence, reached through the fence and rubbedthe old horses’ nose. I stood back a little. This was their meeting as it had always been.

Softly lit in the coming spring sun, these grand old gentlemen didn’t need to talk. It may have been a goodbye although as neither of them were at all sentimental, probably not. Simply two old friends saying hello as they had for years. I was honored to observe them.

Throughout all of my life and still as I ride and care for the horses I have now, the horse has been both a means to an end and a friend. The thoroughbreds that filled my father’s last property and dominated his life became more than that I think. They were, maybe, a mirror of his life.

Watching the first two long soft hooves, knotted together in a neat bundle, pressed against the long nose and long lashed eyes, emerge from the mare, always triggered a smile. As cold as it might be, the night-mist hanging about us, through the anxiety as we waited for the foal to stand and the mare to nuzzle it firmly to her, the miracle of birth never failed to warm hearts and, at least temporarily, even feet and hands.

Each wide-bodied mare with legs and hooves bearing the stress bumps of a few years on the racetrack, each yearling cavorting in the pasture and dashing through the trees, and each gawky, awkward looking weanling had begun this way. Each of the younger stallions, shining in the sun, curious and alert to every coming and going on the place,almost bursting with his own energy and power that seemed to radiate everlasting life – they had all struggled into the world the same way.

Those younger bloods will become like that old stallion, standing quietly in his special paddock, removed from the day-to-day activities both by his geography as well as his dwindling energy. But when I looked at Saul, I saw that the years of wisdom and experience that saved him from wasted shouting and dancing, also surrounded him in an aura of for-ever. He may not always be there but the stories he had given us and the pictures in the thoroughbred books would endure. Most of all, the ex-racehorses, 3 and 4 years olds on the track, a few of the yearlings and a couple of the new foals, struggling to their feet in the cold night air, were his legacy.

For every horse that needed a vet, every slow furlong run, every heartbreaking moment when we realized this one was not quite good enough, there were the times when we caught our breath at the sheer beauty of the animal in motion, admired the spirit of the try-er, or simply inhaled the smell and leant into the warmth of a horse.

Along with watching foals being born or Saul quietly regarding the scene before him, I also observed my father. He was no longer at the center of the activities that continued.

Horses need to be fed, foals will be born, mares have to be served on time. But everything we did during that time bore the imprint of my father’s experience and delight in the horses. I realized that just as these horses, with the potential for bringing to fruition some of the greatest dreams we can imagine, can inspire us to keep working, keep dreaming, so in many ways can our parents.

How many of my life’s choices have been shaped by my father’s and to what extent my attitude toward the ups and downs is informed by his example I don’t know. I do know that as powerful a force in my life as he always was, a large part of that influence was encouragement to go out and be myself. He may not agree with or understand me but he enjoined the debate with love and enthusiasm for my individuality.

The horses, these thoroughbreds with all their complicated bloodlines, careful feeding and preparation regimes, in the end were each their own beings. Living with them for years, withstanding the disappointments and committing every penny to their care, in return for what was often little, if anything, of a tangible nature, it seems to me can do one of two things. You can become bitter and lose your joy, constantly seeking to blame someone or something for why it didn’t work out; or you can celebrate the glorious moments that the unique character of each horse, of this business, gives you.

For my father I think, the vicissitudes of the thoroughbred world in many ways reflected and perhaps even validated his own approach to life. Seize the moment, celebrate the small victories, persevere with the dreams and hopes, get dirty and work harder than you know you can, and take the time to simply watch, in wonder and awe, the life that is embodied in the horse before you.

The morning Dad died one more foal was born. His stable name is, of course, Bob.

It started to really rain last night and the temperature dropped and I had to pull up a blanket in the early morning just before the alarm went off, in the dark of the morning.

Fall, and that means end of summer and winter on the doorstep and Oh Lordy, how to make it through until the summer again?

(Find the beauty in it… breathe deeply.)

I draw so much from the sun – the feel of it on my skin, warm wind on my legs, and feet on hot rocks. The trickles of sweat finding their paths down my body.

Now here comes the confines of clothing, fingers I can’t feel, toes that vanish for entire days.

I feel the twilight rather than see it, coming earlier and earlier. All I want to do is sleep. For months.

(I think I know bears.)

Of course when I have made it through the dimming of the day (a song I know) then when the night comes it is like any other, except with blankets. And I do like the coziness of my apartment, better at warming up than cooling down.

And I love the lightening flashing all about me, the thunder like trucks crashing over-head. The wet that comes through on the air between the dust particles. The incredible sunsets.

