My Love Affair with Amoura

There is a special bond between us—Amoura and me. I’m not finding words easily to describe the feeling we share. The way she looks at me and watches me, the way she humbly responds after throwing her head violently because an unexpected movement triggered past abuse. She lowers her head and her eyes shamefully for having given into her past. I reassure her and she responds. Her prior owner often slugged her in the head, a memory not easy to overcome.

Lately I have been talking softly to her, “Shhhh, it’s okay, you are safe.” She quiets and looks at me with big dark eyes and seems to melt. We melt together into a new trust that has become a thriving seedling. The inside connection is powerful. An experience of love. Amour. That is who she is and who we are together.

Amoura came to the ranch a few years ago, and the closest she would allow me was about 10 feet if that, any closer she would pin her ears. Seriously. One time she charged me, but I instinctively and instantly threw my arms straight out like wings that looked like a wooden beam to her, and I simultaneously stepped directly toward her, which quickly quelled her aggressive attempt. There was such vulnerability underneath her facade, so much fear.

The evening of her arrival at the ranch, I could hear her tummy from afar making all kinds of gurgling noises, and I knew it was a form of colic from stress. She had been raised alone on one ranch for many years and now in her upper teens had been moved for the first time. I could understand her anxiety. A different location, a new home, other horses, dried grasses instead of year around green, and the unpredictability of a new human.

I hung my body over the old wooden gate and put my hands up with palms softly outward toward her using the reiki my first horse taught me. Amoura and I were both surprised as her gut grew quiet. Right then and there she decided I wasn’t so bad after all and edged over closer to me still on the other side of the gate. Eventually she pushed her rear against the dilapidated fence nearby somehow intuiting that I was a human who loved massaging equine tails and rear ends.

I went to work cautiously and well-armoured with gratitude that there was a fence between us. Those back legs were too fast for my comfort and had a keen and swift edge like a recently sharpened knife that could quickly slice through any obstacle, getting the job done in a moment. This was not a time for me to be reckless.

To be able to touch her from a position of safety was a treat. It was her first step in trusting me. It was definitely not instant calm, but it was a start. I still needed to approach her with caution, with the intention of stopping before she pinned her ears, hoping to ease her out of that reflexive habit.

Her name was Babe when she arrived. There was no way I could call her that. The thought of it hung up in the back of my throat like a fish hook. It must have been a rude cowboy that named her. It was a cheap name for this horse who is flavored with elegance in her sturdy quarter horse body and certainly in spirit. Even though she’s a challenge because of human violations, I sensed a spiritual depth still being uncovered.

Amoura brought me her new name. It was night time again; seems to be when the magic kicks in with the horses and me. Daily chores done, horses all fed, and time to relax under the stars. I was standing near another mare who was in the final stages of her life. A friend I respected had mentioned to me that this mare, Carob, had a deep love for me. The words sounded alien to me. At that time in my life I didn’t expect the horses to love me, nor did it occur to me that they might. I did my job with feeding and caring for them and assumed any affection was related to what I gave to them. That was it. Neat and tidy with no expectations. And of course, no disappointments nor vulnerabilities. And besides, Carob really belonged to my friend who was my partner with the horses. The two of them had a very deep connection. A love relationship for Carob and me was not even a consideration at that time, as if love is rationed.

I learned differently from Carob. She genuinely loved me even in her awkward and often aloof way of letting me know. She was not an overly affectionate horse, preferring not to be touched because of her extreme sensitivity to the carelessness of human energy. She would offer me a quick affirming nudge with her head then just as quickly return to her personal space. She would stand near but not touching while I did an oil painting, hang her head over me while I sat and wrote, and like a housemaid wiping her dishwater hands on her apron, then placing her hands on her hips she marched across the pasture to scold the new and contentious horses to get with it on my behalf. They were all cues I had missed because she was a tough broad. No cuddling with Carob.

