The Horse Who Showed Me The Way

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I love this artist’s simple, gestural drawings and words of inspiration. This particular one has caused me to reflect on the impact that one horse has made in my healing journey.

FB_IMG_1561724275548 It’s no secret that I have a special love for one horse above all others. Ta Sunka Witco came into my life 2 years ago, when I first discovered Mill Swamp Indian Horses, after several months of asking, “Who should I ride today?” I had enjoyed Roxy’s smooth gait, and was clear about not wanting to deal with a challenging horse that could land me another broken limb. Once in a lifetime was good enough. After all, I hadn’t ridden in 20 yrs, never thought I would again, and was learning to do it as if it were a totally new experience. I had worked as a horse trainer apprentice and barn manager at a quarter horse farm when I had my traumatic accident, but it was wonderful to erase the past and begin anew, especially since I was new to Natural Horsemanship.

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From the moment I got on him, he felt unlike any other horse. He had a majestic strength that gave me chills, and I felt an immediate deep connection with him. Not much for fanfare, “Shunk” as we call him for short, was very sure of himself, but not in a cocky way. Perhaps not the most handsome or regal horse on the lot, he possessed a quiet confidence that made me feel safe, and until very recently, he was the only horse I rode.

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Shunk is an older gelding. He is a Choctaw Colonial Spanish Mustang who’s grandsire was a famous Medicine Hat stallion named Choctaw Sun Dance.

A Medicine Hat is a Paint  horse with special markings. As described by Vicki Ives, his beloved owner, “A paint with a particular spot over ears like a cap, spot over the head to protect from enemy behind, shield over chest to protect from enemy in front. Native Americans believed a warrior who rode a Medicine Hat could not be killed in battle due to the special magic of his horse.”

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Magic runs in Shunk’s bloodlines. It wasn’t long before I realized this. Not only is he a descendant of the horses famous for carrying the displaced Indians on The Trail of Tears, and The Pony Express, he has a unicorn spirit. This was something that I felt was very strongly communicated to me. In my life, he is a creature unlike any other, Heaven-sent to carry me and lead me in many ways. He has taught me to trust. He has taught me to believe in myself as a leader, and to find my voice. He has taught me how to walk through fear, and to recognize my worth. He has taught me when to hold on tight and when to let go, and given me the wisdom to discern what is needed in any given situation.

 

 

He is not without a ” bad boy” past. He was once a mighty stallion who could not be contained, but is now a devoted, protective herd boss who is very particular about who he accepts. Unlike me, he is not given over to folly and maintains a fairly formal, “business-like” attitude. He has a job to do and he takes it very seriously. I am animated, adoring, and chatty. We both learn from each other. Sometimes I get a very clear message that I need to stop talking. I can’t begin to tell you what helpful advice this is. That’s not to say that he doesn’t indulge my whimsy. No no. On the contrary, he understands and accepts me as I am, even if I am too huggy and demanding of kisses. He is not showy with his affection, and exhibits no favoritism. He is just there for me, fully present in his role as teacher, healer, faithful unicorn steed. He is a magnificent horse.

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His strength and steadfast endurance make him the most handsome creature to me, but his magical abilities have the power to transform any trepidatious rider and build their confidence too. He has taught me that showing up, unwavering in support, is the greatest form of loving.

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My boyfriend may be a bit jealous of the time and attention that I give to Shunk, but he knows the value of it. Putting my trust in a wild Mustang has paved the way for me to, at long last, trust in his devotion and love for me.

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This past Sunday, my beloved gave me a gift greater than any amount of money.  It was an act so selfless and poignant, that I never again will doubt his commitment to me.

He took my mother to my stepfather’s memorial service in my place. He refused to stand by and watch me be guilted into doing something I had solid resolve to avoid.

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He stood in the gap, and I let him. There is no more waiting for the other shoe to drop, so-to-speak. If I hadn’t had these years of building trust with Shunk and getting to better understand myself through things only a horse with unicorn magic can teach, I would not have this elated, joyful release of knowing I am deeply loved, and SAFE.

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A favorite Bible verse that comes to me often is 1John 4:18 PERFECT LOVE CASTS OUT Fear. There is no fear in Love. Showing up with unconditional love is a gift of divine brilliance no diamond could ever outshine.

