Wednesday, March 8, 2017

for the ♥ of horses

Can you feel it? Spring IS coming! I can see tender green shoots shaking off the sleep of winter and pushing up through moist soil towards warm, sunny skies. I too find myself slipping outdoors, sitting on the stoop and turning my face towards the warmth, towards the promise of hope and growth.  

Winter has been an emotional and physical grind. For me anyway. But the gift of challenging times is discovering what truly supports me and leaning fully into it.  Community. Yoga and meditation practice. Music. My sketchbook practice.

And the horses. 

These past few weeks I have committed myself to painting portraits of some of my favorite horses in the Hetra herd: the very first horses I worked with as a sidewalker, Charm (pictured above) and Smokey (shown hanging with his buddy, Red);

the Dude of the herd (and last year's Horse of the Year) Waldo;

and the youngest (and wildest) member, Tenneson (with another herd newbie, Georgie on the right.)

Drawing and then painting each horse has allowed me to perceive the differences in  breeds but also in the wide array of personalities. After completing a portrait, I return to the Hetra barn with renewed appreciation for the contribution of these amazing creatures to the healing process for all involved in the therapy sessions. Yes, the riders are the clients served by all, but all - sidewalkers, horse leaders, therapists, client family members -  are impacted by the spirit of the horse working in the session. 

To date I have painted close to half the Hetra Herd. (If you follow me on Instagram, I have been posting images there.)  As part of the Horse Penny Race (a yearly event focused upon raising funds to support the exceptional care of these hardworking therapy horses) I have created a set of 11 postcards depicting 10 of the Hetra Horses (one card is a horse image I created before this project started.) All proceeds (after printing and shipping expenses) will be donated to the Hetra Horse Penny Race.

I hope you consider supporting these amazing creatures by purchasing a set of cards (cost includes shipping.Quantities are limited, so get 'em while they are fresh off the press!

My plan is to complete all 22 of the current herd (including the mini horses) sometime this Spring.  I am not sure if I will create more postcards, but then again seeing the entire herd spread out upon my table may be more than I can resist :)

Monday, February 6, 2017

aligning with Light (and HeartFull Living 2017)

I recently shared this image on my Instagram feed along with a section of lyrics from a Wah! song (Ma Chant/Kali):

If you look for anything in this world, find things that draw you into the greater Love...
Coach's one blue is just such a portal in ...

I don't know about you, but I have been white knuckling the things that draw me into the greater Love.  I am ever on the lookout for new avenues and opportunities to align myself with Hope, Light, Love and Empowerment.

Much has caused me to feel less than ... and while fatigue has been the overriding physical and emotional state du jour, I chose not to dwell on the particulars. I mean, I am weary of feeling weary.

So. Here I am again. Realizing there is no better time for healing and hope than Right Now. Or as the Beastie Boys might say "No time like the present to work shit out." I look over at the calendar (yes, I do have wall calenders!) and I realize February is HeartFull Living month.

I truly had planned to ice it. But here's the truth: I need the incentive to connect with others for Love and in love. And more importantly, the therapy horses of HETRA need the support. The past two years HeartFull Living has been a fundraising vehicle for Heartland Equine Therapeutic Riding Academy. I have been a volunteer there for 2 1/2 years but honestly, it has been my therapy and lifeline. 

There are the riders who inspire me weekly: the father wiping away his tears with one hand while video recording his son riding for the first time and more magically, his son talking when talking is not the norm. There is the woman who declares "I feel whole again" while riding, her walker,for the time being, forgotten by the side of the arena. There is the young woman who arrived for her sessions in a wheelchair and after months of hard work, returned home walking. 

And then there are the horses.  Each patiently facilitates therapy sessions, a cluster of people surrounding them. (Each rider has a horse leader, 2 side walkers and an instructor or therapist - quite a busy and stressful space for the horses.) I am fortunate enough to be able to assist stall cleaning and turnout ... a chance to be with the horses as I take them outside and watch them interact with each other. There are romances and friendships blooming among the horses who come from a wide range of backgrounds. They create their own mini herds. They run and roll and remind me that no matter what the circumstances of the world, each day offers me the space and time to celebrate being embodied, being alive, being in love with life and what it offers me in each and every moment.   

