It was Monday again, this time early morning. My husband was out the door and off to work. I was still wrapped in my terrycloth robe but decided to take a very quick walk to the barn in the brisk morning air to check on our mare, Carob. I was keeping a close watch on her since she had been trapped in a ditch for 7 hours a week ago from this day, and had some brief difficulties getting up one time during the week. As I approached the barn, my eyes quickly scanned the spacious paddock where we were keeping her. My forehead tightened when I could not see any sign of her light grey body, and there was no “good morning” nicker to welcome me. As I reached the gate, my concerns were confirmed. I found her laying with legs outstretched on an aged manure pile near an old almond tree. Though she looked comfortable on this cushiony mattress which probably lured her for an early morning snooze, something told me she was earthbound again. Judging by her position on the uneven terrain and the torn up soil around her, I knew she had been trying to get up. Over the past week we had become aware that though she showed no signs of pain, there seemed to be weakness in her hindquarters. A vet visit had been scheduled but unfortunately not until the following day. Needing help at that moment, I looked down the road just as my husband’s vehicle was disappearing around the corner with no way to contact him since we are out of cell phone range.
I sighed, then turned back to Carob and looked deeply into her beautiful black eyes. She was at peace and clearly not in pain. I caressed her face and neck, covered her with a blanket, and reassured her that help was on the way. As my mind went back to her 7 hours in the ditch, I determined that I was going to go through this dilemma much more attune than I was that night. I intended to pay close attention to my own inner guidance no matter what. I went back to the house to get properly dressed and to make phone calls for help, feeling a certain relaxed calm under the tension of another crisis. This time, it looked more hopeful.
Liz, my neighbor and friend, was awake but not up yet; Rick, a newer neighbor in the area was up and planning an important family trip into town, but both would come. I was encouraged to know help was close by. Knowing that Carob was not as exhausted as she had been by the time we had found her in the ditch, I felt assured that with help from the neighbors we would be able to get her up within a short period of time. I called John, my co-worker, and he was on his way from an hours drive away. Each one of us had a sense of calm, and no need to rush. Liz took time to get her coffee, John ran an errand in town.
While waiting for the support team to arrive, and knowing that Carob was relaxed and comfortable for the moment, I took a few minutes to ponder the personal ramifications of this crisis, the third in a weeks time (though one was minor). I couldn’t help but notice that each of the three times that Carob had an incident, I was involved in my artistic process. I thought about my ongoing struggle with finding time to engage in my art; my expertise was procrastination. This very morning I had decided to get up early (difficult for a night person) so I could work on my oil painting. This was a significant commitment. Standing in my living room before going back to Carob, I felt a surge of determination to stick to my commitment no matter what. But how could I do that under these circumstances? On the other hand, having had experiences in the past with situations that resolved in incredible ways when I’ve stayed true to a spiritual commitment, I walked over to my easel, grabbed a paintbrush, found the color I wanted on my pallette and put a few strokes on the canvas. I could do no more. I hoped that one minute of work would suffice as a genuine attempt to honor my contract with my heart. I walked out through the front door on my way to Carob.
I was still relatively relaxed as I walked toward her paddock. She’d made it up last week when it was beginning to look hopeless; this time it would be a piece of cake, I thought to myself. She seemed fresh and rested, wasn’t in a ditch, and it was morning… a beautiful one at that.
When Liz arrived, we sat and talked on the barn porch a few yards away from Carob. Liz reminded me of my priorities, and that is to honor the integrity of Carob’s spirit, as well as my own. A soothing warmth wrapped its arms around me and I felt safe as I remembered who I was spiritually, and Carob as well.
Neighbor Rick arrived with a gentle but no nonsense intention to get the job done, and the three of us went to work to help Carob get up. What had seemed so simple in my mind began to be riddled with difficulty. Carob wasn’t showing the motivation, nor was she able to get her back legs in position underneath her body to help herself up. We wondered if her legs were not getting the neurological messages from her brain. We tried numerous times and failed. Rick needed to leave, so we called another neighbor, Colin. He brought a quiet and graceful spirit and again, we tried without success. Colin needed to get back to work, and John arrived. Still no luck.
Carob had other ideas for us this day. We began to realize that we were in for the long haul again. The day began to take on a spiritual quality as we shifted into keeping an almost ceremonious vigil that unfolded effortlessly. All of creation joined in with delightful spontaneity and perfect timing. What an enchanted day this mare had choreographed for us. We were in for a day of wonderment of love and spiritual manifestation.
