Sunday, October 20, 2013


How did the horse workshop go you ask. To recap: I had decided to go because I discovered, right in the middle of offering Reiki to one, that I was terrified of horses. Even though the Reiki worked, I was a mess, which didn't seem the best place from which to connect on a healing level.
Lovely spirits put me in touch with Kate Wood, who teaches the Keys to the Heart of a Horse on Orcas Island. Amazing, wonderful teacher and human bean.

Kate rescues wild mustangs and without any force or restraint, brings them into harmony with herself and others. I like the way she says that the horses teach her workshops.

Of course I was drawn to the biggest one who of course was an introvert. I immediately understood why he would hang back from the rest of the crowd but act hurt if he wasn’t invited. 

I learned about ears. Tight mouths. That classic neigh, and the less known horse “raspberry.” And nodding, and lifting. And that horses can bring their personal space down so far that you don’t even notice when they are casually backing you right up against a wall. Once Black Elk knew I was terrified, he pulled his energy down to the size of a human, and did a lot of waiting for me to Arrive.

On Kate’s instruction we sat in the middle of the ring just talking, letting Black Elk discover me.
When his giant face was completely in my space, Kate pronounced it good and began to leave. The panic that had slowly been rising kicked up 10 more levels and I found it hard to sputter anything but “Are you kidding?” 

“You really don’t look scared, I forget,” she said mildly, and settled back down onto her chair. I glanced at the top of Black Elk’s head to his chin and calculated that it stretched pretty much from my face down to my knees. 

But he just stood there, breathing. Then I breathed. I thought of how when you're trying to calm someone down you draw huge, slow, exaggerated breaths, the ancient call from parent to child to attune to each other. He blew out his breath, nudged my shoulder, and continued breathing. I realized my own breathing had been about like a hummingbird’s, and roughly as shallow. 

I breathed.

Kate left somewhere in there but I have no idea when. Then we walked around the corral, Black Elk behind me, which is how they lead. Who knew? Again I was reminded about learning about anyone—you can have an initial connection but there’s some stuff you just have to be taught, or you are not going to understand them ever. Turns out horses lead from the back of the pack. Although Kate had said we could follow behind the horse, it made us both nervous so we quickly rearranged. That is, I trudged along feeling silly while a giant horse followed me. When I stopped, he stopped. When I looped around, he did, too. All without a rope or a lunge (long rope on a stick).

Magical. Amazing. To be that connected with something so big. I could have done that all day.

And then something shifted.

After we came back from lunch, we learned new skills, having to do with showing the horse your own boundaries and keeping your space. And suddenly I had no connection with Black Elk. He ignored me. I kept trying to do what Kate had said but he wasn’t having any. I told myself I was a loser, that he was mean, that I had screwed up, that he was a wild mustang, my mind a flurry of excuses and fear. Everyone else was having a great time, and all their horses were doing what they were supposed to do, and I was spending all my time in an inner panic. I did what I often do under pressure: I gave up. 

And on top of all the other crap I was giving myself I chose to feel personally betrayed. By a horse. We had had such a connection! We were pals! How could he why did he what did I--?

All of this I kept pretty well hidden but stewed about it for weeks. Finally, with a lot of shame, I went back to Kate’s website and immediately discovered this account.
If you don’t want to read it right now, the point is, this 7-year old child did exactly what I wanted to. She played with Black Elk.

I mean, look at the pictures. Giant horse. Small child. Doesn’t matter. She ran, she skipped, she played, and Black Elk played with her. Oh, go read it, I'll wait. 

I cried and cried. Because what I had done, after letting Black Elk see me, was close right back up. Concentrated on “training” him, on doing my exercises correctly. Being a good student. Just like a grownup. When what I felt when I got back from lunch was “Black Elk! Hello! I missed you! Let’s play again!” Gazing at those pictures I saw what I should have done: Start over, hang out, be a kid with him, breathe together like he taught me.

All the shame melted away, and more importantly, I felt it melt away. I noticed. Which, as good friend Bridget reminded just last night, is all you have to do. Notice. Don’t do anything.

I can’t wait to go back and not do anything with Black Elk.

The childhood I wish I'd had

Or perhaps I can go have it now.

Thanks to Brandy for the link.

Animal photobombs

Thursday, May 2, 2013


Since I’m going on an adventure this weekend and will no doubt want to write about it, I should give a little background.

Apologies to those who have heard this story, you can skip to the next entries.

Ann and I went to one of our favorite events, the Evergreen State Fair, which we adore in no small part because of its complete lack of irony. And the food. And earnest kids who come to show the animals they live with, train, and love. After watching agility dogs and eating way too much we wandered into the horses’ stables. We love especially the solemn Clydesdales with their impossible height and tufted feet. But at the end of a row was a light brown mare who looked like she was about to bash right out of her stall. She was spinning frantic circles, the whites of her eyes showing, racing around the tiny space in a complete panic. I had just learned to do animal Reiki, and with the naiveté of a novice I walked tentatively over to her.

I lifted my hands up to just at the edge of the stall so they wouldn’t bother her but also, so I wouldn’t get smacked as she spun. Suddenly aware I was standing so close to such a huge, terrified animal, a great fear took me over and I just froze, stunned by the huge out-of-control power of this creature towering over me. I had had only a few contacts with horses before (I was raised in L.A.!). Even though I knew I couldn’t hurt her, and that she was not freaking out because of us, everything in me wanted to run away, but equally strong was the need to do something. Her head was so big, her whole body so completely involved in the raging.

