The Painting that Packed Its Bag and Headed Out On A Journey of Its Own

Oil Painting by B. Smith  6″x8″

“ When I put the thick glistening gold paint on and watch the fine red thread of color migrate from the canvas back to an outstretched bristle of the brush and then see it collide with a tiny mound of blue violet edging the white lily of the painting, I know and feel why I paint. It’s the squealing in my soul, the physical flood of endorphins and the slow motion visual magic of mistakes turning towards magnificence…” Carole Watanabe, artist/business woman from The Ecstatic Marriage of Life and Art

As I am embarking on my journey as a professional artist, I soon had to learn that the painting above had a life of its own beyond the canvas, the paint, and the brush…and my own ideas. It all started with the quote above, and has evolved into a true story that is almost unbelievable.

After reading Carole Watanabe’s quote above, I decided I wanted to experience the sensuous feeling of brush and paints on the canvas that she described. Up until that moment, my experience with painting had been limited to the thrill of reproducing something with some degree of precision. There would be a lot of labor and frustration, then the joy of accomplishment. In contrast, for the above painting, I threw all to the wind like my free spirited mare, Mariah, has taught me to do, and decided to paint from a card sent to me many years ago. Jumping right in, I slapped paint on the canvas using a palette knife which I’d always wanted to do, and never had tried (Why not, I wonder?). I loved the effect of the purple underpainting peeking through where the next layer of paint didn’t quite cover, and the texture of the thick paint as I smoothed it on learning quickly not to overwork it. I painted faster than I’d ever done before finishing it up in less than 2 hours as opposed to days and weeks. I loved the painting, but more than that, I loved the experience of painting! I felt lighthearted, happy, and joyful!

In my exuberance, I took it to my landlord who loves my more precision-oriented horse paintings. When I showed him this work which was different than anything I had produced, he became quiet, squinted, and then said, emphatically, “That’s not very good.” At first, shocked at his bluntness, I rode the wave of recovery with first a laugh at his daring, and then an appreciation for his lack of pretense. I was carried along on the wave because I was in the joy of my experience. I’d had a lot of fun painting with wet paint on wet not knowing with each stroke how it would look. I experienced what Carole was writing about, the awesome merging of colors.

Not being daunted I sent photos off to my artist friends and told them what had happened. I did a disclaimer saying that my landlord might be right. I hadn’t had time to process, and the day may come when I would feel chagrin that I had shared it with anyone. But for now, I was exhilarated and wanted to do more paintings in that style.

I put the painting in the car to share with a friend at the ranch where my 5 rescue horses are pastured. We don’t often cross paths, but when we do, we have crazy and wonderful interactions around our horses. Today she just happened to be there. I showed her the painting that was oozing with thick paint that was still very wet from a few hours before.

She looked at it and she too grew silent as my landlord had done. Uh oh. She is also a very forthright person. When she spoke, my guarded mind had a hard time catching up with her words as they spilled out. She wanted to buy it! She was serious and offered me a good and fair price. How could this happen so easily and so fast!? Yes. Of course I will sell it. I hadn’t yet signed it nor varnished it, and I wanted to show it at a possible venue for selling my other paintings. We decided I would take it home to complete my agenda.

I carefully placed it in the car feeling a new sense of protective responsibility for what was now “her” painting even though we hadn’t yet finalized the sale. Feeling a little uneasy, I made sure the painting was placed where it couldn’t hit the floor with sudden braking nor be crushed by something falling. The painting made it home safely. Since the landlord’s large puppy that chews on everything within and beyond reach was gone for the night, I put the painting safely on the table away from a fresh bouquet of flowers that might drop pollen on it.

