Friday, February 26, 2010

Tag, I'm It

What a lovely treat to get an award in the middle of all this flooding and snow removal. We got an insane amount of rain yesterday, flooding Silk’s stall overnight. On top of the lakes of water, we now have about a foot of snow. So, while taking a break from all the backbreaking work, I checked in with my blog friends this afternoon and found this from Kate at A Year With Horses. Thanks for brightening this dreary day!

The rules are to link to the person who gave the award, tell you all 7 things about myself and send this game of tag on to 15 other bloggers. Since I’ve been seeing this award on so many of my favorite blogs, I’m not going to attempt to name anyone, but just invite all of you who want to play to pick up the award and have at it.

So, with no further ado, here are my 7 revelations:

1. One of my favorite things is a felt cowboy hat I’ve had for about 15 years. It’s stained and my daughter is a bit embarrassed when I wear it, but I love it. A hat for all seasons. It is the essence of me.

2. I love to read. I just finished “Let the Great World Spin” by Colum McCann. I am about to start “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot.

3. I have no strength in my arms. Can’t do a push up or pull up, even though I’ve been scooping 80 pounds of poop a day for the past 5 years. And today, after all that shoveling, I am really feeling like a total weakling. Don't ask me to hold anything valuable. My arms are jelly.

4. I’ll take vanilla over chocolate any day. Every night before bed, I have a glass that’s half vanilla soy milk and half 1% milk. And I love vanilla frosting.

5. When I start really laughing, it’s hard for me to stop - and why should I? I have a few friends that know how to get me going. And my husband, who has a wicked sense of humor. That’s one of the reasons I married him.

6. I used to be insanely skinny. When I was younger, I weighed less than 120 pounds and I’m almost 5’8”. Those days are long gone.

7. Silence is magical to me. I was just outside in the snow and it was perfectly quiet. There aren’t many moments in my day where it’s silent, and I treasure them.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Another Snow Day

If the Universe is sending me a message over and over in these last few days, it is that in an instant, everything can change. Yesterday, I was outside with the horses wearing only a sweatshirt, preparing for another storm. It’s always sort of magical to me that I can go to sleep at night with the world outside my window looking one way and then, in complete silence, the entire landscape is transformed, blanketed and beautiful.

As much as I complain about winter this year, there are always a few moments of delight when I see the snow falling and the perfect, pristine white expanse. The thought of “appreciate this while it’s here” is being drilled into me on so many different levels right now. What’s equally important is that I’m feeling a shift in energy around here in the last few days that opens me up to feeling hopeful and to being able to imagine and plan for the future. Maybe it takes going deep inside and asking myself what’s really important that allows the darkness and fog to clear. Maybe it’s reminding myself that I am not going to sink and drown despite anyone else's mood and problems. I’ve taken some time to go back to re-examine what my goals were a year ago and whether that’s still the direction I want to head. Some of these goals are still where my heart is, but others have shifted or fallen by the wayside.

I feel like I’m coming up from hibernation. As I walked along the path to the barn yesterday, I noticed the iris bulbs have started sprouting in the dirt and the lilac bushes are full of buds. At first, I thought, oh no, they will all die when it snows again tomorrow. Then, I realized that they would be fine and that this happens every year, so they will get through it. Despite a few setbacks, they will grow and bloom when the time is right.

Silk and Siete are accepting and patient today about the disappearance of those wonderful small bits of grass they nibbled in the pasture yesterday. Unfortunately, they don’t love the hay that I picked up for them on Sunday. Siete pooped all over hers. Silk knew that it’s all they’ve got, so she’s eating it. I reminded young Siete to just be thankful that they have hay as nice as this, but I didn’t need to tell that to my old red mare. She understands this life lesson a lot better than I do.

Monday, February 22, 2010

In Memory of Lyle

One of the good ones is gone. Today, I sat down at the computer with my first cup of coffee and checked in with Linda at the 7MSN Ranch, as I do most mornings. In case you haven’t seen her blog, her dear red horse, Skippa Little Lyle, died. My heart goes out to her, and as the day progresses, I just get sadder and sadder.

First, I want to say that from Linda’s description of what happened, I think she was very brave, especially considering that she was all alone. I remember what a wreck I was last summer when my dog, Pepper, died, and I had my husband and daughter with me, to carry me home sobbing. There’s no doubt that Linda did everything right, but it doesn’t make it any easier when you lose a loved one. And while I never met Lyle face to face, after all these years of blogging, I feel like I know him really well. The Internet has made a such powerful connection for all of us to become good friends, but the one thing it can’t do is let me give Linda the big hug that I wish I could give her right now.

So all I can do is keep going out to my barn to be with Silk and Siete. These terrible things can happen so suddenly. One minute, everything is fine, and the next, it’s not and they’re gone. On this sunny day, as my horses enjoy some much needed warmth in the pasture, I can’t stop rubbing my face in Silk’s neck and putting my arms around Siete to appreciate every minute I have with them. I think about Linda and her other sweet boy, Hank, and the rest of her wonderful animals, and my heart keeps breaking over and over.