 

 

A Doll and Pony Show

 

When I was a little girl I was very passionate about two things; horses and dolls. I dreamed of riding the neighbor’s pony, Brownie, all by myself  through the thicket that lead to the path that would lead to a magical place deep in the woods, called Charles Island (or Childs Island). In that dream I would take my favorite doll out of my runaway bag, and find the perfect rock to perch on where I could watch Brownie foraging the landscape, which was new and exciting territory for a pony kept in a triangular stall, who had grown quite grumpy with age.

It was there that I held my dearest, and most tenderly swaddled doll, rocking her back and forth, telling her all of my secrets. Mine were not the secrets of a five year old child, but I was lost somewhere in that five year old child, and talking to my doll connected me to a vision that would quell my sadness and give me a reason to hope.

One day, you will understand, I would tell her.

My daughter was with me while I was yet a child. I have always known that she would come, never doubting. Even when it was down to the wire, I knew she would make her way to me from “God’s pocket” or wherever her soul dwelled before my womb.

Though she came to be at a tumultuous time in my life, having stirred up a well of deep fear around bringing a daughter into this world, her presence gave me a sense of purpose and a sublime peace, even in the face of my Anxiety. I was given signs of comfort and encouragement along the way.

Naturally worried about giving birth at the cut-off age of 36, and being told of all the potential complications, I learned at my first Obgyn visit that the baby’s due date was my father’s birthday. I lost my father when I was two. I never had another worry after hearing that.

We had decided on the names Sophia and Bella, knowing we would have a girl. I was working at a department store at the time and my coworkers convinced me that this trick with a necklace held over my belly would definitively determine the sex of my baby, so curiously, I obliged. Much to my surprise, the necklaces back and forth movement, as opposed to circling, was indication that I was actually having a BOY! A BOY? How could I have a boy named Sophia? So I began frantically coming up with a back up boy name, which was awful because with the due date being my Dad’s birthday, and me feeling very strongly Italian, the only choice I had was Alfred. Or Fred. Or Freddie. It all felt so very wrong. I knew I would love little Freddie, (ew, sorry Dad) but where was this little girl I’d been talking to and longing for all my life? Did she change her mind? I wouldn’t blame her. I set my mind to having a boy. I felt guilty for being disappointed. It was a challenging week that coincided with my being served a fried egg that was still jiggly and raw in the white part, which was the most horrific sight that had me so ill, I thought I might succumb. The “e” word was not spoken of from that day on.

That afternoon I came home from work and could not wait to get out of my skirt that was binding at my expanding waistline. I had borrowed some larger clothes from a friend who had managed to survive a fashionable pregnancy. Now this is gonna sound nuts, but it is the absolute truth. When I took the skirt off, I looked at the label, and it said SOPHIEBELLA! I cried tears of joy while I danced around the kitchen in my stockings. That night we decided to name our daughter with both names put together. Sophiabella. Ahhhh. That was her! My next Dr appointment had my due date changed to Oct 30th, about a week earlier than we originally thought. Fine by me, I thought. I knew that all would be well.

I talked to my baby all the time, much like when I was a little girl. I would sing and read to her. But one day, while sitting at the library downtown, those secrets rose up in me like bile and I began to panic. I visualized myself sitting on that rock, holding my doll, watching the pony, and told my child the most important thing for her to remember, which was this:

I may get sad sometimes, and you might not understand why, but always know that I am a fighter and everything will be fine. I will ALWAYS protect you. ALWAYS.

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I remember exactly where I was sitting and the memory is so clear. I put those ugly secrets back in the box and prayed daily that I would be the mother my child needed me to be, and for her life to be so much different than mine. Safe, secure, nurtured, protected, loved, happy… Unencumbered.

The night before she was born I had a dream/vision of a pair of huge glowing hands showing me the most beautiful little baby I have ever seen, in an otherworldly bright, warm and loving light.

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Because God is silly, The Flintstones were playing on the TV while I was in hard labor with my epidural wearing off. It just so happened to be the episode where Wilma’s mother is coming to stay because Pebbles was about to be born. Wilma and I gave birth at 3:20am on October 18th, 2002.  When I was handed my huge yet tiny 10 lb baby for the first time, my jaw dropped in awe. I recognized her right away. Then she stood firm on those strong new legs and looked me square in the eye, and I knew that this was definitely not her first time at the rodeo.

 

I am reflective today, looking back over our sixteen years together. There is an old Jewish fable about the angel, Layla, who tells you all the secrets of the world and your ancestors, while you are in the womb. When you are born, she puts her finger above your lip, just below your nose, and whispers softly, “Ssssshhhhhh”. She locks this knowledge away and leaves behind an imprint.