The next morning, after giving my memory time to reboot, I shuffled off in my slippers to look at my painting with fresh eyes. Of course it was still there, Silly. No gremlin intruder had carried it away during the night, so why had I been so nervous about it? I did, however, notice a lot more pollen on the table than  expected. Cringing, I hastily moved the painting further away from the flowers, then instinctively swiped my finger through the pollen. A cold awareness crawled over me in slow motion. The “pollen” was fresh paint. The colors of my painting! Then, I noticed it over the whole table. My focus went immediately back to my painting! I ran for my glasses. A mystery was developing. Sure enough there were tiny footprints on the table—and on my painting! During the night, little feet had walked all over my wet painting! The absurdity of it all! It was surreal! I wiped up the table and found one identifying animal deposit left discreetly behind a basket on the table. There had been a silent intruder after all. Le rat! Who would have thought!? Was he a mischievous and fun loving teenage rat who sneaked out of the his parents’ nest in the darkness to create a little havoc in the world? And just happened upon some fresh paint perfect for painting graffiti over the surface of the table? Harmless fun?! Or was it a wannabe artist taking the liberty to add multiple touches to my painting?

No matter the story that night. Le rat left foot tracks on my fresh work of art that I had joyfully painted, and was poised to sell; a painting that I had been diligent to protect from harm. It was no longer the same painting. The story is too unbelievable, and too hilarious for me to be really upset, even with the potential loss of a sale. But I could have used that money!

There is more. When I checked the book Animal-Speak, The Spiritual and Magical Powers of Creatures Great and Small, by Ted Andrews, I discovered that one of the keynotes for rats is “success.” In Ted’s words, “…though rats don’t have a very elegant reputation, they are tremendously adaptable. …People born in the Chinese year of the rat are said to be success-oriented…This drive for success may be what the rat has come to speak of with you….” Perhaps this 4-legged graffiti artist has brought me opportunity for success in ways not yet known. I will thank Le Rat, and send him on his way to do the rest of his work somewhere else far away!

The rest of the adventure still lies ahead. Once I had finished the painting, it packed its bag and took me on its own journey as I scrambled to keep up. We traveled through the rejection by my landlord, the offer to buy it by a friend, the protective efforts on my part, the visit by le rat during the night, footprints on fresh paint, the altered painting, and now the story. I am fascinated. What is next? There is a delightful “squealing in my soul,” and a children’s story percolating in my mind.

Oil Painting with Footprints below by Le Rat.

   

What to Write

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[Editing issues: I apologize for the lack of paragraph separation in this published post. The edited page shows it correctly but I can’t get it to transfer to the published page.]

What to write. So much going on, so much not going on. “Put on business mind, not art mind,” he said. I try and it doesn’t work. My Guidance says again and again, “Do your art. Write.” When I do, good things happen, but it is scarey, and I’m easily distracted doing other things that seem equally important. Then I forget until things go bad again.

The horses are in heaven in their new pasture. I am too when I go there to care for them. This place has made the difference between heaven and hell. Sometimes I still linger in hell, but when I am with the horses on a day like today and yesterday, I could stay forever. FOREVER!
I sketch. I feel. I tell myself I’m not good at it. The horses remind me that is not what it is about. It is about connecting with the horses, and with life, at levels unaware as well as levels aware. It is about healing.
Mariah today, faster than I can grasp, took off across the new and open pasture. Freedom. Space. Comfort. Solid ground. No more deep mud. Pure pleasure. Release. Free of restriction. She throws her head to the sky and her tail juts out from her rear like a fancy tent before cascading below and away into the wind. So light on her feet, a buck, a kick out, so effortlessly, a beautiful prance, then off again flinging her head, loving the feeling of her body.
Kaheka, thoroughbred off the race track, wasn’t a winner, but a beauty for sure. “Masculine Beauty,” a friend endearingly calls him. Today he sprinted across the pasture. Body low, front legs and back legs stretched out, in my mind’s memory from hoof to hoof to the max, parallel to the ground. He flies. He flies like a jet. No! Jets fly like him. His kind came first. He effortlessly flies. I feel the power of his rear engines, and his determination to conquer with his body.
Mariah dances. She rises up into the sky in perpendicular fullness; Kaheka is compressed low, stretched from head to toe. Speed, both of them. He, racing straightaway across the distance; she pirouettes, and spirals in the clouds. He, an arrow from a bow. She, a graceful deer catching the currents both wild and tamed.
They are both in me. Awakening. Flying. Dancing.
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“On the Run” quick charcoal sketch

He Sent Me Home to Paint

 

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[This post was published briefly months ago so may be familiar to my followers. It has been rewritten and edited]

There was sweetness in the sorrow I felt when my memory took me back to the day my first horse, Apolinaire, died. At the end of his recent visitation through Dollar,l my emotional balloon was stretched to full capacity. Knowing I needed  to release my tears, I was driven to walk the pasture paths that the horses have created through the wooded areas, revisiting the different places where Apolinaire and I had been together during the last four days of his life. Retracing our story together, I lingered at the very spot where many months ago he lay in exhaustion.