With stars blinking their own rhythms above, I stood with Carob near the fence separating us from the adjacent pasture. I was deeply engaged in conversation with her, acknowledging her love and telling her that I received it even though I wasn’t sure how, nor how it might feel. As we stood side by side not touching, I felt something nibble on my outside elbow. I turned to look and there was Amoura with her head stretched well across the fence, just barely able to touch my elbow. There was a definite purpose in her action; no coincidence here. I was intrigued by her gesture and her timing, though slightly confused by the distraction during such an intimate moment with Carob. But Amoura’s message came through immediately. Her name was Amoura and she and Carob were sandwiching me in love. This moment was bursting forth from the heart of the Divine. There was not just one, but now two offering me love in the language of horses.

When Carob died the following week, I understood there had been an important exchange between Amoura and Carob that magical night. Amoura had accepted the torch of love from Carob to carry on with me and the lessons of love.

Over the years I lost the consciousness of that divine encounter; but Amoura had not forgotten. From time to time I would wonder how a horse embodying love was so challenging that I didn’t trust her. But, through the years she has moved in close to me like an unseen angel when I was going through an emotional or spiritual transition or crisis. Even today, she will silently slip in behind me without my knowing. When I’m not aware and think I am alone, there is a very gentle nibbling on my hair out of nowhere. I smile knowingly when I discover it is Amoura. Her quiet touch brushes my soul with tenderness.

Her lameness has come and gone since a trailer incident 5 or 6 years ago, but in the past few months, it has become more obvious and acts like it has burrowed in for good. I cannot find the source of her discomfort, but once I let go of the conventional approach with questions and treatments which I usually pursue unsuccessfully, I am reminded of what I have learned from the horses over the 25 years together. They have taught me that equine issues that they present to me are solved only by approaching it spiritually so it is best to get on with it. That is what the two of us are doing. Her lameness has lured me back into her spiritual world after months of personal distractions.

We are back on the journey into love. Almost a year ago I began wondering about love. I’d always believed I was easy to love (right!), and that I loved easily having been raised in a loving home. But, at that moment a new thought rushed in. I suspect Amoura was whispering a divine message through the trees nearby. What if my perceptions were amiss? What if what I think is love, isn’t? What if the majority of us don’t know but think we do? If we haven’t experienced the truth of love, we have no standard by which to compare what we think is love. We toss the word around so loosely, sometimes so carelessly. What new and expansive sacred world awaits our discovery? These thoughts were more than I could deal with at the time. I set them on the back burner to percolate until the right time. In hobbles Amoura. Her lameness is a love lure. I am curious what she, a damaged and a most unlikely candidate as a carrier for love, will bring and where she will lead. She, the one horse I don’t fully trust, is the chosen one to bring me the most important experience of life, authentic love. When I receive from her, she too will heal. Please join us on this journey into love.

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In the Midst of the Mess

IMG_7188                                           Dollar’s Sign

(This one is for you, Patricia, patriciajgrace.wordpress.com, whose comments on my last post inspired me to venture out and write about myself in the midst of my mess, instead of waiting until it is all cleaned up. And also thanks to In Other’s Words, inotherswords.com, Paper Dolls who speaks of the smiling facade some of us carry when we are dying inside. I’m trying it out. Exposing it, I mean. We’ll see.)

I am overdrawn at the bank. I have 5 cents in my pocket and a partly buried penny on the ground near where my car is parked. My gas tank has a whisper of fuel left, my muddy pasture clothes need to be washed at the laundramat or by hand. I just gathered some food from a local charity. When my social security check is deposited soon, my hungry bank account will gobble it right up. Gone. I have 5 horses, one big dog, and myself to provide for.

So how has it come to this? I’m a middle class, college educated, multi-talented and supposedly wise older woman. How could this be happening to me when I have been so diligent on my spiritual journey with the horses? There are those that know me that will smugly smile that I have failed, at least in their way of thinking, and in so doing I have proven them right. “I told ya so!” are those voices that taunt and haunt.  “Get rid of the horses.” has been their mantra. There are others who have issues with me that will feel a sense of pride or pleasure at my demise. I cringe, but I toss my head and keep on going.

