Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Finding the Space of Possibility


Sometimes, a recurring thought wave begins to travel through the small quiet moments that I have, sneaking in between all of the mundane things that I do, like mucking the stalls or cooking dinner, as if a secret dispatch is coming to me from some mysterious messenger. At this time in the holiday season, there’s a blizzard of reflections flying around the media about what’s happened in 2014.  I’ve been trying to ignore it because this has not been an easy year for us.  Yet in spite of trying to keep my screen blank, I have been receiving over and over some unexpected communications about the life force that is in all of us.

Some people seem to naturally come equipped with a strong life force, while others appear to develop it in those times that test our souls.  My mom demonstrated throughout her life that she had a will to live that defied all odds. My father did not have it and gave up quickly, no matter how hard I tried to convince him to fight. For the last two years, since his accident, I’ve watched my husband soldier on without complaining despite enormous pain. His life force radiates out around him, inspiring others. Even my horse, Silk, has proven to me over the eighteen years that we’ve been together, that she has a goodness and a spirit that will never be broken. I have tried to raise my daughter to believe that she comes from a long line of strong women who shall not be defeated. 

Still, deep in myself, I am a worrier and a doubter, a strange combination of a timid, cautious soul and a blazing risk-taker. When we lived in California, my old cowboy friend, Joe, used to tell me that a little fear was a good thing.  Especially around horses.   Maybe it’s just since I have grown older and my bones began to creak that I’ve felt much more vulnerable than I used to, or perhaps the world has speeded up too fast and people have grown a new seed of hatred that often appears to be impervious to human kindness.   Whatever the reason, I find myself fighting off small twinges of fear that never used to be there.

As I sat in front of the fire on the night after Christmas, I had this urge to see what the Tarot cards would predict for me in the new year. Only I couldn’t find my deck, and in searching for it, I re-discovered in my bookcase a different kind of message from a gorgeous set of cards created by Linda Kohanov and artist Kim McElroy called “Way of the Horse”. What kept coming up over and over in my reading was the concept of honoring “the sacred space of possibility”.  It is an expression used by Kathleen Barry Ingram, an Equine Facilitated Learning therapist who helped Linda start Epona equestrian workshops in the 1990’s (http://eponaquest.com). “It’s an active form of patience unattached to outcome, allowing someone in a place of uncertainty to feel supported through the darkest night of the soul.” In other words, when facing fear or grief, don’t put on your armor or try to control reality, just let your heart accept whatever happens and support those who need it, regardless of what the outcome is. I've always like the word "possibility" since it keeps open the door for hope.

Since I am a “recovering perfectionist”, it requires a big leap of faith for me to just allow what is happening to take its course. Living with my horses, day in and day out, definitely encourages me to not get attached to the outcome but simply learn from it.  My four-legged sister, Silk, especially like to remind me to trust the life force and stay curious about its mystery, even if it means that I am traveling off the map. For some reason, that seems to occur more often than it used to around here.


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Best Horses Ever


This is not how I planned Christmas to be.  Instead of doing last minute shopping and baking and decorating, I found myself in the family waiting room at the hospital on Monday while my husband went into surgery.  It was a big and delicate operation, the last in the series that resulted from the accident he had two years ago when the tractor rolled over on him.  And strangely enough, we were all looking forward to this.  The doctor is an amazing man, the timing was right, and our daughter was at my side to ease my anxiety.  So, even though I was facing three and a half hours of waiting, I knew that this was the best thing that could happen right now.

The day before, my husband and I had worked long into the night to get ready, since he would be out of commission for four to six weeks. One of the big jobs on our list was moving the compost away from the pile near the barn so that there would be enough room for me to muck and dump for the next few months. Our neighbor brought over his big earthmover to our driveway, and my husband drove back and forth on his new (safer) tractor to fill up the bucket.  It’s a win-win arrangement since the neighbors get great compost and give us plenty of the delicious vegetables from their garden.  I tucked the horses in the barn, and my husband drove back and forth across the pasture even after it got dark, the little headlight on his tractor bouncing up and down in the blackness as I watched from the kitchen window while I cooked dinner.

Very early Monday morning, I fed the horses, did the barn chores, and we all took off for the hospital.  My friend, Mary Beth, would come by at noon to give the horses some hay and again later to feed them dinner and lock them in their stalls.

I was standing in the cafeteria at the hospital when my phone rang at lunchtime.  It was Mary Beth, calling from our house.  She said, “Don’t worry. The horses are fine. My heart is pounding, but it’s all okay now.” Of course, my heart started pounding too. She told me that the girls were eating hay in Siete’s stall when she got there. She gave them more hay and water, and as she turned to leave, she couldn’t believe her eyes. Looking across the open gate from the barn area and the corral into the pasture, she saw that the big eight -foot gate from the pasture to the driveway was wide open.

Very slowly and calmly, she walked across the pasture and just as she closed the gate, Silk came charging out of the barn and began running in big circles in the pasture.  “I felt like she was saying thank you, now I don’t have to keep Siete distracted in the barn any more!” MaryBeth told me.  All I could think of was my horses running down the road, into traffic while no one was around to catch them.

That’s enough of a Christmas miracle for me.  My husband came through the surgery with flying colors. The horses were safe in the barn when I got home. In the morning, I couldn’t stop hugging Silk.

Best horses ever.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Choose Love


I stand next to my old mare and feel her warm breath on my cheek, and I cry. Oh Mama Silk, I’m thinking about the families who have lost their children or their mothers or their daughters two years ago in an insane massacre at the elementary school in our peaceful little town. And I’m remembering how it felt last night to watch a group interview on TV with four mothers of the young African-American men who were killed recently by policemen.  My bones ache with the pain. My heart holds their grief.

