I approached her, she seemed open but unsure. She was moving at the end of her rope, turning, twisting, stepping, then moving over and doing it again from the other side. She tossed her head. I approached her and she sighed and relaxed, but her energy was humming. A totally different energy than what she’s had before. I’ve noticed she seems more energetic, open, curious, and well…. she seems more alive. At this point I have some feeling of guilt,. For you see, she’s been my horse on and off for the past 10 years. Nora has been one of the cornerstone horses in my lesson program. You probably have met her type, she’s the horse I can put anyone on, she’s steady, prefers to stop over going, the one that allows the beginners some leeway, and for that more advanced rider, she cuts them no slack. I’ve seen her reduce students to tears of frustration and lift them up until they have tears of elation. I tried to sell my Nora girl, but it didn’t work out. She made it clear she didn’t want to leave and I thank God that Katie was sensitive enough to realize that and open my eyes to what Nora was feeling.
So now, she’s mine. She’s all mine, no one else’s. I’ve found that I’m selfish where she is concerned. I dream of her, I can close my eyes right here at my desk and feel her soft coat, see her eyes, smell her wonderful horse smell, and feel my love for her open my heart in gratitude for all she’s given me. She’s taught me how to teach, she’s given me Sassy, and she’s given me her bubbles. But today, today she gave me another a gift. The gift of seeing her become something new. She is open to herself, I saw her exploring the sensation of being tied up, the movement back and forth, the testing of the boundries. In the barn she responded to grooming like a colt would. She startled at first, then trusted me enough to settle down, but then pushed on my boundries to see where they were. There was an opening in her I never felt before, it was as though she was enjoying just learning. I know I’m making her seem human, but that’s how it felt. It made me a little giddy, but then as I realized my student wasn’t going to ride and I didn’t have to teach, I found myself feeling a little lost. It’s been so long since its been just me and my horse, I was unsure what to do. I looked at Nora, she looked at me, and I swear a bubble of anxiety came up in both of us. What do we do? How do we be human and horse together without teaching? Then a lightness came in, I felt like that little horse crazy girl again. I untied her and walked into the arena. She literally was dancing besides me! Nora! Dancing, I’ve never felt her light like this before, on her toes with a sparkle in her eye. Where was the calm, quiet, shut down horse I was used to seeing? I turned to Kim and Kristin who were watching me and I said “She’s so open!” We went into the arena together, side by side, her dancing on her toes and me, trying to dance with her. I found myself trotting next to her, weaving between the barrels set up in the arena as laughter bubbled up inside of me. I had to slow down and she continued to dance around me until I caught my breath enough to do it again. We danced together, Nora and I. I had tears of joy on my face and she had joy in her heart. As I turned her out with her herd, she turned to me, dipped her muzzle down to my hand to say goodbye then she danced off to her herd. I can’t wait to see who we both become as we go onto this next journey together.
She was born 10 years ago, just 10 short years ago. She had what would be called an amazing pedigree, but I’m not so sure. She had Bey El Bey and Huckleberry Bey in her lines, but she also had Affirmed, Magnum Psyche, and Padron there too. I’m not sure, did her breeding cause her to have demons, or was it just who she was?
I met Tefah
when she was a year old, she took my breath away with her perfection and her
beauty. I mean, right? She was bred to take your breath away. Her lines spoke of beauty in the halter
world, that’s what her grandsire and great grandsire were bred to do, just be
pretty and be dammed about how they felt on the inside. They are stallions bred to be afraid in the
show ring because that’s what the people in the audience want. Right?
Bring them in, terrify them and call their terror beauty because it
makes them run for their lives in fear with their tail flagged, high stepping,
and head held high in the air as they look for a way out. Cool Huh?
Do I sound
angry, you bet I am. I bought Tefah when
she was just a year old, she had started training as a halter horse. She was beautiful, but terrified. My first glimpse of her was seeing her rear
up over the stall door over and over again.
She was just a baby, and she was scared.
Couldn’t anyone see that? She
touched my heart and I bought her right there.
