Don’t Make Eye Contact

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I remember growing up around my mom…she lived in a state of constant worry and a state of constant fear.  She moved away from it more as we grew older, but I remember when we were younger how afraid she was of everything.  She was afraid of thunder.  She was afraid of bugs.  She was afraid that we would wander too far from the house.  She was afraid.

The thing about people who live in fear is that many times that fear tries to transfer to the people that live with them.  The one phrase that I remember my mom using constantly was, “Don’t make eye contact.”  Now there were particular people or groups of people this was directed toward…strangers, in particular, but also those who others categorized as mentally challenged…homeless people and stray animals.AP_romanian_stray_dogs_jef_130913_16x9_992

 

My mom never felt comfortable around any of those things.  It makes me wonder what kind of life my mom had growing up….so much fear.  As you can imagine, many of my mom’s fears began to take root in my heart as I grew up surrounded by them.  I remember a group of mentally challenged teens who attended my elementary school….I would see them coming and I could feel my whole body go rigid.  I would silently pray that they would stay far from me.  I remember as a youngster walking toward a stray dog that came into our yard and hearing my mother screech from the front porch, “Don’t touch that dog! It might have the mange!”  Well, at that time, I didn’t know what ‘the mange’ was, but I was sure I didn’t want it.  So I ran. It was then that I started nurturing the beginnings of a fear of dogs.  Finally, I remember my mother talking about ‘Crazy Mary’ the local homeless woman.  My mother had heard stories of how Mary went crazy because she had always wanted children.  When she miscarried after her first and only pregnancy, it drove her to the depths of insanity and she walked the streets looking for a child to call her own.

I carried each of these fears with me through grade school, high school and even part of college.  When I passed the homeless…my mother’s voice would ring clear, “Don’t make eye contact.”  When I worked at a grocery chain and the adults from the local group home came in to shop, I made a bee-line for the stock room with my mother’s voice ringing in my ears, “Don’t make eye contact.”  When I met my friend Susan who worked with rescue animals and finally saw what ‘the mange’ looked like, my mother’s words haunted me, “Don’t make eye contact.”

I have never been the type of person who wanted to be limited by anything, most of all, myself…so I made it a point to put myself into situations where I had to address those fears.  The first fear I addressed was the fear of those that others called mentally challenged.  When I was in bible school in Knoxville, TN back in the days of Moses, I had to work to be able to afford school.  I worked full time evenings in a bookstore, but on weekends I worked at a facility for adults with learning, mental and physical challenges.

My first five minutes in that facility were pure hell for me.  I broke out in cold sweats and shook continually.  My biggest fear was that someone would actually talk to me.  My first duties were to help clean a fellow up after his meal.  He laughed and smiled at me the whole time.  It made me feel ashamed of the fear I had lived with for so many years.  I looked in his eyes and I saw joy…pure elation that someone was taking the time to help him.  He smiled even bigger.  I could feel a tear loose itself from my eye and I felt his hand wipe at my face.  He told me, “No cry….happy…happy.”  He laughed out loud and I joined him.

I turned around and there was a woman in her forties standing almost close enough to me to be my shadow.  “I love you!”  The worker with me told me quietly, “That’s her thing.  She loves everybody.  She will tell you 100 times in a few hours.” I smiled at her.  “I love you!” I was perplexed.  I leaned in and said, “I love you too.”  She looked me eye to eye and quietly whispered, “For real?”  I whispered back, “Yes, for real.”  She smiled from ear to ear.  That was the only time she asked me that night…but we made it a point to say it once a day each time we saw each other.

I often find it amazing…the places and situations I have found myself in.  This young fellow who was scared to death of getting ‘the mange’ moved to Atlanta and the only job he could find was a job at a veterinary clinic.  I learned all about mange and what would treat it.  I learned about animal handling and treatment.  I could do the job in my sleep. Five years into the job, the opportunity came for me to work with a mobile vet.  We went from house to house treating and working with pets and then one of her pets became gravely ill.  There was fluid on the heart and it would only get worse.  She was encouraged to bring him in and ‘put him to sleep’ when it was too much of a struggle for him.  Instead, she decided that it would need to happen at home surrounded by his loved ones.  She asked if I would do it for her.  I looked into that sweet dogs eyes as I introduced the needle into his vein.  I watched through tears as the spirit of life swept from him and I laid his head on his paws.

This morning I had volunteered to go with a work group to deliver clothing to the homeless.  Collections had been made for weeks and we stood in groups next to tables full of coats and sweatshirts and pants separated by size.2015-02-28 11.29.07

My first encounter with the homeless was in New York City in 1985.  I was being shown around the city by a roommate who had been living there six months longer than I had.  I was informed that you didn’t touch the pigeons and you didn’t make eye contact with the homeless. “They are like rats (the pigeons and the homeless).  You can’t be nice to them…they follow you everywhere.”

Years later, when I was working in the ministry, I  was asked to be a part of a homeless ministry who cooked breakfast and served it underneath the bridge in Charlotte, NC.  I got to know and became friends with many of the people who gathered under that bridge to eat and hear me sing and teach. As I talked to one fellow, I found out that he was my age and he had missed one paycheck.  Not so different from me after all….one paycheck.