I live in Northern California where we’ve been having a drought that has recently mutated into continuous rain. “Enough!” I scream, “Eeee nufff! “We need it,” those around me say. “We don’t need it all it once,” I snarl. It turns into run off and causes mudslides in the next county already tormented by a catastrophic fire where they lost many homes. “Balance! Moderation!” But the earth is groaning and the sky above is weeping, and I’m going ballastic

Closer to home, my horses’ pasture is a lake with bits of mud surfacing like bullfrog heads but without the humor. Not good for their hooves. And there is no shelter except trees which they don’t seem to use. They do their horsey thing…stand together, turn their butts to the storm, and drop their heads all looking very woeful. It wrenches my heart. When I come they greet me like hungry children and eat like crazy when the dry food arrives. They always have plenty of hay (I free feed 24/7), but the wet and mud waste it. The compost pile in their gut helps keep them warm a vet once told me.

When the sun occasionally bolts its way through the clouds, they lie down and catch up on rest.

IMG_7187                                                        Mariah’s Nap in the Sun

Perhaps it is a metaphor for my life…being in the midst of an endless storm, or maybe the metaphor is prophetic and that my financial drought will turn into an “abundance” storm! Wouldn’t that be nice!  In the meantime, I’ve been angry. Quite angry but it seems not to help. I am allowing it for the time being. Almost exactly a year ago to the day, I lost a lucrative job that I loved and that had easily come my way along with a place to live.  For some reason I have not been able to recover financially, nor find a proper place for myself and the horses. I am baffled.

But underneath all of this, there is a steady and determined drum beat just like the pounding of the rain. Step by step I am finding my way to my calling with the horses which I started 5 or 6 years ago when my landlady forced my horses and me to leave her land because she didn’t want me to do a business there…and she thought I was. I wandered in the wilderness for awhile in search of the promised land.  When I step back and look at my life today I’m watching a movie reminiscent of a Star Wars battle. I’m at the climax where the movie gets good if you are only a viewer and it is not your life. The suspense and the tension is immense. The adrenaline rushes, knuckles turn white, breathing quickens or stops altogether. I will either sink or swim, crash, or avert it at the last minute.

I have been taking huge leaps with practical and productive help from very talented people. They are guiding me in what I don’t do well.  They are teaching me how to market myself and what the horses and I can offer those that want to find respite from the chaos and pain of the world, or to do some deeper work finding purpose and uncovering gifts, healing abuse or addictions, or awakening to the mystical path led by the horses.

However, yesterday I awakened in despair. Even though I am engaged in very tangible and bold movements toward my goal of offering the healing the horses bring, in my fear and financial lack I decided that it was too late to bridge the gap through the transition. I needed to re-home my 5 horses immediately. All of them are horses I’ve rescued, and horses I’ve been traveling with and growing with for years. I cried all the way to the pasture and feared that I, a very determined survivor, was about to have a break down as I did years ago when tears seemed to flow like a leaky faucet because of a worn out washer. This time though, it is just when my life has been getting on track with a facebook page, business cards, and brochures all heading me toward my heart’s desire; and now it was coming to an abrupt halt. My mind was made up. I’ve had a year of hell, and that is enough. I drove the 3 miles to the pasture with no embarrassment that tears were streaming down my cheeks.

Nearing my destination, I started blinking my eyes to clear away the tears as I turned my car onto the lane heading toward the horse pasture. Ahead, I saw a vehicle parked in my driveway to the pasture. Unusual. I didn’t recognize the older and pale yellow Mercedes with seashells glued as a circular emblem on the driver’s side door. As I pulled up, two women happily greeted me showing no shame or guilt for being in the driveway. Not that I thought they should feel that but often people do. It was refreshing that they didn’t. Instead they were absorbed in excitement to have found the horses and were having such childlike delight in feeding them apples and carrots. One was a physically challenged young woman with a brace on one leg, and the other was her companion caregiver. Their radiance encircled and captured me bringing me into their joy. My tears changed to sweet honey from deep within me. I was being touched by magic…as were they. For me, they were God-given angels who had come to remind me of who the horses are and what my calling is with them. This was one of those mystical moments that is difficult to describe. A remembrance, a gentle humbling, a knowing, a transformational moment. I won’t be the same. I cannot be the same.

