Friday, February 26, 2016

my promise

So in one year I racked up 169 hours volunteering with the therapy horses and riders of HETRA (Heartland Equine Therapeutic Riding Academy). I have no idea how many buckets o'manure that means I scooped but I know it resulted in two pairs of jeans worn thin and a second pair of boots purchased (oh, the joys of Muck Boots!) not to mention worn leather gloves, frayed sweatshirt and some t-shirts that should only be worn, well, in a barn. 

I apologize to all who work beside my rumpled self!

It has been quite a journey and I almost forgot the motivating force behind it: riding lessons. Finally, Cowgirl and I started our lessons which have become the highlight of our week even on some rather muddy and cold nights! I ended up investing in helmets for us (pure joy NOT having to adjust straps!) and boots, of course. Now Cowgirl and I wear the same size shoe and every week she inquires whether I wore her boots on the days I volunteer. 

I earned some free lessons but after we blew through those sessions I just couldn't imagine a week not riding. Sigh. As a wise and dear friend pointed out to me, when it comes to this equine habit "It's never. Ever. Practical. Ever." But if master Yoda were here, I have no doubt he would say "Must you do."

Indeed. We must. The last night I was with my mother, I was able to tell her I was doing this ... returning to my childhood passion ... knowing she always supported me in following my heart, following the path of love. So I feel like I am fulfilling both a promise to myself and a promise to her. 

finally, a chance to visit Beau!

 When I was considering the cost of continuing our riding lessons, I realized that a very subtle and subversion voice within me was whispering "Ah, you can do it next time around." Like, in my next childhood. I realized the part of me that holds back does so seduced by the  lie that there will be another time, another opportunity. It is a variation on the equally soul-numbing delusion of "A Better Day/Better Time." 

There is no better time than right now. No next go round, only this round, this time for this mama and her girl. And the horses. 

I try my best to greet each day with my heart open to remembering what truly matters. What are the promises I would hate to leave unfulfilled? What is in my power to fulfill on this day?

As the weather turns towards warmer, I am heading outside more and more. To observe, converse and learn from the many teachers around me ...

the trees, the plants, the birds and animals.  I have spent half my life in this place and only now am I greeting my neighbors and making new friends ...

Putting down some serious roots. Making vital connections.


Friday, February 19, 2016

grounding (spring fever & link love)

It's like a switch was flipped and suddenly, it feels like Spring is goosing Winter to get out of the way. Temperatures shifted from single digits to mid-sixties in days and right now strong winds put me in mind of Van Gogh's mistral or "the devil" as he referred to it and its challenges to his working outside. (He resorted to  lashing his easel down: "My easel was fixed in the ground with iron pegs, a method that I recommend to you. You shove the feet of the easel in and then you push a 50-centimeter-long iron peg in beside them. You tie everything together with ropes; that way you can work in the wind.")

In addition to the winds disrupting everything and everyone (I was awoken in the middle of the night by the rattling and blowing) there is the matter of mud. Everywhere.

So besides finding it difficult to think or focus  it is also impossible to move!  

This is the time of year (any period of transition is tricky) when I lean into practice to help carry me forward. I've been neglecting this space because I am consumed by another. Year after year I seem to forget that running an online offering is hard work. I have to show up daily, pay attention to what is happening, think and write. But it is the very best way for me to get unstuck. 

Taking action, applying effort and exercising discipline ... it is what the Yogis call Tapas which translates as"heat" or "fiery disciplines that burn away impurities."  Tapas is balanced by introspection and surrender ... applying that discipline towards self understanding, development and growth.

My discipline these days centers upon study. Or rather, curiosity. (If you haven't watch it yet, this talk by Elizabeth Gilbert on living a life driven by curiosity speaks to the multi-passionate soul.)  My focus this year is upon learning new techniques and  ways of working with favorite mediums (watercolors, drawing, pen and ink, mixed media) which afford me a broader creative vocabulary. I am loving these online courses:

 Scribble Art which is way harder than it sounds! I have a long way to go in terms of really working with shading and creating a wider range of values using the scribble to express volume and the sense of an object in space. Being loose and making meaningful marks takes loads of practice.

Then there is this course on watercolor and mixed media called Creative Girl: Land of Light and Shadows.  

I am eyeballing a few more (but not until I finish what I have started!) including Reflections: An Art Journaling Workshop  (this bit caught my eye:
"unraveling your own story and creating authentic art that only you can tell") and All Creatures Small and Lovely (hello? Watercolor AND animals?!)