When we got
her home, I put her in the round pen where she ran lap after lap. Head up in the air, nostrils flared, and scared,
so scared, the audience would love that, wouldn’t they? It
took me several days of sitting with her to get her to trust me enough to come
to me and be haltered. Once she realized
I wasn’t going to scare her, she relaxed a bit and I turned her out and she was
quickly integrated into the herd. JJ
accepted her almost right away and took her under his wing to join Sassy who
became her friend and big sister. Sassy
was 2 at the time and I enjoyed watching them playing together. I dreamed of the day that I would ride them,
they would be “my girls” and we would explore the world
I noticed a few differences between my girls though. Tefah worried about a lot of things. She was afraid of changes on the ground, lead ropes, of being tied. One day she would be fine, the next day something would trigger her, and she would pull back and flip over. We quit tying her up when we brought her in, but she continued to pull and scramble back if I put her anywhere other than the end of the barn by the back door.
At the age
of two I started her under saddle training.
But she didn’t respond well. One
day she would lunge beautifully, the next day she would lose her mind and rear,
snort, and generally be afraid of anything on the ground. A puddle, or a wet spot in the arena would
set her off, a shadow or a ground pole would guarantee a backward rush, head shaking,
snorting and trembling. So, I kicked her
back out into the herd to let her just be for another year. When she was 3, I started her again, with the
same results. Yes, there were days, and
sometimes weeks where she went along with the training, I could see her
intelligence and her desire to learn and be with me, but other times she was
terrified. Her energy would shoot out in
all directions at once. She couldn’t
walk forward under saddle or while ground driving without feeling like she
would explode. Once again, I stopped and
turned her out. This process was
repeated again when she was 4,5,6,7, and 8.
There were times her training progressed, and we did well together. On those days I wasn’t sure where I ended,
and she began. Reins and leg aides
weren’t even needed, and we would end those rides with smiles in our
hearts. I just couldn’t believe how
easily she connected with me. But other
times the demon would come, I don’t know how to describe what would happen to
her other than it was like seeing something become possessed. Her eyes would open to their widest point,
her breath would whistle, her body would tremble, and she really did not seem
to know who she was, what she was doing, or where she was. I’ve seen her take off in terror and run
blindly over chairs, the mounting block, and anything in her path, stopping
only when blood was streaming from her nostrils and from the cuts on her legs
from running over things. I thought what
is this? What am I doing wrong? I called in people to help me. Chiropractors, other trainers, veterinarians,
body workers, more chiropractors, cranial sacral workers, animal communicators,
and sent her off for training. I’ve
given her supplements, herbs, and essential oils. I tried magnesium to help her brain, I had a
saddle built for her just in case it was the saddles fault. I knew this was
more than a trust thing. I was losing her;
I was seeing less of my “baby girl” and more of the demons. I sent her to a dear friend to see if she
could find a way to her. But the demons
followed Tefah there, she attacked the other horses, pulled back when she was tied,
and she struggled. My friend did make
progress, and after two months I came to ride her and bring her home. Under saddle she seemed calmer, my friend had
explained things to her better than I had and it felt like she was more
available, but I could still feel the demon lurking and I have to tell you, I
was afraid it was still there. We had a 6-hour
drive to bring her home, and hour into the drive Tefah lost her mind. The trailer started bucking, jumping, and
swaying from side to side. I’ve never
felt anything like that. I found a
country road and we pulled off. Joanie
was with me and we looked inside. Tefah
was standing there with terror filled eyes, kicking over and over again. And she was kicking hard. We talked to her; it didn’t help. There terror wouldn’t leave. I walked to the back of the trailer and
touched the door, she kicked it so hard she bruised my hand. I looked over at Joanie and said, “we
can’t open the door, we can’t help her!”.
I didn’t know what to do, the blood had started to fly from cuts in her
legs, but if I opened the door I was afraid she would run us over and run
herself to death, or into traffic where she would die and possibly kill
others. So, Joanie and I jumped into the
truck and just started driving. Tefah
kicked like that for an hour, when she finally stopped, we pulled over at a gas
station to see her. Blood was splattered
all over the interior of the trailer. The
trailer was dented in several places. Her
lead rope was hanging, the partition was now on the floor and her hay net was
under it. We checked the wounds on her
legs and were thankful they had quit bleeding.
She was exhausted and standing quietly.
I called Anoka Equine and the vet on call agreed we shouldn’t try to
open the door or take her out, just get home and she would meet us at the
farm. We pulled into the driveway under
the cover of darkness. Everything seemed
dark, including me, Tefah, and the night.
The sadness was overwhelming, along with terrible guilt, and doubt. We had to use a crowbar to open the trailer
door, the interior of the trailer looked like a murder scene, and Tefah looked
exhausted, weak, scared, and helpless.
The vet did a wonderful job stitching her up and Tefah’s wound healed,
but both her heart and mine were left bleeding.
healed physically, I spent more time with her.