He had sent me home that day to paint.

To leave him in such a condition was difficult but I had been through this drill many times before with the other horses who were having acute or chronic physical issues, with miraculous results. Each time I had been guided to write, sketch, paint, to simply stand nearby and tune into nature, or to “please leave and let me work this out myself.” The malady magically disappeared time and time again.

Knowing his directive was not one to ignore, I left.

Once home, I painted with a restless spirit but with spiritual awareness, sensing that Apolinaire and I were most likely walking his death journey as companions. It was premature he told me that night and reminded me of the day years ago when he’d shared the way he was to die.

At that time, he had wandered away from the herd which was unlike him. He stepped over to another pasture and stood alone silently calling to me. I responded and stayed at a distance giving him space and dignity. Since it was late afternoon, the coastal fog had found its way inland and dimmed the light of day, creating an appropriate mood for what he was sharing. When he finished, I had thought his death was imminent, that he would likely disappear during the night. There was no distress. Sadness, yes, but most of all I felt a deeper closeness to him. He had trusted me with something intimate and sacred. But, the time for manifestation had not come.

Now, years later, I understood that it still was not time for Apolinaire to go, but an ominous feeling was pressing in. He was giving me continuous instructions as to my role in the partnership and in the process.

I was to hold space for him while he did his intercessory work which was very serious and challenging would make the difference in whether he was to live or die. For the most part, the magnitude of his cosmic work was not revealed.

I was to hold the belief he would recover as the other horses had done many times before. This time, however, my growth was in the believing. It was important even if there was never a manifestation of that belief. That one was tough for me. It didn’t make sense to me nor can I make sense of it now. All I know is that deep down there was a powerful freedom in it and there still is. I gave up attachment to results, and was free to hold space for his recovery and allow the Divine to flow. There was no more resistance to “believing” because it might not manifest since that was no longer a part of my formula. This is new to me and there is much more for me to discover about that practice.

Back home after putting away my paints and returning to the pasture, I quickly found my way to the spot where I had left him lying on the ground. My breath caught with new hope when I saw he was no longer there. There were indicators that reminded me of the “yellow brick road” that helped me find him tucked in the thicket, well away from where he had been lying. His eyes were brighter, there was new energy in him. I was encouraged.

As time went by, I continued to work on my painting and holding space for Apolinaire. Each time I returned, he showed improvement. My hopes were running high. Things seemed to be progressing.

On day 3, an acquaintance stopped by the pasture. I was not able to tell her that I was in an important process with Apolinaire. In fact I tried to hide it from her not wanting to talk about it. I surrendered to her arrival thinking maybe it was meant to be and might bring the ultimate healing. I completely forgot about my deal with Apolinaire. My only hope was that he would stay hidden.

Forgetting I was on a sacred mission with my horse, I lost my connection with Apolinaire that day as I followed my distraction. It can happen to me so easily. I suspect I am not alone in that tendency.

I had not spoken up which was a disservice to my guest, to Apolinaire in particular, and to myself. I lost the day with him. I lost my sense of confidence and holding space. I didn’t paint. Didn’t even think of it. From that day, he went downhill extremely fast and I forgot everything I’d been learning and went into crisis mode.

The next morning, he waited for me to arrive. When he turned and looked at me, I knew he was dying. My heart sank, and I gave up. In less than an hour, he was gone.

I had known it was a challenging task. I do not feel guilty nor that it was my fault as one might expect. We were on a treacherous journey together. I had known that.

My painting had brought continuous improvement for Apolinaire as it had done for the horses over the years. This time there was a bigger challenge. I became distracted and stopped painting. He went downhill. He died. It is sometimes a tough journey.