I could feel the heat come off my hands quikcly, which was somewhat encouraging. When you learn Reiki you’re taught that you are a pipeline for the energy, that it has nothing to do with you really at all. This comforted me, I knew I just had to stick my hands up and hope the Reiki would flow through and have an effect. Bit by bit she slowed her wild circuit, glancing at me each time she passed me until she finally and came to stand across from me. Did I mention she was huge? She stared straight at me, her eyes calmer now, but she was panting. I didn’t know what to do. I asked Ann, terrified, what she wanted. She wants you to touch her, babe, Ann said, rather bewildered, as she had grown up with a horse and had no such fear. So I patted the great, sweaty neck and she drew closer, and then I placed my hands there and could feel huge amounts of heat coming from them to her. I closed my eyes so I wouldn’t be distracted but right then I knew, I could practically see, that she had been trapped before, like in some kind of barb wire. I opened my eyes and there they were, long scars crisscrossing her neck. I knew without a doubt she had perceived the stall as a similar trap and was desperate to get out.

I glanced at the name on the stall. Amber. She turned abruptly around, then backed towards me, aiming her butt. I was certain she was going to kick me, so I moved my hands away. But Ann said, again, she still wants you to touch her. I let the Reiki-sense take over, and placed my hands on Amber’s right flank; she moved closer. I could tell there was pain there. So I just held my hands still, and we stood like that for about 5 minutes, not moving. I could feel her power and her fear, but finally mine was dissipating. Soon she was breathing calmly, doing these big sighs I’ve since learned are a sign of energy moving. And then, and this is what I love about doing Reiki on animals, she just snorted and moved off to her feed bag and started munching like nothing had happened. All done.

I was hooked--on giving Reiki to animals. I loved the immediacy and the rawness of it. But at the same time I was pretty startled at my terror. I had truly been shaking in my boots.

In a few weeks I’m going on a 48-hour vigil/walkabout/pilgrimage, during which I hope to be outside as much as possible to live in the rhythms of whatever is happening there, particularly whatever’s going on with animals. When I was looking for a place where I could be undisturbed, I found a yurt that had no running water or electricity. I wrote to the woman whose property it was on, and asked if I would have quiet. “Total silence, except maybe from my horses,” she said. Of course I had to find out more. Turns out she runs workshops/ retreats that help people get over their fear of horses, but also teaches horsemanship and runs clinics and retreats, and writes about life on Orcas with Horses. While I hadn’t been feeling any particular “should” to dealing with my fear, I’ve certainly learned that when something falls into your lap you should pick it up.
So I am going to a workshop this weekend, with my pals I met at Earthfire. We all do energy work, at which our wonderful teacher Kate Wood got excited, and we’ve been writing breathlessly back and forth ever since. Finally we are here. Then three weeks later I return for my walkabout, with, I would think, a bit better understanding of my surroundings and the source of snorts and snufflings only a few feet away.

Sport balls replaced with cats

I know it's silly.
I know.

Elephants, music, magic

Jami Sieber is an amazing musician, dreamer, and one of the best spirits I have ever met. She plays music with elephants and they with her. She has learned who they are. Astonishingly, she shares her music, time, and expertise with regular folks like you and me. 
In Thailand.
Join her.

Saturday, March 2, 2013


Anyone who knows me has had to listen to my rants against technology, despite my making my living with it. But a recent flu helped me nail down what exactly I object to most. The insistence on the binary. Computers are so literal. Most of us grew up hearing stories of how machines would take over, becoming smarter than us. What's become apparent is that we are simply growing more to think like machines, in the binary, no shades of grey. What makes us human-animal. We get impatient when we can't get an answer right now, or the answer isn't definitive. No need for machines to take over, we're almost them. Human-machine.

I was astonished by how much the flu laid me down. As with everyone else who got it, it seemed to work with whatever they were prone to, a customized presence in the body that stayed for a brutal three days or so, then left slowly, reluctantly. Every time I'd try to get up, I'd have to lie down again, and wake up a few hours later wondering what had happened and where the day had gone.

Of course, this was completely excellent for the pets. Yes! A human lying down all day. For 17-year old Dimitri, it meant a full body of places to rest, from chest to feet. For 14-month old Bodie the pup, it meant many opportunities for surprise licks (dead sleep to wide awake via tongue is a very favorite sport).

But at some point, when I was at my sickest, they stationed themselves in a perfect harmonic convergence, one small old one at my feet, one large young one at my head. I was vaguely aware of sighs and then nestlings, and a large paw draped over my own sticking out from beneath the covers. There was a deep stillness, and I slept as if carried on pillows by animals, through a gentle path that ultimately let me back to health. 

The crux of it was the floating, then rising, then licking, petting, more floating, gazing, then deep sleeping. All nuances with no edges, all without any "parameters," "settings," or "end date."  Just drifting. A guest in the house of animal.

Dancing Coyote

From a birding site, left me breathless. I don't dare reprint the pictures because I never heard back for permission, so just go.

Boy, turkey, dog

Not a corny joke, actually; good story