When she was up to it, I started working with her, but I knew I would
never ride her again. I tried to connect
with her, to feel what she was feeling, but she locked me out. It
felt like her brain was deteriorating and I couldn’t stop it. Was her brain deformed? Was her brain damaged because of head
injuries related to her terror? Was it
because of her halter bloodlines? I just
didn’t know, and I probably will never know.
Tefah isn’t there anymore, she doesn’t relax, her eyes don’t soften, and she
holds her breath. The other horses must
notice it because they have sent her out of the herd. She’s lonely out there, alone and afraid. I talked to my vet and discussed what has
been happening to her, the two of us agreed we should set her free.
did let her go. It was one of the most
painful things I have ever done. As she
left this world, I felt her anguish, she never has let me feel that and it
overwhelmed me. I fell to my knees at
her side and let the anguish was over me, then there was a feeling of
peace. When I felt her beautiful soul
leave this world, I was able to lay next to her and hug her like I’ve always
wanted to, and I felt her peace. Rest
well my baby girl. I wish I had been
stronger than your demons, but I wasn’t and I’m sorry. You will always be in my heart and thank you
for that last hug and for finally letting me feel your pain. I’m sorry you felt like you had to hide that
from me. I would have let you go sooner
if I had known. I know you were a good,
good horse and I hope you feel healed and free as you run with JJ. I just know the two of you are together. I can’t wait to see you, and to hug you again
someday. I love you baby girl. I always will carry you in my heart.
It’s time to sell my partners, my friends, my lesson horses. Those of you that know me know that I’m not good at this. Its easy for me to buy a horse, but the idea of selling them makes my stomach roll.
I have Chance for sale, he is our sweet, gentle, beautiful, young, little Morgan gelding. He loves me, I feel it every time I’m with him, and he has only been here a year. He settles the front pasture, they follow him and he leads with gentle assurance. I restarted him under saddle and as he learned he became soft and relaxed. He came here so wound up he jumped over the mounting block the first time he saw it! He’s young, this little guy, but so eager to learn. He loves people and will spend the whole day with us in the barn if we let him. I have never been around a horse that likes to snuggle like he does. He has given us his whole heart and his trust and I never want to let that go.
Then there is Cherry, our teacher, she’s our middle aged girl, she has taught more people than I can count, and I trust her with both my smallest riders and my more advanced riders. She’s my go to horse in all things. When people come to visit they ride Cherry, she’s patient, she’s sweet, and she is gentle. Cherry has taught me how to listen, to pay attention to the little things so I can keep her comfortable when her navicular issues come up. I’ve learned that horses know their bodies best and listening to them is a great way to help them heal because of Cherry. She’s a healer horse, the one that will come up to you in the pasture when you don’t feel good and stand with you. She talks to me easily and is easy to understand. She’s matter of fact and she’s dependable. She’s that horse that you say is worth her weight in gold. That horse that’s been there done that and is ok with teaching humans how to do it all.
And finally, there is Nora. Wow, Nora- I can’t believe I’m selling Nora. She has done so many things with me, and for me. My heart has named her “Bubbles”, because that’s what I feel when I ride her. She is my Sassy’s mother, she’s the herds mom figure, she is totally trustworthy and she will teach anyone I ask her to. She’s a tough teacher, once she knows you can do something, she won’t accept you backsliding. She hold advanced students to a higher level and allows the beginners to make mistakes. She has been my rock in times of crisis, I have cried into her mane probably as much as I have into JJ’s. I ride her without reins, feel the wind on my face, and she gives me wings. With Nora I feel like I can fly. She’s MY teacher.
So it’s time to say goodbye to three parts of my heart. My softie, my friend, and my shoulder to cry on. When I look at the situation logically I think I should sell Chance to someone off property, that makes sense right? Since he was only here a year and could be okay out there with people that aren’t in our little bubble. Then, Joanie can buy Cherry, they can take care of each other, and finally I found someone who is willing to learn the way we are with the horses to buy Nora and she can teach them our unusual ways! so it’s all set…. right? Wrong……..
