Saturday, December 20, 2014

Maggie

Maggie Moo


I first met Maggie when she was rescued by friend Alan who was a veterinarian. He went home to his apartment one day and kept hearing frantic meowing. He finally found the source on his roof. He went inside, opened the window and held out a laundry basket and the little black and white cat leapt into it. Thus Maggie, as in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, came into my world.

First though, she went to live with an elderly friend, Mary Scott who had recently lost her little old man cat of 20+ years. Maggie delighted her with her youthful antics. She would tell Mary promptly at 10 pm that is was bedtime by tapping her on the leg and running to the bedroom. She slept in the bathroom sink. She chased her crocheted mice that Mary made. She looked out windows and chattered at squirrels and birds.

Eventually Mary became too frail to live alone and moved to an assisted living facility and Maggie moved in with me, my husband, Molly Dawg, Buddy Love, Mo, Kizzie, Sniffy Pie and Dennis the fish. She hated us all at first. She chased all the cats from the litter boxes, she fought with Mo repeatedly peeing on him as her primary defense. After a month, I moved her into the upstairs where she had no contact with anyone but humans. She liked that. 

She had several window to sit in and would taunt the birds. The resident mockingbird even learned her "meow" and frequently sent me on a wild search thinking Mags had escaped outside only to find her and the bird meowing at one another.

She loved to bat things with her paws and would sit at the stairs bopping my head as I went upstairs to visit her.

Over time, the other cats crossed the Rainbow Bridge and we moved to a single floor ranch. Now Maggie had to contend with living with Kizzie. They developed a relationship centered on active ignoring. They knew each other existed but they did not interact except for the occasional hiss as they passed in the hall.

Maggie loved to sit on the other side of the doggie gate and taunt the dogs. She was the expert at "stare down".

In the past year I began to notice Maggie acting not like her self. She lost weight and began to make a strange sound high pitched whiny meow. I took her to Dr. Dreamy and she was diagnosed as hyperthyroid. Thus began a new experience of pilling a most unwilling cat. She finally relented and took her medicine fairly well for several months, enjoying her window time and putting on a bit of weight.

Then last week I noticed she was no longer sleeping in her favorite chair. When she leapt into bed she felt so thin and began to look frail. Back to the vet for a checkup. Her blood work showed only a hight white cell count. Thus we began antibiotics and fluids. 4 days later, no improvement and she seemed to be getting weaker. I found that she had not gotten out of her little bed to urinate. The Maggie was fastidious about her litter box would never have done that. 

That plus her increasingly pitiful cries and the look in her eyes told me what I needed to do. 

I could have gone to extremes and put her IV fluids and injections but for what purpose? I did not want her to suffer any more indignity or pain. I spent the last day with her letting her sleep in her basket, changing the blankets as needed, bringing her "chicken pudding" to lap at, petting her gently as she purred. I put her favorite mouse in with her, one that Mary had crocheted a decade ago. 

I called my ex-husband to come say goodbye. He sat with her and petted her. Maggie purred the whole time.

When it was time, we took her in. She was ready to go, too tired to stand, still purring she received the first injection. When she was still, she received the "big pink shot". The vet listened to her heart and pronounced "She's gone" as my tears flowed.

She was a most beloved cat.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Great Love



Today while cleaning out a closet I came across a collar and tags belonging to Molly Dawg, my first Golden Retriever. And my heart broke open again and I wept... not just for the loss but for the memories of the life we shared.

Molly was my ex-husband's and my first dog. We were a childless couple with cats who had talked of someday getting a dog, but never really pursued it. We dog sat for a friend who had a huge black lab named Merlin. He was the sweetest, gentlest, most perfect dog ever. Until we met Molly.

I went to the Humane Society to drop off donations and somehow wandered into the dog area. I passed by puppies and adults, murmuring to them, saying prayers that they would find a forever home. I looked and cooed and passed on. Until I saw her: an old lady Golden whose dark red coat was matted and tangled. Her eyes locked on mine and she sat gazing at me. I walked over and stretched out my hand and she sniffed politely and gave a little lick. She looked so sad, so resigned, so lonely. I was weeping by the time I got to the car. I cried all the way home and burst through the door sobbing...

Needless to say we raced back to the shelter and adopted her.

She was about 8 years old and unsprayed. We had to wait a day to collect her. I took along a shot of pain medicine from the vet clinic where I worked at the time. We took her home and began the best 4 years of our share life.

She went on vacations with us. She made us laugh and appreciate the moment. I think in some ways she held together our crumbling marriage...

When she left us right before Christmas something in the both of us died. The world was bleaker, darker and colder that Christmas. No presents for anyone. Just the heart breaking sorrow of losing the world's best dog.

Finding her belongings swept me me back to  that dark time, but it also reminded me of the joy she brought in our lives and into the world. The unconditional love that entered out hearts and in a way, still remains. Perhaps that is the lesson she left me, that there is darkness and coldness, but there is a time when we all leave our sad shelter and get a second chance at happiness...

Thank you Molly Dawg for all the lessons and love you gave me.

And Merry Christmas in Heaven.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Day on the river


I spent a day on the river with my brother. We canoed the Hillsboro River in Florida on a warm Autumn day. We unloaded the canoe, carrying it the short distance to the river. As I stepped into the water quicksilver flashes of minnows darted about my ankles. Carefully we got into the canoe and pushed off.

The canoe glided along the river and I trailed my hand in the cool water touching the reflection of the sky. Clouds of dragonflies dipped and swerved across our path, shining jewel bright in the sun; ruby, sapphire, emerald dots flitting on the mild breeze.



Flocks of ibis roosted in the trees, looking like tiny angels peeking from behind the curtains of Spanish Moss. Cormorants dove into the water chasing the elusive fish. Shadowy blue herons danced at the shore their movements as graceful as ballerinas, necks arching, eyes glittering, legs lifting in slow ellipses.


Alligators basked on fallen trees, absorbing the heat of the sun, looking like prehistoric beasts defying time and space. All is quiet, the world is timeless, we could be Seminole Indians seeking a new life among the cypress and palms instead of a brother and a sister escaping the noise and traffic of the 21st Century.

We drew close to shore to gaze eye to eye with alligators. We almost touched the turtles, their shells curving from the nearby rocks. The call of an owl broke the afternoon silence, lonely and near, my brother responded answering its plaintive cry. The owl answered but then like a memory, faded away.

We paddled into coves ducking under branches, passing cypress roots reaching toward the sky like arthritic fingers seeking solace. The shadows lengthened crisscrossing the water, sunlight broke through to spotlight the dancing minnows and darting dragonflies in their primordial waltz.



