Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Brink of Uncertainty

A few months ago, I had a conversation with the young man who helps me do my barn chores. He’s a polite, well meaning neighbor kid whom I’ve know since he was six years old.  While I was mucking out one stall and he was mucking the other, he told me that he was looking forward to watching the first Presidential debate.  I admit that I was surprised since he doesn’t seem the least bit interested in anything outside his small, isolated world.  When I asked why, he eagerly announced that he was planning to vote for Donald Trump.  Startled, I stopped mucking.  I tentatively asked why, and he told me that he liked Trump’s economic and health care plans.  I bit my tongue. I said that I don’t discuss politics. I didn’t blurt out, “But he’s a racist and he’s a bully and he’s disrespectful to women!” I was afraid that the young man would decide that he didn’t want to help me anymore and quit working for us.

 It was the first of many instances where I didn’t speak up when people in my community said things – often hateful and bigoted – against Hillary Clinton and in praise of Donald Trump.   I kept telling myself that I didn’t want to make them mad at me since I had to live with them long after the election would be over.  At the same time, I felt my mother looking down on me, scolding me for not calling a spade a spade and defending my beliefs.  I was ashamed of myself for being silent.

There was a terrible dichotomy because some of these people, who were clearly not concerned about the racism and the misogyny being spewed by Trump and his surrogates,  were at the same time, good folks, good neighbors whom I genuinely liked.  It would all be fine unless we dug a bit deeper and uncovered this really ugly truth.  I felt that they didn’t give a shit about what happened to people who were different than they were.  They didn’t want to be connected to everyone else on the planet. They wanted to protect their little corner of the earth and justify their own beliefs, and they appeared to truly hate anyone who thought the way that I did.  I began to feel their anger and frustration radiating all around me. It scared me.

Yesterday was my birthday.  It did not go as I expected it would. I thought that I would be celebrating the first woman President’s hard fought victory.  I really wanted us to have a Mom-in-Chief so badly. Our country needs nurturing and healing and an end to the bullying, mean culture that has mushroomed like a nuclear bomb during this election season.  Instead, there is terrible fear that we will fall back into the dark days before civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights, environmental rights, human rights were given to those of us who had been previously trampled and abused. 

Over the years, I can see that my young friend, who reliably and cheerfully comes to help me with my barn chores, has also grown to love my horses.  He had never spent any time around big animals before, but it’s clear that he enjoys being with them.  It is also obvious that he loves trees, plants and nature.  This morning, when he comes to muck the stalls with me, I will try to start a new conversation with him.  I have no idea what I will say, but I will attempt to find common ground, listen carefully and keep an open heart. I believe that we all need to do that starting right now.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Too Hot to Trot

As the temperatures soar this summer, I’m spending much more time in my day with my horses, trying to keep them cool so the heat doesn’t cause them to be too miserable or get sick.  I’m grateful that I can carve out these short interludes to be with them and that they are right outside my back door.  It’s obvious that the horses are also very happy that I can act as their personal cooling agent. How often does that happen? Lucky girls!

Silk likes to stand in Siete’s stall next to the fan with the water buckets right under her nose. Every couple of hours, I drop in to lightly spray both horses with the hose to cool them down. Yesterday, I sprayed my arm too and feeling the delightful coolness of the fan blowing on my wet skin, I just turned the hose on myself and got soaked. Then, Silk and I spent about fifteen minutes standing absolutely still together in front of the fan.

The absolutely still part is important too. Standing without motion is something that I notice the horses do when it is very hot and they want to conserve their energy. Alone, I would have begun to fidget, but with Silk to show me how to do it effortlessly, I was totally content to rest next to her.

This morning, I asked myself, if I were a horse, what would I need to be comfortable today?  Fly masks, non-toxic spray to make me not taste good to insects,  cool water, and tasty hay and other interesting things to eat like grass and carrots are at the top of the list.  We are down to the very end of our second cut hay, counting the days until the new second cutting is baled and ready.  I was able to score nine very nice, clover laced bales to get us through this week until the fresh stuff is available next Sunday.  The girls are so pleased, murmuring “Nmm, nmm!” loudly as I approach with more flakes.  I also make a “tea” for Siete, adding a little molasses and sweet feed to the bucket.  She’s not a big water drinker, so it keeps her hydrated when it’s this hot.

It seems like things aren’t going to cool down for another four or five days.  To my surprise, I didn’t feel discouraged by that news. It sure beats trudging out to the barn in two feet of snow.  “Don’t worry, girls, we got this one covered,” I told them last night. “Nmm, nmm!”

Saturday, May 28, 2016

One Year Ago Today

I wasn’t sure what today would be like when I woke up this morning. It’s exactly one year ago today that our friend, Paul Moshimer, died.  I stopped at the grocery store on my way up to Blue Star, just as I did on this day last year, and bought food that I thought Pam might eat, knowing that eating is not at all what one feels like doing when something like this happens. Still, eating is important.  Today, I picked out what I know she enjoys, and drove up to Blue Star, not having any idea what to expect but certain that I needed to be there.
A small group of us gathered under the big tree, next to Paul’s shrine.  There were a few really close, long-time friends and a few newer ones.  We sat on a blanket and had a picnic, and I thought about how brave my friend Pam is, and how amazing it is that she and the farm are still blooming and growing after this long, difficult year.
Suddenly, Frida, Pam’s German Shepard, found something in the grass. A baby bird had fallen from a nest in Paul’s big tree. Luckily, Suzanne, who is very skilled at saving wild animals, scooped up the tiny creature. We pulled the old pickup truck right below the nest, and Pam climbed on its roof. She reached the branch where the nest was and gently placed the little baby back with the others.   I looked up and realized that I could see at least four other nests in the enormous branches of the tree.  Life goes on. 