I knew then what I must do. Without question the horses are not to go, but we are to move forward. Together. Where the money will come from during my transition, I have no idea, but the horses and I are not to separate again.

My financial circumstances have not changed, but the rest of my life has. I seem to be split equally into two parts as the metamorphosis is taking place, the new and the old at the same time, the hope and the fear, the joy and the despair, the confident and the victim. I seem to be dwelling in both. Right now anyway, I’m like a ship changing its coarse in the dark waters. A new direction. I’m rooting for the new, the hope, the joy, the confidence. I want to dance and freely flutter like the butterfly freed from it’s cocoon!

 

The Bully

Chaos. The new and the old. Storming wildly, each claiming its ownership in battle. The bully now stands naked. Weakening but still standing. Still able to stun and paralyze. But after a lifetime of not seeing, my vision is beginning to clear.The internal bully has been asked to get off the couch, dump out its beer and leave.

In desperation it called in its buddies. Suddenly they were appearing from everywhere, the external bullies in full force in new and in familiar human faces. But still the same facade. Whether shaming, scolding, falsely blaming, scapegoating, acting superior, or retaliating, it is called by the same name. The bully.

My voice has been silent and weak. But as the morning light appears, it stretches, and makes small murmurings. It is awakening to this bully that has held me hostage since infancy. Power words are starting to form, speaking the truth, standing tall in the truth even when body is trembling. The ‘nice person’ image that has been my cowering place, is crumbling away. The new, the genuine, the spontaneous rebel is emerging.

Conversations: Mucking Break

charcoal drawing by bev
I was mucking manure near Apolinaire. I accidentally hooked his big nostril with my little pinkie as I was whirling around too quickly with a fork full of manure for the cart. He seemed a bit offended, or maybe just startled out of his sleep. I apologized profusely and tried to kiss his soft muzzle. He pulled away. Such a typical response from him. He told me he didn’t like me making over him like that. I asked why. He said because there are more important things to be taking care of… I understood that to mean in the spiritual realm. I was patronizing him. That was wasting time being inauthentic. We have other work to be doing, he said. I got his point. Time is of the essence.

Journey into Surrender, Part 1: Joining Up

charcoal drawing by bev

It was night. I was standing under a cozy coverlet of stars, but deep inside of me I was feeling blanketless, empty, and hollow. There was a peaceful quality to it however, even though I was drawing a blank in knowing what to do next after trying so many things all seeming to fail.  Tal had developed another case of sore feet. This was the 3rd time. (Day Three. Zigzagging With Realities, Expression of the Divine, Parts 1-7)  I had known this might happen again, but had hoped it wouldn’t. The last two times he’d had such dramatic recoveries. But for now, another layer is being addressed. As was so the first time around, there was still a correlation with my blog writing, his getting worse when I would hoard the stories and let days go by without writing. Perhaps we both were subject to the same energies that would hinder flow. He also continued his mantra in which he continuously reminded me to “Go to the homeplace,” that quiet, peaceful place I had been learning to experience.

Tal was leading me daily in step by step insights that were expanding my spiritual vision, each one building upon the prior one. He had brought me to where I was this night. But in spite of all that, I was confused. While I was progressing in the spiritual realm, Tal was remaining the same physically in spite of the remedies I had given.

Before this round of sore feet, he had initiated a conversation with me about hoarding desire, and hoarding the expression of my authentic or divine self (Hoarding Desire). He encouraged me to get acquainted with my divine self (Reflection in the Fiery Sunset) and I had been practicing surrendering with wonderful results.

Tonight in the darkness, I was barely able to see that there were horses stationed along the fence on 3 sides of the paddock area where Tal was hanging out. They were mere wisps as I grabbed quick glimpses out of the corner of my eye, taking me back to my childhood memories of the poem, “Seein’ Things,” by Eugene Field, that speaks of seein’ things at night.

