Thursday, July 26, 2012

In Good Company

We have some friends who have a really nice barn but are not horse people. It is the place where we took our horses last year when the hurricane was heading our way.  Over the weekend, we stopped by to see them and learned that they had some new boarders.  There was also a young lady from Italy who was afraid of horses, so I offered to go in the barn with her to see if we could change her mind.
I walked into the darkened barn and was greeted from the first stall by a beautiful black mare named Lena. She was so calm, with big, kind eyes that just melted my heart. This was a very special horse. I offered her a carrot and stroked her neck, feeling a strong, welcoming connection. In contrast, the horse in the next stall was kicking and snorting –“Hey, what about me? Me first! Give that carrot to me!” I knew that alpha mare well. She had attacked Silk and Siete when they were briefly here last summer. It was the reason that I had to do a second emergency evacuation right after the hurricane to get my horses back safely to our barn.  This Arabian princess is one high-strung piece of work.
After I appeased the pushy mare, I went back to lovely Lena and reminded myself that I had two sweet and loving mares of my own just down the road at my place. The Italian visitor was coaxed to tentatively pat the black horse, but I couldn’t convince her that these animals offer us windows into our souls. I thought about people whom I knew with personalities similar to the two horses – ones who were all about getting attention for themselves and ones who understood the art of listening and creating serenity.  It made me curious to meet Lena’s owner, which I will try to do this weekend. I have a feeling that I will like her as much as I like her horse. What’s that saying—“Show me your horse and I will tell you who you are.”
Before I went to bed, I ventured out to our barn alone. In the last six weeks, since I fell and broke my arm, I have become wary of going out to do all the normal things that I used to do with my horses. Having the use of only my left hand is difficult, and the heavy weight of this brace on my right arm sort of messes up my balance. Still, I saw my horses sticking their heads out, looking for me when I got home, and I knew Silk especially would feel better if I tucked her in for the night.  It’s funny how simple activities like walking in our yard in the dark have suddenly become a challenge. So, I was very happy to find myself once again safely in my own little barn, nuzzling with my girls, enjoying the company of horses. It just felt so right. An important step in my recovery.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Space in Between

This week, Silk was limping on her back right leg.  It was particularly frustrating and worrying since I am not able to even pick up her foot to see or feel what’s wrong. I was able to cajole my daughter into cleaning it and putting Animalintex and a boot on for a couple of days but Silk seemed like she was in more pain. Daughter was overwhelmed by all the other barn chores and feeling very sorry for herself. It hasn’t been the summer she expected to have. All she does is take care of her parents and the animals.

So, I was very relieved when Johnny, my dear sweet farrier rushed in and helped us by draining the abscess. Instantly, Silk felt better and I did too. It left me noticing how hard it is to just sit still and heal. I have a huge list of things that I’d like to do around here. My husband’s list is even longer, and he only has a small window of time before his work schedule gets really busy again in September. So, we’ve been stewing and bemoaning how our doctors won’t let us do what we need to do.

I watch how Silk just accepts what’s happening and adapts to the circumstances. And when I feel guilty that my daughter is so bored by her daily routines while her friends send her notes from the fabulous places they are on vacation, I remember all the summers of my childhood. I had long days with nowhere to go, and I hated being stuck in a small town in the Midwest. Yet, it was good for me, forcing me to stretch my imagination.  I drew and painted and read. I dreamed about escaping to a glamorous life in New York City. I had the time and space to rest and think.

I’ve become a big fan of Margaret Wheatley. Someone gave me a wonderful book of hers called “Perseverance” which I've read over and over.  I’ve been exploring her other writing and work, and I like her clear thinking. Here’s a quote from an essay about the stress that our children are feeling:
“I hope we don't have to wait until our children reach adulthood for them to discover, as we may have done, that a healthy life requires peaceful moments, and that being present in the moment is a wondrous skill. I hope we can teach them that plans are not the answer to all of life's needs, that there is truth to the old joke that if you want to make God laugh, just present your plans. I hope we can teach them to expect moments of chaos when everything falls apart, and to dance with those moments rather than fear them. I hope we can teach them to not be afraid of boredom and loneliness, so that they stop grasping after entertainment, drugs, or alcohol to fill the void. Loneliness, boredom, restlessness-these are conditions of being human. No matter how much we deny them or run from them, they always return. As we mature, hopefully we learn that we don't need to fill the emptiness, that we can just sit with it and it will pass.

Soon, I’ll be racing around, using both hands again. My husband will be hard at work. My daughter will be buried in homework and the stresses of high school. It all changes. One minute, my horse can’t bear the pain on her back hoof. Then, the pressure is relieved and she’s happily eating hay.

“If we have been aware of the process of our lives, including the moments that we hate, and are just aware of our hating – “I don’t want to do that, but I’ll do it anyway” – that very awareness is life itself. When we stay with that awareness, we don’t have the reactive feeling about it. Then, for a second we begin to see, “Oh, this is terrible- and at the same time, it’s really quite enjoyable.” We just keep going, preparing the ground. That’s enough.”
Joko Beck, Zen teacher

Saturday, July 7, 2012

What a Week!

Last Saturday, my husband went to the doctor to check if he had Lyme disease.  He had all the classic symptoms- chills, sweats, aches, exhaustion plus a rash.  She agreed that he probably had it and decided to check his heart.  Next thing we knew, we were in the ER and they were hooking him up to all the monitors and paraphernalia because he had “heart block”.  His heart rate was less than half of what it was supposed to be.
It turns out that this is what those nasty little ticks can do.  While he sat in his hospital bed waiting for the antibiotics to kick in, there was talk of temporary pacemakers and other scary things. My daughter and I hovered anxiously, thankful that we had a doctor who recognized what was happening and that we were in a hospital with a reputation for being expert in Lyme disease and cardiac treatment.  The nurses and doctors were incredible – caring, experienced, funny and right there on it every minute.  And the antibiotics worked, so he’s going to be fine.  There was no damage to his heart, and after a month of doxycycline, he will be back to normal.  

When the infectious disease specialist learned we had horses, he said that he didn’t know anyone who has horses who hasn’t had Lyme disease.  I haven’t. My daughter hasn’t had it.  But our puppy, Stella, has it now too, and both horses have had it. I’ve become a zealot about bug spray.  I even bought a bottle with Deet for those occasions when we have to go out in the woods. For every day use, I’m favoring the non-toxic stuff --Repel with lemon-eucalyptus and Buzz Away Extreme. The doctor recommends soaking our clothes in Permythrin but I don't think I can wear something that kills cats if they come near it.  Apparently, the ticks are worse this summer because we had such a mild winter.  It makes me nervous now each time I go outdoors, which is really depressing since I love being outdoors.

I decided that I just have to be extra vigilant, but not limit myself from living the way that I usually do. Bad enough that I still have this heavy brace on my right arm and can’t do the normal things in the barn or the garden. My daughter is laboring hard over her summer vacation, literally being my right hand.  She’s being a really good kid about it, with only occasional complaints when I throw too much at her at once. I’m a person who never stops moving from the minute I get out of bed so I have to be careful not to become a control freak. “Back off, Robo Mom!” she tells me.

Not the summer that we had hoped to have, but at least we’re all safe and sound here at home together again. Our friends and neighbors have been so great, helping with the horses and mowing our lawn and bringing us delicious dinners. It certainly makes us appreciate the little things we do for each other.  I think that’s probably the most important lesson in all this.