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.

There is a Reason

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There is a reason so many people are drawn to horses even with varying degrees of fear and trembling.  Both the fear and the draw are in part due to their sheer size; but I also think their pure magnificence and spiritual presence is something quite mighty to experience at the soul level and also touches something quite mighty in the unconscious parts of the human being. And that can be a very awesome and a fearful thing.

Even without our knowing, horses may plant a healing that we might not be aware of that will manifest days, weeks, or perhaps years later. I am learning that we can accelerate the process by developing our awareness in their presence.

They are powerful beings wrapped in beauty and grace; gentle enough to walk beside us on a simple lead rope. Their spiritual strength and eternal flow of wisdom can crumble any resistances in our soul by our surrender to it in their presence.

This morning, I am on the cusp of being financially forced to re-home my 5 spiritual healing horses, just as we are coming into our power as a herd after 25 years. As I was pondering my surrender to, and acceptance of that very real possibility, I noticed that my least affectionate horse, and the most mystical, was lingering at the water trough with her head pressed as close as she could get to me near the fence. She was standing quietly, looking softly, but intensely at me with her deep brown eyes. There was a peaceful quality about her.

My memory turned my head back to the day my mom died years ago. She was many miles away when she departed, before I had a chance to go home to be with her. Mariah stepped up to me in the pasture, and presented herself as a physical and spiritual surrogate for my mom. This normally stand off-ish mare allowed me to hug her and caress her for as long as I needed. I knew I was touching my mom while tears of grief intermingled with joy and gratitude for these parting moments through Mariah.

Was it mom visiting a second time today through Mariah? I wonder that as I write.

As I moved to a different location along the fence, there was Mariah again this time with her head lifted high on the fence hovering her peacefulness and flow of wisdom over me like a shower of radiated spiritual light. “I receive,” I whispered to her not yet knowing the full impact of what is coming. “I receive.” Thank you.

No matter the outcome of the next two weeks, I felt a sense of quiet. I sat in an herb garden and watched the honey bees busy with their food gathering from a borage plant, the sweet purple flowers backlit by the sun. Coastal breezes were playing with my hair and keeping me comfortable from the heat of the day. “This is living,”I thought to myself, “It is not for sale.” I’ll always carry that surrender to it deep in my soul. This is the reason so many people are drawn to horses.

I Held His Tear in the Palm of My Hand

 

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There is a magical passageway that lies between the pastures. Dollar was standing sleepy-eyed in the heart of it.  The air there is moist and cool from the shade of a small tree that hangs over the path shrouded by bushes lining the opposite side. There is a feeling of seclusion and secrecy.

I joined him there to do some bodywork along his back where he had suffered an injury years ago. By the time I got to him, he was already in a deep, contented sleep with head lowered. I quietly hovered my hands over his mane in reiki fashion, my own rendition that I discovered with my first horse.

Dollar continued to drop his head lower and lower, his bottom lip sagging, mouth softly quivering, and occasionally licking and chewing. These are all signs of relaxation, release, and good feelings in an equine. My playful goal has always been to get his head as close to the ground as possible in a full surrender to peaceful relaxation. I’m still trying.

When Dollar awakened and lifted his head, I noticed something in the corner of his eye that appeared to be a little bit of mucous. Instinctively I wiped it away with my finger, and when I looked, a droplet of water ran down down the tip of my finger. I watched it trickle all the way down until it came to rest in the palm of my hand. It was a tear. I held it there as tears filled my own eyes. There was a purity in this moment. The tear itself was clean and clear. I looked at Dollar, searched his eyes for clues, and wondered. There was no recognition from him, no connection it seemed with the tear.

I stopped my analytical mind from stirring up tohubohu as I started to take a microscopic view of all the possible reasons for this tear. Instead, Dollar and I stayed in the quiet of the moment. I continued to hold one hand over his mane. It was a relief to let go of my need to analyze and the work of trying to understand.

Dollar and I stood close as he pressed his head into my body. Then he nuzzled his way into my cupped hand where he placed his soft, warm muzzle, and held it there for a long time as he dreamed. All the while I was being taken on a Spirit-guided journey into the depths of my soul. It was a magical time together, both of us in a trance-like state.

When he awakened again, our time of interaction was complete. We both stretched and flexed our muscles merging our spirits with earthly consciousness.

With it came a memory.