We glided, we paused, we spoke in low voices that carried across the water to echo back to us. We nervously laughed as an alligator surfaced and swirled the water beside our canoe. Ahead of us fish jump breaking the surface, tails slapping the water scattering rainbow drops before diving deep into the bed of the river.

Too soon the sun dropped low and the shadows covered more of the river than the light. We headed back to the shore, to reality, to Life, taking a bit of the river's peace with us, to remember and reflect upon in our busy noisy world.




Friday, October 3, 2014

Rainy day at the barn

The barn is peaceful today. Yesterday it was power washed, gone are all the cobwebs, bird poop, dust and hay bits. I have never seen it so clean and shiny.

It's been two weeks since I was last in the barn and I am giddy about seeing the horses again.

It's a light afternoon, only 4 lessons with Astrid, Lightning and Lincoln as the therapy horses. The Fjords are in stalls but Lincoln is still out in the paddock. I help tack Astrid who is slightly damp from an early morning bath. She is one of the smaller Fjords and the quietest. She is positively dainty!

We get her tacked and out to the arena. I walk down the aisle to see Lightning and his brother T Ball. They are side by side and nicker at one another. I go in to pet T Ball and Lightning instantly comes over to stare at me. He snorts and paws at the wall. I go to him sensing he is a bit jealous. When I get to his stall I see this:


He is standing with his left hoof in his empty feed bowl. Apparently he is making a joke. He is after all the prankster!

Try as I might I cannot get him to move his hoof. He butts his head into my arm and rubs it up and down. He nibbles at my shirt sleeve. He seems as glad to see me as I am to see him.

After Astrid is finished with her lesson, she is allowed to go to the pasture with the other female Fjords. Once she is untacked, I clip a lead line onto her halter and lead her out. Into the gently falling Autumn rain. We walk at a good clip, crossing the paved drive into the field. Walking under the trees, leaves dance about our heads as the ground softens the noise of our footfalls. The grass is turning brown, black walnuts in their thick green husks are scattered across our path, releasing a sharp scent when crushed under Astrid's hooves, reminding me of Autumns long ago.

Once I have gotten her into the dry lot, I return to the barn to get Lincoln's halter. I head out to his paddock to bring him in. The rain continues to fall gently, and I walk beneath the gray clouds humming quietly to myself. The tuxedo cat who lives in the hay barn meows loudly at me, reluctant to venture into the damp day.

I get to Paddock 3 and I don't see Lincoln. I see two black and white horses, but no bay in a fly mask. I glance over into Paddock 2 where there are 4 horses wearing fly masks at the far end. I go into the field, walk to the horses and realize none are Lincoln. Back to Paddock 3. I go into the field and as I walk to the far end, I see a fly masked face peek out of the run in shed. There! There is my Lincoln.

"Hey Buddy! Hey Mr. Handsome!" At my voice, he ambles out and heads to meet me. My heart does a tiny flip knowing that he recognizes me. He walks up and gently I scratch his cheek before I clip on the lead rope. Together we head toward the barn.

In the barn I peel off his fly mask, shin guards and fly suit. He is not too muddy today, but still needs a good brushing. I brush him really well talking to him softly. At one point, as I gently clean his "eye boogers" he begins to lick me. His huge pink tongue gently slides up my arm, again and again. I stand there in amusement. He is acting like a huge 800 pound dog today. Next he twitches his upper lip and snorts at me. He bobs his head as if to say "It's about time you showed up!".

I tack him and the side walkers come to get him. I give him a pat on the rump and remind him to behave.

Lincoln completes one lesson and then rests for a half hour in the stall. After his rest period has ended, I lead him out for the final lesson. Again I tack him and get him ready. This kiddo has allergies so Lincoln must wear a sheet over his withers and neck. I have taken the sheet home to wash and while there, I sewed on ribbon ties to use instead of diaper pins used to hold it in place. I tie the jaunty bows and give him a quick kiss on his cheek before handing him over.

While he is in the ring, the barn cats come out, meowing and circling. Jewel, a tortoiseshell tabby, rolls onto her back, begging for a belly rub. Lee a shiny black shorthair, jumps into my lap and curls up as I scratch her head. I sit for a moment savoring the sound of rain on the metal roof, the distant squeals and laughter of a child, the quiet purring of a warm cat. All around me is peace and calm. And I, rain soaked and muddy, am deliriously happy.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Humid and hot



It is hot and humid, the air feels thick. Even though the BigAss©  Fans are turning in the barn and the arena, there is no relief from the heat. The horses are quiet, standing in front of the box fans in their stalls. They are all sweating and flicking at the incessant flies.

I check all the stalls looking at water buckets to make sure they are filled. I pull the nearly empty ones and take them to the pump, filling them and lugging them back to the waiting horses who gratefully drink the cool water.


When I go to get Lightning, he balks. He doesn't want to leave his fan, his water and his hay. I give the lead rope a gentle tug and say "Walk on!" and he finally follows me. In the grooming bay, he stands placidly, too exhausted to even chew his lead rope today. I brush him down and spray fly spray on his legs and broad back. I lift his forelock and find his brow wet. I gently rub it to dry it and plant a kiss on his nose. After he is tacked, he plods into the arena where the leader takes over and puts the reins on him for longlining. As soon as she clucks and snaps the reins, he transforms and takes off at a trot. Like an actor making his entrance, Lightning knows its show time. He moves beautifully, trotting, almost breaking into a canter, his head up and neck arched gracefully. After a quick warm up he sidles up to the mounting area for his little girl. He is energized and ready despite the humidity. He's a pro.

Back in the barn the other horses continue to wait. Lincoln's client has canceled and he keeps checking as people walk by, his ears pricking forward, moving to the stall gate, nickering. Finally I get the OK to take him back to his paddock. Before going he has to be suited up in his fly gear. Lincoln is very sensitive to fly bites and gets huge itchy welts. I lead him to the bay and attach the cross ties. I take a few moments to just be still with him. I gently stroke his face, murmuring to him, telling him what a handsome fellow he is. He leans into me as I hug him, making me think he does indeed remember me. Again I feel a deep connection with this small horse. I put his fly suit on over his head. and proceed to figure out all the straps and cinches. This is my 2nd time putting it on him, my first time alone. I remember to criss cross the back straps between his rear legs. I put his stockings on his front leg. At that point one of the experienced horse women comes into the barn and I ask her to check my work. We reverse the stockings so that the velcro closures are on the outside, making it harder for a nimble nibbler like Lincoln to take them off. Otherwise everything is on the mark. I feel a flush of pride for remembering how to get the complicated suit on Lincoln.