The 4th side of the paddock was the barn, and inside was a cat with her own remarkable story of physical healing. In my typical and unreasonable expectation of the worst, I thought the animals had all gathered because Tal was going to die. They must be paying their last respects, I had thought, and went into the whole scenario of his death, feeling grateful to the animals for their participation in his departure. Later, thankfully, I was given a different perspective.

Two of the horses were playing with each other like two kids in the back of a classroom during a boring history lesson. I recognized one as Mariah by the white blaze on her face reflecting what little light stretched outward from the barn. I had just been thinking about a “buddy” horse for Tal for the night, even though he tends to be a loner. Mariah’s name had come to mind, and there she was only a few feet from the gate. In a magical moment of surrender to my divine self, I asked Mariah if she would like to come and stay with Tal. Before I finished my sentence she was moving like the flow of a creek and headed directly for the gate. I opened it, and in one easy movement, stepped aside, and she walked in. It was an experience of beauty and rhythm. Comfortable, easy, fun, and fast!

Mariah, who is Apolinaire’s female partner and sometimes Dollar’s, has a tender place in her heart for socially awkward Tal though he doesn’t always reciprocate. He’s a bit gruff, not quite knowing what to do with her friendly overtures, but secretly he holds a shy smile. I thought she was a good choice to be with him this particular night. But after letting her in, the accusing voices in my head started their taunt and I began to second guess myself, worried that she might be pushy with Tal and force him off balance as he tried to re-established his dominance over her. I caught myself before the mental interference took full control, and decided to trust the graceful moment when she came in. I was so glad for her company with him.

While still slightly unsettled about my “not knowing,” I called my friend and told her that I didn’t know what to do about Tal. I felt peaceful and not frantic but there was no guidance. I was blank. Nothing. Nor did I feel that anyone else knew what to do, there was no answer. She asked if I had gone to the herd? Had I listened to them? No. I hadn’t even thought of it so narrow was my focus. I then described their interesting placement surrounding Tal’s paddock area. I mentioned Mariah’s fluid movement to the gate in sync with my thought about her coming in.

As I talked, I suddenly had a revelation which started a process of “waking up”. I realized that I had unknowingly acted on guidance by inviting Mariah into the paddock, and that the horses had been there not only for Tal, but also for me. They had been there doing their work. At that moment I saw what they were offering, and what Lolita, the cat was offering as she stayed close to me. She had been hanging out with Tal and walking around his feet, gifting him with some of her own healing. As clarity replaced my foggy vision, I felt the vastness of the influence and power of these animals right here in my backyard, and I felt their delight in my allowing it, as recognition poured into my soul. I knew finally, that it wasn’t up to me. They were only waiting for me to let go.

Lolita, the cat, sat on a stool next to me as I held the phone to my ear and described my transformation process to my friend as it was unfolding. I looked at Lolita through spiritual eyes that had just been washed, and in that other world I saw her as a prime character in our allegorical story. She stood on her two back feet as if human, and wore a maroon-red beret. Her large smile was salted with mischievousness, and a twinkle in her eye indicated she had lots more under her hat! In human terms, she’d be classified as a type A personality. A mover and shaker. During those moments that I was breaking free of my cocoon, she emerged and was prancing and delighted to take charge! When I surrendered to my divine self, I was brought back into harmony with the others,… the horses, and all of nature, and into the expansiveness of the universe. A true joining up. I suddenly felt safe, and transformed, that every cell of my body had changed, that my genes had changed. The work had been done, I could not go back. I realized that Mariah was with Tal for more than just company. Her role was spiritual but I didn’t yet know how and still don’t. But, all was well, Tal would be alright.

With my surrender, I had gotten out of the way. I was told by them to go back to the cabin, to eat some dinner and write the story about Tal. I did.