I have rested my weary and tear stained cheek against the velvety neck of one therapy horse. He graciously held me up. I have been known to breathe in deeply the uplifting fragrance of the horses; they suffer my singing to them; they enjoy the essential oils I wear and they remind me it is okay to be cranky - that cranky is a means of communicating I need care and time to myself

I honor we all need time and self care and yes, cause to remember we are powerful agents for love and hope.

To honor love ... to honor the horses ... I am offering a very simple version of HeartFull Living this year. Starting February 13 and running for two weeks, I will offer a daily love note sent to your email inbox. Nothing lengthy, nothing overwhelming just a morsel of inspiration, a practice or poem, images, artwork or ideas to inspire HeartFull Living in your daily life. All proceeds will be donated to Team Coach, the Hetra horse I am fundraising for in this year. (For more information on the horses in the Horse Penny Race or to donate directly to a horse, visit HERE)

I would love to connect with you this season. To join me, click on the button below. I have created additional donation options, but all donations receive the daily love notes/inspiration and a little snail mail treat.

Thank you for your interest & participation in HeartFull Living 2017.  Together, we raise $460 for the therapy horses of HETRA!  Giddy Up and Thanks!  xo

Are you ready?  We are!

Don't hesitate to bring yourself into the light. It's a journey you must take without a pat on the back or any advice. What you find is your own. What you find is that your dreams grow well with love.
(Wah! Ma Chant)

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

* Simplicity *

Simplicity is my intention for 2017 ... along with Devotion (ah, yielding to the Gemini rising in my natal chart ... gotta have two intentions!)  I excel at overthinking, over complicating matters so Simplicity will be a real practice for me. It is already helping me find a path back in after a tumble down the hillside of illness and emotional exhaustion.

Lacking any sophisticated, clever or inspired account of the past month or so, I realize Simplicity tells me to just show up and begin again. Here's my story du jour: I thought I had injured my back and thankfully, that wasn't the case. (I worried I would no longer be able to volunteer with mucking out stalls, turning out horses - the one job I always look forward to!) What I had was a case of the shingles thankfully with no rash, just weird sensations and occasional flashes of intense and random pain. (At times it felt like I had an alien inside my body attacking my back or stomach muscles.) Still, the virus along with polar bear chilling temperatures, have kept me house bound for weeks. 

Weeks at home with only the dog and my loopy aunt of a mind to keep me company. 

Weeks to ponder my itchy navel. (Right side only)

Weeks  shuffling about the house in the one pair of comfy, loose-fitting and warm pants that I own ... weeks wearing oversized underwear of my husband's (who knew?! Men's underwear is infinitely more comfortable! No leg elastic! All cotton, no miracle fabric that tries to mold or cling to my delicate parts ... and no, I flatly refuse what my husband oh-so-gently tried to suggest to me: that perhaps I have been wearing a size too small of my lady-panties. Hogwash!)  A slippery slope for sure. The prevailing mood: Meh and What's the point?

I have no agenda. I have no plans, no real ambitions. This entire past year I have felt like the Hanged Man in the Tarot ... swinging and dangling and wondering when will I be cut down? After frustration, after despair, after confusion and resistance ... yup ... surrender. A slow but steady shedding of the layers of identity that I believed were necessary to bring meaning to my existence, to who I believe I am meant to be.

Lying in bed at 3 am, the virus attacking my back, waiting for a pain pill to kick in, with Mad Men on Netflix keeping me company ... it was a strange kind of rebirthing experience. (I felt squeezed by life in a not-so-loving way) My body, living, current events  (the world ruled it seems by upside thinking and pretzel logic) have me redefining how I want to be living each day.  "You've got to find what matters most to you." This was the advice given to the writer/doctor Paul Kalanithi after receiving a diagnosis of stage IV lung cancer. (When Breath Becomes Air is his beautiful and thought provoking memoir, published after his death)

Apparently, birds matter a lot to me. Interesting experiment: leave lots of pictures on your camera and months later, download them. I had 78 pictures of birds taken from my back window. (A discovery which means I am more my father's daughter than I have allowed myself to believe ... as inheritor of his boxes of seagull slides, the relationship is hard to miss)