I lead him out to the paddock, walking slowly through the heavy air, huge fluffy clouds above me, the sweet horse clip-clopping beside me, his head bobbing in rhythm with his gait. In the shadow of the hay barn, I let him have a few bites of clover before opening the gate and putting on his fly mask and muzzle. We stand together for a moment looking at the sky, my hand resting on his withers. The fields around me are green and verdant. Other horses in other paddocks are grazing peacefully. Lincoln and I stand connected by a touch, just taking in the sky and earth. I feel a deep spiritual connection to all around me. I feel my heart open and Peace floods my soul. I give Lincoln a quick hug, leave the paddock and make my way back to the barn, sweating but happy...


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Vicarious trauma/transformation

"Vicarious traumatization (VT) is a transformation in the self of a trauma worker or helper that results from empathic engagement with traumatized clients and their reports of traumatic experiences. Its hallmark is disrupted spirituality, or a disruption in the trauma workers' perceived meaning and hope. " Wikipedia

He haunts my dreams, my waking moments, as well as those of my staff. We all have been deeply affected by one young man. We have consults on the case almost daily. We discuss and try to figure out how to change a cultural belief that is causing harm to an entire family. We are trying to save someone who doesn't realize they are abused. Someone who believes they are "bad and deserve it". 

No one deserves to be doused with cold water at 5 am and then beaten with an electric cord so badly that permanent physical scars cover their arms and legs and torso. Those are the scars we see. What about the invisible ones?

Initially we got the case because the 15 year old smokes marijuana, breaks curfew, won't stay home, and is perhaps, running with a gang. The first time I met him, he walked over and shook my hand. Said "yes maam, no maam" and looked me in the eye. I knew there was a good kid in there and I wondered what had happened that he sought out safety and security in a gang. It didn't make sense at first glance; 2 parents, both employed and educated. A nice home with all the trappings of a solid middle class family. His own room. Enrollment at one of the elite schools. Something didn't add up on the surface.

I wondered what had happened to him. 

The next encounter was at the office of the Cabinet: six social workers and a Juvenile Restorative Justice representative, his parents, his brothers and him.

At first the adults talked around and over him. The parents detailing the lies, the theft, the drug use. Finally we asked him to tell us his story. He did. He told of being beaten, being drenched with ice cold water. Of being backed into a corner while his stepfather wailed on him until he was bloody, his skin split and a goose egg lump on his forehead. Then, the stepfather confirmed this was true. Six social workers were shocked into silence. The stepfather went on to state "This isn't abuse, it is discipline. I was raised that way and I am fine. I love my mother." Again, shocked silence. It takes a lot to shock social workers as seasoned as those in that room, but they succeeded.

Now, I understood why on a hot day, this young man wore a long sleeve sweat shirt. Why he distrusted adults. Why he didn't want to go home, used drugs and stole to buy more drugs. I knew why he seemed so detached. I knew and I felt the pain. I ached for him. I kept the professional mask on. My tears would come later. I listened and looked him in the eye as he recounted the incidents. He locked onto me as I sat directly across from him, his eyes boring into mine defiantly, as if to say "believe me, hear me, see me." 
And I did. 

It is not the first time I went into a dark place with someone. My job and my life, has allowed me access into the inner sanctum of many tortured souls. I have seen and felt the pain of others, both human and animal. I have done the hard things no one else wanted to do. I have seen death face to face, up close and personal. I have held angry crying people, children and adults, letting their grief, anger and pain soak into me as surely as their tears soaked into my shirt. I have seen the effects of cruelty both tangible and intangible and wondered how any human could be so inhumane. 

I have doubted the very God that made me. I have doubted that love and peace can be had. I have doubted myself with each encounter, doubted my ability to help another person heal. I have doubted my training and education. I have doubted my own ability to heal the darkness within my own soul. 

But I cannot let doubt stop me. I cannot let the pain stop me from my calling. It is more than a duty to do what I do. It is an honor and a privilege to serve others. To be allowed into these dark places. It is a sacred trust. I have broken that trust at times, due to my own fear and weakness. I have turned away because the personal cost was so high. I have found myself in my own darkness at times with no light to guide me out of the abyss. 

Yet I seek to transform this vicarious pain into strength, for the greater good. I understand why saints go mad at times. No one can live always in the dark nor the light. Somehow there must be a middle ground, a sanctuary, a respite. 

"Beyond vicarious traumatization lies vicarious transformation (VTF). This is the process of transforming one's vicarious trauma, leading to spiritual growth. Vicarious transformation is a process of active engagement with the negative changes that come about through trauma work. It can be recognized by a deepened sense of connection with all living beings, a broader sense of moral inclusion, a greater appreciation of the gifts in one's life, and a greater sense of meaning and hope. Like VT, VTF is a process, not an endpoint or outcome. If the clients’ extraordinary pain can be embraced instead of fended off, humanity is expanded. In this receptive mode, caring can be deepened. The clients feel that they are allowed to exert their influence, and this reciprocal process conveys respect. People can learn from trauma survivor clients that people can endure horrible things and carry on. This knowledge is a gift that can be passed along to others."

I take hope in the power of transformation. I reach out, I make connections with friends, animals, nature to heal myself. I respect the pain. I embrace it, knowing that the channels it digs so deeply in my heart will at some point be channels of love and healing. I try to increase my knowledge and understanding. I seek out the shared consciousness of spiritual leaders through their words and teachings.  I try to touch God, in spirit and in the form of others. I see God in the eyes of a scared, beaten 15 year old. I am humbled by the very nature of life. I am honored to be in the darkness with others. I am realizing what my life is, what it is meant to be, is about.

I am transforming. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Seeing

I wish there were a way to teach common sense. And empathy...

It has been a trying week. Heartbreaking in several ways.

On the global front, the death of Robin Williams has deeply affected this country. He was a clown extraordinaire, making us laugh until we cried and when in a serious role, he twanged our heartstrings. He conveyed empathy, humanness and humaneness through his various character renderings.

But like many who struggle with darkness,  he couldn't find the light and in that darkest hour he sought escape from the pain and the demons with whom he had battled for years.  Many question "why?" "how could he do that?", not understanding the siren call of peace, the freedom from an internal, isolating pain that unless one has experienced it, one cannot understand.

Now his family seeks privacy while the world wants a piece of him. Not understanding there was a private person who lived and breathed and loved his own children, wife and friends. We devour our idols and demand more from them even in death...

On a more personal front there were two moments when I wished I could change the world.

One evening one of  my staff, my immediate directors and I met with a family at DCBS (Department of Community Based Services) to discuss the fate of a 15 year old black male. He and his family sat on one side of the huge conference table and we sat on the other. My staffer sat next to the kiddo to provide support.

I listened as the parents expressed their frustrations about their son. He lies. He steals. He breaks curfew. He smokes weed. He needs to be sent away. He is beyond control. He is a criminal. They have tried every type of punishment, even taking away Christmas 3 years in a row...