Cherry and Joanie started arguing a little, the person coming out to see Chance couldn’t decide if she liked him or not. But Nora and Katie are getting along. In the meantime I keep telling Joanie I wish Chance could stay here. It’s hurting my heart to think of him leaving. Especially since when he first got here he was so anxious. It all feels wrong (except Katie and Nora). Then, right in the middle of everything Brandi goes downhill fast and we have to let her go. Now, we have another wrench in the plan since Brandi was going to live with Amity, who is a current student. Brandi’s job was to teach Amity how to own a horse. Did I mention that Joanie really loves Chance? Oh, I may have left that out……
This whole journey of rehoming my horses feels like an uphill battle. My heart feels too quiet and heavy, I’ve lost the desire to ride, I’m agitated and can’t stop my worry. Looking at my horses makes me feel sad and unsettled, then one day my heart wakes up and I notice how Joanie and Cherry are arguing about teaching each other. Neither one needs to be the student and it is not working out to have two teachers own each other. I see Joanie take Chance out after morning chores, and how they lean towards each other. My heart swells up and I feel their love. Light bulbs go off in my head! Joanie helped me train Chance, he trusts her as much as he trusts me. I blurt out, “Joanie you love Chance!” She knows that, it’s not news to her. I’m sure she is thinking “duh!” and she probably rolled her eyes a little bit. I say maybe I made a mistake in thinking Chance was too young. He loves you and he needs a teacher. We talk and decide she will call me or text me after she thinks it over. Well not too far into the evening she texts me that she will take a chance on Chance.
The next day I see Amity and ask her if she would like Cherry. Her face lights up and she gets up out of her chair with a huge smile on her face! She says Yes! and gives me a big hug. My heart opens up even more. It feels so right and easy. Why did I shut my heart down in this situation?
I almost made a huge mistake by forcing my heart to be quiet and to only be logical in who should buy my horses. The heart factor is very important and I almost cut it out! You should see Joanie and Chance, they are enjoying each other and Joanie is teaching him like the pro that she is. Cherry is in heaven, she’s teaching Amity and enjoying only having one rider who is mindful and eager to learn. Amity had been dreaming about Cherry before I had ever said anything about Cherry to her! And Nora lets talk about Nora! She showed Katie her bubbles the other day and Katie felt them! Her face lit up and I wish I had taken a picture, the look on her face took my breath away. I even saw Katie drop her reins and just ride Nora with feel. It’s amazing how much our heart knows, and maybe we should take the time to listen to what it is saying. I know I will be moving forward with a lighter heart that knows my horses are with the best owners they could have. And now it’s time to enjoy my Sassy girl, she’s waiting for me.
This morning I woke up and my heart felt heavy and at first I couldn’t remember why. But then it hit me. Today I was going to say goodbye to one of my friends, my co-teacher, my horse. Today is the day I set up with our vet to let her go. The pain in her eyes, in her hips, and the tightness in her muscles was becoming constant and her soul whispers to me, “please let me go, it’s time for my rest.” At first I fight her whispers, I turn away and try not to see, but she’s determined to show me and her whispers seem louder. I pick up her lead rope and the exhaustion from her washes over me in waves, I can barely lead her into the barn because it’s overwhelming me. I feel tears trickle down my face as my heart answers her and it says “Okay, I will call, I will let you go.” I stand with her for a moment, dry my tears and contact her vet. He agrees with me and we set up her appointment. I tell her two more nighttimes, then we will let you go. She looks at me and continues to eat her breakfast. She knows I will do this for her.
So this morning the two night times are over. I look up, and check my watch, it’s 9:30, chores are almost done, the horses have been fed and now it’s time.
I walk to the wall of halters and pick one that fits her the best. This is the hardest part for me, the last walk to the pasture to get her. I feel the inside of me shaking, I don’t want to do this, but she asked me to, and I know I can’t deny her this. I see her at the edge of the herd, I walk to her and gently buckle the halter on her head. We stand there a moment, and just share space. We feel the sun, it’s so warm and it feels good to just stand there with her. She sighs, I turn and lead her towards the barn. Just before the gate, she stops, there is a moment of panic from her. I didn’t expect that. We stop, I stand there and whisper, “I love you.” She relaxes and walks with me to the barn. We groom her there in the barn, scratch her in all her itchy places, she makes her camel face as we scratch her belly and for a moment I smile.
Kate braids her mane and we give her handful of horse treats. I then gently lead her to the trailer. She sends out a little nicker, looks around, then walks into the trailer with me. I gently close the door and on legs that are still shaking I get into the truck, start it up, and ease down the drive. I’m glad my mom and Kristin are with me. I feel so shaky on the inside and I don’t really want to do this. My mind screams stop, but my heart says keep going.
