photo by Chandra Smith
Lately I’ve been feeling like I’m being pulled, stretched, and squeezed into different contorted shapes until I’ve become like one of those crazy mirrors at the circus. I’m not recognizing myself. I feel like my life has become a movie with multiple plots all playing at the same time all entangled in one story leading to one big climax or calamity.
This morning as I was driving to the ranch from our cottage in town, I was feeling introspective. My husband, a talented writer and my writing coach, had just read to me from Brenda Ueland’s book, If You Want to Write, a wonderfully inspiring book, a favorite of both of ours. I’d been beating my head against the wall with my writing. It simply hasn’t been working for me, and not for lack of material. The particular chapter he read inspired me to pay close attention to how I was feeling, and how I would describe it. On the winding trip through the grassland hills and redwood forests here in California to be with the horses and my visiting friends (the ones who I was preparing for when I didn’t have time to write), I wrote in my head. Sentences flowed…but alas, I didn’t stop to record them. But I knew that Tal had already started fulfilling his promise of “stealing my writer’s block away from me.”
As I went around a curve, my attention was shifted to the sky above. Keeping one eye on the road, with the other I got a brief glimpse of a Red-tailed Hawk drifting high above my car. My mood perked up. Red-tails are an important expression of the divine in my life. When they appear, they seem to tease me by giving only a brief glimpse, leaving me stretching my neck and twisting my head trying to get in position for just one more look through the windshield of my car. I’m always too late and they disappear behind a hill or tree and I’m left yearning for more.
Today, the quick siting was enough. In the midst of my serious concern with Tal’s sore feet, and my feeling blocked, or blockaded, in my blog writing, still in my grieving process from the death of my father and 3 weeks later our dog, I had seen the Red-tailed Hawk today when internal disharmony had become my dwelling place. That was enough. One quick look, and I knew. Suddenly the churning quieted and I became deliciously weepy for the rest of the drive through the hills to the ranch as the beauty around me plucked the strings of my soul like a harp. The music soothed those places where I’d been ransacked.
The Home Place
When I had left Tal the night before, having done all I could do for him physically to make his feet more comfortable, I stopped and touched in with him. I asked if there were anything else I could do for him. Thinking he would suggest another homeopathic remedy, his response both surprised me and warmed my heart. It came clearly, “Go to the home place. Go to the home place,” this surrogate messenger said lovingly but emphatically. The “home place” is language a good friend of mine uses which describes that place of connection deep in the soul that is a knowing that all is well, that familiar place of remembering who we are as spiritual and mystical beings. It is a feeling of a joy, a perfect peace, contentment, love… a feeling that is so often triggered in the most ordinary moments in life that we sometimes forget are spiritual, a warm shower on a cold day, a face wrapped in a hot washcloth, a juicy strawberry picked right off the vine still pulsating with the morning dew, the visual delight of a jar of orange marmalade sitting on the breakfast table near a crispy pink napkin, purple violas decorating the mellow green of freshly sliced avocados, the smell of pizza in the cold night air, a song from the past that touches a fond memory of love… For my mom, a woman of humble means, it was her new hardwood floors that brought her lingering delight, or a robin in the tree outside her kitchen window.
Knowing the potential impact not only on me, but on Tal of my being in the “home place” because of what I had learned from Kaheka, my thoroughbred (another story to be told soon), I told Tal I was willing to go there. However, I couldn’t just snap my fingers and make myself feel; it needed to be given to me. Within 12 hours I was feeling it. My heavy heart had given way to refreshment. This time it came on the wings of a Red-tailed Hawk, and that was just the first step. How much of all of this was Tal orchestrating, I wondered.
As I approached the ranch, where my friends were staying in my cabin on a much needed retreat, I saw the barn door already open. Pulling into the driveway, I got another glimpse like the one of the Red-tailed only this quick look was through the pickets of the fence. There was my friend’s partner standing tall with Tal in the morning sunshine. What I felt even as I parked the car was a powerful and peaceful tenderness surrounding the barn and pasture so thick you could feel it pressing in on the body like a firm hug, but as soft and quieting as a down filled mattress. I was overcome with the beauty of what I was feeling and what I was seeing, and as I opened the car door, tears of joyful release poured out spontaneously. I was held in my friend’s embrace as I continued to gush. I heard myself repeating, “It is so beautiful, it is so beautiful!”
Tal, who the day before could barely walk, was standing tall with this compassionate male who matched Tal’s height and stature. As he was being groomed, this horse was clearly zoned out in the warmth of Pavel’s touch and the morning sunshine. His eyes were squinted in pure pleasure, and his large Roman head leaned softly against Pavel’s chest. Tenderness between the two. Tenderness everywhere. It was immediately obvious to me that Pavel was gifted with horses although currently had none, and I later learned of his love for horses. All of them seemed to become like puppies around him as he helped with the morning chores, telling him with relaxed body language and mesmerized eyes as they followed him, “I am yours, just tell me what you want.”
Talk about being in the “home place!” Thank you to the Red-tail, to Tal, to Pavel. I couldn’t fully grasp the quality of the feeling. I felt a curious awe, holding my head carefully still lest any movement would spoil it. My eyes as big as a child’s at Christmas kept sneaking peeks trying to take it all in, to comprehend. The tenderness that seemed so fragile that we could break it, was far too dense to shatter. So, I did what I’ve learned through the years, let go of figuring it out, and simply lingered in it.
More to Do
I knew that Tal just had to have been healed that day, but that was not to be. But it was a step. I still had writing to do. That was my assignment. But Tal was given a reprieve while I still floundered. Behind the scenes, I recognized the gifts he had given to all of us that day, along with the herd. What was awakened in Pavel is his story to tell, but Tal had done his work, as Pavel had done his. And I knew this Tennessee Walker needed more opportunity to give his gifts, and I was the primary focus for the weeks to come. He had a challenge on his hands, but inroads were being made, he kept providing stories and working some kind of secret magic in me that I can only feel but not yet understand! There was more to do…