I sat there and began to wonder, "What has happened to him?" .  He and I locked eyes several times. He sat there, defiant, rigid. I kept remembering the first time I met him, when he entered the room and shook my hand, a polite respectful young man.

At some point, my director, stopped the parents talking and asked the young man what he wanted. In a room full of adults "dissing" him, we showed him respect and common courtesy.

He told his story. Looking at me, he spoke about his stepfather whipping him with an electric cord, until he bled and was left with scars. He told about this adult dumping ice water on him in bed and then beating him. He told about being backed into a corner and hit repeatedly, his curling into a ball to protect himself and being left with a gash on his forehead.

When asked the stepfather admitted he did this, but was not an "abusive parent". He stated this was how he was raised and he sees it as discipline, not abuse. Plus, he stated he never whips "his" sons, because they aren't like their half brother.

Sitting in a room of social workers and with no remorse, the stepfather admitted this. And the mother stated she hadn't realized that this had been going on for ten years...

I realized that THIS is what happened to the kiddo.

How, I wondered, HOW could the mother not realize what was happening? Where did she think the gashes and welts came from? Could she not sense the anger between the two? But she appeared done. Tired of this kid and just wanting him gone. This articulate, smart, kid was falling through the cracks. And my heart broke for him. At that moment I wished I could be his therapist, to help him heal, to explore the trauma he had survived but which had left him with both visible and invisible scars.

The staff and I are going to work to keep this kid out of jail, out of trouble and find a way to help him heal.

Later this week, I sat on the floor with a client. She has 5 children and has a progressive, degenerative disease that has rendered her practically immobile. We are trying to get her a wheelchair, home health services, an aide so that her children don't miss school to stay home to help mom.

The staff member on this case is young and green. She has led a sheltered life with her parents helping her with rent, buying a car and clothes. She came to me last week for help to write a check. She planned today's session around using "Value Cards", a tool that elicits conversation about one's values, goals and aspirations. She sat on the couch with her computer and asked the client questions while ignoring the fact that the client was sitting on the floor wrapped in a blanket where she most likely had been since the kids left for school that morning. She seemed oblivious to the odor emanating from the woman. As she sat there asking questions such as "How important is job training?" I marveled at the fact she seemed to not realize that this woman would never hold another job due to her progressive and terminal illness. Yet she plowed on asking questions which had no value to this particular client. The client was gracious and would say, "That doesn't pertain to me".
I think she realized she was training the young staffer.

As a supervisor, I was there to observe. But I am not a supervisor who can sit and watch. The week before when I was present, the client mentioned she wore adult diapers. I interrupted the session to inquire if she needed any supplies and what kind of diapers she wore. She gave me the brand and size. I left to get them. I called back to my staffer to see if the teenager needed pads or tampons. The mother reported no but could I get them some tissues? I picked those up as well as cleaning wipes and some roach control. As I walked through the store I wondered how to teach my staffer to put herself into the place of the client; to feel what it was like to sit in one's own waste with no diaper to change into, no ability to walk to a bathroom. To sit immobile and watch while roaches crawled across your blanket. To have to wait for your children to come home from middle and elementary school before you could eat or drink.  And I wondered if I had ever been that young and oblivious. I would like to think that I wasn't, but I cannot remember. I do remember, even at a young age, wanting to "save the world"; wanting to help others but at times being afraid to do so. I remember with shame, not standing up for a mentally retarded girl who was being teased by a boy. I remember the anger I felt and how I realized that although cute, he was cruel and I found him unattractive after that. But mostly I remembered feeling sad and ashamed that I didn't step in.

When I got back, the staffer had moved to the floor to sit near the client. I took that as a good sign. A sign that she could follow my lead and leave the relative safety of the couch.

I don't know how to teach empathy or common sense. I don't know how to teach parents that an electric cord is not discipline but abuse. I don't know how to get someone who is young and green to open their eyes and SEE. But I will try, to the best of my abilities I will try to save the world. One person at a time. God grant me the strength to never give up.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Horse Play

What? I wasn't doing nuthin!!!

















As I walk from stall to stall greeting the horses I can tell it is going to be an interesting afternoon.
Lightning, especially,  is in high spirits on this rainy drizzly day. He greets me with a loud nickering, demanding immediate attention. I enter his stall and give him a few scratches behind his ears. He swings his huge head up and down in pleasure. As I stand beside him and give him a few pats, he turns his head to me and starts to sniff me. He blows his warm hay scented breath into my face and tries to sneak in a nibble to my sleeve. I gently push him back and exit his stall.

I get his tack ready, prepare the grooming bay and then go back for him. He starts nickering when he sees the lead rope and automatically backs up so I can open the stall door and enter.
I clip on his lead and lead him to the grooming bay. I attach the cross ties and square him up on the rubber mats. I duck under the cross ties to get his curry comb and he steps forward off the mat.

"No, Lighting, back up".

I lean my shoulder into his chest and move him back. He immediately pivots his hindquarters off center. I walk to his rear and gently but forcefully square him up again. "Now STAY" I say, hoping dog commands work on horses.

I go back to get the curry comb. I begin to brush him when I notice he has the cross tie rope in his mouth chewing it like a piece of gum. "Lighting, NO" I take the rope out of his mouth. He looks at me, I look at him and he deliberately puts his front left hoof off the mat. "Lightning... don't you do it!" I say knowing he is up to something. He puts his hoof back on the mat. I duck under the cross ties to curry the other side. I start to brush and get to his hindquarters when I feel a shift. I look and realize he has eased forward and has both front hooves off the mat. As I walk forward he steps forward another step, but stares straight ahead as if to say, "What? I'm not doing nuthin!"

I ease him back 2 steps onto the mat. I swear he is giggling at this point. As I bend to pick his hooves, he nibbles at the cross ties again. I decide to let it go for the moment. As I get to his rear hooves, I run my hand down his leg, his signal to roll his hoof forward so I can clean his frog. As an older draft horse, he has been taught this technique to save wear and tear on his hips. His hoof remains motionless. I turn to look at him, he is looking at me, chewing his rope.

"Lightning, behave!" I say sternly. I run my hand down his leg again. This time he lifts his leg and draws it up as if to kick, but instead just wiggles it around not letting me grasp it. I look at him, he looks at me, chews his rope, puts his hoof down. I walk up and take the rope out of his mouth. I go back and run my hand down his leg, he rolls his hoof and I pick out the muck. I get all four hooves done at long last.

