Friday, August 27, 2010

And Now for a Little Kindness

I’ve stopped reading and watching the news this week. The dire stories about the economy are making me too depressed and angry. Normally, I look forward to autumn as a time of new beginnings and hope, but this year, I think a lot of people just want to crawl under the covers and pull the blankets over their heads until things get better out there.

Last night, after dinner, I took a few minutes to watch a video showing Robin Gates, one of Carolyn Resnick’s exceptional students, working with “Pony”, an off the track horse who had some severe problems. It lifted my heart and filled me with hope that even the most dark and damaged situations can be mended with kindness and patient communication.

I hope you’ll take a look at it. It makes me want to go out and hug my horses and thank them for being in my life. To learn more about Robin and her amazing work, check out

Friday, August 20, 2010

Ouick, Before I Miss It!

Suddenly, summer is ending. I’ve been so pre-occupied with the drama of my life that I’ve almost missed the whole season. So, today, I slowed down to a crawl and forced myself to forget about everything else except enjoying the delights of August.

I wandered around the yard to see what was still blooming and ran into so many butterflies. Then, I ate three peaches in a row. This is a good year for peaches, so sweet and full of flavor.

I tried to coax the horses out of the barn to sit with me in the pasture, but they were too hot. After hosing them off, I left them in the cool shade of Siete’s stall. My next-door neighbor called to me from over the fence. She wanted to give me some vegetables from her garden. Green beans, summer squash and fabulous tomatoes are now overflowing on the table in my kitchen as I conjure up some recipes. There’s a loaf of Italian bread and lots of basil in my window garden, so bruschetta comes to mind. I’ve got this wonderful balsamic vinegar and some olive oil that a friend sent me from her own olive grove in California, which I’ve saved for a special occasion. And here it is.

Ah, summer!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Thoughts on a Summer Morning

Early this morning, before anyone else was awake, I began my usual routine. Feed the cats, make coffee, open the curtains so the sunlight can come into the kitchen. It made me very aware that my mom was not living here anymore.

For many years, there were little tasks that my mother did around the house that she considered her exclusive domain. She was in charge of the dishwasher, running and unloading it, and treating it like a major crime if we left any dirty dishes in the sink. She pulled all the curtains open each morning on all the windows and shut them when it got dark at night. As the dementia demons grew, she wanted to draw them closed in the afternoon while the sun was still shining. I would follow her around and pull them open again. The garbage can in the kitchen was also under her supervision. She was the trash general, ordering us to empty all the other cans in the house and reminding me a thousand times each Tuesday that we had to take the big can down to the end of the driveway so the trash collector would pick it up in the middle of the night while we were sleeping.

I knew that she needed to feel that she was in charge of something, and the number of things she was capable of doing grew smaller and smaller over time. So even though it drove me crazy, I allowed myself to be bossed and nagged, knowing that it gave her a sense of purpose to her day.

Now, every time I unload the dishwasher or open the curtains, I think of her and miss her. I’m getting ready to go visit her at the nursing home this afternoon, and I’m trying to think of new routines and rituals that we can do together up there. I know that she wishes more than anything that she could turn the clock back ten or twenty years. I would be happy just to be able to go back to the way things were ten months ago. It’s a major lesson for me, to realize that we need to appreciate what we’ve got and who we are right here, right now, because in an instant, it could all be changed or gone.

When I was doing my barn chores this morning, I was wishing I could move things along more quickly and that I was further along with Siete in our Waterhole Rituals adventure. If things had been different this summer, we might have been dancing around the pasture together by now. Carolyn Resnick reminds us that we can’t rush this experience, and that most often, our progress has more to do with us and our learning abilities than it does with the horse’s. I sense a profound difference in my relationship with Siete. She is so tuned into me now, and when she challenges me, I no longer worry that I will “make a mistake” and ruin my relationship with her. I understand that it only takes a simple communication, like asking her to move her feet and step away from me, to remind her that I’m the leader. It doesn’t need to be a big correction, and I understand that it is normal and desirable for her to continue to challenge me.

One of the things that I find really interesting is that Carolyn thinks it’s harder to work with foals that were imprinted like Siete was. By teaching my little horse that she can trust humans, I also apparently took away her gas pedal. She isn’t in a hurry when I ask her to trot away from me. In fact, some days, she doesn’t want to go at all. So, while I have a horse that is safe to be around and who has never ever spooked, I also inadvertently seem to have dulled her spirit. I don’t regret this, but it changes the way that I have to communicate with her. It’s a balancing of trust and energy.

Silk, who does spook and is fearful of most people except for me, responds much more quickly and locks into me emotionally when we do the Waterhole Rituals. She likes to “companion walk” with me and clearly enjoys it when I just hang out and act like a horse. Sitting with her in the pasture is as close as I can get to pulling up a mouthful of grass myself and grazing with her, and she lets me know in delightfully expressive ways that she really wants to be with me. One thing I love is when she rests her head on my shoulder while I’m reading. Silk is never pushy, just comfortable to be with me. She responds to me instantly, usually in sync with what I’m doing.

I was wondering -- and you may be too -- if these thoughts about my mom and the horses have a common thread. I guess it really is all about acceptance. In order for any of us to be comfortable in our own skin, we have to accept life the way it is. We can’t wish for what used to be or long for what will come. We just have to be present right now and be open to what is happening in front of us.