Little Narrow Gate

sheep gateThere’s a little narrow gate
At the top of a hill
And it beckons my heart to enter in
And follow where it will
Oh, where it will
And the path that leads through this gate of dreams
Takes me away

With the wind at my back
The journey before me
I set my feet on the road that leads to life
And take the hands of the ones
Who’ll be my companions
For they will show me the place to begin

Most of my life has been a constant battle.  The battle hasn’t been with any one person.  The battle hasn’t even been with myself.  It would be easy to fight those battles.  When one has a visual of an enemy, one has something to focus on defeating.  My battle is within my mind….my emotions.  Every day of my life, the battle that I wage is against anxiety.  It isn’t just plain old every day concerns…because in my mind, those concerns become monsters.  They twist and contort to become something far worse than they started out to be.

I have said in earlier blogs that I am, by nature, an introvert.  I make myself act like an extrovert.  Over the years, I have learned what it takes to make oneself seem at ease in public places and the one in the room who makes everyone laugh.  It is far easier than explaining the social anxieties I feel whenever I meet someone new. It is far easier to be the one who makes everyone else feel at ease while your own heart is racing, your palms are sweating, and your face is flushing.  It is easier to make them think the flush in your cheeks is due to the gut-busting laugh you just let fly.  All the while….you stand there feeling like a fearful little boy who only wants someone to take his hand and tell him that it’s ok and will all be over shortly.

anxiety

 

This past week has been particularly challenging for me.  It seems that every moment was inundated with anxiety rearing its ugly head.  “What if you aren’t able to perform up to par at work?” “What if you were left all alone for the rest of your life?”  “What if something happened to…your dog, your family, your partner, your friends?”  It also hasn’t helped that I am anticipating a week long work venture starting next weekend where I am constantly surrounded by hundreds of colleagues.

Normally, when I feel overwhelmed, I bury myself in comfort.  This week has been all about Peanuts comic strips, Harry Potter movies and a whole lot of sage and incense. I separate myself…I disappear into nature.  Unfortunately, this weekend, that has been hard.  It has rained almost the whole weekend.  I have either been forced to be social or to sit inside and pace like a caged wolf.Rain GIF

 

Normally the rain would be soothing, but that is only when I get out in the midst of it.  This morning was the first morning that it had only been spitting rain here.  It wasn’t a steady pour, but more like the Great Mother was blowing a raspberry.  It has been chillier than typical for this time of year, so I decided that, for my own sanity, I had to venture outside.

I gathered up Friz before the sun even came up this morning.  His sleepy little eyes begged me not to take him to the vet again like yesterday.  I got my backpack sorted, threw my cloak over me and headed for the woods.  Friz wasn’t feeling the walk in the spritzes of rain, so I picked him up and tucked him inside my cloak.  We made our way through the small canape of trees and found our familiar clearing.  I sat down in the midst of the wet leaves.  Who cares how much they soaked through?  I pulled out my candles, crystals, skulls and incense.  The circle this morning was made by putting various colors of rose petals in a circle around me.  This morning, I needed to feel that love that I knew was only a breath away.  I scattered petals over the skulls and around the candles.  This morning would be a ritual for me.  Sometimes you just have to make it about yourself.

I closed my eyes and sang to the elements.  I could smell the wet earthiness and floral fragrances.  I could feel the breeze against my cheeks and the heat of the candles as I moved my hands above them. I called to Mama Crow and to Wolf.  This morning, more than ever, I needed teaching and magickal enlightenment.  I could sense them moving quietly behind me.  I continued to sing.  I remember my grandma…in times of trouble or uncertainty, she sang.  She said that she did it to make her heart match the spirit around her.  Sometimes I sang words that I knew and sometimes I let the spirit moving inside me birth words that seemed unintelligible.  As I smelled the sweet sage and incense wafting around me, my heart began to lighten.  My grandma used to tell me that sometimes we just have to wait for the mind and heart to catch up with the spirit.2014-07-18 23.48.50

 

I realized that I had waited too long to try to lift this mood.  The moment I felt it, I should have been in the woods pouring my spirit out before nature and my guides.  It was strange.  Mama Crow and Wolf kept their distance until my heart felt lighter.  After that moment, they came closer…Mama Crow sternly reprimanding me for taking so long and Wolf patiently staring at me to see if the lessons he gave had taken root.

