Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Danger, Black Ice

I was really groggy when I took the dog out this morning at 6:30 am.  As I staggered onto the flagstone steps outside my front door, I slid wildly across them to the grass. Black ice.  Once Stella had taken care of business, I attempted to go back inside. The garage and back door were still locked, and as I tried to get up the front steps, I realized that it was too slippery for me to even put one foot down. I tried to wake up my sleeping daughter, the only other person at home, but she didn’t pick up my cell phone or the house phone or respond to my increasingly upset hollering below her bedroom window. 

Finally, I crawled.  Stella wasn’t sure what I was doing down on her level on my hands and knees.  She licked my face but then was scared to follow me because it was so icy that she could hardly stand up either.   Sitting on the floor in my front doorway, I realized that it had never seemed so far from the grass to the entry before.  It felt like someone had stretched the stony path and steps without my even knowing it.

As I gratefully sipped my first cup of coffee, I thought about the similarities between crawling to safety and what is going on all around me in our world.   I began considering the instinct to protect yourself.  And your home, your family, your loved ones, your country.  The protection instinct is so strong in all species of animals.  Right now, around the globe, for the two-leggeds, it is a reflex that is on high alert.  What will it take for us to feel safe and to trust each other again?  It seems like asking for the impossible.  I didn’t have the answer, but I knew that I couldn’t just sit and stew about it because there were two horses out there waiting to be fed.

It took a long time for me to dig out the “paw-safe” ice melt from the basement, and I got so frustrated.  I felt like everything that I knew I had and could rely on had gone missing.  Very cautiously, I made my way out to the barn.  The girls greeted me enthusiastically, and I especially appreciated the sloppy kisses from Siete that I got this morning.  I didn’t open the gate from the corral to the pasture because I was afraid it was too dangerous out there.  Maybe it will warm up soon, and things will go back to normal.

As I turned to go back inside, Silk suddenly stopped eating and rushed out into the corral to stand by the fence.  She focused on me intently, as if to say, “Don’t worry, I’ll keep an eye out to be sure you get home okay.”  Yes, I get it, Silk. As we navigate through this suddenly treacherous new environment, coming upon the patches of black ice,  let’s remember to watch out for each other and  hold out a steady hand.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Shapeshifting into a New Year

These are strange times. I can’t say that I’m looking forward to what 2017 has in store for us, but I’m certainly glad to see this old year pass away.  I’ve crawled into my shell for the last six months, wrestling with intensely painful knee and back pain, the rejection and disloyalty of a close friend, and the chaos and expense of renovating our kitchen. When I woke up this morning and trudged out to the barn to feed the horses, I didn't feel the sense of anticipation and hope that I usually feel on the first day of the year. Looking around me, I thought about how the trees and the rocks and the horses don’t fret about the passing of time or worry about the future the way I do.   I had a short talk with Silk while she ate her breakfast about letting go of my expectations.

The weather has been wreaking havoc in the corrals and pasture.  It rains, then it freezes, creating moon craters and small skating rinks. Often, it’s just too dangerous to let the horses go out anywhere beyond the edges of the barn.  I used to worry that they would get antsy and pent-up from being confined, but recently I’ve noticed that they don’t seem to care at all.  They accept whatever happens, gate closed, gate opened, and don’t go racing around, frantic to move just for the sake of movement, even if it is dangerous.  They know better.

“Maybe it will warm up enough that the ice will melt today and you can go out there,” I said to Silk.  She just kept eating her mash.  She wasn’t concerned about anything except licking every last crumb from her feed bucket.   I took the shovel and carefully navigated the black ice to begin to chop up the skating rink in the middle of the pasture so that I could open the gate for the horses. As I cracked the ice with the edge of the shovel, getting a good workout for my arms and shoulders, I considered the lessons that water teaches us. 

Water reminds me that sometimes it’s good to be a shape-shifter, to open up to change and to let go.  Water is unpredictable, flowing gently, rushing wildly, turning hard and sharp as stone. We humans are mostly water, and water is absolutely essential for all living beings on earth. It is also very endangered, as we are witnessing more and more often.  The recent confrontations at Standing Rock have taught me that women must be the guardians of the water.  The strength of being genuine, allowing our emotions to flow and raising our voices to express what others might be afraid to say makes us powerful as a great river.   I believe that water is connected to our feelings and desires, and it can show us many ways to express ourselves.

One thing that I have absorbed fully into my bones this past year is an appreciation of how inseparable I am from Mother Nature and how we never stop learning from her.  The ice thawed, the horses spent a sunny afternoon in the pasture, wandering through the big puddles and tonight, it will totally freeze up and be a slippery mess again.  But this too shall pass.