I prepare to tack him. He has one hoof off the mat. I say his name sternly, he puts the hoof back. I put the quilt on him, then the saddle pad. Today Lightning is outfitted in a surcingle. I put in on and notice it doesn't quite fit but I tighten the girth. Something is off. He swings his head. He stares at me. I swear he is scowling. I realize I have put a too small pony girth on him so I take it off. While I am getting the correct tack, he has walked forward as far as the cross ties will allow. Again we dance through the routine of backing up onto the mat. I finally get everything on and checked. The leader comes to get him and I assist with undoing the cross ties.

I whisper in his ear, "Be GOOD." As he walks by me he flicks me, hard, with his long tail as if to say, "What EVER" and I realize I have just worked with a horse channeling a  human teenager.

All in all a good game of HORSE...

What EVER!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Lincoln 600


When I arrive at the barn, I head for Lincoln's stall. He raises his head from the flake of hay in the corner, sees me and bobs in greeting. I spend a few minutes whispering to him, calling him "Mr. Handsome" before I head off to check the list and prep for the afternoon lessons.

After a few other horses have been groomed and tacked, walked to the arena for their waiting child, brought back, cooled down and led to the fields, it is Lincoln's turn.

I go into his stall, hook the lead rope onto his halter and lead him to the grooming bay. I secure him and begin to brush him down. His coat is sleek and shiny, a dark bay with a black mane and tail. As I curry and comb I talk to him softly. I brush his mane and he turns his face to me. We are on eye level with one another, his huge eyes staring into mine. I gently scratch his ear and sneak a kiss. I lean into him, smelling the aroma of warm horse and hay. I get the tack on, preparing to tighten the girth. Lincoln is a "girthy" horse, meaning he hates when the girth is tightened. I have been warned to watch out for him as he has been known to nip when his girth is tightened. I pull the leather straps slowly and evenly, watching his head out of the corner of my eye. He swings his head around and I begin to murmur, "It's OK, Mr. Handsome, Good man, what a good horse..." and he turns away, never even attempting to nip me.

I finish tacking him and take him to the leader who walks him into the ring. I stand at the wall watching while they warm him up. His stride is beautiful, fluid, graceful, he is easy today, not spooking or distracted. Lincoln is patient as the child is helped up onto his back. I leave so as not to distract the little girl who is giggling and happy to be on "her pony".

At the end of the lesson I go to help untack him. I am informed that Lincoln is going to get a bath by his little girl. I lead him to the wash bay. I am asked to hold him by his lead rope and halter so the little girl and her physical therapist can bathe him. Lincoln tries to walk out of the bay, without thinking I press my shoulder into his chest and back him up. He rests his chin across my shoulder, his head against mine. I stand there, interlocked as the little girl squeals in excitement, as the PT and OT get the bucket ready with sudsy water. I ease away from Lincoln holding onto his halter with one hand. He raises his head in alarm as a spray of cold water lands on his back accompanied by a high pitched squeal from the little girl.
I reach up and rub his cheek and he looks at me, those huge eyes again boring into mine. "Steady boy, good man" I say.

The little girl nearly topples into the bucket in her eagerness to sponge off Lincoln's legs. Her PT grabs her tighter as she struggles to take the few steps closer to Lincoln's side. As she and PT began to scrub him Lincoln bobs his head, when they hit an itchy spot he suddenly begins to rub his nose on my shoulder. He head butts me like a cat and rubs his face against me as I lock myself into a stance so he can't push me over. It is the first time he has made physical contact with me to this degree. He continues to nuzzle me, his nose both silky soft and prickly with a few coarse whiskers. I find myself looking into his eye again. Today we seem to have reached a new level of trust and communication and I am again amazed by this animal.

After he is soaped and rinsed and dried off a bit, we put his fly mask on and I am told to take him to the pasture. We walk out together, his tiredness fading as he realizes we are heading out of the barn and the workday is done.

We walk along the paved pathway to the field, his hooves clip clopping steadily, a rhythmic beat that lifts my own tiredness. Before we go through the gate, I allow him get a few bites of clover by the fence. I open the gate and lead him in; turning I close the gate and take off his halter and lead. He stands for a minute, his eyes hidden behind the fly mask, but I sense he is looking at me.

"Thank you" I say. "Thank you, Lincoln". He bobs his head, and turns to amble in search of more clover.

I lean against the gate for a brief time, watching him, his coat gleaming, his neck arching to graze and realize, once again without my knowing, another being has worked its way into my heart... and I am so grateful.

Thank you, Lincoln for trusting me, for not biting me, for letting me into your world. Thank you from the depth of my soul, thank you for healing me in ways I didn't know I needed. Thank you, Mr. Handsome.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Loving the horses

I was at the barn for the first time in over 6 weeks.
I had missed the smells, the sounds, the sights of the horses.

It was hot and muggy, the air stirred by huge fans in the aisle of the barn.

I greet the familiar horses, feeling the connection flow between us. Looking into those huge dark eyes, seeing a sentient being who can communicate without words is always breathtaking.

I lead out Lightning, a feisty Fjord who was feeling very "lippy". He is a large draft breed, a pale dun color whose hooves still have glitter on them from a recent fund raiser. He is mischievous in the grooming/tack bay. I find him peeking at me as I curry him. He tries to sneak a nip at my sleeve while I am combing his forelock. I stop him with a sharp "NO!". I cannot bring myself to swat him as I see others do. I rely on my vocal tone and stare to make him behave. I swear he winks as he lowers his lips.
He is led out to the arena to work with a client and I hear childish squeals as he enters...

Next up is Lincoln, my favorite and a "mud bug". He likes to roll in the dust and comes into the barn at a good clip, ready to be out of the sun and away from the biting flies. He wears anklets filled with bug repellent and twists himself into a funny stance to nibble at his itchy legs. I am  the lone human with him in the barn, so I can sneak a kiss on his soft nose while no one is watching. I talk to him the entire time I comb and curry. I call him "Mr. Handsome" and feel him relax beneath my hands. He yawns and sticks his long pink tongue out, shifts his stance and leans into me as I brush his back with long firm strokes.

After he works with the client, he comes back and is untacked. I "hot sponge" him, meaning I wipe him down with cool water and a large sponge to cool him down before he goes out into the pasture. The heat rises off him, the rich horsey smell fills my nostrils and again he leans into me. He is my favorite. I cannot pinpoint what makes him different and special to me, other than he is who he is.

In between horses, I muck stalls and put them up for the night. I surprise myself at how improved I am at scooping large piles of manure and getting them into the muck bucket. I remember how to push the shavings back and look with pleasure on how even I get the rows against the stall walls. I take the muck out to the large dumpster where clouds of gnats and flies rise as I stride up the ramp. I lift the bucket and dump the contents, remember to keep my mouth closed and to squint to avoid the pesky black flying dots.