I thanked them, the elements, and all of Nature around me and gathered all that I had brought.  Friz had apparently slept well inside my cloak because he was ready to walk now.  We walked the newer path we had found  and as we moved to the top of the hill, we saw a narrow little wooden gate.  It reminded me of those we used with the goats back home.  Within a matter of moments, I heard a sound I hadn’t heard since our last trip to North Carolina….the sound of goats.  I remembered last year when they brought goats in to clear the brush around the complex.

I was reminded of the lyrics to the song I started the blog with.  Most of our lives, we spend on the safe side of the gate…where we won’t encounter anything that we might not be completely comfortable with.  This morning, I walked through that gate.  In my mind’s eye, I could see me holding onto Wolf’s coat as I walked and I could feel the weight of Mama Crow on my shoulder….and leading the way was  a little blue chihuahua who knows no fear.

With the wind at my back
The journey before me
I set my feet on the road that leads to life
And take the hands of the ones
Who’ll be my companions
For they will show me the place to begin

Sometimes, even an old Weathered Wiseman has to start from the beginning of the journey….it keeps you from getting too big for your britches.

Blessed Be!2014-07-19 18.46.03

Back in the Saddle Again….

stirrup_boot_and_jeans-2

To say that this past weekend was busy is an understatement.  So many things were going on, plus it was a holiday weekend. 

The planning for this weekend started in late November of last year.  My goal for buying Christmas gifts for my partner was going to take a different turn.  I was investing in “activity gifts” for both of us…..Cooking classes, massages, and a ‘Romantic Couples Horseback Riding Lesson.’ 

I had to make the reservation a couple of weeks ahead to secure our time and space….only two couples do the lesson at one time.  I was a bit nervous because my partner’s ear surgery was wedged right in the middle of all of this planning.  He was given the ‘all’s clear’ by his doctor with the understanding that he would take it easy and was told there needed to be absolutely no galloping.

I got up early Saturday morning.  I had to go early to do fluids for our friend’s dog.  I got on the road, only to be texted ten minutes into the drive to be told not to come.  I was just a tiny bit perturbed.  I had left Friz asleep in the kennel after his quick meal and potty break.  He looked at me as if I had scolded him as I headed out the door.  After the phone call, I rushed back to try to walk Friz out by the pond.  I harnessed him up and we walked toward the pond.  Everything seemed a bit out of kilter.  The crows were going crazy.  I had never seen them so antsy. 

Friz and I sat down under our old tree friend and I leaned back.  I could not relax…..Friz couldn’t settle down either.  He shuffled and he moved and he shifted and he licked non-stop.  I finally got so unsettled that I scurried back to my feet and quickly ushered him back to the condo.  As we walked away, I saw Black and White Cat coming up in the distance.  I waved quickly and we kept moving. 

I got Friz comfortable with my partner and I hurried to meet our roommate in the living room.  We had planned on going to brunch.  We got in the car and rushed to our destination.  We arrived at the restaurant with not a minute to spare.  We were seated quickly…..right in the middle of a section that had some of the most ill-behaved children I have ever encountered.  As we tried to talk and eat, these children shrieked and screamed and ran around the tables without so much as a ‘No’ from their parents.  We practically swallowed our meal whole just to get away from the chaos.

We thought that as a breather that we would head over to Starbucks.  We figured that we might be able to sit outside, enjoy the weather and relax a bit.  This time we happened to grab the last table…..and of course, it was beside a table where the occupant talked loudly to himself the whole time.  We also got to experience a dog that was there with his owner.  Obviously the dog had not been very well socialized as it barked and yowled at every passerby.  I looked at my roommate and said, “I am ready to leave now.  I need to start getting ready.”  6781100867_0d43e04b3b_z

We left and got home in record time.  I had time to jump in the shower, put on my jeans and boots, hop in the car and head to Adairsville.  Thankfully, our roommate had agreed to feed the dogs and keep them out while we were gone.  We fought the Atlanta holiday traffic on highway 285, highway 85, and highway 75.  We had finally gotten far enough out of the city that things were beginning to settle down.  We went exactly where Google Maps told us to go and ended up lost on a road that did not hold our destination.  It said that we needed to park and walk over hills to get to it. 

I told my partner to stay in the car and I walked down the road to neighboring farms to see if I could get accurate directions.  After stopping at five different farms, I finally came up on a little white haired woman. “You ain’t far from it…..don’t know why you’s way over hyar.  It’s right around that curve up yunder.  You’ll see the sign.”  I texted my partner and told him to drive down and pick me up and we drove around the curve.  Sure enough it was right around that curve ‘up yunder.’  We got out and our instructor was waiting for us on horseback on the other side of the pasture gate.  There was another couple with us.   He told us to come around the gate and follow him to the barn.  Thankfully I had worn my boots and jeans and thought to tell my partner to do the same.