We get to the clinic and walk her back to the place we will let her go. It’s still beautiful weather, the sun is shining and she is with people who love her. She knows she was loved, and loved well. Our vet comes out and gives her a shot of something to help her relax and we walk her to the back of the clinic where she will rest. Our vet gives her the final sedation and she lays down and nickers as she leaves us. I will miss her gentle nicker, her eagerness to eat, and her way of teaching our students. She was a good, good horse, our Brandi Girl. I hope someday to see her running with our herd, with no pain, a healthy glow, no limp, and clear eyes that don’t hurt anymore. Run free dear Brandi. Run Free. You were a great teacher, partner, and friend.
I stand here with Cherry like I’ve done a hundred times while we wait for our student. Cherry is tacked up and relaxed. Her energy is quiet and she’s aware that I will not be riding her and someone else will. We share space, but today I want to be closer to her. I need to feel her, I observe how her coat is already changing and getting ready for fall, I notice her cowlick where her mane meets the skin on her neck, her tail has many colors, white, black, and grey. Her pink nose is slightly burned and I make a note to make sure we put her fly mask on tomorrow morning. She sighs and shifts her weight, I gently touch her rump and lay my head there. She sighs again.
My mind starts to wander, back a few years to when the barn was really busy. There were kids and parents everywhere. Cherry was busy too, everyone loved riding her no matter what age they were. The two of us taught well over a hundred people together. We teamed up to show them how to have a relationship with a horse, and it was possible to have a relationship with a horse that wasn’t theirs. They got the chance to learn how to walk, trot, and canter on Cherry’s long but beautiful back. They learned how to ground drive, how to lunge her, how to saddle her, how to give her a bath. For 11 years she has been my partner. She’s been rock solid and gentle. She’s been a team player and I hope she thinks that of me as well.
I love this horse, I love teaching. But today we had our last dance with a student. Cherry and I are retiring. It’s a bittersweet day, I did not expect to have so many mixed up feelings swirling through me. I am looking forward to seeing what the future will bring. I look forward to seeing my horses retire and enjoy their new partners who will spoil them and make them feel special. I look forward to spending time with my smaller herd and riding! I also look forward to spending time with my boarders and help them with their horses if they want me to. It’s been a great life. I loved to watch the kids who called me Mama Cheryl grow up. It doesn’t seem possible that the little 7 and 8 year old girls have grown up and have lives as adults. Where did the time go?
I am so thankful for our students. They have taught me more than I ever taught them. I’m going to miss that look in their eyes when they get what I’m explaining, and the look in Cherry’s eye when she softens and places herself in their hands because they earned her trust.
It’s been such an honor to have you all in our lives. I’m a bit sad that it’s time to say goodbye. To all of you that trusted me, I just want to say thank you for……everything.
I close my laptop, take a deep breath as I stand up from my chair and stretch. The dogs sense my movements, open their eyes, stand up, stretch, and yawn. They walk to the door with me and impatiently wait for me to get my winter gear on before heading out the door. Not a human word has been spoken, it is quiet here and our conversations come through in our body language and intent. The dogs run ahead of me and through the barn. I start to think about Cherry, since she is who I need to bring into the barn for a lesson. I close my eyes for a second, make sure I am grounded and breathing properly. I check in with my body and release any tension I may have. I stand up tall, feel my feet on the ground, and let my joints and muscles move me towards the mare’s pasture. I think of Cherry as I pick up the halter, unbuckle it, and drape it and the lead rope over my arm. I let the ground support me, I open my senses, feel the gentle breeze, it has a hint of warmth in it, I do believe spring is in the air and it makes me smile. The earth smells alive, wet from the melting snow, the ground is softer but still hard underneath a layer of mud. I must be mindful of where I place my feet since the ground is partially frozen and uneven with hoof prints. I reach the gate and take another deep cleansing breath. I open the gate and try not to make a harsh sound with the chain. I don’t want to disturb the herds spirit and energy. The horses notice my approach, I scan them to find Cherry. I see her, but she hasn’t acknowledged me yet. I think of her, and what we are going to do together. I think of her student. I hold him in my mind, I allow what his energy feels like to come to me so I can hold it in my heart to show Cherry.