This morning as I foraged through stacks on tables and shifted clothes.  I hear some of the others talking to people coming through the line.  I hear a familiar laugh and a scruffy bark.  I turn around and I make eye contact with the Green Wizard.  He is there in need of a sweatshirt and a blanket.  I smile at him and he smiles back.  I introduce him to those around me as my friend…not as ‘a homeless person I know.’eyes

 

It’s funny…over the years…the most powerful magick I have ever found were in the things of which my mother was most afraid.  I found magick in the eyes of those whose mind danced differently than my own…I found magick in the eyes of animals whose hearts were far purer than my own…I found magick in the eyes of those who use the earth as their pillow and the stars as their nightlight.  I am far richer for it.

Blessed Be!

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Back in the Saddle Again….

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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.

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I Second That Emotion….

I think I have mentioned it before in here that I have “empathic tendencies.” It doesn’t tend to rare up unless someone that I have very deep feelings about is going through something….then it comes on with full force. This week has been full force.

Now, I will be honest with you—when I had the excess weight on, it seemed easier to deal with the torrents of emotion that would come at me. I would assume that is because I have had so much extra padding (no pun intended). I have found that with the weight loss I have experienced and the purging of all that is artificial and yummy, that my senses are heightened, my brain seems more alert, and I have way too much energy for the fat left on me right now. I always said that my fat was a layer of protection for me. This week, I think I found out that it was shielding me from myself. A friend of mine said this to me just yesterday: You have to restructure your mind with your new body Dave…it’s not all about the outside!

It seems as though so many people whom I love and admire are going through emotional hurricanes over the past week or three, including the little four leggeds. I have sat and cried like a giant baby reading what some folks have had to endure this week. And while I am saying this….I don’t dare stay in the room when I hear Sarah McLaughlin’s voice come on the television.

I have friends who have dealt with loss on so many levels this week. There are those who have had unspeakable changes hit them smack dab in the middle of the forehead. I have witnessed these strong, indomitably spirited folks pulling themselves up by the bootstraps…..walking forward (even though they may be walking with a slight limp)….picking up the shattered hearts of others along the way. I watch as they apply the salve to their own wounds so that they might help in the healing of the wounds of others.

I got up early yesterday morning, as is my habit….I wanted to go to the pond. I needed to get a bit of relief for the antsy-ness I was feeling. I gathered up the little blue chihuahua and bundled up and walked the same path, I always walk. I felt a whisper deep inside, “Why don’t you walk around the long way to get there?” Since I was in a hurry and bombarded with jittery-ness, I hurried along that same familiar path so that I could experience the peace of pond even quicker. I sat down as quickly as I could sit. I called for Friz to come and lie down on my lap. He wasn’t going to have it. I looked for the herd of cats…..nowhere to be seen. I put my head against my old friend Oak. I figured if nothing else, I might get a nap in……wrong again. Mama Crow was perched on her telephone pole. She proceeded to caw at me non-stop for two hours. Granted I have sat and carried on conversation with her before, but this was more like a lecture. When she finally let up, I got up and walked back home.

After everything that went on yesterday, I was essentially an uber bitch to be around, so everyone walked ten feet around me. I don’t blame them….I didn’t want to deal with me either. I made my dinner and at the roomie’s advice, went for a long walk as it cooked. I put my Iphone in my pocket and my headphones on and put the music on shuffle. As I walked, I listened to Omnia…one of my absolute favorite groups. Their song, “Wolf Song” came on:

Stumbling through the winter forest
Her feet froze’ to the bone
The darkness holds no solace
So very, very far from home
A crimson cloak behind her drags
It’s torn by thorns and snagged to rags

Pity maiden for your folly
To venture in these woods alone
Mercy lives not in the holly
No compassion from the stones
Your fear brings tears like summer rain
(Oh mother father where I am?)
They beg for me to ease your pain
(I’m cast adrift what should I do?)

My love oh I beseech thee
Throw thy cloak aside to feed me
Crimson rivers from your veins
Crimson rivers feel no pain
Your long red hair ensnares me
Your warm red blood it calls me
My red right hand shall take thee home

Leave it to Crow and Wolf to lead me yesterday. I felt that whisper again to go a different way from my normal path. I followed this time. It led me deeper into a wooded area surrounding the condo. I went deeper and deeper into the woods. This did not seem like as friendly an area as my pond. It was overgrown in brambles and briars…it was much darker. I smelled the air and it seemed as though trouble had visited here. I felt the beginnings of fear try to rise up. I felt movement by my side…it was the spirit of wolf. I felt the fear start to dissipate. In that same moment I heard Owl in the tree to my left. I knew that all of my dear witches were showing up one by one…..I could sense the spirit of dragonfly, butterfly, cat….and of course, the spirit of Crow. I called on them to encircle me. I sat down gingerly next to a wad of vines….I heard movement. Fear started to grip me again. As I felt the color leaving my face, I see black and white cat padding through those woods…I just about passed out from relief. He curled up on me and looked up at me as if to say, “The same spell doesn’t work for every need.”

