Tuesday, May 6, 2008
The River of Change
Owning and caring for horses in the middle of all the other challenges of our lives isn’t easy. I’m wrestling with some serious problems with my 93-year old mother’s health. She’s been incredibly strong and well, “a geriatric poster child”, as her doctor jokingly calls her. She takes no meds and hasn’t ever had a major illness. Unfortunately, her hearing and her eyesight are wearing out. She has macular degenerative disease, and last week, her world just went completely blurry. There’s nothing that anyone can do to change it. Suddenly, all the things that were no problem, like walking to the mailbox or emptying the dishwasher, are disorienting and difficult.
The horses are insanely itchy, and I feel stretched and jerked back and forth trying to help them and comfort my mother, who lives with us. So, even though the weather is gorgeous, my horses and my mom are miserable. I can run outside to wash the horses and cover their bellies with aloe and fly spray. I can race back into the living room to listen to my mother, who is wondering why life is worth living if you can’t see or hear. Waking in the middle of the night, I worry about how we will be able to communicate with her if she’s deaf and blind. I wish I could wave a magic wand and fix these problems.
Just the other day, before this unhappy turn of events, I was realizing how everything was fine. I stopped for a moment as I was picking up some flakes of hay to give the horses and just appreciated how okay life was, with a prickly intuition that soon it might not be. Even now, I realize that things could be a lot worse, and very well might be in the near future. So, I’ve been looking for some guidance as to how to ride through this upcoming turbulence.
I was bending under Silk’s belly, rubbing her with a soapy sponge, when I thought about Jack Kornfield’s book, “After the Ecstasy, the Laundry”. Kornfield is a doctor of clinical psychology who is also a Buddhist monk. I am particularly fond of him because he has a wonderful sense of humor and a great heart. Coming back inside, I found the book on my shelf and read something that helped me:
“Underneath all the wanting and grasping, underneath the need to understand is what we have called “the body of fear”. At the root of suffering is a small heart, frightened to be here, afraid to trust the river of change, to let go in this changing world. This small unopened heart grasps and needs and struggles to control what is unpredictable and unpossessable. But we can never know what will happen. With wisdom, we allow this not knowing to become a form of trust.”
It reminded me of that same leap of trust that I had to take with my horse after she had injured me years ago and I was afraid of her. I learned to be comfortable in the "not knowing". I was able to ride and successfully handle Silk because I decided to trust her. It was more than okay, it was a turning point in our relationship.
Then, Kornfield quotes St. John of the Cross, “If a man wishes to be sure of the road he treads on, he must close his eyes and walk in the dark.” I had to laugh because it was so in line with what I just wrote in my last post here. Maybe that’s why I’ve been riding around on Silk with my eyes closed and my feet dangling out of the stirrups. It’s good practice for what’s to come when I’m not in the saddle.