When he sent me home to paint, he sent me home to that other worldly place where the soul sighs with relief. There I find my joy and the peaceful pool of healing. There I am out of the way; the Divine is free to flow and the extraordinary follows.

The Equine Art of Healing

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Mariah (left) and Kaheka

Mystic Mariah, one of two mares in the herd, is a vivacious teenage dancer; light on her feet, easy to plop to the ground for a feel-good roll, bounce back to her feet, then off on a run with head flung high to the wind.

She’s also a bit mischievous with a dry sense of humor that I forget sometimes when I get annoyed at her dramatic flair for throwing hay ever so flamboyantly out of her food bin. And not just hers, but everybody elses’ as she goes from bin to bin taking over their spot.

But I couldn’t help feeling endeared by her the day she coyly deposited a tiny bouquet of flowering grasses in the middle of the sketch I was doing of her. Or the day she made me giggle and laugh when I was doing a charcoal sketch of Shaman Tal and she sauntered over with a gleam in her eye to have a look. She proceeded to erase the whole thing with her mouth, bringing me spontaneous laughter that filled the spacious stall with healing. Something about the whole scenario, my sketching and our laughing brought the restless Shaman to a peaceful quiet, and out of discomfort.

Mystic Mariah has been an active healer often through her humor and her presence alone. Recently, however, I discovered something new that came out of a problem. Mystic Mariah has always been a “noisy” breather from the day she arrived here about 10 years ago. Her audible breath would come and go and I never quite found the pattern for certain. Probably it happened most often when she was feeling a little anxious about something, just like we humans.

In the past year her breathing has become more noticeable on a regular basis but she hasn’t shown stress. But most of us have viewed it as a problem which has distracted us.

A few days ago, that all changed. A bright spirited young woman from Nevada was here on the western coast for respite. She came for a visit with the horses. Arriving ahead of me, she had some time to interact with the horses while I quickly finished my breakfast.

When I finally met her at the gate, she greeted me literally beaming with excitement. Unable to contain herself she blurted out that Mariah was teaching her to breathe! This Mariah with the breathing problem, was teaching this young woman how to breathe?!? How could this be?

I was unexpectedly swooped up and away in an invisible tornado, and swirled into a sudden shift in perspective. I was filled with curiosity, and at the same time a dance of delight. The whole pasture suddenly came alive with a song of triumph, and an otherworldly illumination sparked by this young woman, Steph. There was an intriguing sense of celebration of something new that I later discovered was more expansive than I could have imagined at the time!

Surprisingly, I had not noticed, consciously anyway, that though Mariah’s breath was noisy, each was slow and deep. That is what Steph had tapped into…long breath in and slow breath out. Whhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh….. This is how a horse normally breathes, we just don’t hear it. Mariah’s just happens to be audible. The long slow breath is a challenge for typical human patterns to sustain. But, Steph was trying to master it.

When I quieted from the sudden and involuntary change in my perspective about Mariah’s breath, I began experiencing it as strength instead of weakness. I, too, started letting Mariah teach me, breathing long and slow breaths with her as Steph had done. A powerful new understanding began to emerge and take root.

Here at the ranch, I’ve known for years that the horses are insistent on giving to us. They are determined to offer us deep healing, and don’t take kindly to clients, nor to myself, when we try to fix them. One very friendly horse, Kaheka, abruptly walked away when one guest reached out her hand to energetically fix and heal.

The healing they offer is often wrapped in symbolism and metaphors that require interpretation. Mariah’s breathing appeared as a problem and a weakness to most humans, then Steph instantly decoded what was presented to her and she received it, then passed it along to me and others with a recorded version.

After Mariah literally breathed life and transformation into human beings, it was her turn to receive but not in the way one would expect. A few days after Steph had been here, Mystic Mariah went through a healing crisis. I at first was ready to call a vet but Mariah interrupted swiftly and spoke firmly that what she was experiencing was a good thing, a healing was taking place. I felt it to be true without question.