She knows I’m coming, I see her ear swivel towards me, and then forward again. There, she turned her head and looks at me. I stop walking, my heart says hello to hers. She moves her mouth, I see her lips twitch and then she yawns. I continue my approach and stop short of her. My heart says hello again, she looks away at the bale, then over towards her herd. She really doesn’t want to come to work today. I nod my head, my heart says, I know. I hold her student in my heart and let her see him. I give him a name, so she knows him. She likes his energy, her eyes turn towards me again, her ears prick forward, and she leans a bit towards me. That’s her invitation to come in, I approach and gently strap the halter on her head. I turn to face the direction she is facing and we share space together for a moment. My heart asks her “are you ready?” she shifts her weight forward and our energy connects as we walk back to the barn together. I tie her up and gently start grooming. She pins her ears when I reach her chest, I soften my hand and gently stay there for a moment and she relaxes, her lips quiver, then she yawns. I continue grooming, watching her reaction and adjusting when she tells me I need to. Her student will be here in a ½ hour and I need to put the saddle on. I show her this in my heart and go to get her stuff. I set the saddle pad on her back, she holds her breath, I step back and just share space with her, touch her shoulder gently, and she puts her head down and yawns. I go get her saddle and gently place it on her back. Don’t pull, she says with her face and ears. I won’t my heart says, trust me, I’m watching you. I see you. I see your anxiety. Ok, she says, go ahead, be gentle. I will I say. I finish putting on her gear and we stay silent together, sharing space, sharing thoughts through our body language. I love being right here, in her world, trying to listen to what she is saying. It’s so quiet, peaceful, calm, as we explore ways to talk to each other. I show her the student again, she sighs. It’s ok we can do this. I know she says, it’s almost time. We connect again and our bodies hum with each others thoughts and energy. She’s sleepy, I feel that. I am too. I notice we both are swaying as we breathe, we hear the birds, the swan, the geese and the ducks swimming in the pond. We feel the breeze as it gently touches our faces. The sun feels so warm, it’s nice that winter is almost over. It’s been a rough one. We both slip in and out of relaxation. The only sound is our breath.
Then WHAM car doors slam, dogs go running. There is so much noise. Voices, laughing, running, barking, I yearn to go back to the peace we had, but it’s time to enter another world. I must quickly change the way I was thinking and put it back into humanness. It’s louder, harsher, startling. Others are getting into our space too fast. I can’t think of the right words to say hello. They don’t see that I’m startled, I’m trying to say hello. I shake my head, get myself back in my body and make a shield for Cherry, she’s not ready yet. I stop my student, ask him to get her bridle and I walk into the office with him. I find the human words to say hello to his family. Tell Boomer to get down, feel Lainey against my leg. We get the bridle and walk to Cherry together. He feels my energy and slows down. I gently put Cherry’s bridle on, and he responds to my quietness. He looks at me and smiles, I smile back. I ask him to take her for a walk. He connects to Cherry, she sighs and moves with him. She remembers him, she likes him, and she enjoys helping me teach him. His energy is good and he is learning how to talk to her. He feels her and is quiet. She likes that. I must use my human words to talk to him, but I use the horse’s words to show him. He likes that. Sometimes I get lost trying to find the human words, it is hard to be human when the horse’s words are so easy. They use their bodies, their minds, there intent, and their energy to tell me what they want to say. Humans are hard, they use words, but their bodies say other things, their energy jumps around, one second calm, then another worried. Sometimes I feel caught between the two worlds, not sure of who I am, or how to speak.
“For God, who said, “let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts…..
There is a rhythm here. The sound of people walking, the whoosh of the heat as it comes on, the quiet humming of the pumps as they send medications into my daughter’s vein. I hear laughter in the hall, her nurse is approaching. She hesitates outside Danielle’s door to gown and mask up so she can come into a room that is contaminated with the bacteria that lives in our daughters’ lungs. As she walks in, Danielle sits up and says, “Hiiiiiiii, what’s up?” The nurse smiles and answers. They chat a bit as her nurse examines her picc line and then her peripheral IV. Danielle draws her out some more and asks questions about her life. How is she? Does she have dogs? (which is Danielle’s favorite subject) if the nurse, physical therapist, respiratory therapist, doctor, dietician, housekeeper, or anyone else that comes into her room has a dog then they go into a deep discussion. They usually will pull out their cell phone to show her pictures, they will tell her if their dog is sick, she will offer suggestions. She pulls out her cell phone and shows them interesting photos of dogs she takes care of. The mood lightens and the person usually leaves the room with a smile on her/his face. I love to listen to her voice, her laughter, and see Gods light shining from her. People don’t want to leave her room, and it’s funny how they are shocked that they stayed longer than they intended. Danielle makes them feel better, even though they don’t realize it right away.
