Dr Joni and the Herd and Keeping Your Culture!

“Culture makes people understand each other better. And if they understand each other better in their soul, it is easier to overcome the economic and political barriers. But first they have to understand that their neighbour is, in the end, just like them, with the same problems, the same questions.”   Paulo Coelho
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A few ago a very special person walked onto the farm and introduced herself. She asked if she could share a couple of things with me. She explained that she had been following  the Facebook page and had read about what happened here, in the past year especially, and wanted to offer her help. I had no idea at that time just who was standing before me. Knowing Joni like I do now, I feel like she would not want a big fuss made about her but I do think there are some really incredible things about her that everyone would want to know especially in regards to the work we do.

Joni shared with me that she comes from a long line of Scottish people that bred Clydesdales and Shires all the way back to the middle ages, to the time of Henry VIII. As if that wasn’t enough she is also a minister with a PhD. in Theology. Here is her background in her own words…

“As an ordained minister for the United Church of Christ, I have lived out my calling beyond the walls of a church building:  hospital chaplaincy in Louisville, KY and at Baystate Medical Center, led bereavement supports, and conducted spiritual formation classes.  Animals have always been dear to my theology and practice. I have conducted blessings of the animals services, classes in animals and spirituality and funerals and memorials for animals who have crossed over.”

I have never met anyone like Joni and there is still so much more. Joni also runs a large non-profit for a hospital in Haiti. Again in Joni’s own words :

“For the last 14 years, I have been responsible for the daily operations, fundraising and marketing initiatives of The CRUDEM Foundation, Inc., a 501 c 3, whose sole mission is to support the largest private hospital in the north of Haiti.  www.curdem.org  The foundation and the hospital combine to a +$5 million operation.  In 2012,  CRUDEM became a subsidiary of Holy Name Medical Center of Teaneck, NJ. I now report to Holy Name’s CEO.  Through my position, I have gained experience in grant writing, direct mail and social media appeals, event planning, major gifts cultivation, donor relations, establishment, editing and writing for an award winning 80 page magazine http://crudem.org/category/magazines/ and writing the editorials http://crudem.org/category/editorials/ ; and, any number of special marketing initiatives. I am well versed in the various moving parts of operating a non-profit with a large volunteer contingent.”

Obviously Joni can teach us a lot about the work we do and she does, she has been guiding us ever since in her own very quiet and powerful way.

 

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Aside from our love of all of God’s creation, we also share a deep love for horses and culture. So, it wasn’t strange at all for Joni when I said I wanted to fly the flags of the countries the horses originate from in order to perhaps trigger an even deeper awareness of the shared history we have with them. Not only did she understand, she brought the first of many more flags yesterday and we decided to put them up. For now anyway, they will fly during this holiday week-end.

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Joni sharing something special with the herd, something ancient and true that includes the horses to whom we owe so much. Kingdoms and countries won with the help of the horses.

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So far we have  America, Scotland, England, Wales, Belgium and France. We should add Spain too for Sonny’s ancestors.

 

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Why do it at all? Because I believe, and I imagine Joni does too, that it matters. If we  can own what is good and brave and bold and capable of our past maybe we can see ourselves standing for something today in this new world. There is nothing quite so exciting as standing for the Horses._DSC8691

Chief Arvol Looking Horse, another great horseman keeping his culture alive,  says it best for me:

“It’s our own choice — each of ours and all of ours. You yourself are the one who must decide. You alone — and only you — can make this crucial choice. Whatever you decide is what you’ll be, to walk in honor or to dishonor your relatives. You can’t escape the consequences of your own decision. On your decision depends the fate of the entire World.
You must decide. You can’t avoid it. Each of us is put here in this time and this place to personally decide the future of humankind. Know that you yourself are essential to this World. Believe that! Understand both the blessing and the burden of that. Did you think you were put here for something less?”

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So for this week-end (until we can get real flag poles and our riding ring is finished) they will fly in honor of America’s independence and for all our democracy stands for. We can own the reality of who we are anytime we choose, we are a horse people, what happens to them, happens to our culture and to our future too.

Joni reminded recently that there are only 4000 Clydesdales left with 500 brood mares and there are only 2000 Shires left. The Suffolk Punch’s are even lower at around 1500. All great horses who built the country as we know it. Whose ancestors worked alongside ours sharing the road and paving the way to a better future for all….or is it?

The choice is ours….Stand for your Horses, it is a very very VERY patriotic thing to do!

and Thank you Joni, we love you and you have made that so easy. We appreciate it.

 

A Year of Spirit Keeping

 

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Paul thanking Phillip on completion of the first Medicine Wheel Model workshop held on the farm in early May. Paul would be gone in a couple more weeks. 

Last May Phillip Whiteman Jr. came and shared his Medicine Wheel Model with his wife Lynette Two Bulls. Neither Paul nor I had ever had an experience like it. We could tell the things we learned that weekend were going to profoundly change our lives. We both knew we were tired, stressed out, worn down and depressed and we also knew that it had become a way of life for us. Paul was in so much pain physically that it took him over a hour to get started moving in the morning and in the evening when he came in another two hours for his hands to uncurl and his legs to stop cramping. As I look back with the perspective I have now I can see easily that for the both of us it was easier to feel the pain of our tired bodies and minds than feel the pain we carried deep inside us for a life time. We each had different pain and for different reasons but it was the same in that we built amazing lives all around and on top of it and we had grown accustomed to protecting each others wounds, we were the perfect codependent couple in that way.