Not that I am lacking in things to keep my head and heart busy. There is a pile of books by my bedside. Currently immersed in Dreaming the Eagle by Manda Scott, the first book in her trilogy on the Celtic Warrior Queen Boudica.  The Tao of Equus: A Woman's Journey of Healing and Transformation through the Way of the Horse was recommended to me by several wise friends. And then I won this new title The Other Side of the River by Eila Carrico which I've started and realize is a book to be slowly savored and enjoyed. 

Oh, and then there is this fun and insightful course on developing a personal approach towards working with and interpreting the Tarot ... which had me adding to my Tarot collection with these lovely cards (The Anna K Tarot)

It seems staying stuck may not be in the cards for me ... as long as I find my footing with all this creative study and keep moving forward in practice. Action grounded by consistency and regularity is what supports and anchors me when both the winds and the mud threaten to upend me.

Meanwhile, fundraising for the therapy horses of continues. To date, my creative communities both online and at home have rallied in support and close to $800 has been raised for Team Star.  It is pimping I do willingly as the horses deserve every dollar, every oat for the incredible work they do week in and week out.


Friday, February 5, 2016

For the Horses (HeartFull Living 2016)

Tuesday and Thursday mornings I make sure to eat a hearty breakfast. Normally, mornings are me-times with Cowgirl at school and the Husband at work. But this year I have re-envisioned what that means. Rather than staying cozy inside the house and inside my head, I fuel up and suit up before heading out into the cold.  

I make sure to dress in layers for warmth: wool socks in neoprene boots; thermal long johns and non-holey (but oh so holy) blue jeans; a t-shirt, a sweatshirt, and finally my frayed and wool-lined barn jacket. I grab a wool hat and gloves along with a tote bag holding a bottle of water, a Cliff bar, an apple, my driver's license and cellphone. 

yes, it IS cold outside!

Tuesdays are my day to volunteer at HETRA: Heartland Equine Therapeutic Riding Academy. I help out on Thursdays as well with stall cleaning and turning out horses, but Tuesdays I am a sidewalker for therapy sessions.  The mission of HETRA is "to improve the quality of life both physically and emotionally of adults and children with disabilities through equine assisted activities."  

In my year of volunteering I have seen students arrive in wheelchairs and after months of intensive physical therapy, including the therapeutic riding sessions, they come to session using a walker. In the beginning, many will  require the full physical support of two sidewalkers (a volunteer on each side of the horse assisting the rider) to stay in the saddle but as they grow stronger they advance to less support. They are able to ride with minimal assistance and often  are controlling the horse. It is an exciting moment to watch people who perhaps cannot communicate verbally still speak to their horse. Normally dependent upon others, in that moment the rider and the horse are a team.

Several of the students I have assisted are living here from out of state. They are in town for intensive rehab therapy for spine or brain injuries, often staying months away from their families and the support of their local communities. As a mother, it is humbling to watch the parents who drop everything to rally around their child. The love, optimism and determination of both the student and their family members to do whatever it takes to foster healing, independence and strength brings me to my knees every week. 

Over twenty years ago, I broke my neck and was confined to a halo brace for three months. At the time I was aware that my physical limitations would be short-lived, yet more daunting than the screws in my head were the dark emotions I battled every day. The strength of spirit and emotional fortitude I see in the students and their families has been a continual source of inspiration for me, especially as I worked through grieving of death of my mother.  

Each week I arrive to volunteer, but I bring home far more than I offer. Love and  generosity of spirit abound in the barn, spilling forth from all who participate. Each rider has a team of supporters, many volunteers. There is the person leading the horse, the therapist conducting the lesson, two sidewalkers and the horse. 

Star, a 21 year old palomino and mascot for HeartFull Living 2016

Oh, the horses. After the student, they are the stars of the show. Incredibly well-trained they are equally patient and gentle. Surrounded by a huddle of people and carrying an often unbalanced rider, they focus upon their task. They can be goof-balls and chow hounds out in their pens, but in the arena they do their job. You can see they know they are doing important work and that they enjoy it.  

Leroy, an 11 year old Belgium/Haflinger "Mister Blue Eyes"

As I prepare to dive into the conversation that is my HeartFull Living offering, it is this experience that fuels me.  It is for the benefit of the horses that I dedicate the fruits of HeartFull Living (all monies are being donated to the care of the Hetra horses). The horses model Love in action as they support the students in their healing work. These horses have  supported me in the journey of remembering myself Whole, Loved and in Love. They continually bring me back to the fire of Love I knew as a young child for horses and all that they represent: freedom, connection, individual power, and strength united with grace.  

HeartFull Living begins February 14. I hope you will consider joining me in what always turns out to be a magical, juicy, rich conversation on the ways we support and spread  Love and Loving throughout our world.