What they don’t see is how she is after they leave. The worry comes back into her eyes and she becomes quiet for a few moments. I wonder what she’s thinking, and I ask. Sometimes she will talk to me, other times turn away. It breaks my heart because I can’t go where she goes in her thoughts. I know she has worries and fears. I wish I could take this from her, the fear of the unknown. But I can’t, I just try to keep by her side as much as possible, make as many memories as I can with her, let her know I will stand next to her and help her fight every aspect of her disease that tries to rob her of her life. We call out to God to fight the dark thoughts and fear. I ask Him to heal her, to allow her to fill her lungs and breathe! God is here with us, right by her side, holding her in His arms and shining his light on and through her. She is filled with his joy and his light. People feel it and bask in it. He heals souls through her. She is a miracle and a light in a place that is filled with pain and fear. My heart ponders this as I fall into the rhythm of the hospital and the other side of our life, the side that tests our faith, our relationships, our finances, and our sanity. But inside of it all we know God has our back; He finds ways to show our little girl, our family, our friends, and everyone that comes into her room His wonderous light.
He feels cold. His energy is so low that he shakes from the effort to stand. He is locked deep inside of himself. There is no real pain, just dullness and lack of coordination. He can’t seem to figure out how to get into the trailer. He doesn’t feel afraid, he is tired, and his body isn’t working right. Finally, he is in the trailer. He’s not sure how he got there, but he is relieved that they helped him in. The trailer ride is soothing, the swaying feels comforting. Arrival to the hospital is a relief and he finds his voice to nicker a greeting. His beloved, Her, comes to him and he talks to her. She smiles through her fears and reassures him. Her love washes over him from her heart in waves and he knows she is with him, even in his dullness. There is much activity, he hears it and feels it, but from a distance. The only thing he really feels is Her, she is there with her hand on his head, sometimes his side and when he can’t feel her hand, he feels her spirit and it’s good to rest in that. There is a weird buzzing sensation as the doctors shave a spot for a catheter in his neck, a bite that is uncomfortable for a moment, but then it’s ok. She’s back at his head. It’s soothing to him to feel her there. The bite must have been something good because he relaxes a little and doesn’t feel so thirsty. His body doesn’t tremble as much, and he can let his spirit come closer to the surface again. His eyes brighten and he notices where he is. There are so many people! He looks around and notices some from his home, She is there, and then the ones that smell like the other horses from home. They are the ones touching him like She does. Someone starts up the buzzing thing and he feels it on his side. He hears someone say “belly tap, and Lipoma, and intestines,” but he doesn’t know what it all means. It just feels better right now and he is glad he could come to the surface and be with Her. Her love washes over him, but now there is much sadness, and uncertainty. She holds his head and whispers, “surgery, should we try?” He hears hope in her voice, and it enters him. He lift his head up and looks at her. “Try? Hope? Yes.” He leans to her and agrees. More people come, he feels a warmth come inside of him, then his body relaxes. It feels so good, like he is floating. His spirit goes deep again, but from a distance he feels Her heart, and it is so good. He loves her heart, it matches his and they beat in rhythm with each other. He senses her leaving, but it’s ok. Her heart is still with him. He can feel it even though her body walks away. He goes further away and begins to sleep.
It is cold, bitterly cold, the kind of cold that freezes your eyelashes and makes breathing, walking, and chores painfully exhausting. We find ourselves wanting to rush, to hurry and get things done so we can get inside. The snow is starting to fall, walking is a struggle and we fluctuate between slipping on the ice or plowing through the snow. I’ve got my scarf pulled up over my nose and my hat pulled down as low as I can without covering my eyes. Hearing and seeing have become a struggle, a battle of either staying warm or sacrificing my senses. I’m desperate for warmth, for coffee, or soup, anything warm. I see all the horses waiting to be fed and I want to cry because each footstep is an effort. It’s overwhelming to know that we need to be out here for hours to get chores finished, and that I must come back out again to tackle night chores. Joanie and Kristin are with me, we’ve stopped talking to each other because it takes too much effort and too much time.
We know we need to take hay out, and that task is looming over our heads like a dark cloud. The knowledge that we will freeze our hands to take the top off the nets, the cutting of the net that wraps the hay is painful, and driving the bobcat freezes our hands and feet. We finish feeding grain to the 18 horses that require it, and now it’s time to take out hay. Joanie starts the bobcat, Kristin is finishing up in the barn, and I head out to open the nets in the feeders. I’m walking out to the feeders, sight and sounds are muffled and my head is down as I search the ground for the best path. Suddenly, a pocket of warmth envelopes me and I stop. I look up to discover I have walked into a circle of horses and it is their warmth that stops me in my tracks. I close my eyes and feel them reaching out to me. The song “Breathe”, by Johnny Diaz starts to play in my mind.