I feel my body move and stretch and my muscles work to lift and carry and shovel. It is at this moment I finally find a reason to motivate myself to get into shape and hit the gym. I want to do it for the horses. I want to be able to help them and keep working with them for a long time. I want to keep feeling this strength I am feeling. I want to get better at mucking stalls, grooming horses, carrying water and guiding a ton of warm horse flesh into a small confined space. I want to sweat because I am in the sun with Lincoln. I want to laugh at Lightning and be able to pick his hooves.

I want to keep loving the horses because they are helping me find my heart again...

Grief

I just read a blog about grief: http://thelightwillfindyou.com/2014/07/

And it hit home.

There is no timetable for grief. I always thought there was an end, at some point, that I would accept the loss and be done with it. Yet, I have found it does not end. It slips away at times, only to reappear at odd moments.

Grief is in the sudden burst of memory when finding an object that reminds me of a lost loved one. It is in the single tear running down my cheek to fall upon a photograph of my parents. Grief surfaces when I touch a letter written by my father to my mother on paper so old it has turned golden with age.

Grief is a quick pinch of the heart; a flash of joy that bubbles into laughter at the remembrance of a funny story. Grief is both sweet and bitter, love that hurts and soothes.

I have learned not to fear the pain, but to sit with it, remembering the one that is gone.

Grief does not end, but then, neither does love.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Memory


Like a tongue poking at a sore tooth
I keep pricking myself
with memories.

My heart is a pincushion
of sorrow with
self inflicted wounds.

Why can't I let go?
Why do I torture myself
over a past that I cannot change?

Memory is both a blessing and a curse.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Memories of Ironing

The hiss of the steam iron,
the smell of Niagara spray starch,
radio tuned to Gospel,
sultry weather that even the fan cannot dissipate.

The rhythm of the dance;
shake out, spritz, straighten, iron;
comforts with familiar movement.

Humming with the radio,
thoughts wandering beyond the confines of the kitchen,
chickens clucking softly outside the screen door,
the smell of sweet hay wafting in the window.

Sleepy dogs huff on the porch,
and the sun bears down,
cooking the grass to a crisp brown
and turing the yard hard baked.

Meanwhile, the wrinkled becomes smooth,
yards of white linen
gleam and billow as the sheets are folded
into sharp edged squares.

White shirts hang upon hangers
starched into a military precision.
Dresses of faded calico with knife pleats
so sharp they could cut.

All the while, the steam rises,
curling tendrils of hair
into damp corkscrews,
that caress the face of my mother.



Sunday, June 1, 2014






Going home.

For me, home is a small rural town named Summer Shade.

It is red clay dirt, the smell of honeysuckle and hay. The calls of mourning doves and whipporwills. The drone of cicadas on a hot June day. Blackberries warm from the sun, fresh off the vine.

It is memories of a magical childhood in a magical place.

Yesterday was the 40th year reunion of my 8th grade class. We grew up together in this small town but went our separate ways in the county high school where we merged with other small town grade schools.

Somehow though we retained a group identity. Several years ago we held our first reunion after a beloved teacher died. We met in the lunchroom where we had shared so many meals and activities.
After that reunion we met a few years later when we learned our grade school was closing and being sold at public auction. One last trip through the halls and classrooms where our values and beliefs were formed. One more time to cement our identity as a group.

Yesterday we met at a nearby park. 21 of us showed up on a steamy sultry June day. We laughed a lot, cried a little and loved each other to childhood and back.

Looking at the middle age people before me, I could see the children with whom I grew up hovering beneath the wrinkles and sun damaged skin. I was shocked as we said "bad words" in front of the one teacher who joined us and who we all still called "Miss Kaye".

We reminisced about first loves and crushes, tricks played on one another and class hijinks. We sat in reverent silence as each talked of our losses. We remembered the classmates and teachers who have died, forever those young boys and strict but loving disciplinarians in our minds and memories.

We hugged upon arrival and again as we felt inclined. We spoke of hot flashes and the rigors of life. Of being middle aged and having children or not, grandchildren or not. Yet beneath all that, we were all 14 again. We are  bound together by something deeper than school, closer than a place, stronger than the passing of time. We were a group of friends with ties to childhood. We had shared measles, mumps, puppy love and parents. We had broken rules and suffered consequences together. We had fought with and for each other countless times. And we had loved each other as fiercely as wolves in a pack.

Our childhood was the 1960's and 1970's; a turbulent time in history. War, segregation, political strife was the background of our society. Music and morals were changing. Parents feared that drugs would touch our lives, that war would take the best and brightest and destroy families. We were aware of these events from a distance. We were isolated in our small town before the days of internet and cable and 24/7 news shows. Not everyone had a television, we had party lines for phones and there was no segregation in our school. As someone said yesterday, "None of us had money, we were all poor." But no, we were rich beyond measure. We had a common core of love and community. We all knew each others' parents. We all knew the rules of our society. We all learned integrity from our parents and teachers. And we still have those values ingrained in us to this day.

We are probably the last generation that had a truly innocent and untouched childhood. We were kids and allowed to be children. We played and sang, danced and laughed, jumped rope, skipped rocks, went fishing with our elders. We did our chores, worked the fields, helped at home. We changed from our "store bought" school clothes into our play clothes when we got home.

Home...

We all knew what and where Home was.

And we still do.



Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Maya


You ripped open my heart with your words.
Exposing yourself
to your bones
revealing your scars to the world
you opened the cage door
and flew,
soared into a life you forged.
You tempered trouble into strength,
misery into mercy,
loss into love.
You did not let color/race/gender
hold you back.
You did the impossible
making us believe
we too could live in possibility.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Summer approaches

I have never been a fan of Summer.

It was the lonely time between school years, bereft of friends, full of boredom unless I had a book in hand.

It seems that I struggle with depression the most in Summer. I don't like heat. I don't like mosquitoes.
I am not a swimsuit/pool/beach person. I burn easily. I don't like to sweat.

Yet this summer I am anticipating a change. A shift in perspective.
I am planting herbs. I am pulling weeds. I am mowing my own yard.
I am trying to connect with the verdant, lush Earth in a way I have not before.
I am getting my hands dirty, digging in dirt, spying earthworms.

I am trying to find new life. I am hopeful that perhaps I can grow to like (maybe even love?) the fruits of Summer. One plant, one weed at a time.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mother's Day 2014

25 years since I heard your voice,
felt your touch,
saw your face,

Yet, you are as present in my heart
as the day I was born.

Flashback: Spring 1966
I remember the sensation
of being held and rocked.

Your heart beating beneath my ear,
your voice singing a lullaby.

I remember the distinct mother smell
that clung to you and wish I could breathe
in your scent one more time.