Our animals help us to learn how to love better, and in the end, isn’t that what counts? Let’s stop what we’re doing right now and take a moment to honor Lyle for all the love he gave.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Come From the Heart

“You got to sing like you don't need the money
Love like you'll never get hurt
You got to dance like nobody's watchin'
It's gotta come from the heart if you want it to work “

Guy Clark lyrics, “Come From the Heart”

I’m singing that good ol’ cowboy wisdom today as I head out to the barn. The temperature is supposed to go up into the 40’s, and I detect a hint of Spring in the air. It’s not going to lull me into thinking that winter is over, especially with predictions of two new snowstorms heading towards us this coming week. Yet, I’m going to go over to the nursery today and pick up some bulbs to coax into bloom on my kitchen windowsill. I’ve got three orchid plants that are ready to flower any day now.

Siete cut herself yesterday on a sharp chuck of ice as she ran around in the pasture. I don’t know what was scarier, watching her slip and slide or seeing her back white sock covered with red blood. Once I inspected it, I knew it was only a scratch, even though it bled like crazy. After washing her leg off, I put Biozide wound dressing gel on it. For a moment, I hesitated because the gel has iodine in it and I knew that it would stain her white leg bright orange. The stuff works so well that I decided it was my safest, best choice. When it heals, I’ll worry getting her furry leg back to white again. This morning, everything appeared to be mending well. It was like when my daughter skinned her knee, only Siete was a calmer patient. She didn’t squirm or squeal and ignored me while she stuffed hay in her mouth.

Her acceptance of what I was doing was so complete that it made me realize how Siete has come to trust me in the same way that her mother does. I felt really good about her reaction when I entered her stall with my arms full of cotton pads, wound dressing gel, warm water and all the other first aid paraphernalia. She just looked it over with some interest and then, as I began to clean her leg, she turned her attention back to her dinner. We were so comfortable together, in her warm stall with the golden glow of the lights and the reassuring sound of horses munching hay. It made me happy.

It was such a contrast to the way that Siete acted a couple of years ago, when she had Lyme disease and it took two people to get her to take her medicine. Now, I can syringe anything into her all by myself without any problem. The consistent routines of feeding, filling water buckets and caring for my little horse over all these years have shown her that I do have her best interests at heart, and last night, I finally felt that she really trusts me.

It may not seem like a milestone to most people, but it was a very gratifying moment for me. These small victories in the barn can really make your day.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

In the Storm

Every thing has come to a standstill around us today. Anticipating the worst, with dire predictions of blizzards, power outages and mountains of snow, most of the powers-that-be on the East Coast cancelled every type of activity they can think of until this storm passes through. So, my daughter is home from school. There’s total silence outside, no cars going by or even snowplows yet.

I got up as usual, fed the horses and opened the barn up so they could wander back and forth between the corral and their stalls. Siete is standing in the snow with a small drift piling up on her back on her blanket, happy as a little kid. Silk hasn’t ventured from her stall. One gift for them is that the hay I picked up on last Sunday is exceptionally good. No one is complaining about not being able to get out and run around today. Their mouths are too full.

You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t been blogging as much recently. Not to get into the details, but my 95 year old mother, who lives with us, has become increasingly agitated and depressed. The world inside her head is scary, and she can’t believe that it’s not the same world that the rest of us live in. She’s deaf and refuses to wear her hearing aids. She’s got macular degenerative disease and is now legally blind. I'm not one of those people who likes to chronicle the emotional details of my life on my blog. Yet, I realize that things have gotten to a point where I feel the need to explain why some days, I just don't have it in me to write anything. My mom is a very different person than she was a few months ago. It’s changed my life and challenged me in more ways than I can ever explain. The horses don’t get too much of my attention these days. When I go to the barn, it is a much-needed respite.

I’ve been looking for guidance all over the place. Pema Chodron writes about the practice of “compassionate abiding”. As you breathe, you acknowledge the difficult, uncomfortable feelings and give them space to be there, “ventilating” around them without trying to remove them. Of course, it reminded me of Silk. She helps me find a way “to be with what is” like no one else can. I stand with her in the stall and clear my mind when things get to be too much inside the house. I know that this too shall pass, and I’ve given up trying to pretend that it’s not happening. I’m very lucky to have my family, friends and animals to help me ride these uncharted trails.

“The peace that we are looking for is not peace that crumbles as soon as there is difficulty or chaos. Whether we’re seeking inner peace or global peace or a combination of the two, the way to experience it is to build on the foundation of unconditional openness to all that arises. Peace isn’t an experience free of challenges, free of rough and smooth—it’s an experience that’s expansive enough to include all that arises without feeling threatened.”

Pema Chodron