Come and rest at my feet
And be, just be
Chaos calls but all you really need
Is to take it in, fill your lungs
The peace of God that overcomes
Just breathe (just breathe)
let your weary spirit rest
Lay down what’s good and find what’s best
Just breathe (just breathe)
I feel a rhythm here, it’s the rhythm of the herd and my body starts to follow their rhythm as I close my eyes. I feel my heart slowing down and my breathing changes. Chaos does not exist here and it is quiet. There is no worry, no pain, no suffering, no anxiety, just breathing and heartbeats, just being right here, right now, in this moment of time. That’s all there is. I find God here, I find rest here. The horses have become my gentle leaders, and I am grateful that they opened their circle of warmth to show me how to “Just Breathe”.
There is a shift in the circle, I hear the bobcat moving. Joanie and Kristin come out of the barn and down the driveway. I look up and see them. I see the smile in their eyes, and their spirits lift me up. I can’t wait to tell them what I experienced, but for a little while I want to hold it quietly in my heart. God, my horses, and my friends have shown me how to find warmth and rest where only moments before there was worry and exhaustion. There is such beauty here, even when the world is frozen.
That phrase has been showing up everywhere for me lately. Our pastor talked about it and how God helps us get up again. My teacher, Andrea, just gave us an article she wrote about getting back up again. At Bible Study last night we talked about Job being lifted up by God. My grandma used to say, “pull yourself up by your bootstraps”. It seems like we all need to get up at some point in our lives. I got to thinking about it a lot since it felt like God REALLY wanted me to ponder this. I’ve stepped back and rolled it around in my brain for awhile and my take on it is this.
We all fall down and our choice is to get up, or lay there. But there are times we can’t get up on our own. For instance, yesterday after morning chores I was exhausted. I had spent 9 hours the day before in the barn giving lessons and getting prepared for the cold snap. When I got in from the barn I was exhausted both mentally and physically. Wednesday morning I woke up with red rimmed eyes, a headache and depressed that I had to do it all again. I felt alone, dark, and down to the point I was nauseous and just wanted to go back to bed which I did as soon as I got back into the house from morning chores. It went from bad to worse. I tried praying, asking God why? And please pull me up out of the blackness. I hate to tell you but He didn’t immediately step in and lift me up into a shaft of bright light. I felt myself sinking deeper. I started to feel like a worthless lump of coal, good for nothing, can’t take care of anything right. I should still be in the barn taking care of things. I have horses to help, a chicken coop that needs revamping and etc. As I laid there I heard my cell phone ring, I ignored it. I heard texts coming through. I ignored them and kept telling myself how lazy I was and how useless. My alarm went off and nap time was over. I had an hour to get the house cleaned for bible study and I still had to give 3 hours of lessons in the barn. I dragged myself out of bed asking God to help me again. I had to put on a brave smiling face. People would be here that I had to help and horses that needed me to be there for them. Then out of the blue my phone rang in my hand. It was my sister, Chauna! She was FaceTiming me. I answer and there, right in front of me, is sweet Olivia’s face! Chauna and Olivia called me and we chatted. I pulled up a silly song on Alexa for Olivia to sing to. My heart got lighter, I started smiling and I felt peace wash over me as I lifted up. I saw the sun shining, felt my dogs nose under my hand and came back into the world of light. God did help, but I had to wait for his timing. I ended up really enjoying lessons that night after she called me. We had laughter, sunshine, and the sweet acceptance and unwinding from a horse that was worried before his lesson. During Bible Study my house was filled with women who all have had struggles, got knocked down, some of us are still down, others are standing up again. But we support each other in our journeys and everyone left with hugs and smiles.
As I pondered all this I realized yes, we all fall, and yes, we all should get up again. I got to thinking even more and realized that we don’t even know when we may be lifting someone up. I bet Chauna didn’t know she did that for me and that she saved my day. So, when you get that nudge that you should call someone, to smile at someone, or stop and ask them how they are doing. Go ahead, follow that feel! Once a small light appears, the darkness gets chased away and the light gets passed on to another. It’s pretty cool that when I got knocked down I got up again because my sister made that phone call, and a little 3 year old passed some of her light on to me.