I was taken back in time to Apolinaire, my first horse and spiritual guide, who was dying. When he took his last breath and relaxed into a peaceful smile, he opened his beautiful eyes for the last time and gentle tears fell from the corner. [In Life, In Beauty, and In Death]

Six months later I stand beside Dollar immersed in the emotion of the memory. I suddenly understood whose tear had been tucked in the corner of Dollar’s eye, the tear that found its way to my palm. I understood that Apolinaire had come to me this day through Dollar.

The three of us had communed in that world-between-the-worlds while standing in the passageway between the pastures. Dollar dreamed, and I listened to secret mysteries being whispered to my heart. Apolinaire had visited, Dollar had allowed, and I was being tranformed. The tear of grief that I held in the palm of my hand became tears of healing and empowerment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In Life, In Beauty, and in Death

In Memoriam, Apolinaire
In Memoriam, Apolinaire

My first and forever horse, Apolinaire, long time leader and patriarch of the herd, the wise one, the love of my life and spiritual guide left his body recently. He was not ready to go, but his body gave out. He was 33 years old or somewhere thereabouts. It wasn’t an easy passing. He suffered as I stood near with love and pain in my heart, and squeezed droplets of water into his mouth which soothed him. After bracing against going down to the ground, he fell back on his rear without his permission and the end hovered over him, then moved in quickly. After the determined and departing gallop so common in the dying process, and with my cheering him onward to his new destination, he took his last breath and smiled peacefully. His eyes had closed in a moment of heavenly slumber and then reopened partially as a few tears trickled out of the corner and joined mine in the eternal lament of unfinished business.

We shared our love. We shared our grief of parting. Together. Not alone. I laid my body over his large body and wept, filled up with both the depths of love and sorrow. I loved and wept throughout the day.

I couldn’t get enough of his body, caressing the parts I had so loved…the perfect shape of his beautiful ears, the form from rear to hock, his beefy legs with 2 white socks in the back, his very long black tail, his perfectly formed nostrils, his kind eyes… His spirit lingered with his body for the remainder of the day…and so did I.

I’m heartbroken…lots of tears…not anguish…just deep sadness and missing him terribly yet very connected.

He was (and still is) a powerful guide. At first my life with the rest of herd died with him until he reminded that he had specially chosen each one and drawn them to the herd for the gifts they bring. We will carry on, I told them. We will continue what Apolinaire has started. I said what I was meant to say, but my heart felt lifeless.

He was buried first thing the next morning. The remaining 5 stood in formation in a corner of the pasture, facing where he had just been tucked in to his new bed. I led a memorial service, just the 5 of them and Henii, the dog. There was no singing.

Years ago I use to play the piano and sing at memorial services. I always looked forward to the part when people shared stories about their friend or loved one who had passed on. We use to laugh with tears as we lovingly remembered annoying but endearing idiosyncracies. As I stood in front of the 5 companions Apolinaire left behind, I asked them what they most remembered about Apolinaire. They all looked at me in silence with wide open eyes. Suddenly, Dollar started biting Mariah’s chest and rear end creating all kinds of havoc between the two of them during this sacred meeting. How could he act out this way?! (Said chuckling)

Dollar was speaking to my question about what he most remembered. The horse he was biting, Mariah, was Apolinaire’s lady friend who was lower in the hierarchy than Dollar but nevertheless was allowed to eat with the head guy. Dollar who is the new head guy was always aced out and couldn’t do anything to Mariah when she was being protected by Apolinaire. Mariah got the extra food that Dollar would normally have gotten…and Dollar was amusingly pissed. Their memories are so base! The humor was refreshing.

The service ended on that note. One lone robin stood on the newly formed mound where Apolinaire was laid to rest.

On Death and Dying, the Dance of Bitter and Sweet: Tribute to Winston

"remembering"

 

Making the Decision

There she stood on the other side of my gate, with her face looking peaceful, and her eyes and cheeks glistening with gentle tears. She looked especially lovely, a certain feeling of purity emanating from her that seems to come with the grieving process, and was reflected in a large bouquet of narcissus and daffodils she was holding, the first of the season. My friend and neighbor had come to tell me that she had just laid her dog, Winston, to rest. He had been failing for the past months and the time had been nearing. Last week she and her partner had dug an earth bed for him in the pasture under one of his favorite trees near the thriving beehive.