I wonder if I could have just locked my secrets away, so that they would not have made such a painful imprint on my child. Despite my most heartfelt intentions and love so immense that it defies logic and explanation, it seems the very thing I swore I would protect her from turns out to be me. She is so angry that I suffer with mental health issues. She is merciless in displaying her rage that she has had to see me broken and weak. I know that this rage is really fear. And I am unable to parent her, despite climbing every mountain and looking under every rock for help. I tried and failed at setting boundaries with a father who has consistently released her from ever having consequences, who in fact reinforces negative, entitled, disrespectful behavior by giving her anything she wants. Every effort to give her the tools she needs to be a happy, successful contributing human in this world is wasted and has left me feeling defeated. If I’m really honest, I will say I feel re-victimized and that makes me fire-breathing mad.

My entire life has been a fight to release myself from oppression. While I have now made my pony dream a reality, my sweetest doll, my own baby dear seems to exist in a separate reality to which there seems to be no door. fb_img_1546538945269

The Day I Rested My Boots By The Fire

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It was a cold day that had started out sunny. I knew there was a 100% chance of rain later, but nothing could take away my joyful anticipation. A group of riders were meeting at the farm to grab our horses, get tacked up by 10am, and have an off-site excursion to a friend’s place, Timberline Ranch, several miles away.

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She and her husband had just finished clearing trails in their woods, and we were all happy to christen them, especially since it was hunting season and our usual acreage was off limits.

Riding my favorite horse along the quiet country road, seeing all the farms and fields, had me feeling a sense of nostalgia that was tied to a childhood dream. The entire ride became a prayer of gratitude for experiencing these moments and the joyful contentment I felt.

We were greeted at our destination by a cozy fire and hot coffee. We all dismounted and took a break before hitting the trails, then settling in for lunch. I got some coffee and went to sit by the fire, putting my boots up, and taking in the sights and sounds; cattle mooing next door, the crackling fire, horses and people talking. I was transported back to a golden memory of a day, so simple yet profound.

My daughter was 2 months old and I was getting ready for my first job since giving birth, my first day away from her after eight long and painful weeks of trying to get her to latch on. Despite the overwhelming challenge, I was committed to successful nursing. I have never endured more physical and emotional pain in such a short, yet endless-seeming concentration of time. By the time I took this job, however, we had triumphed and I was well into the breastfeeding zone, mastering pumping and storage in preparation for this day. I felt like I deserved some kind of pioneer-woman, mothering, hardship medal!

It was on this grey, rainy November morning that I got that reward. We were cozily nestled in the glider for her morning feeding. The house was still but for the sound of rain as I watched it fall. It was like a symphony to my ears along the with the precious, sated coos of my baby, finally being nourished by the body that had carried the hope of her arrival since I was a child nurturing my first doll. Her tiny little hands were opening and closing on my chest like a kitten making dough, occasionally resting to play with a button on my blouse. High on a mother’s love and the rush of Oxytocin as my milk let down, I felt a sense of bliss as time stopped and the only existence was the two of us, in this moment. It felt like heaven and I never wanted it to end.

I’m reminded of another day when Bella was about seven and we had gone for a long walk. We stopped to rest on the sidewalk a bit and she climbed in my lap, gave me a big kiss, and said, “Mommy, this is the BEST DAY ever!” I was able to capture that treasured moment with my phone.

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As I sat by the fire drinking my coffee with my feet up, looking around at this group of people whose friendship I treasure, I felt a wave of that same bliss wash over me. Mentally, I fell to my knees in gratitude, holding back tears of joy, tears that are now freely flowing as I write. I wanted to remain frozen in this moment, in this entire day. What makes these memories/feelings so sublime is the way that God is able to turn off my body’s score card that 98% of the time has me “waiting for the other shoe to drop” so to speak. That’s the voice of fear that comes from the child who is trapped behind the door at the bottom of the well, for in her experience there is no ability to see beyond what she has known; the inevitability of lasting peace.

This day in all of it’s simplicity was a turning point within me, for I invited that sad little girl who was peeking out from behind my horse, gazing longingly at me, wanting so much to come out of that shadow, to come and join me. All she had ever wanted in life was now before her and I am finally able to make her know that she is safe. Now that once broken child in me will live forever in this moment of bliss and if there is any shoe dropping, it will be because I am kicking them off after another full day of living in gratitude that I am able to experience riches that no amount of money can buy.