The hatred grows and spreads, each day, each week, each month, each year, as the climate and the justifications for it are adopted by our culture. Most of us turn away from it, hoping that if we ignore what is happening, someone else will fix it or it will magically disappear. Newsflash – it won’t if we don’t do something about it.

 In my own small circle of  daily routine, I can’t ignore that there are people who continue to harass and terrorize families in Newtown after the already life-scarring, horrific experience of the massacre at Sandy Hook, who call in fake threats or claim that the entire tragedy was a hoax, who cause so much fear that schools here have lockdowns “just in case” the threat is real and inflict even more pain and endless trauma to the children and parents of our community.

I witness that there are people who in the name of “animal rights” issue death threats and spread lies to humiliate innocent NYC carriage drivers and their families, egging on the Mayor with their large contributions and wildly untrue accusations that will cause the loss of jobs, create bitter hardship and leave the horses homeless and useless.

I see that we live in a country where good, law-abiding young black men are justifiably terrified of our police force, where torture is used on foreign prisoners and excused by our government, where ordinary citizens are routinely spied upon by law agencies and corporations.

And still, like a volcano rumbling under us,  I can feel that there is a swelling of energy, of rebellion that grows stronger by the minute. There is tremendous power in those four grieving mothers, in all the mothers who refuse to allow the deaths of their children  to just disappear as old news without any meaning or change resulting from the terrible loss. Listen to it.  It’s coming from the mothers, from the strong women, from a female understanding that many call “the Divine Feminine”. It has been with us since the beginning of time, but the patriarchs have crushed and buried it for centuries. Finally, Mother Earth is cracking open so the women can be heard.

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, a Sufi teacher, says: “When we deny the divine mystery of the feminine we also deny something fundamental to life.  We separate life from its sacred core, from the matrix that nourishes all of creation.  We cut our world off from the source that alone can heal, nourish and transform it.  The same sacred source that gave birth to each of us is needed to give meaning to our life, to nourish it with what is real, and to reveal to us the mystery, the divine purpose to being alive.”

 My horse knows this. I did not realize when she came into my life almost twenty years ago that this is what she is here to teach me. Now, I understand why I run to the barn to be with her whenever I am upset or confused. She is my messenger from the Great Mother. She tells me that we don’t necessarily have to know what we need to do next. We just have to feel that we need to do something, honor our intuition and wait to see what will present itself. And when that moment comes, even if it seems beyond our reach, we need to do what needs to be done.  All of us. Together. Right now. We must choose love.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Day! Thankful for Everything



What a great Thanksgiving it is!  Our daughter brought home some friends who are from Beijing, Hong Kong and Sicily and they have never celebrated Thanksgiving before.  So, we are barbecuing the turkey, playing with the horses, cooking in the kitchen and enjoying being together. What could be better?

Hope you are having a joyful day too!







Wednesday, November 26, 2014

My Thanksgiving Wish

Lakota Prayer

Wakan Tanka, Great Mystery,
teach me how to trust
my heart,
my mind,
my intuition,
my inner knowing,
the senses of my body,
the blessings of my spirit.
Teach me to trust these things
so that I may enter my Sacred Space
and love beyond my fear,
and thus Walk in Balance
with the passing of each glorious Sun.

According to the Native People, the Sacred Space
is the space between exhalation and inhalation.
To Walk in Balance is to have Heaven (spirituality)
and Earth (physicality) in Harmony.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

One of the Great Ones


In memory of Mike Nichols, a hero of mine, who died last night at age 83:

I met Mike Nichols in his apartment at the Carlyle Hotel in 1984, and he changed my life.  My best friend, Terry Beirn, and I came there to ask Mike if he would help us do a benefit for AIDS research at the Shubert Theatre in New York.  There had never been a benefit for AIDS, and most people did not want to know anything about the disease or talk about it.  As we sat with him, Mike said over and over to us that he didn’t do benefits.

Finally, desperate, I said, “I don’t do benefits either, but Terry is my best friend and he has AIDS and he’s dying, so I’ve got to do something.” Mike looked intensely at my handsome thirty-four year old friend and began asking him questions. For twenty minutes, Terry told Mike how he was feeling and what he knew about the disease, which was a lot because Terry was a very smart man. There was no cure – at that point, there wasn’t even a test yet to prove you had it. Then, Mike turned to me and said, “No one wants to hear about this. People stick their heads in the sand. If we want them to pay attention, we are going to have to make them laugh.”

He called on many of his friends, Lorne Michaels, Steve Martin, David Geffen, and for the first time in twenty-five years, he performed on-stage with Elaine May.  We raised a million dollars for AIDS research at a time when there was no money coming from the federal government. Mike guided me, gave me confidence, always expected the very best from me and never let me down. I teased him that he was even more of a perfectionist than my mother, but she had given me thirty years of grooming to prepare me to work with him.  When my first marriage ended with the abruptness of a major earthquake, Mike offered me a small room in the basement of his office to pull myself back together again and write a screenplay. It gave me a reason to get up every morning, and he helped me re-build my confidence and my crumbled life with his wise advice and humor.


And now, he is gone.  A brilliant light that has left an impact on so many creative people’s lives.  Mike had a razor sharp mind, the courage to go where many others feared to tread and the biggest, most generous heart.  It was an honor and a privilege to have him as a mentor, and I would not be the person I am today if I had not met him.  The world has lost a shining star.


“The only safe thing is to take a chance.”  
--  Mike Nichols