In the evening after completing the workshop, Phillip, Lynette and Paul and I sat together at the kitchen table. Phillip looked at the both of us and said “You both need help and I want you both to come and see me in Montana before the end of the month, it is a matter of life and death.” Paul and I looked at each other and swallowed and maybe even felt some shock. A couple of weeks later we talked about it and it was clear we weren’t going to make it to Montana. It didn’t seem possible with all the responsibilities we had. We didn’t go and at the end of the month I sat under the great tree where Paul took his life. I asked to borrow a phone and I called Phillip. I heard myself say through all the shock “Phillip I know we are supposed to be with you right now….” Phillip said “Yes, now it is a new world”

In the moments after Brian and Jay screeched into the driveway in front of the barn and fell out of the truck, faces ashen and twisted in fear and grief, to tell me that Paul was dead I felt a kind of disconnect I had never experienced before. I remember thinking…this is what terrible shock feels like…how merciful, I thought.  I could hardly move my legs but I tried. I saw Zoe in the front yard with her face grief-stricken  and her mouth opened trying to say something to me, I never heard the words. All I could think is let me get to the spot where he is so I can see him one more time. I didn’t make it and it was hours before I was allowed to go and be with the tree, after they took his body away.

After I talked to Phillip  I made a vow inside myself. I told myself that I would survive this somehow and it didn’t matter how but that I would and I also dwelled on a teaching that belongs to the Lakota people. I thought about that the Spirit Keeping teaching, one of the seven sacred teachings of the White Calf Buffalo Woman. I learned about it when Caton Zephier died, one of Arvol’s young sons who had lived on our farm for a year.  I know nothing about the details of this teaching and in no way was I trying to do what is required in that traditional teaching other than just honor the idea that we can do something for the ones that leave us too soon, or by accident or in unexpected tragedy. I decided to be the very best person I could be for a year, for Paul, for me, for the farm and all that we loved.

The year is almost finished. In just a few days  I can say that I made it. I made it.

This morning I woke up and I couldn’t move my body but it is ok because  I  have completed my unspoken vow. While it might seem like it left me possibly in worse shape physically than the day I began it, I know it isn’t true. I am a completely different person or you could say more the person I have always hoped I could be and that alone will help me now as I nurture myself back to health and wellness. I am exhausted and it is perfect because now Blue Star has all Paul and I ever hoped it would have. We have enthusiastic, vibrant and committed managers. We have an administrative assistant and an awesome Board of Directors guiding it all along. We have Paul’s beloved project, the Pasture Paradise and Compost system nearly completed and we have so much new promise for the coming years in the young people building their lives out of what they have learned here.
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I can rest now and help in the ways that I am good at helping and leave the rest for those that do it better and who have the strength. This coming year  I will be vowing to “keeping my own spirit” and I can’t  wait to see what it brings. I know I have brought honor to Paul in this past year and I know his legacy here will live on in a good way. I also know he would want me to be happy and build a successful  life for myself and I intend on getting started in it.

Paul is gone and he is not coming back and I am ok with that with that now because where he went is far better  and if my  sincere effort in trying to do good for his sake helped him in any way than I am so grateful for that too.

 

 

Bo and Blue Star and Grieving

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Bo standing in the doorway between knowing and not knowing

This is going to be deep so please put on your diving gear.

It must be so frustrating on so many levels to observe our process here at Blue Star. It is nearly impossible to tell day to day what is next or how we are doing with it all without actually being here. For those of us here it is equally frustrating trying to communicate just how important this work is and why it is worth so much sacrifice, personal and collective. It is not on purpose, this frustrating element that exists here is a symptom of learning how to communicate clearly, intelligently and sensitively and most definitely respectfully with the best tools at our disposal.

This letter was bound to happen as I am super conscious and loyal to those that have followed us lovingly and unconditionally and there are so many, far more than those that do not, as far as I can tell. I always feel that some communication is better than none and so much of it is on Facebook because that is the one medium I do know how to use and since the communicating for the farm falls largely on me, I do my best. When I am quiet there is concern, when I write there is concern, when I only share the activities at hand or for the day there is concern. I had a friend ask me “what happened to the Steaming Tenders job? Do you still have it?” or  countless other questions about countless details, all relevant and important and things everyone is probably thinking or wondering too. There is a lot of communicating that I am responsible for that I have fallen short on for all kinds of reasons but primarily because I am not the same person I was before Paul died yet I haven’t quite figured out how to express who I am becoming…. yet.

Let me start with Bo. Yesterday we lost Bo and if you had told me  that was in the cards I would have crumpled in a ball…for a minute or a few…..and let myself feel the sadness of how he had to go. The blood, the fear he felt, we felt, the blood. There was so much of it and it really unnerved me to the point that I was feeling feelings way beyond anything to do with Bo. We are nature and as  natural humans we are going to be riding waves of change always, it is natural. Some do it privately and personally I see that as a real luxury these days, especially for me. Some like myself reach out to connect and articulate the process so as to get the real powerful sense that there are others that care deeply too, are feeling it deeply too. I think Bo unleashed a lot of grief that a lot of us on the farm hold back as a natural consequence of trying to keep the farm going. If my sharing of our experience bothered others or didn’t meet everyone’s idea of good taste, I am sorry for that, sincerely. There are others that it helped to know and be with us in the way that they could.