After Mariah’s message, I felt strongly grounded with a new sense of courage and boldness in embracing her healing. Twenty-five years of equine mentoring, coaching, and hardcore training converged in that moment. Internal arrows darted through my mind in a review of the many lessons from my equine mentors over time, reminding me and connecting me with all they had taught me regarding healing. I was most certainly taking a master exam for my doctorate in mystical living in the trenches, I say laughingly but with some seriousness. For that very day I had been prepared par excellence by the equine teachers.

I had been shown that doubts, and the very act of seeking proof would chase manifestation away. I was able to easily reject my inclination to do so this time, but a remnant of doubt caused me to struggle with trying not to listen to Mariah’s breathing for fear that I would be disappointed. Mariah interrupted again quickly and succinctly informing me that neither audible nor quiet breathing were the proof of whether or not she was healed. The healing took place in another dimension unscathed by whether there was manifestation or not. Freedom rushed over me in refreshment like a clear mountain brook bouncing lightheartedly over rocks. It quenched my thirst for something more. I could listen to her breathe and make no judgment, and stand simply and firmly in her healing.

That being said, after many weeks I have noticed that Mariah’s breath has softened…not always, but mostly. A few days ago when her breath was especially quiet, we put our nostrils together and I breathed in the sweetness of her pure and gentle breath.

She and the herd reminded me that healing comes with our receiving what they offer us. Our healing and theirs. Steph was able to receive from Mariah. Others, myself included, had not seen past her weakness or her problem..noisy breathing.

Steph started the cycle of healing by receiving from Mariah, and then sharing with others. Then healing came back around to Mariah. For years I have been experiencing this cycle of healing with horses once they brought me to the place of simply receiving from them.

This is the equine art of healing.

The Missing Chunk: A Mystery

(click on drawing for photos)    

Over two weeks ago I had a head cold, the first in many years. It lodged in my middle ears and wouldn’t budge as if everything had turned to hardened cement. Mostly, I could hear only my own breathing and my heart swooshing its steady rhythm in my head. It seemed I was being held prisoner against my will, being slowly swallowed up into a dark cavern and missing out on a big chunk of life.

This went on for 2 1/2 weeks and a doctor’s visit brought mixed reviews! My hearing loss though severe was not permanent, what a relief! However, it would take 6-8 weeks to recover. Aaaaaurgh!

The morning after the doctor’s visit, everything changed. With a spontaneous comment I made to a friend, “I just want to live my life,” a small ray of light suddenly burst into a living stream, full and rich, as an intriguing memory popped simultaneously into my head. It was a reminder of a favorite moment a few years ago when I had done a festive table setting at the barn and invited friends who were close to my heart. More memories trailered like a slideshow of table settings I had done through the years. I suddenly knew what was truly the missing chunk in my life.

I had abandoned it a few years ago. I love creating ambience, and one of the things in particular that I enjoy doing are table settings sometimes in unexpected places. It brings me a childlike joy. I had let life’s pressures crowd it out. But, I thought, I can change that now. Easily. And reunite with friends, both old and new, playfully preparing settings in happy anticipation of those reunions.

One of those friends, not knowing my latest insight, said in response to my hearing loss, “Did your hearing diminish because you weren’t hearing enough of what you wanted?” I laughed with the unexpected twist.

She was right. My hearing improved significantly the same day I “heard” what I wanted and loved. What a metaphor I’d been living. Literally not hearing when I wasn’t hearing!

I’ve been surprised by what has followed. This desire has become a significant portal for rest of my life’s story that has been stalled just like Tal with his ongoing laminitis. It has brought together the individual parts of a larger vision I’ve carried for years.

I am ready to enter the final and most fulfilling season of my life walking side by side with my herd of six horses and companion dog, the nature that surrounds, heartfelt art, friends and family I love, and the abundance of humans who care to skip along hand, hoof and paw with us. I’ve found what was missing. It was so easy to overlook but so delightful to fix. It is an important doorway into the expansiveness of the rest of my life.