Struggling to know what was best for Winston, she had been asking him for some clarity. This morning he’d let her know that the time had come. She’d had a dream during the early morning that he was a puppy again bounding across the pasture freely and joyfully. She’d awakened knowing he’d never be able to do that again in this lifetime, and that he was asking her to release him. To help make the final decision, there were other personal and synchronous signs including a timely book by animal communicator, Penelope Smith, Animals in Spirit. I just happened to find it while cleaning that very morning all crumpled up under my bed. I’d felt an urgency to literally run it to my friend’s house, not knowing yet about her dream. Winston’s answers to her searching questions were coming in multiple ways. All the pieces had come together, and she made her decision from a place of sacred knowing. Conflicting emotions tore at her, understandably, but underlying the taunt, she knew he was asking for help. It was the right thing to do.

Memories

Winston was a special dog. A friend had said of him that he was the best dog he’d ever met. He would sometimes appear on my doorstep when his person had gone to work, and would sit on my feet when I came out to pet him. A black lab with beautiful brown eyes, he appeared and disappeared like a shadow of an angel. He’d frequently make a brief visit to the barn, offer a warm greeting for the humans, and then slip away to head back home, never one to roam on his own.

His only vice was barking at bicyclists that rode by in front of his house, and chasing them if he found a way through the gate. I always wondered what he would have done, gentle natured as he was, if he’d actually caught up with one. In the years I was privileged to know him, he captured my heart with his quiet spiritual qualities that I’ll never forget. When one of my horses was down for 7 hours and couldn’t get up, Winston came to the barn and stayed right next to her the whole time. I don’t recall him leaving to eat, drink, or to take care of other bodily functions. It was amazing. At one point his position mimicked hers. (Long Night… Into Light, Part 2)

A Generous Sprinkling of the Sweet

The horses honored his gentle spirit and mystical qualities. The week before, they had gathered ’round when preparations were being made for Winston’s final bed under the apple tree. Today they did the same when it was time for him to go.

They pressed in close to Winston and his people for one final goodbye, and then they turned and walked away led by the most unlikely horse as a leader, but the most appropriate in temperament. It was Tal, the Talisman, the one who comforts those who are grieving. No doubt reflecting his compassionate nature, he wanted to leave the humans and their dog alone for their last moments together, and whispered the suggestion to the rest of the herd. They obliged.

They walked reverently away to an adjacent pasture nearby. Then like human beings filing into their places in church pews, the 6 horses took their places standing in formation lined up side by side to pay their last tribute to Winston and to offer loving support to his people. They stood at quiet attention, and respectfully pointed their heads in Winston’s direction until all was finished and he was lovingly covered with the blanket of earth.

Shortly after, perhaps by divine design, I stepped out of my cabin across the road, during the last few minutes of their final salute. As if cued, the whole herd turned en masse with a gentle burst of energy, and spontaneously choreographed a dance up the gentle slope of the pasture with a playful step and lightness of hooves that made my heart skip along with them. No doubt they were trying to catch up with Winston as he was having a free spirited run on his way to his new world, the playful puppy again, moving freely and painlessly with the renewed exuberance of his youth. He and the horses in their pageantry in the world of the seen and the unseen offered us parting gifts of joy that make sorrowing just a little bit more bearable.

As my friend continued to share her story with me, we noticed that one horse lingered nearby the two of us. It was Tal, the Talisman, the one who always appears when a human is grieving. What a beautiful comfort. He was doing double duty this day, having spent the last few weeks hanging out close to me as I navigated through this and two other deaths in 3 months time.

A Heaping Tablespoon of the Sweet

The horses’ magical gifts continued riding the waves of grief. The next day my friend came to tell me that when she’d gone to visit Winston’s place of rest, she saw that the horses had been there ahead of her. They had left their hoof prints in plain view in the fresh soil near his bed, perhaps their own way of leaving flowers strewn about in remembrance, a comfort for her in knowing they had been there. And then in another blossoming of joy, she discovered one large hoof print carefully placed inside the fenced area around Winston’s memorial bed. (Look for it near the bottom, right of center, in the pic below). Because of the size, we suspect it was Tal’s. She felt in her spirit that the hoof had connected with Winston’s heart. It wasn’t until I downloaded my photos that I noticed that the natural outdoor shadowing, or was it the shadow of the angel, Winston, that made the one lone hoof print appear as a heart. One more taste of sweetness my friend has yet to experience.

"heart to heart"

Out To Pasture

(I just came across this letter to the editor in The Anderson Valley Advertiser (AVA), Mendocino County, California on July 28th, 2010)

To whoever accused me of being “severely neglected”—

My name is Filly and I am the equine equivalent of a 95-97-year-old woman. I know you have this beautiful image in your head of what a horse should look like: smooth muscles rippling under a glossy coat perhaps. Just strike that from your mind! Unfortunately, I am never going to look like that again.