I have felt many things since Paul died.  Some were very painful, others were strong and beautiful.  And I have witnessed that when your heart breaks open, it can offer you a greater capacity to love. Pam and the horses show me how each time I am with them.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Mitakuye Oyasin

Just wanted you to know that the trees have been talking to me.  We had an ice storm yesterday, and last night around nine o’clock when I took the dog outside, there was an intense cracking chatter that filled the air as the tree branches jiggled in the wind.   At 4:30 am, when I got up to make coffee for my husband who had to leave on an early flight, the trees were still loudly rattling their branches probably in protest of the 20 degree temperatures.

Now, as the sun is up and the ice on the ground has melted enough for the horses to be safely allowed into the pasture, I walked back towards the house with the gentle cracking of the trees, still murmuring softly to me.  I thought about how much I’ve learned in the past year, and how connected I feel to everything around me.  It is a direct thread between the horses, my friendship with Pam and Paul at Blue Star, which led to my friendships with Native Americans that they know, and what these remarkable teachers have helped me see about the world around me. “Mitakuye oyasin”, they say – “All are related”. 

It seems like either you understand this or you will miss out on some of the most important things that might happen to you during your time here on earth.  I read a speech recently that Chief Phil Lane gave at the United Nations over ten years ago.   He talked about how his grandfather had a conversation with another elder who was an old friend and explained to him that scientists and researchers were beginning to become “ecologically conscious”:

“They have spent great amounts of money and studied Mother Earth for many, many years and they have recently made a new discovery.  They found out that everything is interrelated.  They found out that when you pollute the air which all living things breathe and pollute the water which all living things drink, you pollute all living things.  What do you think about that?”

The old man smiled knowingly and shook his head.  “I was wondering when they would get around to that!  Just look at what we do to our Mother Earth.  We cut her hair where it should not be cut up and rip up her skin where it should not be ripped up, then we drill holes inside her and suck all of her blood out and put things inside of her and blow her bones up.”  He then looked deeply into the eyes of my grandfather,  shook his finger and said,  “And what would happen if you did that to your mother?  She would die!  And this is exactly what is going to happen to all of us if we do not learn to respect and understand the spirit and teachings of our Mother.”

Yet, here we are ten years after he gave that speech, and we are still busy destroying our dearest treasure.  How do you teach more people to listen to the trees?  Or protect and honor the horses and other creatures? Or show kindness and care for one another like we are all part of the same family?  My friend, George, talks about building a  “tiyospaye”, a family that goes beyond blood relations and includes friends who have become relatives too.  And I watch those relations meet and join with other groups of people whose friendship I value, more people who listen to trees, love animals and care about each other.  As blind, foolish and narrow-minded as some folks might be, I believe that there are also many circles, many “tiyospayes” continuing to intertwine all around the world so that we can all feel the spirit, learn the teachings and look after our Mother.  I think that’s what the trees were telling me.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

It's a Good Day to Be a Horse

“It’s a good day to be a horse!” I sang to my girls this morning.  There was promise in the air.  Mist rising over the cedar grove, warm breeze, birds singing a Spring song. What’s not to love?   When I opened the stall doors, Siete shot out like a firecracker and took a few joyful laps around the pasture. It’s frisky weather, for sure.

It may not sound like much, but my greatest recent accomplishment has been to round out Silk’s butt.  When the temperatures fell this winter, Silk began to dramatically lose weight, as older horses often do.  Her full Quarter Horse bottom suddenly hollowed out and her spine showed, and I got really freaked out.  I added hay stretcher pellets to her diet, but I knew that I needed to do something more.  When our dear friend, Grandmother Nancy, lost her wonderful 33-year old companion, Solitaire aka Spanky, in January, she gave me four bags of a very special food that Spanky had loved called “Pure Hunter” (made by Babington Mills).  She explained how to make up a warm porridge for Silk. 

I improvised a few additions that I knew my horse would appreciate, like adding a scoop of Triple Crown senior feed, a teaspoon of molasses and a sprinkling of chopped carrots.  The Pure Hunter looks like a finely chopped salad that expands and gets much heavier as you add water to it. It smells so good.  Even though Siete doesn’t need to gain weight, I also created a “lite” version for her dinner.

Silk wolfed it down, but it took her quite a while to finish off the bucket. Her daughter got jealous that Mama was still eating long after she had finished. She began banging against the wall of the stall that separates them, so I came up with a special dessert for Siete.  I made a “tea” of warm water and a small scoop of senior feed that I presented to her with great ceremony after she finished her food.  Getting her to drink a whole bucket of water was a really good idea since she doesn’t drink nearly as much as her mother, and during the last month, when the temperatures fluctuated wildly up and down, keeping the horses well hydrated was important. Now, Siete eagerly slurps down her “tea” each night.

The other day, when it was warm enough to pull off their blankets, I was delighted to see how full and round my darling old red mare looked. Her mane and tail are also really lush and lovely. As I carried out the dinner buckets, Silk showed off with two galloping circles and a couple of flying lead changes in the pasture before she leaped over the ditch by the corral and pranced into her stall. She was moving like a five year old. Hmm, I wonder if I can add some Pure Hunter to my salad tonight.

I have certainly learned another good lesson from my horses:  You are what you eat.