Stepping Out of the Shadows


Troubled
Tal wasn’t doing well again. The whole story is for another time. His feet were uncomfortable and just as happened last year, I had come to a dead end not knowing what to do because both conventional and non-conventional efforts weren’t working once again. I checked in on him and reassured him, letting him know I was going for a walk which is the best time for me to hear what guidance is being offered. Gently stroking his face, I whispered that I would come back soon to be with him.

The Walk
I spent time taking in the beauty of the redwoods and the waving grasses, breathing the spring air, and feeling… well, not joy exactly, but feeling a sense that I was on track no matter how uncomfortable. I pondered my life, the difficult but solid decisions I’d been making recently, and the new changes taking place. I thought about my journey with Tal a year ago when my changes brought improvement in his condition.[Journey Into Surrender, Parts 1-7] I observed how in some ways the situation seemed the same again this year. However, in truth it was completely different because of what I now understood, and because of a growing inner confidence in my spiritual path.

When I finally headed back to the barn still not knowing what to do for Tal, I felt a heaviness encroaching and pushing away the quiet I had been feeling on my meditative walk. He seemed to be getting worse. I was losing the deep connection with him in the past couple of days. He had withdrawn into a cavern after some very joyful times in the last few weeks as we’ve traversed these new paths together through the laminitis dilemma. [Goofy Mariah: Divine Comedienne]

Not Knowing
I embraced my “not knowing” rather than fighting it. The feeling was relief. The new ways of responding to physical problems were surfacing in strength in me as traditional and alternative approaches were losing their foothold. For strange yet ultimately wonderful reasons they had become ineffective unless I was given specific guidance. These are the kinds of circumstances when many animals are put down, and in my fearful times I’d wondered about Tal. But he pressed on with me. He was my shaman teacher uncovering and honing gifts I didn’t know I had. Lessons over the years were beginning to merge with the ones I was learning of late.

The Message
I continued to walk to the barn in silence. Then the words came, “Do your art. Sit with Tal and draw him.” Friends of mine and those of you who have followed my blog know this mantra. This was not a new concept for me, just repetitive because I keep forgetting. 

Lessons From the Past
Years ago I was being prepared for this time in my life. I rescued a sick horse, Mano, who was never able to recover but the lessons I learned during that time keep coming like the waving grasses during this time when I’m finally ready to trust them. They are collected in my inner sacred place, recorded in an ancient book of wisdom with crinkled parchment curled on the edges and stained with age. The imprinted lessons glow in the warmth of heavenly candlelight inviting me to remember once again. This time it is with well-seasoned understandings.

When I was caring for Mano in those years gone by, I was getting a deep inkling that drawing him would somehow help his healing, I tried but the results weren’t instant enough for an immature self, nor was I as comfortable with drawing at that time, and it went by the wayside, filed somewhere in back chapters of that divine book of lessons.

Synchronicity
Arriving at the barn, I had my clear instructions. Grabbing my well worn barn stool, and my art tools, I sat down to draw Tal. He was very restless, moving his weight from one hoof to the next and kept turning to look at me. As I was sketching him, I was surprised by his next movement. He awkwardly maneuvered his body around and shuffled his way to be near me where his head could touch my shoulder. Such affection touched my spirit.

After doing a quick composite of him, I felt he wanted more contact from me so I laid aside my drawing, and spent time brushing him, cleaning his feet, and a lot of time combing his thick white tail. He grew quiet. Very quiet. I knew this was working.

During this interaction I had offered him a couple of homeopathic remedies which he usually takes, but today he told me that he didn’t want them because “you are my remedy” he had said.

So, quiet he became, and more relaxed. After a time of peaceful rest he decided to move out of the stall and eat some grass hay. Hope quickened within me. While slow at first, he began walking more effortlessly.

Throughout the day he continued to improve and when I returned to the barn in the early evening, he and Dollar were diligently massaging each other’s withers as they stood with the fence between them. I stopped in a hush, smiling all the way to my toes, not wanting to disturb this beautiful and long awaited interaction between Tal and his sometimes buddy, and sometimes rival. A significant indicator of Tal’s dramatic improvement.

Divine Flow
What made the difference in his dramatic improvement in one day? I’m not sure, I’m still learning. Perhaps it was all of it, going with the divine flow, and starting with the drawing for sure was important as per instructions, and certainly the mutual activation of love between us, and not to overlook the magic of touch in the grooming, and the tail combing.