It really rained today, the next season arriving, the next set of opportunities.
Curl in, honor promises made, introspect.
Cry more.
Feel more.
Dream and vision.

Less doing more being, maybe.

Why do they call it fall? I know, because the leaves fall, but what about people, the Summer people I mean? (For the Winter people it is a quite different time I am sure.)

Is it because we fall to earth after the flying in the summer sun? We nestle into the earth, the womb, and lie dormant.

At least that is what we want to do but we don’t, we cant. (After all we are not bears.)

There is much to do but it is all to do with surviving. Less playing. Even when you go snowskiing (I don’t do it) it is somehow bound up with clothing all over and gloves and boots, shielding you from the weather, not opening to it like a flower. It is about avoiding hypothermia, staying hydrated (you don’t know you are sweating), protecting your eyes and face from the sun glare and frost…. and staying upright against all odds (which are short, at least in my experience!)

(The same hill in the summer? take it all off and run on the earth. Yes, carry water and wear a hat and remember the sunscreen but oh glorious, the freedom of movement!)

In winter the saving grace is to find the hot spring which in the summer can be just a bit Too hot. Find that one and lie in it – skin in soft water, a little mud or gravel under my bottom, and only my face from the chin up and ears forward, peeping out.  Luxuriating in – well, the womb, that warm, wet place separating and protecting my body lying free in the liquid, from the cold, hard world.

This morning though, immediately after the dark of the rain, there was thin strip of blue that grew longer and wider until- yes, blue sky! I took the opening and advanced.

My rubber boots waited outside the door where I had simply abandoned them last spring. I shook them sternly hoping to dislodge any summer spiders, dragged them on and, pulling on an extra long-sleeved flannel shirt over the T, went out to the horses. The yards looked like they had looked in the middle of last December. Wet, thick, red mud and little balls of pooh floating on surprised puddles.

However everything was so clean, and the sharpness of all the smells (hay, horses, earth, trees, the creek, but not, oddly enough, the manure,) set free by the moisture, was intoxicating.

Later today I went out the storage unit and hunted about for the waterproof coats and jackets, after waiting in the car for a particularly serious deluge to slow down enough to insert the key and roll up the door without drowning myself. The day will come when barely-there summer clothes will go into the place where the coats were.

Drove back in a 6mile carwash.

This evening, the horses in the wild wind and rain, lit in the darkening skies by sharp wrinkles of lightning and assaulted by those ten-ton trucks crashing above, were suddenly new creatures. From the docile animals of polite interest waiting patiently by their feeder bins for the food they had become skipping, kicking, bouncing, rounded balls of muscle and legs. Their heads tucked in, trying to keep their tails to the wind and rain, they skittered on the mud from the shelters to the fence where the blue bins filled with water as I struggled with hay against the gale.

Carrying the bins crammed with now damp sticking alfalfa to the shelters, the hood of the most effective rain coat blown half over my face, I was uncomfortably aware of jumpy, large beasts just out of sight around me! One refused to go into his shelter and so I lugged the bin back to the fence. He resolutely bent his head into it, his ears back against the bits of rain blowing onto his head. Others stood in little shelters next to yard mates by whom they’d usually be no closer than 50 feet at feeding time!

They will adjust to this as soon as the first onslaught of winter is over and their coats catch up to the sudden turn of weather events. They will stand patiently again, albeit their rumps toward the prevailing weather.

Of course I know we will have more sunny days and even heat before it really arrives. But the screw is turning and the days are shorter. This is nature’s way of reminding us that nothing is ever the same for long and we mere human mortals have no choice but to adjust, like the horses do.

So, I will adjust – drink hot tea more often, wrap up in large sweaters and pull on socks to sit at the computer. I will make excursions to hot springs, to let my body be clear and free in nature, just not in the sun, but in the natural hot water that comes up from below.

I will take those (maybe daily) runs more easily, rather than squeezing them into the times between work and dark and when it is not too hot – at 5am and sometimes 7pm! (My long running pants are waiting for me, although for a while I can get by with shorts and a long sleeved top.) After the initial gasp of cold and baptism of water at the beginning of the run, it is pretty darned exhilarating!

It really did rain today. Living in the desert and blessed by many consecutive days of hot and dry it is a bit of a shock.  However, the beauty of the new season will assert itself and the opportunity it gives me for moving through the land and myself differently will be appreciated. But tonight I remember summer, and sigh with nostalgia for the one just over and the many before that.

And now, to put the kettle on.