We arrived at the barn and the instructor talked to us about respect for the horse.  He discussed energy with us and told us we needed to release any tension or frustration that we had because he would not allow that type of energy around his horses.  We all separated ourselves and did breathing exercises.  Once we were in the right mind frames, the instructor introduced each of to the horse we would be partnered with.  My partner was paired up with a quarter horse gelding.  He was directed to stand in from of the horse and breathe…In through the nose and out through the mouth.  The instructor called this ‘Equus.’  He was directed to rub the horse all over his body in circular motions with just a small amount of pressure.  This was to increase the human/animal bond.  Then he was shown how to direct the horse without forcing him.   This all clicked very easily for my partner and before long his horse was following him like a puppy.

In turn, the other riders were introduced to their steeds.  I was the last one to meet my mount.  I had turned my back for a second, and as I turned toward the stall, I saw the instructor lead out one the biggest animals I had ever seen.  He told me the horse was a Percheron and his name was Billy.  He was ginormous!!  Then again, this horse had to be able to carry mine and his own weight through the trails.  I had tried to release all of the tension of the day.  I went through all the directives that I was given.  I started to lead Billy.  He wouldn’t budge.  I had already been told that he was extremely gentle…but also stubborn.  He had been aquired through a rescue group and was a remarkable animal.

I walked slowly around him breathing and rubbing in circles.  I took the rope in my hand and proceeded to walk. Nothing.  I wasn’t about to pull.  After all, how effective would that be with a 2100 pound horse?  The instructor came over to me and told me to let the horse help me with my own energy.  With this instruction, I began to rub Billy’s face…breathing deeply as I did.  I whispered out, “Lady Epona…I call on you.  Make mine and this animal’s spirit one.  Renew and refresh our energy.  Calm us and build in us your heart.  Bring us together with you.”  I heard the instructor say calmly, “Will you look at that!  He is asleep.”  Billy slowly opened his eyes and I swear it looked as though he winked at me.

The instructor helped me up on Billy and gave some basic instructions.  Now, I have been on horses before, but it had been so long that I decided to let the instructor treat me as a beginner.  Every gentle request I made of Billy seemed to be second nature to him.  It was as if he could read my mind.  I was third in the line of riders with Billy with my partner and his horse behind.  Billy moved precisely the way he needed to with very little pressure on the reigns.  The only difficulty we had was the part of the trail through the woods.  Billy was so tall that I kept getting smacked in the face with tree branches.  One branch smacked me squarely under the eye and I heard my partner gasp.  I laughed and told him that is what I get for being so heavy….a horse so tall that I am in the higher branches.

As we would go up hills, Billy would pick up speed to get us up the incline.  He never seemed to lose control…..he always knew just how much speed to add without going into a gallop.  As we cleared the trees, we came into an open pasture with a pond nearby.  Each one of us was helped off the horse and they were close beside us.  We were given a mini bottle of wine and allowed to spend time as a couple with both of our horses.  Billy would playfully rub against me and I would do more circles.  My partner’s horse seemed absolutely enamoured with him.  He looked at him the way my partner’s own dog looks lovingly at him.  We laughed and talked about how fascinating these creatures were.  I put my hand on Billy’s forehead and listened as he breathed out.  I could feel the presence of Lady Epona right there in the midst of us.  She was offering her blessings to me, my partner, his horse and Billy.

We climbed back on our horses and made our way back to the barn.  Everyone was helped off their animal and then it was my turn to dismount.  I sat on Billy and the instructor took the rope to lead him.  Billy decided to turn around and head back out of the barn.  I had to direct him back inside.  The instructor said with a chuckle, “Doesn’t look like he’s done with you yet.”  We went to the middle of the barn and I swung my right leg backward and of course couldn’t feel ground.  Even getting off, I was still a good three feet off the ground.  The instructor grabbed me under my arms and helped me down those extra few feet….if I had tried myself, I would have landed with a thud.  As I turned, Billy turned to nuzzle me and I thanked him and Epona for such a wonderful afternoon…..and afternoon wrapped in the arms of the Divine. 

As we walked back to our car, we walked in silence.  We knew that we had experienced something unique.  We knew that we wanted to do this again….soon.  We are already planning dates.