How I, a middle aged woman,
long to be that child again.
Being rocked and held,
sang to and loved beyond all reason
simply because I was yours.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Mothers and Daughters

I have been thinking about the complex relationship that exists between a mother and a daughter.
It is fraught with anguish and joy.

Not all mothers are stay at home, baking cookies and cleaning house women. Some are veterinarians, doctors, lawyers, teachers, social workers and priests.

As are the daughters.

My mother was a stay at home mom. She cooked and cleaned but also worked in the garden, helped with the chores on the farm, did what needed to be done. She never had a chance to go beyond a 6th grade education, but as her youngest, I achieved a Masters Degree in Social Work. I hope she would be proud of that.

I love my mother fiercely and totally. Granted I was a "Daddy's Girl" but when I needed someone, I wanted my momma. Even now, in my mid 50's, there are times I want so much to be a little girl who can crawl into my mother's lap and have her rock me and hum until my tears dry.

My mother was brave. After my father died, she had to learn to write a check, find a job, live for herself as all the children where practically grown. Except for me.

I remember sitting up late at night watching TV with her. The Twilight Zone, Johnny Carson, falling asleep on a pallet on the living room floor while she slept on the couch reaching down to stroke my hair.

I have had the experience recently of witnessing a mother torn apart by the love for her daughters, who for whatever reason, have ceased to communicate with her. She has tried it on their terms, texting instead of calling, not dropping in unannounced. But still the relationship is difficult.

Other friends have cut their mothers out of their life due to mental health issues. Mothers who cannot let their children breathe freely; who demand and steal the attention from their daughters at every opportunity.

It is sad to see these relationships that are so damaged when I miss my mother so desperately. My mother and I had arguments, and felt growing pains when I was trying to figure out what type of woman I would become. But I loved her so much. And she, me.

I knew early on I wouldn't want children. I don't know the point of view of a mother whose children are becoming independent and fully formed, leaving the nest in search of their own life. I only know from my perspective. I only know that it is one of the most complex, rich relationships I have ever had. And I miss her to this day.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Prisons

Today in church we talked about being prisoners.

I tried to remember the poet who wrote "Iron bars do not a prison make..."
That thought led to thinking about what imprisons us: depression, poverty, addiction, fear, pride, loneliness, money.

And once we are locked in how do we get ourselves out?

I have locked myself into a negative view of myself years ago. The fact that I earned a masters degree while working full time and graduated with a 4.0 doesn't matter because I feel that I am an impostor that will soon be found wanting.

The fact that I have accomplished many of my goals in life doesn't negate that I feel as if I failed because I drive a 14 year old car and lost my house in the economic downturn.

It doesn't matter if I have a good personality and am well loved because I feel old/fat/ugly.

I met with friends this week and we talked about enacting positive change in our lives. We committed to meeting once a month face to face for updates and staying in touch through the electronic media to encourage and listen to each other.

I discovered I am not the only accomplished woman who feels this way.

Why do we listen to "society" and respond to the photoshopped ads to belittle ourselves?
Why do we take comfort in our misery? Why do we lack motivation? Why do we consistently harm ourselves when we would never do those things to others?

Why do we choose to live in self made prisons?

Why?

Blindsided


Your body was my Braille
I learned to read each scar
each rise and fall with fingertips
in the dark of night.

I lay my head upon your chest
listening to the rhythm
of your heart calming
after the passion was spent

I breathed your scent
memorizing the tartness of sweat
the sweetness of your breath
the taste of salt on your skin.

for a lifetime it seemed
we were joined by our senses
taste, touch, smell, sound, sight
memorizing one another.

Now we sleep apart,
separated
by wounds that left scars
we cannot touch or trace.

I wonder if/when/how
I will forget
the landscape
that is your body

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Dressage or Dancing in the Rain

Today I worked my first dressage event. I assume most people have at least seen dressage once, think The Lipizzaner Stallions. 
I first remember reading "Airs Above The Ground" a book about the famous stallions. And of course over the years I have briefly viewed horse shows.
Today was not the glamourous TV installation of equestrians on immaculate horses.

It was raining. Steadily. It was cold. There were 5 arenas. All outdoors. The horses were wet, the riders were wet, some in rain gear, some not. I was there to help in any way I could. Which meant running score sheets to the judges. Moving the PVC pipes that formed arena fences. All in ankle deep water/mud/muck. The arena "floor" is small gravel and sand. It was like walking in 3 inches of  a slushy.

Between the activities I watched horses and listened to the "horse people" talk. They commented on strides, neck arches, conformation. I listened to a new language and tried to match their words to the horses movements.

There were lots of standard thoroughbred looking horses in an array of colors. They all were light on their hooves, graceful and elegant as they went through their choreography. There were a few that were not amused by the wind and rain. One particular small horse, (or maybe pony?) was really ticked off. He fought the bit. He backed up. He jumped around sideways, backwards and any direction he could. His rider fought with him for control. Another person took him by the bridle and started him off in the right direction and then he would change his gait with the rider trying to control him. He was a feisty one! I knew he was being naughty but I admired his spirit and determination. For a little guy he was a spitfire!

Toward the end of the day, I fell head over heels with 2 particular horses.

One was a black Frisian: a big muscular horse with feathers on his feet. He was indeed a Black Beauty. Controlled and graceful, he did not seem to notice the pelting rain or the mud kicked up by his large hooves. I could easily imagine him carrying a Knight into battle. I could have watched him for hours. He and the rider seemed to be of one mind and body. 


 Frisian

The last horse of the day was an Andalusian. He too was magnificent. A dark gray with a striking white face. His tail and mane had been braided then loosed so they hung in long undulating waves. He danced across the arena, impossibly light for such a large horse. He was all grace and beauty where the Frisian was all power and dignity. 


I was agog at the beauty of these two. They took my breath away. I wanted so badly to pet them, (ok I admit what I really wanted was to ride them!)  The Andalusian was neighing and talking as he crossed to the far arena. Mr. Personality! 

I regretted not having my camera as I can find no google image that truly captures the beauty of these two.

They made the steady rain, the frozen wet gloves on my hands, the bone chilling breeze bearable ~ No,  actually they made the day worthwhile and unforgettable. I am entering a new world and falling in love with it more and more each time I visit.






Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Poisonous voices

Feeling like a failure
despite evidence to the contrary.

The small voice of derision
outshouts all the facts.

Should/could/would
form a chain blocking happiness.

Tears sting the back of my eyelids
star bright anguish.

Heavy hearted, struggling to breath
to not cry.

I am the only guest
at a pity party.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Silent Sibling

Walking the beach
three of us
side by side,
linked by blood
and the shadow of him.

We are siblings,
all middle aged
and peers now
but the birth order
persists

Eldest, middle and the baby.
But one is missing.
His presence is felt
in the uneven number.

Three where once were four.