These past weeks I have leaned upon what matters to me:  
- my yoga practice (choosing again The Simple: basic poses, breath practices that enliven and refresh my body and mind; complex postures are not better, merely complex) 
- creative practice (learning, playing, observing, pushing myself to develop and grow by taking a drawing class online; immersing myself in the basics of line, tone, color theory and learning about my tools and technique)
- time simply spend connecting with family and friends

Rather than fixating on making something of my life, I am focused upon the simple act of living it. Or at least observing it when weather and illness prevent me from a more active existence.


Having fun certainly (there has been much binge watching of Six Feet Under, Mad Men, X-Files, Vera - all in the service of knitting time, of course!) but in turn, my chance to squeeze life back. 

Simply put: to be fiercely disciplined with myself about how I show up in my life: how I speak, what I do, what I think and where I place my energy and attention. And when I catch myself stepping off track, I simply step back on path.  


Saturday, December 17, 2016

yielding to the darkness ...

Even though I know the short days of December will be hard, I am always caught off guard. I must want to forget how deeply the low amounts of sun light affect me. Yet the darkness of December while a challenge to my energy and mood, offers much in the way of insight and healing.

This year in addition to our advent calendar, I am marking the days with an email offering from this writer (courtesy of another kindred writer/friend). I usually don't do all that well with the discipline of opening and reading lengthy emails, especially when the bulk of my email time is spent deleting the surge of advertising emails I really ought to unsubscribe to, but the power of delete is rather a heady one for me and about all the energy I can muster these days.  Nevertheless,  I have been enjoying the coziness of this offering, usually coming to yea olde laptop (it's true! my lap top is OLDE) with a cuppa something warm and nourishing. I love the musings and the tasty tidbits offered.

One post has inspired me to ponder the gifts of darkness. Add to the seasonal challenges, I strained my back right before Thanksgiving and have had to buckle down when it comes to self care. (I had been joking that self care in menopause is no longer an option, but a necessity. Well, go figure my body would call me on this by DEMANDING I honor my words.) It dawned on me today that in our modern 24/7 world with lights galore, we have become incapacitated when it comes to living in darkness. The same is true in regards to silence and stillness. 

Yet the cycles of Nature offer many opportunities to move into the dark. The moon each month goes dark when she is beginning a new cycle. From the Autumn Equinox to the Winter Solstice the days grow shorter, the period of sunlight lessens. The angle of the sun in the sky is softened as well. Our human lights block out the light of the stars, isolating us further from the experience of connection and an enhanced perspective upon our place in creation. 

So I hurt my back. And the hardest part of my day? Nighttime. It was impossible to find a comfortable sleeping position. I would finally fall asleep only to wake up whenever I shifted my body in the bed. The only relief I could experience was lying on my yoga mat, breathing and stretching my body gently and mindfully.  The pain would subside. Heaven, right? Well, for one week solid I would cry the entire time I stretched. Not movie tears that soften a face with a gentle dew. No, my crying was body convulsing sobs and geysers where my eyes should be. Red faced and snotty, I moved through the stretches.  

Anna K Tarot - The lesson of the Hanged Man for me has been finding within the bright light of The Star

I have lots of ideas as to why the overdue emotional release. Yes, I have blamed current events and He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. But staying in the depths of the emotional pool, I discovered vast pockets of sorrow, loss, grief and fear. Nothing all that unexpected at this stage of my life. I've said goodbye to many loved ones and watched our world change drastically (from my perspective as a "Nineteener" - what Cowgirl calls me in reference to my having lived a chunk of my life in the previous century). There is a lot to process. Making the time to do so, that's another matter. 

Darkness, like my back pain, forces me to look inward for my own source of light and relief. The shorter days (or time of day with daylight) remind me to lighten my load, to pare down the to-do list to that which sustains and enlivens me.  My bottom line is my practices - yoga, meditation, drawing and painting -  time in nature and family time.  All of these pieces nurture connection and rootedness.  They ease me out of fear and pain (funny, when I draw or paint, my back no longer hurts), and bring me back to a place of Hope. There is much to worry about but there is also much to celebrate. Drawing upon the bounty within me - my heart and my life - I am strengthening myself for the new year and the new challenges ahead. 