Tal was right he didn’t need his homeopathic remedies that day. His remedy came in the new way that is unfolding with us here at the ranch as he teaches me and prods me to step out of the shadows of my self limitations and fears into the joy of life as it was meant to be lived.

Journey Into Surrender, Part 7: Perhaps It’s Not Surrender After All

    watercolor by sylvia smith 

The Shift

The day I changed my life, Tal started getting well.

Moments after finishing this post which has been a struggle for me to write, I looked out into the pasture from my second-story barn studio. Tal was standing up the hill about the distance of a long city block away from me. It was the closing of the day and the sun was getting drowsy but still had one last beam left as it was nodding off to sleep. It just happened to be cast across the pasture like a spotlight on Tal as he was happily grazing. The white in his coat shown so brilliantly against the soft golden background, I actually squinted my eyes. He seemed to be glowing from within, or perhaps angels had tiptoed into the pasture while I was writing, and secretly dusted him with luminous magic from their own world.

Wisdom From the Four-Legged Shaman
For months, the youngest in the herd but not in spirit, Tal, had suffered laminitis with conventional and alternative treatments not working. Undaunted, he had been giving me spiritual tools all along but as I tried to use them, I fumbled again and again without understanding. He had continuously told me to go to the homeplace spiritually. For the most part I was able to do it with a degree of comfort having experienced it for years when I allow myself to linger in a good feeling that feels like coming home within, but little did I know that this time, he meant literally as well.

Secondly, he said to embrace my heart desires. I had been swinging like a pendulum to extremes. He spoke firmly that I was to embrace, not suppress, nor on the opposite swing to “let go” in some kind of smug and pious surrender. My desires were to be accessible, free flowing, fulfilling, a natural expression of who I am, and to be shared. There was an urgency about it.

And the third thing, baffling to me at the time, he emphasized, simultaneously and with the same sense of timeliness, to become acquainted with my divine self. I could speak the language, but he was calling me to something more.

I had clumsily tried to take to heart each one of Tal’s directives individually with limited results. Naively trying to explore them separately, I hadn’t realized that all three were an integral part of one another. I ultimately discovered that those deep heart desires, and those transcendent, other-worldly feelings of the homeplace that Tal had repetitively nudged in my direction, were in fact expressions and experiences of my divine self.  All along I had been acquainted but hadn’t known it.

The Underground Labyrinth
It is now that I’m seeing the wisdom of it all. This has been a very calculated and organized learning process. From my vantage point at the time, however, I felt as though I was in a tortuous and chaotic underground labyrinth trying to find my way out but seemingly circling back to where I’d started. There were hints and clues along the way that didn’t seem significant at the time, but deep down I knew they were. I would put them in my mental carrying bag only to have them fall somewhere to the bottom out of sight and no longer useful to me.

My goal was to find my way out of the dark and endless underground maze. I had thought, feeling quite noble about my task, that the way out was by solving Tal’s continuing laminitis. To do that I needed to find the right whatever it was.

While all this was going on underground, strangely I was watching myself in this dilemma from a place of numbness above. I seemed to be out of my body hovering as I watched matter-of-factly my endless struggle day after day with Tal’s physical condition and my efforts to reconcile it with a multitude of spiritual shifts. I knew I had a choice and would ultimately make it, but didn’t yet know what it was. I observed myself grabbing incessantly at each possibility that might be the answer to Tal’s ongoing physical issue, but nothing provided the healing I longed for us to experience.

Finding the Way Home
One day I finally got it. It wasn’t about Tal. It was not about finding the solution for him. It was about me. I hadn’t been able to understand Tal’s directives to me because of my own entrenchments. I’d been giving myself away to friends I cared about because I wanted so much to accommodate them. This meant my life had become fragmented, and that was depriving me of my lifeblood which is being with the horses and being with nature, and as I was to finally learn, being with my divine self. The time had come.