We talk of him,
our big brother,
remembering,
loving, laughing,
hurting.

He is with us
in our hearts,
Our minds,
Our souls.
In our DNA,
in our blood.

Never forgotten,
the love remains
but we ache for the hugs,
the laughter now stilled,
the voice that is silent.

We are three that once were four.



Saturday, March 1, 2014

Hippo Therapy Fridays



From the moment I walk in peace surrounds me. The smell of hay and horses wafts even into the lobby providing instant aromatherapy.

I check in at the office, sign my name, put on my volunteer badge and then go to the barn.
More intense aromatherapy greets me, I hear nickers from the horses and Jewel the barn cat comes running for a belly scratch and petting.

I usually walk through to see who is in the stalls. I greet Sargent, a huge draft horse cross, his huge head nods up and down as I whisper hello and talk to him a bit.

Next I scout out to see if the Fjords, a solid stocky breed, are in from the paddocks. I notice that T Ball and Lightning, brothers, are side by side and "talking" to one another. 

I continue to check to see if Chico and Lincoln are inside yet.

I check with the barn manager and if needed go out to the paddocks to bring the needed therapy horses into the barn. I am not yet experienced to be alone in the fields with the horses, so someone with more experience goes with me to show me the ropes.

I am a novice here. A new student, absorbing all the knowledge I can, trying to memorize the faces and personalities of each horse. There is much to learn: the difference between a halter and bridle, an ulti pad versus a medical pelt. New words enter my vocabulary: surcingle, rainbow reins, bevel pads, chestnuts, withers, girth, channels, lunge lines, long lines~ I take it in hoping to someday not have to ask so many questions.

I am guided by life long horse people whom I am sure secretly smile at the excitement of a middle age woman's joy at learning to "pick hooves". I ask lots of questions, they answer patiently. Some days I am sure they would prefer someone more experienced, but they seem to realize I am learning and dedicated so I sense them relaxing and giving me more responsibility.

Of all the horses, my favorite is Lincoln. He is smaller than the Fjords, a quarter horse cross. I call him my "mud bug". He comes in quite messy from the paddocks. The client who rides him for hippotherapy is allergic to everything, so Lincoln must be thoroughly brushed before his tack is put on and even then, he is covered in a sheet, pinned on around his neck and withers. 

He is patient with me, really all the horses are. They are highly trained to be patient as they work with disabled and handicapped children and adults. But in the grooming bays, their personalities peek through. Wanda likes to nip, Chico likes to nibble at sleeves, Lincoln yawns, relaxing under the curry comb and stiff brush.

It is peaceful in the barn, no music blares, no sounds of traffic, just the twittering of birds, the barn cats occasional mewing, the nickering of horses and the distant sounds of a child's delight from the arena.

I curry and brush, pick the hooves, leaning into the massive warmth of the horse as they raise their foot. I hold it on my leg and clean around their frog, getting the muck and mud out. I lower their foot, give them a pat and move on to the next chore.

I know these are not typical horses. I know they are patient with me and forgiving. They are great to learn on. They don't kick at me or try to bite. I am learning to read their body language and long for the day when I really connect with them. I am getting there and it is a wondrous journey...


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Blackwater Woods



















Every year everything
I have ever learned in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side is salvation,
whose meaning none of us will ever know.

To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

Mary Oliver  

Lent



It is the season of Lent. The time before Spring, before renewal, before growth explodes upon the world. Things lie deeply dormant, deathlike, dreaming.
There is anticipation of change. The yearning of life. 
But the darkness lingers yet.
The time of light is not upon us.

We are heading into Lent, the lengthening of days.
We are heading into the loss of life which miraculously turns into rebirth.

The earth renews itself, seeds germinate, blooms appear, tender shoots of grass thrust up through the mud toward the sun. The cries of babies, human and animal are heard. 

In order to celebrate the birth, we must let go of the death. 
We must embrace the cycle and with the earth's rotation and tilt we must lean toward the returning light.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Horse High~ Equine therapy begins.

I spent yesterday learning hands on about horses. I have volunteered for barn duty at Central KY Riding for Hope, an equine therapy program.
I have a great love for all animals and have been blessed to have dogs and cats. I have loved horses but never really had a chance to work with them. Now all that has changed.

Two weeks ago I went through the orientation, observing as a trained wrangler showed us how to pick hooves, curry, brush and tack a horse. So much info to absorb in two hours! Yesterday I finally got to touch the horses. Under the eyes of experienced horse wranglers, I curried mud off the horses' coats, picked hooves, tacked them with saddles or surcingles depending on the need of the therapy client.

Now these are highly trained, calm and forgiving horses. I wasn't afraid of them and I had an innate trust in them. I approached each one, looked them in their huge luminous eyes and talked to them softly. As I curried them, I kept one hand on them, feeling their rough winter coats and their body heat on a cold day. As I practiced what I observed, I became thankful they were so cooperative and calm. I felt that they knew they were my teachers.

I have often felt connections with various animals but these horses are amazing to connect with and to watch. I would walk out to the arena as they were working and observe them with clients. I watched as one horse shifted his weight to accommodate the wiggling child on his back, helping her to find her center of balance and to relax. These horses know their riders's foibles and work to teach and help and heal.

Equine therapy is amazing. I learned about kiddos who started in a wheel chair and over time working with equine therapy, they began to walk. The horses helped these kids to WALK. How amazing is that?

Looking into their eyes, I saw a wisdom and depth surpassing anything I have ever witnessed. I saw their soul. I saw God incarnate. I saw healing. And I am humbled and honored to be working with this incredible, beautiful beasts.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014



The old dog stands in the falling snow.

Safe in a fenced yard 
he thinks of deep silent woods
filled with smells of deer, elk and squirrel.

He remembers jeep rides
into the mountains,
full of twists and turns,
his barks echoing
off of canyon walls.

He raises his muzzle to the sky
in memory of howls
sung to the Western stars,
when he was young and strong.

He wanders the boundary
of the fenced in space
pausing by the gate
that leads to
out there.

He remembers walks with his humans,
playing fetch with his red ball,
wonderful smelly rolls in cow patties,
and chasing the cats.

He heads through the dog door,
stands ready for a treat,
and makes his way to the couch,
turning round and round,
he sleeps and dreams of big horn sheep. 

















I handed you my virgin heart
unbroken, wide open, whole.

You took it
not understanding
 the gift I gave.

You were careless
because you were afraid
and did not know
how fragile love could be.

Now you have handed it back.
Broken. Shattered.
Covered in scars from
attempts to mend
that which cannot be repaired.

I take it.
This bruised, battered
thing.
And I hide it deep within;
out of sight,
out of reach.

Knowing now,
I will never re-gift
my imperfect heart.