The truth is all of it is so rich in opportunity to really witness and be with what the whole community needs and wants from work like ours. I have said it before we are a lot like a garden and much less like a business. We were founded with a lot of professionals that created an image and language of the mission and I am the only one left of them all. It was Paul and I, now it is just me. For the past year I have been sorting through all that we do, administratively, publicly, on the farm and trying to make the best decisions I can. I do have a board and they are guiding and helping in the ways they can but they too have full lives and professions and can only do so much and like everyone they have to weigh what they can give without putting themselves at risk for giving more than they can afford too.

When Paul was here I had back up, we had each other and Paul had a pension and could make up the difference wherever we fell short financially. That is gone and I personally have had no income for nearly seven years. My life will need to change dramatically as I am dealing with some serious health issues that will require money to fix. I am not worried for myself, I have had a business before all of this and it was with what I love nearly as much as the horses, soil conditioners. I love talking about, sharing and helping others really “get” that the soil is very very much alive and needs our tender loving care as much as any other part of the natural environment we stand for. Proper care of our soil will change things for the better in such a dramatic way that we hardly could think of a more important issue, everything comes from the soil. Lately I have also been exploring building my own business, I even bought a cheap website that I have no time to finish…yet….

Bo’s lesson for me was a very hard one to swallow. Bo was  “rigid” in his ways, not flexible and flowing like Sarge (our other blind horse is). Bo also was used to a routine and life that created “expectations” in him. With his rigid control of his surroundings he was able to build a small and comfortable world for himself. That is what we admired and loved and if he was “bossy” about space or “rigid” about how he was handled…it hardly mattered. Several months ago he cast himself in his stall and couldn’t get up. We were able to help him, we have a lot of experience with it, but he didn’t let us, he was terrified….his heart was racing and he flalled around, he wouldn’t relax no matter how slow or quiet or reassuring we made it for him. He finally got exhausted and let us help him, he got up, shook it off and basically kept us away until he felt better. He commanded his space and took his privacy whenever he needed it, he taught us all so well. Bo died yesterday as a result of a severe anxiety attack he was having about where he was at. He swung around too fast and hit his head in just the place with just the amount of pressure to puncture or rip an artery. He didn’t need to swing that hard, but that was who he was, it is how he self regulated himself and as an older man that is what worked for him and wasn’t interested in learning something else. He did try to trust more and step outside of his comfort zone and he did it beautifully, until he decided to contract again.

I find myself these days in too rigid of a place. I am reacting too strongly to some things and paralyzing myself in others and in all of it I am doing my best. I read something today that I cannot help take personally as I am grieving publicly…to some degree.  One of the differences between who I was and who I am is that I don’t really take anyone’s opinions personally anymore, I really just try to do my best every moment I can and better on those that I am more conscious of.

Here is how I am on this day, the day after another sad reality check. I am grateful and I am composed, in between crying.  I am not crying for Bo. He was loved so dearly and we did our best and our best has gotten really good especially for horses like Bo. I am crying because as of yesterday  I am beginning to let my own “nature” be what it is. I am sad and relieved that is finally flowing much easier.  I am grieving. I am so many amazing and complicated things that it will take my whole life to describe and I  think I will try. I do believe writing is and will become a bigger way of life for me. For now I am still staying strong waiting for others to join us, especially financially, support the amazing things happening here when you put so many really talented and warm hearted people together to create sustainable solutions. Here is the thing, we are human, we are doing our best for all that we say we do it for, we are accomplishing things beyond our wildest dreams and trying to share it more and more as we develop the tools we have to do it with. There are just not enough of us to make it happen any faster, but we are designing our website to reflect our work clearly and powerfully and when you all get to see it put together in one easy way to find all your questions answered or a way to make it so….you will be proud. We work hard to make our supporters proud. We feel so proud of it all.

Finally I want to say and echo a colleague well versed in doing important work in this way…We are and always will be “a work in progress”. We are nature, we are learning, we are willing to stay awake and present for our community in order to share something really good for all, no matter how you look at it. Amid the shortcomings we have as individuals, we have far more strengths especially when shared collectively, especially when we figure out how to communicate our needs and ideas clearly for ourselves and the world and especially for the horses on our farm and the people we work with.

We have learned that the horses are waiting for us to figure it out, beyond the right and wrong and black and white and good and bad and hard and easy and all duality of thinking…they are waiting for us in the fields of all possibilities and dreams. We are there more and more all the time. Bo gave us another opportunity to carry on, discover we can and love and live even more than we knew before him.

Thank you Bo. You were a masterful teacher of survival and good naturedness and just how far it can take you. You also showed us powerfully that rigidity can hurt you so bad and I am so sorry about that, that you left us that way. I promise to walk lighter, keep a soft and flowing rhythm in my step and keep flowing along moment to moment in equanimity and hope for the good of us all living in an interconnected web of life. We are  going to do our best always to carry this lesson in our heart, where you live. We are so lucky and blessed and happy to have another moment to keep trying to do better.

For inquiring minds our website is well underway and it is not an easy process at all. It has presented big learning curves for the already overworked folks helping. We decided yesterday, before any thing happened with Bo, that we would give ourselves another 4 weeks to finish. Based on how fast we are moving along. It was a great relief to me, my secretary and to Ali our farm garden webmaster guru who knows how to run non profits on line and in social media.. having done it before.