Winston, Liz’s black lab spent the day laying very near Carob, and several times throughout the day even mimicked her own leg positions. We were amazed and grateful for his faithfulness to her. He did not leave her side, keeping his head pointed in her direction.
Not far away was a hummingbird couple in a tree. Hummingbirds were a reminder of Mano, our very unusual horse who had passed on a couple of years ago. The day he died, John, sitting on Carob’s back, saw a small hummingbird standing on the ground in Mano’s stall pecking at the earth where he use to stand. Not a usual place to see a hummingbird. At the same time, Liz , who was miles away at work as a librarian, was drawn to the window where a hummingbird was poised in the air awaiting her attention. Hummingbirds in that area were not common. This was so typical of Mano’s style, showing up in unexpected places at unexpected times. With Carob on the ground near the tree where the two were playing, we were softly comforted with the reminder of his presence with us and with Carob the whole day.
I couldn’t help but notice that even the weather brought angelic changes for Carob’s comfort. First, a little sunshine to warm her, until cloud cover and gentle breezes made an entrance to keep her from overheating. Then the soothing sun insisted on a turn again, until clouds danced by with cooling shadows. This pattern repeated itself the entire day.
We tried to be very present and aware with what was going on with Carob and within ourselves. We were never far from her, running to help her when she gave an effort, monitoring her vital signs, offering homeopathic remedies, turning her body over to give relief to her internal organs, checking in with each other to see if we should consider a different approach, but underlying our focus on Carob was her focus on us. Her wise spirit was allowing us our process, allowing us to move through a crisis in a way we’d never before experienced. We felt a peaceful letting go and acceptance of whatever was to be as we tried everything we could reasonably do. We knew that Carob had a choice to either leave the earth or to find a way to help herself up.
We observed that the rest of the herd seemed completely at peace in contrast to their concern when she was in the ditch. Liz opened the front paddock gate where Carob was laying, and one by one they trickled in and transformed the paddock area into an outdoor monastery with their chanted meditations in the background as they rhythmically munched the spring grasses.
Mr. Kaheka, our chestnut thoroughbred, was standing away from the herd, alone. He has been a healer through the years. I’ll not forget the night that Mano was very ill. I was alone and exhausted and it was almost 4 AM. I didn’t want to leave him but there was no place for me to get rest. I stopped to say a prayer for guidance. As I turned my eyes toward the horses, there was Mr. Kaheka stretching his long neck over the stall fence with his head tenderly draped over Mano’s back. Tears stung my eyes, and I knew I could go home and nap for a couple of hours. After that, we noticed that when we put Mr. Kaheka with Mano, our ailing horse grew stronger. With those memories stirring in my mind, and Carob unable to get up, I walked up to him and asked if there were something we could do for Carob. He immediately turned his rear end to me for a tail rub. Whether a tail rub was what he personally wanted we can amusingly speculate, but no matter the answer, the message his spirit brought was deeper with intent. The tail is part of a major meridian along the spine, and a good emergency point. How could I have forgotten? Carob needed her tail worked! I gave Kaheka a token tail rub, thanked him for his advice, and then moved back to Carob.
John, with his powerfully healing hands, had been giving her full body massages throughout the day stimulating her energetically and emotionally. I began to work her tail using the Feldenkrais technique of gentle and slow movement. We became the hands for Mr. Kaheka. From there I stepped back and did what I had learned to do in the early weeks that I had acquired my first horse, Apolinaire, who was extremely sensitive to human touch. I moved my hands at a distance over her body in a musical dance as Liz suddenly found herself humming a spontaneous and original tune just for Carob. These moments were spiritually powerful and we, including Carob and the herd, still had a sense of calm though she remained on the ground going into her 6th hour.
It seemed there was absolutely nothing more we could do to change what was seeming inevitable. Carob was perhaps leaving us. We were comforted by the beauty of our last hours together and our hearts filled with gratitude at such an opportunity. I had one more request of Carob. Having done everything practical we could think of, I asked her if there were anything we could do that might be completely unrelated to finding a way to get her up. The words, “Do your art,” came so clearly, I quickly glanced around to see if John and Liz had heard them too.They were standing quietly near Carob. I knew what I had to do. I flashed back to the morning when that was the message I’d received. What had not been clear in the morning were the logistics of doing my art and taking care of Carob. Why was it all of a sudden so obvious?