Needs have to be met where they are. I know that some of my friends have been going through extremely dark times….as an empath, sometimes I must endure the darkness (accompanied and surrounded by the energies of those who guide and protect me) to send the energy needed and the hope for brighter times. Does it scare me? Sometimes, yes. But sometimes we have to push head-first through fear for strength to kick in. Do we get tangled in the briars and brambles of others troubles? Sometimes….but they do not have to ensnare us and trap us. It is in those moments that Magick truly happens…..we realize who we truly are and what we need to do.

In helping to heal the pain of others, sometimes we find ourselves. We understand that as shielded as we may think we are, sometimes we have to be vulnerable to allow Magick to work through us for others.

I made my way out of the woods with a little black and white cat moving quickly beside me. Once I was on the sidewalk, he was gone again. When I got home, I was greeted with, “Where have you been? I took your dinner out for you before it burned.” The only answer I had was, “I went for a walk…and you wouldn’t believe the things I saw.

Blessed Be!

Sometimes We All Just Need To Be Rescued…

I saw something at the clinic this week that hit me square between the eyes.  I was walking around a corner preoccupied by my own busy-ness, when I saw a young military fellow and his dog.  The dog was quite obviously older and was leaned against this young man’s leg.  The dog’s eyes were closed in a contented bliss.  I had to know the story behind this poignant scene.  It turns out that the young man was indeed military and the the old dog was just adopted from a shelter.  He had gotten him as a companion for his wife when he was away.  They had decided on an older dog because they wanted to give an older animal a chance….they wanted to give him the best in his golden years.  It was so obvious, as I watched this senior pup, that he knew he was given something that not many in his circumstances receive.

As I watched and listened, I tried desperately to swallow the lump that had been forming in my throat….but my eyes gave me away.  As I felt the tears welling up, I looked at the soldier and he was also tearing up.  He said to me, “Yes, we are very much indeed the lucky ones.”  This left an indelible image engraved into my heart and memory.

Of course, that night, I headed to the pond with that little blue chihuahua.  I leaned into my friend Oak and waited for the herd of cats to join us.  I wasn’t disappointed.  As I looked out over the water….my brain was racing….racing back and forth.  All I could think of was that old dog and the soldier. 

My back was against Oak.  I felt his strength and support.  I wondered…..how many people and animals out there need rescuing?  How many just need a comfortable place to rest through the turmoil that life has thrown.  Yes. Yes.  I know.  We are all so strong and capable that we don’t need anyone to rescue us. We never get tired of everyday stresses.  We never worry ourselves to the point of feeling that we are going to throw up.

Lies….all lies.  I, for one, know that I am a strong person…..but I get tired of being strong.  Sometimes…I feel like that old dog.  I have been the support for so long that I just need someone else to lean on….just for a minute or two.  I just want to lean and know that blissful feeling of someone elses shoulder.

But then again, how many times are we needed to bear the load for someone else?  Now, I am not talking about absorbing all their troubles, taking on their issues….I mean just being there.  Much of the time you really don’t even need to say anything….they only need know that you are there, willing to hold them up as they lean…listening as they talk.

That little blue chihuahua of mine is a leaner.  He just likes knowing I am there.  It is his sense of security….he knows that as long as I’m there that nothing can hurt him.  My Merlin is the same way….he was dropped off at the clinic as a kitten.  Even though he is 17 pounds now, he loves nothing more than to wrap his arms around your neck and go to sleep with his head under your chin.  I have often said that he just wants to be closer to the heartbeat.

Isn’t that the way we all feel?  We just need to be close to the heartbeat.  We only need someone to tell us that they care enough to be there.  It can be hard sometimes to allow someone into our personal space that closely, but sometimes we just have to realize, it is not about us at that point. 

Most people look at me and see a big teddy bear.  To be honest, I am not all that touchy feely…..especially with people.  I will hug on and love on animals all day.  I have to make myself be a hugger.  This is something that I have found that those around me need.  They need me to be a teddy bear and a hugger, and that’s ok.  I will be for them.  Goddess gave me one thing that I intend to use until the day I die……a strong back.  If I have to plant myself so that someone else can lean for a moment…then so mote it be.

As I write this, I can hear folks saying, “You normally write about such magickal stuff.  What happened?”  What is more magickal than sharing yourself for the sake of people and animals in need?  Give someone a hug and tell me that the feeling isn’t some of the strongest magick you will ever feel.

The cold weather is coming.  Take care of the animals.  I have a friend who always sets up shelters for the outside cats….blankets, you name it.  She has gotten me into the habit of doing the same thing……maybe that is why I now have a herd of cats.  Donate blankets and food to your local shelters if you can….Homeless and Animal.  As the holiday season approaches, look for people and animals that you can be there for.  Stir up some strong magick….One thing I like to do when I am taking treats out for the outside cats is stir a little magick into it.  Protection magick. 

I am so not a kitchen witch, but when I make treats…human, canine, or feline….I always add magick into it.  Always strength, protection, joy and peace…isn’t that what we all need? 

Go out looking for somebody to rescue this week.

Blessed Be!