You can wait and join us then when you see what we do more fully and just how much has been created and held here. Or you can join us now. There is no way around us asking for help because we are not doing this for our own selves, with what we have learned here we all know the road to our personal success and somedays that is a really hard calling to not listen too…but we are devoted and committed community members doing our part at a time in our history collectively  when more and more of us need to care more deeply.

So help, be a herd member, we don’t want to have to convince anyone about this. If you like this work and what it has accomplished and what it still holds…join us…for as little or much as you like. Money is a the life blood of the work and there are enough of us that it would only take a small monthly donation to make sure we meet our annual budget of $250,000. We can even grow from there. Right now it rests in the hands and on the backs of too many doing way more than they can comfortably do without it having a negative impact on our personal lives. If we go or give up or get too sick or hurt or any of the possibilities that exist in that way, the horses here will have to go and that makes hanging in there with the hope that it will be easier one day when more of us are in it and sacrificing something for it.

As for grieving online or in a blog. It takes all the courage I have to share as I do and I am still too sensitive to handle the criticism when it comes at me indirectly so maybe I will do what I have always done…keep a journal….until the day I feel it will help or do good in some way because I know that sharing with a community, the good and the hard stuff is natural and good and a profoundly important way to remind ourselves that we have more in common than not. That we are not alone, even if feels like it.

Don’t give up on this farm friends. Don’t give up on us, stand with us and support it. Show others with more resources to help that it matters greatly to so many with so little and it will live on in a way that will go beyond any of our expectations or wildest dreams. Support it if you love horses, humans and mother earth or any one of them and join us in making the small sacrifices we all have to make in order to get to where we all say we want to be.

Become a part of the “work in progress” that will always be living here, as long as there are those willing to show up for it.

One more thing. Just when I want to be doing more, moving faster, thinking better I am not able to do so. I will never leave this organization or not be a part of it but I am going to have to to not take on what I can’t manage which will require others to fill those places I and Paul have held alone beyond what was good for us. We cannot give what we do not have. My health is failing, because it keeps getting put aside. I have the beginning stages of cancer in my mouth. My road going forward will not be easy but it will be good for me in that I will finally have to do what seems so hard for me to do…worry about myself.

Join the Herd, the most powerful way to secure the income we need monthly. After seven years of always paying our bills every month and not having any debt and with having acquired so many valuable assets for the horses and their work, it is a guarantee that you will not be wasting your money or time. Come and see for yourself and feel proud about what has been created here out of a simple dream to provide something for retired working horses http://www.equiculture.org/join-the-herd.aspx

Donate, any amount helps. Money is necessary to run this organization and asking for it will always also be a part of it. Helping us build our bank account so that there is free space to seek the grants and support from bigger foundations can only happen when we have enough day to day security to make it happen. The message and tool we do it with will be appealing but it will still be the same message. We cannot do this without you. Nor do we want too.http://www.equiculture.org/donations.aspx

Always we hope and pray that the “Horse” be with you…they are waiting in the fields of our dreams beyond anything we can imagine. They can prove that if they are given a chance.

 

Fallen Kings and other fairy tales

I think you have to be especially brave to study norse mythology and even braver to open yourself to learning the ancient ways of our ancestors. My friend and brother Shane Orthmann is possibly the bravest person I know. Not only has he carried the “secret” traditions of his family, who have guarded them quietly for over a thousand years and especially during the “burning years” as he described the years after their “hoop” was broken. Shane also goes to the land of his ancestors and prays in the ancient sites which are known to hold their great power. He is able to recite the “sagas”in the old Norse/Icelandic language. This is what Paul had him do when they met in 2014 at World Peace and Prayer Day. On the day of the prayer on June 21st there were tribes entering the circle from all over the world. They shared their prayers for peace with songs and sacred dance around the fire. Shane was one of the invited native people to do so too. Both Paul and I were so impressed by his command of the old norse language, his ancient high pitched call  and command of the old language of his people and especially his composure. You don’t often see white people who have carried their peoples ways for hundreds of years and who have such a direct connection to who they are and where they come from.

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Later Paul had Shane recite one of the sagas (tales in prose often with stanzas or poems of heroic deeds of days long gone)  they are stories, tales, history. Paul felt a strong and extremely compelling fascination with Odin, not an easy subject for anyone, much less for one who has devoted himself to peace and rescue like himself. Paul was always known for being among the first to respond to tragedy and devastation. The saga that Shane recited was of Odin dying on the ash tree by hanging in order to gain the knowledge of the “runes”. Paul didn’t know the meaning of what Shane told, it was in the old Norse language and it took hours to complete. Paul was completely mesmerized by it. When we came home I would find him on the computer studying Odin and the different stories associated with him. It was doubly fascinating to Paul that (of course) a horse played a significant role. Sleipnir was Odin’s eight legged horse, born out of wolves and able to face all the world’s challenges with fierce courage and power.

In the picture below I am talking with Shane privately about that time he spent with Paul and what summoning a saga might do, whether you understand it or not. Shane played a pivotal role in Paul’s crossing over later when we came back to the farm around the time of his memorial. None of us at that ceremony will ever forget the funeral pyre of Paul’s personal possessions (clothes he wore everyday and hats and shoes) or the way the night air filled with dense fog and then after hours of praying, the way the fog cleared and the night sky was restored with incredible clarity, with every star beaming brightly. It was just what I needed and those with me who were so close to Paul on the farm, including the ones that found him on that terrible day.