Unknowingly, the door opened for me to finally recognize that other self. It happened after I met head on with this lifestyle that I had been living the past two years trying desperately and innocently to make conflicting aspects of my life work together. In my frustration, I had been slowly, and without awareness, detaching from what was meaningful to me in my everyday life in order to make other parts of my life work and to accommodate those I love. I was becoming lost to myself and living in a somewhat sedated emotional hell as I searched for the wrong solution and overlooked the underlying problem which was the abandonment of my divine self.

On that day, something finally clicked for me and I decided then and there to fulfill the cry of my heart by rearranging my life. That I did. In the middle of an accommodating “commitment” to a dear friend, I literally turned the car around and drove home. The moment I made the decision, I felt a sense of peace and inner strength well up inside of me. On my trip homeward, I noticed I was free of the rigid body that had become the norm for me in these past months as I was racked by concern for Tal. Instead I felt a deep knowing within that he would be all right. I drove home peacefully with all the unsettling voices and noises of this long journey at last quiet. I was headed home both literally and in my heart.

I was not disappointed. As I drove to the barn, Tal was standing straight and tall as if a burden had been lifted, holding his chest out and his head high over the fence with intense interest in what was going on in the rest of the world. He had suddenly come out of himself as I had come into mine. That was the beginning of Tal’s dramatic and ongoing healing. Everyday from then on his improvements were the background music for the dance of my heart,… and his.

When I made the choice to listen to and live my heart’s desires, I no longer had to ask Tal how to get to know my divine self. She had been there all along, I had just forgotten while courting ego remnants. When I reconnected with the lifestyle that works for me or rather, I should say, the lifestyle that works for her, there she was waiting, and what a beautiful reunion. I finally understood what it meant to embrace desire. It was the luring voice of my divine self calling me to my homeplace. Those seemingly fragmented messages that Tal had been giving me for weeks, came together in an implosion that lifted me out of the cold and dank labyrinth of hopeless despair and placed me in a pulsating and rich adventure of my unfolding life mystery.

With Tal’s immediate shift in health, I could never have predicted that the weeks and even months of agony would be so quickly reversed by one important action which became the culmination of a very long journey, and the beginning of a new. Instead of anguish, I now feel joy when I come to the barn. I see him watching for me, and responding to my call. And I watch for him. Each day Tal has improved noticeably. He is finally moving more fluently, eating well, staying at a good weight, and very alert. He is full of lighthearted playfulness, often throwing his large, black Roman head in a carefree figure eight with its own symbolism I haven’t yet pursued. It’s as if he is simply saying, “Let’s get on with it. I’m ready to take flight. Are ya comin’?”

After finding my way home,I started having involuntary experiences of recalling my past, mostly pleasant, but not all. They washed over me unsolicited and uninhibited.  For days I lived in a nostalgic state, and still do, a profusion of memories surfacing out of my control. Memories that came as snapshot flashes, only glimpses but with strong feelings that seemed more important than the actual event. Most feelings were now familiar to me as that comfortable homeplace that Tal had continued to encourage nonstop through these grueling weeks. Memories that were spiritual but I hadn’t recognized as such when I was younger were now linking past with present. Memories that held beautiful feelings but created pain because of loss now became alive with reconnection. I had been experiencing my divine self for years and had not realized it, and now with the remembering, my feelings were finding their home as past and present merged and integrated.

Honeymoon
The honeymoon had started. I was having a reunion with my childhood flame, my divine self. The feelings of contentment, peace, joy greeted me each day. I thrilled at dappled sunlight, the cry of the red tail hawk, the struggling pink dahlia in my garden, the reflection in my front door window of white daisies, wild dandelions and fluttering butterflies, and with Tal as he continued to come more fully into health.

Perhaps it wasn’t surrender after all. Perhaps it was the sweetness of embrace. Putting arms and heart around that which has always been there.

In the midst of my being immersed in a soft euphoria, this poem arrived in my mailbox from a friend who I’m sure has been smuggled into my life by celestial beings to be my patron saint. What she brought to me through the words of Mary Oliver could have been my whole blog post, punctuated only by “and Tal started getting well!”

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!
each voice cried
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left the voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Mary Oliver

Journey Into Surrender, Parts 1-7