I ran back to my home, gathered my portable easel, canvas and materials and brought them back to what had become a sacred place near Carob. I set up my easel under the almond tree. Winston, her silent angel staying close, moved himself toward me just enough to remain with her and at the same time press his warm body firmly against my leg. A sigh drifted down my whole body as I felt his affirmation. As I lifted my paintbrush, Carob almost simultaneously threw herself to her feet with one of the strongest efforts she had given all day. She was up but couldn’t sustain, and folded back to the ground. I felt both hope and disappointment. But my heart quickened with anticipation of new possibilities for Carob’s success.
In the meantime, transitions were happening for Liz and John. While I had been gone, Liz went back to her home for awhile and received an inspiring telephone message from the man she loves. John, so strongly committed to this mare, was able in our absence, to be alone with her, and had time to ponder without the interference of other human thoughts and judgments.
The three of us converged again like a spiritual triangle around Carob, I with my painting, John with an idea, Liz with an inspirational message. I continued to paint. John contemplated neighbor Colin’s suggestion earlier in the day that we use a hay bale as a wedge for Carob when she tried to get up. We had rejected it because of the unpredictable results such as Carob landing on top of the hay bale and dangling helplessly over the side. Liz’s quick thinking solved that concern when she reminded us we could always cut the strings if that were to happen. Out came the hay bale.
I still continued to paint. The other two waited. After a rest from her last effort, Carob suddenly came alive and using every drop of her stored up energy attempted to get up. We all three ran to her and with all the strength we could muster, held the hay bale against her body and cheered her onward with voices that helped thrust her upward as she struggled against the odds. At last! She made it up! She was standing on all fours again! With hearts filled with joy we stepped back to give her room to integrate. She flamboyantly flung her head toward the hay bale and theatrically grabbed a bite to eat as she swung her head back to her original position in one beautiful movement much like that of a conductor of a symphony waving his musical wand through the air with dramatic finesse. We laughed and cried jubilantly. If we’d only had a camera! The herd became excited and it seemed chaos reigned for a few moments until Carob walked quietly to the water trough. Like the night she got up from the ditch, she immediately relieved her body, then found a pile of loose hay and started eating with the rest of the herd.
We three humans stood together shivering with emotion and with the cooling coastal air drifting inland. We thrilled again at another miracle with this determined mare. We realized that 7 was an important number this day. Carob had been down for 7 hours today and another 7 hours 7 days ago. We also had a herd of 7. Biblical scholars and numerologists will have their own interpretations of its significance. For us, it brought a sense of fulfillment and confirmation that what we were experiencing with Carob and the herd had deep spiritual implications for each of us. I had kept my contract with my heart and painted. John recognized a practical solution and implemented it. Liz shared her inspirational phone call. We had all been changed by the experiences of the day. Carob had triumphed with us. Tears glistened on our cheeks in the early evening light as we reminisced the highlights of our day with our mystical mare.
Shortly after Carob had gotten up, Mano, still in his hummingbird form, zipped in front of John and Liz in perfect synchronicity as they walked behind Carob. With the lightening speed for which hummingbirds are known, he put his exclamation point at the end of a day interwoven with rich spiritual meaning, and a day now closing its eyes as the sun bedded down for the night with our Carob still alive and back on her feet! I began this day wrapped in a terry cloth robe, but ended it clothed with all of creation wrapped snugly in love.
As we looked back over the day, we realized that we had come a long way in listening to our inner guidance as we had intended, paying close attention throughout the day. But there was even more to learn. Knowing what we now know as of this writing, we can’t help but speculate how Carob’s story might have played out differently that day had I been able to stay with my art that morning, or if we could have accepted Colin’s suggestion about the hay bale earlier in the day, or had we trusted Winston, the angel dog, and allowed him to run up to her when he arrived. He had started toward her giving her a surge of energy as she attempted to get up. But we had called him back. At this point we don’t know what other factors might have needed to play out for 7 hours. But, we do know that this day brought us into a new relationship with our own spirituality and with that of all nature around us.
Compared to the night she was in the ditch, we had chosen not to allow circumstances to overcome us with fear, which opened the door wide for us to experience fully the dance of the universe, or what many would call the kingdom of heaven. It had reached across the miles to Liz’s partner who had also been keeping a vigil in partnership with a red tail hawk, a special bonding creature for both he and Liz, a strong God symbol for me, and of significant importance for John. We had been transported together into another realm beyond the constraints of time and distance. It relentlessly pursues us as it continues to reach for us with arms of love. Carob wanted us to have it all, so she carefully plotted her next event.