I am a skinny, bony old lady with wrinkles, a sway back, stringy muscles and some gray hairs. But if you had taken the time to look me in the eye you would have seen the light in them that has nothing to do with pain and neglect. Maybe you did look but just couldn’t see.

I am still enjoying myself. I have a roof in winter and 75 acres of freedom and grazing during the dry season. My humans keep an eye on me to make sure I have all four legs under me and am not in pain. I am wormed and have all I can eat. Despite my arthritis, I am still quite mobile. Being skinny helps with that. I can even still manage a short canter on occasion.

I wish the general public was more aware of what a normal appearance is for a truly old horse. There once was a time when people had “horse sense,” and it was synonymous with “common sense.” That seems to be in short supply now. Having this unrealistic expectation of equine beauty for all horses is unfair. I don’t look like the horses on the cover of Horse Illustrated with their young, muscular physiques, glowing coats and lush manes and tails.

If it offends your fine sensibilities to find me in your viewshed, look somewhere else. I don’t go into your human rest homes and complain about your 95-year-old great-grandmother, so don’t come into my pasture and complain about me. I am enjoying what little time I have left to me. My human would like me to live out my days and die a peaceful, natural death if possible. As long as I have a happy expression in my eye, she says she’s not going to bump me off. My fear is that if people make too much of a stink about having to look at me, she may have to put me down.

So, please, I know you probably meant well, but give an old lady a break. You could have asked anyone who works and lives at Ferrington Vineyards about me and they could have told you I’m just ancient. I don’t want to be rushed into my grave. I may be getting senile, but I am not stupid.

Severely Old at Ferrington Vineyard

Filly (via Colleen Kobler)

PS. Oh yes, the Animal Control officer said I look pretty good for my age.

Long Night …Into Light (Part 3)

Not Today
August 19. I don’t want to write. I can’t. Carob died today. There. I said it. She died. No fluffy imageries. She died. All the stories she created have gone limp. They suddenly have no meaning, no point, no purpose. She had overcome the odds so many times, we had thought she was invincible. Not today. It was not beautiful, not lovely like the last story. No magic. Not today.

My body wrapped around her as she lay lifeless. Quiet. Her struggle was over. Relief. Stillness. I was stunned. No tears. Not yet. This was not the way it was supposed to end. I lay there with my head pressed into her middle, her body still warm. I felt her breathing, but she wasn’t, but I felt it. It was sweet, peaceful, soothing. But she wasn’t breathing. I could feel it. I did. She moved. No. She didn’t. She did. I felt her. I let myself feel her. I let go and felt, no more resisting. It was real. At last! I was free to feel her breath, her movement, to believe, to be with her, to breathe with her, to ride with her as she made her departure. It was real.

I stroked her beautiful face, the curve of her nostrils, the shape of her mouth. I admired her slender ankles, the beautiful trim of her hooves. My eyes caressed the gracefulness of her legs. I couldn’t get enough, over and over I moved my eyes and felt the pleasure of her form. I reached out and touched them. These legs had galloped so beautifully in those last moments. A perfect rhythm and movement, strong, determined, flowing, harmonious,…a powerful dance. But now quiet. Never to move again in this body. I ached.

I brushed her gently as my heart whispered messages to her as we remained together in silence. Her tossled mane that had often blown in the breezes reminding us of her unicorn nature was now still. I brushed it. And her tail. As I brushed, it fell to the wind waving behind her as she sailed onward. Questioning why. No answers came. I found flowers in the garden, bright yellow ones, bold, perfect for her. I placed them in her white mane, a special bridal flower in her forelocks, lavender in her tail as it stretched out behind her. I let myself love her, miss her, feel her.

She had come to each of the four of us during that week prior, one in a dream where she was beautiful, tossing her gleaming white mane as she breathed upon the dreamer. She came to John, her primary person, in a dream. She jumped over the pasture fence, did sommersaults, landing on her rear and then bounced to her feet and trotted past him. John’s wife had seen an imagery of her with wings flying to a new pasture of horses. I had found her in the beauty of the reflection of the creek…I had known it was her spirit.

I knew where to go today as she lay there motionless but beautiful, her white body adorned with colorful flowers. I found her in the reflection of the creek. I heard her whinny. It was real.

Bev
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