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I still can only dwell on these things a tiny bit, they bring up so much intense emotion still but I can say that every time I do and it is usually at times I have no guard up, like early morning or late at night before sleeping, I can “feel” a connection so intense to my own ancient history and the stories they hold.  I can imagine what it must have been like to have such an ancient mind dealing with the forces of the universe and what it was like to take them very seriously and operate according to them. Shane has offered to help me with that and I will take him up on that in due time. Are my ancestors reaching out to me this way? Paul sure felt they were with him. We both share germanic roots and we often felt that we “knew” each other for ages, even if we didn’t fully understand each other we did respect each other. Our connection was largely not talked about between us, we just did things together but we felt it always and we knew better than to question it.

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During that awful time of reckoning in the wake of Paul’s death another dear friend and brother stood alongside me, keeping me strong and upright. Julio is a descendant of the Incan people who also just as powerfully and bravely as Shane carries the stories and traditions of his people. Every time Julio would sense me slipping into despair he would (somehow) become 7ft tall to me and from some elevated place, looking down at me as I imagine Incan rulers did in other times, said (in Spanish) “No, Pamela, come back, stay here, look at me, look at your brother Shane, your daughter, your family, stay here…..” Stay here in the moment he would say, you are needed here, don’t go there. It is not your time yet, there is too much to do. I hung onto Julio and Shane like a life raft for the whole time I was with them and sometimes I grab onto the again, if only so they can remind me what is real and what is not.

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Before Paul died I generally thought I can imagine, read or study or watch or take in anything I want and it can’t hurt me or my spirit or my vision in any way. I couldn’t have been more wrong. If anything these ancient stories are reminders to be humble and to be mindful of what you ask for and dwell on, it is sure to come to past in some form or another. Deep within our psyches are ties to our ancient identidies and creation stories and they have a power all their own when brought to the surface and mixed with the elements of the world.

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Odin meeting his destiny and final battle. This fight was said to be fearsome and brutal. Odin is seized by Fenrisulfr (the great wolf) in his jaws and swallowed.

 

 

 

 

 

These days I am trying to be a part of building the new world promised in every holy book and creation story in the world and it is anything but easy, as much as my whole heart wants it I sometimes can feel “Fenrisúlfr” (the great wolf) on my heels and my friends and family all know, in their own way, that I am vulnerable and weak and they remind me to “come back, stay here, it isn’t my time yet….”

Trick riding in your mind.

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My uncle Denny in between takes while on an episode of “Bonanza”. The pirate, cowboy and country western singing star who helped expand my imagination to include the whole world.

 

My uncle Denny was the bigger than life character who is responsible for so much of my inner world and personal history. I imagine that could be said of anyone’s life he touched. He passed away many years ago but his spirit lives on in all of us that had any close connection to him. He was my mother’s brother and he was her caretaker for years after their mother died. He shaped her early life as well as my own father’s and he played a big role in our lives for much of my early life.

It would take a very big book to cover the long and fascinating life he led and all the talents that came so natural to him. He was tall and handsome, over 6’5 and he was country western song singer who had albums and headlined in Vegas. He was very connected to his native roots and looked very much like so many of the great native leaders I know today. He gifted me one of my most beloved dogs of my whole life and named him Medicine. Today I wonder at how much his outgoing, creative and eccentric personality lives in me, he too was also a great survivor, shape shifting into whatever he needed to be to remain strong and true to his own spirit. My mother adored him and I craved my mothers attention, so maybe in some ways I became my own version of what I thought he would be if he were me.

A couple of years ago I was in the herd thinking about the design we were implementing in the pastures and I had a powerful flashback to when I was a child. I would play endlessly outside with my little horse figures building fences out of twigs and branches. I would house my large and diverse herd in all kinds of stick barns that I created but the real focus of my “work” was how I placed them in the paddocks. I could do it for hours and hours and hours and I did it all the way up until my early teens. I was constantly building forts and as I grew so did their size and scope. I would make my younger sisters help me create paths and “buildings” and then help me look for sick animals. I would ride my horse Bourbon on long trails in the woods looking for things to decorate my “forts” with and I would make him help me bring it all back. I went everywhere with him, cross roads, up and down ravines and through swamps, through fields and backyards, long trips out to find my treasures. I also did a lot of “trick riding in my mind” with my horse, I doubt he cared or even knew what my intent was, all he had to do was walk or trot along, everything else happened in my head. I would ride fast up and down large hills and pretend I was trick riding like I saw my uncle do in the Bonanza episodes. In my mind I did it even better than him!

One afternoon I went for a ride with my uncle in our old station wagon. It was warm and we had the windows down and we were driving the back roads in western mass. I remember this moment, and have my whole life, just like it happened yesterday. It was so powerful and meaningful to me, it seems to have always lived inside me. We were driving by some horses in a field and I looked at them longingly and told my uncle that I love horses more than anything else in the world. He stopped the car alongside the road and we walked up to the fence and we called out to the horses, hoping they would come closer. “You know what” he said, ” since you love them so much, I am giving you all the horses in the world! They are now yours.” He added “the only thing you need to do is share them with everyone….you have to share them, now these horses and all horses are yours as long as you share them.” I believed him with all of my heart. I believed everything he said, always, but I especially believed this. My whole life I have remembered that moment at different times and during really hard times I would find a herd alongside the road and re-live the moment in order to give me strength to believe that life is worth living another day.