Forward to    Part 2   Part 3   Part 4

Hoarding Desire

photo by chandra smith

Tonight Tal, our 4-legged shaman, stayed near me while I worked. I knew we still had more to accomplish together. Last night when I was talking to my friend, she mentioned something about finally accepting who she truly is. This immediately resonated with me like a harmonious chord on a harp. Tal told me that was the missing part of the equation between us. I had been focusing completely on knowing who he was as a spiritual being and had shut the door on my role with him…not the one that had wanted to be a fix it lady, but the authentic woman. 

After Tal’s jubilant ending to his prior laminitis episode with joyful play in the pasture, Tal took me to the next step. He told me it was time to work again on hoarding. For him, it was holding on to weight. For me, it had been my holding on and not sharing the horses’ stories.

Tal started to talk. He told me I was still hoarding. I told him I didn’t think so because I was in fact writing the horse stories as had been the issue he’d brought to my attention months ago. I was unprepared for his response. He said I was hoarding myself, my desires.

I had spent my time while driving to the ranch surrendering everything, letting go of everything, every desire I could think of. He said that sounded quite pious, but “You’ve always been good at letting go. You’ve been pushing away the expression of who you are.” Oh m’god. Writing that brought a rush of all kinds of emotions creating a traffic jam as they all were trying to be felt at the same time. Breathe. Let me take that in. Now replay slowly. I’ve been trying to let go of the expression of who I am.

Tal calls that kind of “letting go” working in reverse. It’s trying to let go of something that can’t be. The flip side is suppression or hoarding the expression of my authenticity. He clarified that the letting go was not to be of my divine passions, but of the pain when they have not yet manifested. “Embrace the dream, embrace your deepest heart desire, let go of the pain of not manifesting, let go of anything that says it won’t work, or that ‘I can’t have it’. Let it all flow.”

Then began a step by step process of peeling off the old, and remembering the true. Letting go of it all had seemed so righteous when in fact it was shaking a fist at the true expression of who I am.

Stayin’ on Track

After I finished my last blog post, the horses immediately gave me another message using the same ol’ tactics that I wrote about there. It made me laugh. The current story starts with my intention to go upstairs to my art studio in the barn to work on a painting, but getting sidetracked instead. I ended up pulling weeds in the pasture thinking I could conquer 40 acres in an hour’s work! Putting off my art one weed at a time, I had created quite a nice pile while my paint brushes remained quiet in the studio.

Out of the corner of my eye I noticed that Dollar, one of our quarter horses, had left the other horses who were napping nearby. He was headed in my direction.

As he got closer I realized he was walking straight for the pile of weeds that stood between the two of us. He was past the point of veering to the left or the right as a horse would normally do with an obstacle that significant. Instead he kept his eyes focused on me, and, as if oblivious to the obstruction but actually knowing full well what he was doing, he walked right through the middle of it. The weeds scattered like they were a pile of legos being sent across the living room floor by a jealous sibling.

My eyes widened, I giggled, and then said in staccato, “What are you do-ing?!” Ignoring my question, he stopped and faced me like a disgruntled parent with hands on hips dealing with an unruly child. He stared me down eye to eye, something he’s been known to do when he wants your full attention!

Finally, releasing his gaze, he took four steps to his right, lifted his tail and pooped! Ve-e-ery close! This brought me to full alert since my last post was on this very topic, Poop Talks. Considering what they had taught me in that pooping carnival which went on for many weeks, and applying it to this pageantry, I became very attuned to the sequence of actions I had just witnessed. He had walked through the weed pile, stopped for attentive eye contact, and punctuated with a poop. I got it! Perhaps mirroring my own submerged feelings of discontent, he was telling me clearly what he felt about my pulling weeds instead of heading for my art studio to continue my painting! I laughed with endeared amusement… and continued to pull weeds. Just one more here, and one over there, and a couple more, I was caught in my mundane addiction.

When another horse, Mariah, a secret suspect in the Poop Talks incident, headed in my direction and attempted to accentuate Dollar’s message with her own pile of poop nearby, I decided to pay attention. I stopped my laughing, stopped my weed pulling, and headed for the art studio.