Blessed Be!2013-05-25 17.47.10-1

Slipping Through the Open Gate….or Taking Off the Harness and Living the Untamed Life

72337_430926173643608_1071730317_n

Now y’all haven’t heard me talk about our little Bella much.  She is the “wild girl” in our little pack here.  I often let y’all in on Friz’s life and how much he tends to be like me in nature and all the warm fuzzy stuff that he does.  Well….truth be told, Bella is more like that part of me that not everyone gets to see.  She lives life for Bella and Bella alone.  If she wants it, she takes it.  If she wants out, she goes.  If you are in the place she wants to be….you move.  If Bella is a reincarnation of anyone from history, it would have been one of the Egyptian queens or one of those strong women that made history by being just a little naughty.

I love Bella to death…but she can be challenging at times.  She has to be watched like a hawk.  She is the dog that will eat something just because she wanted to know what it tastes like…whether it was edible or not.  Bella takes life by storm and lives every moment like a bat out of hell. 

All of this being said….we have to section the house off with baby gates.  It keeps Bella safe from Bella.  She is on a restricted diet, but one of her guilty pleasures is waiting for my partner to absent-mindedly leave the gate that has access to the cat food open.  So many times I have caught Bella slowly sneaking toward the opening and closer to the cat food…her mouth open in the anticipation of getting a tasty little forbidden morsel.  When she hears “Bella, NO!!” escape your lips, she looks up at you defiantly and in a huff she tromps away.  Bella is determined that it is not she who has been domesticated in this household….and that we are but her minions.  How dare we put restrictions on her life and tell her what she can and cannot do.Photo Oct 13, 6 23 03 PM (1)

So, with all that being said,  I decided to take Bella on an excursion this morning.  We went to the pond.  I put on her little pink fleece jacket….it was bitter cold out and the little lady does like her comfort.  Before I could even get her harness on, she bolted out the door at full force and then on out the gate.  Thankfully it was early, so there was no danger of cars pulling in and out.  As I went outside of the gate calling her name, I looked down to the side and there she sat, wagging her stubby little butt, staring up at me as if to ask, “What took you so long.”  Hmmmmm, this one is too smart for her own good.

I suited her up in her harness and we walked toward the pond.  Her ears were swaying back and forth as she did her little bounce walk.  You could see it in the way she walked…she was going on an adventure….with or without me.  When we got to the pond, I sat down under my friend Oak and started to relax into my routine.  Well, with Bella, there is no routine.  She goes at full tilt.  She wanted to be up and moving.  I decided to try a little experiment (I would not suggest doing this if you don’t know your dog beyond knowing.  I know, for a fact, that Bella will never go too far from me.  She may run, she may dart…but she will stop at a certain point.  This has been proven at the dog park.  She won’t let me get beyond a certain earshot or line of vision.)  I took the leash off of Bella’s harness.  She danced, she leapt, she ran in circles….and she explored.  She sniffed everything.  Every few minutes, she would check back in with me or bring me some odd thing that she had unearthed or pulled out of a patch of weeds.  I had to laugh as I watched this wild child at play.  Hurricane Bella was a force to be reckoned with. 

It made me think….how many times do I sit around and wait for somebody to leave the gate open, or for that matter, take off the harness of day-to-day issues before I run around free of cares and all that burdens me.  I didn’t realize it until this morning, but food was a harness that was holding me back.  It wasn’t until I began my healthier lifestyle choices and watched the fat come off that I started feeling more energetic…that I was able to dance under the moon and not get winded.  I watched that little weiner dog do everything she could on impulse this morning.  I had to admit to myself that my life is too planned.  I can give you a schedule for everything I do….including rituals and playtime. 

I can see the gate opened….right there at the edge of my pasture.  I feel that it is time for me to make a run for it.  I know that right outside of it lies spontaneity and freedom.  It has seemed lately that my brain has felt way too cloudy.  Work hasn’t been hard or stressful for me…it has just been way too busy.  Homelife hasn’t been tense or out of control…it has just been too busy.  I have got to spend more time outside of that gate…unharnessed and ready to laugh and play and just be joyful.  I have all the elements around me that allow for that.  I have a wonderful partner….really great friends….incredible animals who encourage me every day to tap into that part of me that is just as wild as they can be. 

We tend to forget that life today can keep us scheduled to death.  Always doing something that is required of us.  Sometimes we just have to do something because we want to….just because it was birthed into us at the beginning of the age.

That gate is open.  You better run…..NOW!!

Blessed Be!