For me this is a real testament to the power of thought, the power of ancestors and memory and feelings and our brains and of course horses. As I said my Uncle Denny powerfully shaped the lives around him and he knew it. It is something he left me with and something I do treasure and as it has become my life’s work I wonder if I would be as bold as I am if he hadn’t taken those moments to give me that gift, the power to imagine that the world and the horses in it are mine.

It is true for all of us really. All of the horses in all of the world belong to us all as long as we share them and I would add “take good care of them too.” cropped-unnamed-59.jpg

 

 

Trusting my own nature

I remember last Easter as though it was last week, lately. Not because anything too special happened, it was a typical holiday at blue star really. The work in the barn and caring for the horses came down to just Paul and I. Later in the morning we decided to take a team out with my nephew and my daughter Zoe and visit our friend Sandy Walsh’s Mom in Three Rivers, a nearby village. The reason I remember it so well is because Paul was beginning to really show the pain he was feeling. He didn’t have the flexibility in his hands or legs or hips to drive the team, he could barely walk.

This got worse and still somehow I didn’t understand that there was so much going on for him under the surface, until the day my life as I knew it shattered into a million pieces and fell all around me.

Today I stay close to friends and family that I trust care about me. I remember my early childhood more and more and I am allowing myself to dream in the way I did then, without limitations and fear or complicated thoughts of how “things” should be.

I have given up “hard” and have opened to being flexible and able to flow like water along from moment to moment trusting my nature is leading me perfectly everywhere I need to go. I only get stuck on the hard rocks and cold shore for shorter times and I am beginning to remember very quickly that I have a choice about what I do next. I am choosing to go within and find where and what I truly want and it is never conflict and struggle anymore.

Getting to go anywhere with Piper and her kind is a gift enough and my inner small child couldn’t be happier….

Piper and my small child within both knew all along that the world is what I make of it and my world is getting easier.

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Service in gratitude and saving my own life. Thank you Piper, for showing me how to be a good leader, like yourself. You are one of my greatest teachers in trusting my own nature as you do yours.

 

 

” We Shall Live”

Thank you all for your kind words about my writing in the past couple of months. It is such a blessing to me to know that my words have any value to others. This experience I am having in losing such an important person to me, in the way I did,  is universal in so many ways. We are all going to have tragedy and loss and unexpected changes that will shatter what we thought we knew about the world and life and we are all going to have our own personal way of coping with it. When we hear from another fellow human saying, this hurts so bad and yet there is incredible beauty everywhere regardless I know it helps. There is still beauty everywhere, and it is really comforting. I know that and I want that for us all, a community around us that cares deeply about what we are going through what the Horses and the Earth are going through too.  I am learning, that at all times we are ALL important, each and every one of us, in how the world is and will be.  We are here to be the change we want to see and it may be uncomfortable and sometimes terrifying but we are not alone ever and generally it is all made infinitely easier and better and awesomely and exquisitely more beautiful with horses…

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Following in the footsteps of our ancestors and trying to be of some help and use in these changing and uncertain times for all of life.  Our time is different but the hope is the same. “We Shall Live” as Chief Arvol Looking Horse would say…

I want to acknowledge all the many many people that take the time to write to me via the internet and through the mail. I am so touched by that. I have every single card ever sent to me and especially those since Paul’s passing and they are in their own guarded pile near my bed. I see them before I sleep and when I wake up. I send you all love and light every time I think of your kindness and thoughtfulness. I am aware of almost each and every kind act shown to me though it is nearly impossible for me to respond directly. Recently I made some personal decisions about how I will manage my time and the top priority is that I want to sit with each and every letter and card and note and gift and send you a token of my friendship and love. It is really really important to me. I am still not able to….yet.

My time is completely consumed by the daily operations of taking care of the horses, running the farm and administratively managing almost everything, I am involved and oversee every single thing we do, everywhere, all the time. In an effort to include the community as we have in the past, in this work,  I have been put on a fast track in community building and anyone that has ever tried it knows that it is a complicated and organic process and requires a lot of skill and energy. In order for me to carry on responsibly for myself and the horses I am simplifying dramatically nearly every aspect of what we do. I am looking forward to a much more doable lifestyle than the one I have had in these past years.  I am no longer “trying” to get anywhere. It is not so important to me anymore to have people in animal welfare or any organizations other than my own deem this work as important. I know it is and that is enough for me now. I know the difference that the horses have made in countless lives on this farm and meaning that they have given us all in realizing we are all a part of a culture created with horses alongside us. It is enough. I am not so concerned with the “good opinion” of others anymore.

After my experiences in the wake of losing Paul and the extreme and public attack on my credibility and the impact it had on me personally as well as the young people all around me I realized that I could only speak for myself and I would not allow others with severely limited ideas of who I am be the ones to define me. What I do in the world does, that alone. I am in my seventh year of giving everything I have materially and physically to see that this special farm lives. I have tended to it through every single upheaval and loss and set back, I have celebrated and stood in every possible way I could in the public, showing up and doing my best to present something special to the world. Something special and important for us all. I am proud of it all.