Truly, greater is the reward of contentment when repetitive discord has one falsely believe that they are not entitled to it. It’s been a long, hard road, but I am finally there.

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Threads

A secret place tucked away in the woods
Where I would sit alone
A tree-shaped arbor as a door
Small pool to a stream with a waterfall
And a mossy green rock, my throne
Soothed by the wonder
Of birds and trees
A child torn asunder
Learned to call nature her home.

Faith was never a thing I was indoctrinated into, but an inner “knowing” that resided in my heart as far back as I can remember. Even as a confused, angry, sad, and fearful victim of sexual abuse since the age of three, at the hands of my stepfather, I always felt a presence that felt instinctively familiar to me. Born into this human flesh from the heavenly spirit realm, or “God ’s pocket” as children are often told, is something that has just recently, after half a century of life, been made very clear to me. It is as if all of my experiences are laid out on a long scroll-like tapestry since birth, with pinpoints mapping out my journey; little snippets of memories in the form of any and all senses, that somehow connect in a meaningful way. I call these connections, Threads.

I was so fortunate to be brought up in a small town surrounded by deep woods, at a time when small children were set free in the mornings to explore the world, and return at leisure until the streetlights came on. For me, there was more fear in my home than outside of it. I found my solace in nature.

One day, one of many, where I would pack the same bag with the same items I deemed necessary to survive, and dramatically announce that I was running away, while slamming the door several times, I set off into the woods. My histrionic display having gone ignored, I felt desperately sad and could not control my sobbing as I ambled down the same path of the well-worn trail so familiar. This time I decided to veer off, as if being summoned through the brush, and discovered a magical place that immediately captivated me. The sound of faintly trickling water drew me to a natural arbor through which was displayed a small pool of water leading to a winding stream, surrounded by beautiful moss-covered rocks, one of which made a perfect little seat. I spent hours there, well beyond the loud calling of my name to near sunset. I felt like I was a suckling babe at the bosom of pure LOVE, being nourished and fortified to withstand the world I had no choice but to survive. It became my haven, the place I would run to when I needed to escape. Even when we moved far away, I held the golden memory of it in my heart, and always searched for a new special place.

Fast forward 44 years. After two failed, abusive marriages, struggling to heal and navigating my way through Depression, Complex PTSD and Anxiety, I have finally found a place for my weary heart to call home. I reconnected with my first love who will be my last love, who is my best friend and eternal twin flame. He has taken in me, my precious daughter, 3 cats, and one blind dog, giving us a wonderful new beginning in our new house. As I have uprooted the demons of my past I have begun to make great strides in taking back my power and utilizing healthy tools with which to rebuild the joyful life I so desire. One of these tools is my daily walk which takes me to a glorious park called The Botanical Gardens.

The Gardens are surrounded by a lake with many meandering paths through woods, azaleas, and beautifully landscaped flowerbeds with fountains, footbridges, and statues. There are gazebos and many benches dedicated in loving memory throughout the park. One day I turned a corner to find something I had never seen before, as I was still exploring it all. A sensation of weightless euphoria and nostalgia swept over me as I approached it, and upon arrival, tears of joy. It was a small pool with a waterfall leading to a meandering stream, and there before me, a perfect rock to sit on.

I was no longer escaping, running away in fear, but walking in glorious freedom and strength, and I had come to a place in my life where the memory I had tucked away in my heart had at long last brought me to my haven, both within and outside of myself. This was what I thought of as I reveled in how far and winding my road that had led me back to this familiar place. I am only just now realizing, as I write this, the symbolism of the rock (God). Before I tie it into my story, it even further illustrates what I have been trying to explain about Threads.

A bible verse I had committed to memory sometime in my twenties, to comfort me in times of fear, was Psalms 27:v1 which says:

The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength (rock) of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?

And so it is that these little things, seemingly unrelated to anything at the time we experience them, become Threads that we can see much later, have been woven together very specifically to teach us about ourselves, life, and our place in this world. These many threads weave the tapestry of our lives.

The Free Milk Cow

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Another year has come and gone
And with it went my pride
There is no more pretending
Not to see the days go by
Love and hope give way to comfort
In the midst of gloom
A dream still held to in my heart
That will expire soon.
I will daily count my blessings
Grateful for how far I’ve come
While still linger unfulfilled things
I know I’m not the only one
I only wish I hadn’t wished
Beyond that which I have gained
And stayed humbled in each moment
For sufficient is the day
But the child in me is still a dreamer
Holding fast to fairytales
And despite my silent yearning
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