Amoura was the third to open her classroom door to me. I had learned non-resistance from Shaman, and sensitivity rather than anger from Kaheka. Since non-resistance was so amazing, I was prepared to experience that with Amoura, but I wasn’t quite sure how to apply it to her, and did not want to do it as a technique, and especially if not appropriate.
I wanted to check her hooves and to clean them from impacted debris. I don’t usually put a halter on to pick up hooves. When I leaned over to lift her front hoof, she walked away. For some reason that makes me feel a little awkward and silly when that happens, as if someone is watching and I feel embarrassed that the horse had her way with me. I must admit that I become more determined and forceful. Today I had an overflow of peaceful energy from Shaman so I stepped back and relaxed into the process. I let her walk away (as if I had a choice!). I was feeling a kind of non-resistance but we weren’t making any progress toward solving the hoof issue, though I could have let that go.
Of course I continued to try again, and again unsuccessfully. Each time I peacefully watched her walk away. I noticed, though, that she actually wanted me to clean her hooves and would circle around, and come up to me, but then walk away just as I reached out for her hoof. This is something Amoura has done since she first joined the herd. She wants to cooperate but because of her abusive background, she has difficulty trusting.
“Fear,” she whispered. Aah. Professor Amoura gave me a “classroom” tip. It was fear! As I had learned with Kaheka, I started to reassure her in a soft, gentle, voice. She immediately stopped in perfect synchronicity with my energy shift, and lifted her hoof. Four hooves later, she had clean feet!
Such a subtle shift in recognizing her fear, and a simple reassurance was all that was needed. I could have haltered her and forced the issue, but we would have both missed out on the deeper connection, and on the lesson she wanted me to learn. Does it take time and patience? Sometimes, yes! But the deeper connection with the horse is worth the wait, and sets the stage for going even deeper next time. It is also preparing me personally for working with ordinary problems with other horses in non aggressive ways, and with humans as well.
Shaman is a teddy bear disguised as a large horse. People love to bury their heads in his neck, smell his sweet horsey breath, and sink their lips into his soft muzzle.
He recently presented me with a new problem to solve, after Kaheka Boy and I finally resolved a halter issue with him (prior post). It all started when I recently made a commitment to get more serious about working with equine problems other than my own. Since then the horses in my care have lined up to present new lessons to get me ready. As the “professors” in their equine university, they never miss a chance to groom and school me for what is next. Thankfully they always show me where I have already changed but didn’t realize it. One of those times is demonstrated in this story.
Apparently I had to first be shown a technique that I didn’t like. An acquaintance wanted to show me a 1-2-3 step to get Shaman to step forward on “demand.” (her word, not mine) Multiple times he failed steps 1 and 2 and ended with the 3rd step which was jerking on Shaman’s head and using the abrasiveness of the rope halter to get him to step forward. No. That is not to be my relationship with horses! That was clear. So, I was now ready for my own step forward with my equine instructors.
A friend, who is honing her skill of listening carefully to her horse, said to me recently that her desire is to work with her horse in a way that allows her to choose to cooperate without threatening consequences. We both value an authentic, cooperative, and deepening spiritual relationship with our horses. A horse may change its behavior because of uncomfortable or negative consequences, but that change is based on discomfort or fear, and hierarchy, not trust and cooperation which is my goal here at the ranch. While there may be the desired outward change, their connection with their human is not the same.
Daily I move Shaman back and forth between paddock and pasture at supplement time. He tries to sneak away under the rope I use as a corridor to guide him. After multiple attempts, I hoped he would settle into a routine. He didn’t. Finally, I put a lead rope gently over his neck like a bolo tie with my hands as a clasp beneath so I could guide him to our destination. He immediately did an awesome musical figure 8 with his huge neck and head and almost dislodged the rope, pulling his head under and away from any confinement. Clever. And a bit mischievous. I, instead of bracing and holding the rope taut like I normally do, was extremely surprised by my spontaneous and effortless response which was a new experience for me. Without thought, I simultaneously released any tension on the rope. Still holding it, I let it drape loosely in place beneath his neck, and felt that inner place of peacefulness and harmony. He stopped immediately. There was no resistance for him to push against. I waited. At last he took a step to move forward with me.
For 5 days we did this. Each day he whirled his head around to free himself from the rope. Each day I relaxed and released any tension. The 6th day, after putting the rope softly over his neck yet again, there was quiet. There was no figure 8 with his head. None. Instead he immediately stepped softly forward on his own initiative toward our destination. It was a gracefully choreographed movement which I am sure was designed by the gods with me as his dance partner. We then walked side by side with his bulky body light as a feather!!
There was no human jerking his head, and no figure 8 maneuver on his part. Instead he chose to step forward quietly without any waiting…and without any threat. We floated back to the pasture. He gave me these moments of feeling what two Olympic ice skaters must experience during a gold medal performance. Complete synchronicity and pure harmony. We’ve been experiencing that daily since then. The joy of non resistance. Not a technique, nor a rule for all times, but a pure moment when what was right for that time, emerged spontaneously.
“ 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.
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.
[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 two human angels [In the Midst of the Mess] came back with apples, carrots, and a grater, and a pan to hold the treats for the horses. It was well thought out. On the trunk of the aging Mercedes, they went to work shredding the food for the aging herd. Most of the horses were gone to another part of the pasture. Only one was nearby. I always pay attention to which one. It is usually and probably always significant. Today it was Dollar. I call him the “money man” because of his name and the dollar sign imprinted above his left front leg. He was rewarded with the whole treat without any competition from the others. I think it surprised him. There was no flack and he was the center of attention. I could feel him retreat inwardly as he did this thing alone. Maybe a little shy about it. All reflections of my own shyness about receiving and having all of the good stuff focused on me.
The two angels had their fun, washed up the utensils, and found some mustard leaves in their stash. By then, the herd had returned, and Mariah came to the fence. Mariah is my symbol of the mystical. She seems to dwell in that world. Her interaction with a human is a mix of the playful, humorous, and the mystical. She has a handle on the earth being God’s playground for us. After eating the mustard leaves, she found her way to a very large feeding bin. It was empty. She began pawing at it until she tipped it over on its side. She has a dry sense of humor doing her stunts as if she is oblivious, our very own comedienne. The two angels got a good laugh. Mariah’s way of saying thank you (and probably that she wouldn’t turn down another handful of mustard!)
As the angels were preparing to leave, our conversation took an unexpected turn. In the State of California, I hold a teaching credential. It appears there may be financial opportunity as a credentialed educator, to provide “job” training for developmentally disabled as they help by preparing feed, delivering hay, grooming, etc.
Did Dollar have something to do with that?