I am here and I have been since the first moments it came to me as a vision and mission, until wherever it takes me. My work here has been more like tending a garden than growing a business. Both are important though and I continue to learn how to do it all better. The skills I have acquired here are humbling. I knew I was a farmer but I had no idea that I could withstand so much adversity, even having grown up in the third world, the kind of experience this has been for me has literally brought me to my knees over and over again and that has helped me in the end. It turns out that I can do more than I ever thought possible and I still have so much more to do and see and learn! I don’t need so many hard lessons anymore, I am much kinder and respectful of myself. I have grown to love this journey. Moment by moment  I am choosing life more and more on life’s terms and that feels to me like a huge accomplishment. I have not wasted a minute of the time I have spent here, nor any experience and it has all served to bring me the life I feel I am here to live.

BSE has some amazing gardens now with soil that lives so well it positively vibrates with health. It is truly a remarkable place with so much for us all  and it is still getting better and better as it grows and develops as all things do as they mature.  The well being and health of your soil and garden says as much about you as do your horses and other animals in your care, ask any conscientious farmer. We truly excel at this all now and continuing too to do even better as time goes on and we learn even more.

So again I have to go and feed and take care of the farm. More and more you will hear from me as I continue to find a way to bring real balance to my life and the farm’s needs, however long that takes. Meanwhile, thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your visits and messages and notes and cards and donations and support with the love you share it all with. I hope it all comes back to you a thousandfold and that you allow yourself to bask in THAT beauty. The beauty of who you are. Really really good people.

 

p.s.

I am sure I am driving grammar and english teachers crazy with my sentence structures and all the other ways I may violating standards for english writing.  I do apologize for that to all my English and Spanish speaking friends who care deeply about that kind of thing. Many of my native friends work very intently at restoring and preserving their own languages, so much of who we are is contained in how our languages help us describe the world and there is a structure that supports that for sure. I know it matters a lot but I may not ever get to take the classes that would help me correct so much of that so for now my writing is what it is and I promise it is always from the heart and the heart has it’s own ,and in my opinion, superior language to any other.

Don’t lead with your wounds…

unnamed-2When I first saw this picture, when it was taken last year I studied it. It was like I was seeing Paul for the first time. I remember thinking to myself, wow, what this man has seen. Paul was a life time first responder and later a real leader, a Fire Chief, like his ancestors. His great grandfather died in an accident with his Percheron team pulling a steamer over train tracks, the steamer exploded. This is the kind of thing Paul was made of, tremendous experience of the not so easy kind. Accidents, fires, disasters, extreme horrifying experience in some cases and extreme triumph in restoring order to devastation. Paul never talked about it, never. Not to me, maybe to others on his level, like Chief’s or other career first responders but never me.

 

Last week we had a group of Veterans visiting from the VA Hospital. They come often, not always the same guys but always a group of curious and awesome men who also have seen too much of the hard stuff in life. They visit with the horses and  learn some of the stories that make the horses who they are as individuals. They learn that the good feeling they experience by being around the horses is a natural chemical reaction to the strong and powerful biochemistry the horses have. I tell them that this is always been one of their gifts to us, they heal us by regulating our heart beat and opening our mind to the vast potential we have, this world has, our shared partnership has. This is why so much change and revolution and massive world wide building of civilization could happen as it did with their help. Horses helped spread goods, language, culture, war and everything else we could imagine. We built the world as we know with their help, their empowering and lifting energy that they lend us.

Anyway, I am known for getting carried away by them too… One of the Veterans in the group the other week asked about my husband. I told them all what happened, if there are any people that understand PTSD they sure do. One of the men in the group is an active firefighter and wanted me to know something about firefighters that I have never considered and no one has ever told me. He said that Chiefs are very very lonely. They are responsible for keeping it all together, including their own feelings. After a terrible experience when the men and women return to the fire house the other men have each other to share with, not the Chief, he stays apart, he writes up the reports, he models how to comport oneself in extreme stress and he keeps it all calm and cool for all. I imagine these days there are more programs in place for these individuals that may help them. Another career firefighter told me that country wide they lose more firefighters to suicide than in all the dangerous work they do putting out fires. I wondered, why don’t we know this as a community, even that is changing now though with social media and all the other amazing ways we are all connecting. For guys like Paul, at his age, from his time, they are molded a certain way and have learned to disassociate and compartmentalize the extreme stuff to a small room in their psyche.

The Horses open us up to see ALL the rooms in our proverbial house…mind….not all of it is welcome either. Paul was overcome with something the day he took his life and I know that for those moments all the light in the world couldn’t get in, even for a moment, to remind him that he is light also, a spirit having a human experience, that all is one and that he is loved and held in an intricate web connecting all things together, that what happens to him, happens to us all. He couldn’t remember that, he couldn’t control the overwhelming pain and crippling of his judgement in those moments.

What I also know is that some of the horses that live here and have lived here were working with him on this. They already knew what he carried and they loved him anyway. They sensitively and mightily  opened all the doors in Paul’s big broken heart and flooded him with great feeling, all the time. For the most part it was all good, he was inspired and motivated and happy  and we were in love. We truly loved  so much about each other, we both felt “safe” with each other and we both protected each other  wounds like angry wolves with their paws caught in traps…we were both suffering and if you got too close to the wounds we would snarl, even at each other.

This kind of stuff is much easier to love unconditionally when it is a Horse or dog or a cat or even a wolf with hard past, but we rarely give each other that kind of unconditional and gentle love.