I have chosen my intention for the coming year: Simplicity and Devotion

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Standing Still

 But mostly I just stand in the dark field,
in the middle of the world, breathing

in and out. Life so far doesn't have any other name
but breath and light, wind and rain.

If there's a temple, I haven't found it yet.
I simply go on drifting, in the heaven of the grass
and the weeds. 
(Excerpt from What Is There Beyond Knowing by Mary Oliver) 

These days it seems wise to know what grounds me, what strengthens me, what nourishes and fills me, and to make of that my practice.

I've spent a lot of time wondering and worrying about purpose - my purpose to be exact. Wanting to be of purpose: to contribute and to help ... to heal and repair ... to inspire and support and of course, to fight the good fight.

It feels rather daunting right now. I suppose it has always been so and now there is some clarity in perceiving the immensity of the situation before us. Definitely the lid has been blasted off and we see clearly  (and painfully) the dark and ugly trends in our society, the gaps and the divide.

One thing that stands out for me is the tendency for helping out to evolve into mucking up. Each side of the political divide would argue for their intentions being The Good Ones. I'm not suggesting apathy or inaction, but I am taking this time to tend to that which is mine to care for: the hygiene of my spirit, my heart, and my home.  For if any real change is going to happen - and honestly, the change needed to course correct is epic, and it will require immense reserves of resilience and determination which for me demand a  stable inner foundation, and a clear and strong inner light. 

So what do I do right now? I walk. 

  I walk and I try to listen and learn. I try to understand the message of the trees shaking in the wind. I listen to the geese and the stories told by their wings as they beat overhead. I watch the muskrat glide across a pond and open myself to his wisdom of his life. I speak my prayers daily to my backyard bushes and grasses, birds and chattering squirrels. I bury the rabbit's legs (yes, two so far) retrieved by my dog and offered to me as great gifts, which they are. The leg bones picked clean, the delicately tapered feet left intact. Lucky rabbit's foot. Well, luck is a matter of perspective and time, but I am reminded that my daily practice puts me in a mindset to perceive and act upon opportunities of grace and good luck.

I try not to do so much as undo ... the fears, the overwhelm, the doubts, the I'm too small mindset and limitations. If ever there was a time to Be The Light, it is now. These days my spiritual practice (which can look a lot like a creative practice) feels like a daily load of laundry: soaking, washing, and spinning my inner field of thoughts and energies.  Each days there is gunk to clear out and parts of me to mend and strengthen. 

Yes, darning the holes in my soul.  Embellishing the elbow patches of my heart sweater. Doing what I can to support groups tackling the big causes and throwing myself into local action.  This past week I stepped up in my volunteer position, taking on a more edgy (for me) task. It felt good to stretch myself. I know the challenges ahead will demand more stretching, more pushing myself past my edge of comfort, and that the edge will continue to shift and move as I grow. So starting small is okay. Just start, right?

There is a young mother I see every week when I volunteer. She shows up for her son in ways that stretch my heart to the point of cracking. And yet, she often expresses feeling helpless and uncertain, frustrated and afraid. I get it. We all feel that feeling about some aspect of our lives right now. Work, community, the environment, teenagers ... the list goes on.  But I believe the way forward is what I hear inside my head every time I see this mom - Just Love. It sounds so trite, so banal. But past the sappy sentiments, Love can inspire fierceness (think of the goddess Durga.) it can motivate us to take action and stretch and grow in ways beyond anything we could imagine. I know I cannot imagine a possible solution to the woes before me ... but my heart does not think. It feels, it holds, and it transforms.  

My intention is to show up here to share this journey. It feels important to me to communicate and share where I find Light in my life and how I work to support it. I get lost when I think "Does this matter? Does this help in any concrete way?" I cannot control the outcome of any action ... I can only attend to the gesture itself, taking care to act from the truth of my heart. I cannot judge whether it will be enough I only know that  showing up for Love each and every day brings me in alignment with Hope and Possibility, and those are not small things.