Here is what I what I have learned so far, there is great change coming for us all and we know it in the same way all of nature does, we are nature, whether we acknowledge it or not. As Chief Phillip Whiteman has told Ariel my friend in NYC undergoing great change now or me whose life has been shattered by my loss,  “You cannot be neutral on a fast moving train” He also told us that desperate people do desperate things, that only contracted extreme left brain thinking alone creates more suffering and rigidity, that the Horse can open us to the Spirit within and they are powerful but you cannot lead with your wounds.

Don’t lead with your wounds, it is better to be kind than to be right, you cannot solve problems with the same mind that created it. Meditate and go to happy thoughts, from there go to no thoughts, long for who you really are……universal wisdom.

I will never stop dwelling on Paul, holding him close, missing him with me here and all the ways he helped me, stood beside me, supported me. He would tell me over and over that he wasn’t here for any other reason than to be alongside me as I manifested this dream I carry of being useful to horses, humans and mother earth. He did love me and I am sure of it and I love him and always will and I am learning to let others help me open the trap my paw is in without biting them and bring medicine to it. I am there now, licking my paw and wondering about the next amazing path my instincts will take me on.

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Paul’s Great Grandfather and team that he died with.

 

 

Quiet celebrations all around me

Everywhere I look lately I see quiet little celebrations. Ceremonies and celebrations for the earth in North and South America and I am sure all over the big world in traditional places  too. So many of them include or focus on the Horse and their gifts, especially as keepers of the Thunder and Lighting and Rain. Water, the most important element to us all, the grandmother of them all, they are keepers of that. My small mind cannot fully grasp what that means and I am ok with not understanding it fully, it is still a beautiful thought to have.  I have been receiving small lessons in “being” like water. We are after all over 75% water, the world is also composed of mostly water, tiny crystals of light and vibration that keep us all alive.

Masuro Emoto proved with his sensitive instruments that water perfectly and symmectrically reflects it’s surrounding vibrations so sensitively that even a “bad” word spoken to it transforms the beautiful crystals into confusing blurs. Masuro Emoto is one of many that speak of, celebrate, learn from, honor and love water. My brother Don Valerio Cohailla told me that his first lesson from his grandmother high in the Peruvian Andes as a young shepard boy, was to love and care for and protect water. How you treat the water, she taught him, is how you will be treated by the Creator. Love it, protect it, sing to it, learn from it and be grateful for it, always grateful. He still carries that tradition of loving and blessing and singing to water everywhere he goes.

In March Chief Arvol Looking Horse will participate in an annual ceremony of the Sioux people, in the Paha Sapa, sacred Black Hills in South Dakota for the Horse. They gather  to ask for their help in bringing the rain, the water. Recently Chief Phillip Whiteman Jr. told us to hold someone we love like water in our hands and let them slip through, blessing us and the earth. Let them go, if they make it, we all make it. I thought …how beautiful. He will tell you that so much of what he knows, he knows from learning with the horses.

Horses are just like water in all those ways that water is. Like perfect crystals when spoken to with love and respect and gratitude and confused and “broken” when “spoken” to in any other way. We are all. Yet Horses are so perfectly present, so here, flowing from one moment to the next, right along, like water. No concern for the destination, just the journey, right here, right now, carrying us along like relatives, because we are.

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Dear Paul,

On our first Anniversary, I am writing to you because I find it really hard to “talk” to you. I have been thinking about you a lot lately, maybe too much, if that is possible. You filled a space on this farm that is so empty now, like a huge hole we all walk around so as not to fall in and hurt ourselves. If I let myself I can feel such an incredible sharp and impossible pain that must have been what you felt that made you decide to leave us all this way.

I have changed so much since you left that I am not sure who I am, that is not such a bad thing, I can feel every cell transforming and I can feel the great change and transformation happening in the world, I really wish you would have stayed to witness it too. We were great friends weren’t we? We talked about so many things and marveled at so many of the same things. We worked so hard and we were so proud of it, thinking it made some kind of difference in the way it touches so many horses and humans lives. I am learning to trust and love and respect myself too, wish you could have stayed to see it too…maybe you do.

I have discovered that I am committed to this world, really deeply committed until I leave and meet up with you again I am committed to the life I have started here, it is going somewhere. It is going towards greater love and understanding and community, all things that mattered so much to you and me.  I know that I will be alongside horses and humans, living and loving our great mother earth.

Four days after you passed I found the rope you used in the bushes near the tree. At first I didn’t know what it was until I picked it up. The sharp and awful pain that shot through me brought me to my knees…I didn’t know what to do so I buried it in your memorial garden. The other day when we had to bury Paddy, Chyna and Buford I stopped and uncovered the rope and looked at it for the first time since you passed. Was this the last thing you did? What an incredibly perfect knot, you always loved knot making. Did you look around, did you see those yearling calves that hang out behind the fence where the tree lives? Did you look back at the house? Did you think about what would happen to us without you? Anyway, not sure the answers to any of those questions matter, you are not here anymore and the answers won’t bring you back.

I really can’t wait to see you again, maybe eons from now, maybe in a different form, maybe the same with no pain, maybe…Thank you for marrying me last year, I know it was more my idea than yours and I know you did it to make me happy. I wish I could have helped you more, to stay in the mystery of this world and all its struggle and all it’s beauty at the same time.

Losing you has given me a perspective I have never had…it has shaken me in ways nothing has and woken me up to the supreme sacredness of each moment, each and every moment, and that is a gift beyond measure, one that the Horses have been trying to teach me for a long time now. You have masterfully delivered me home, to myself and I want to say Thank you for that.