• vslachman

Gift of the Morning

Dorian and Amita's Mustang Blade.BFFs, for sure.

Have you ever lost nearly everything? Been at the moment quite near financial ruin? Had your health compromised in a way that made itself apparent each day?

I have been at this point all at once. At first I struggled with it. But the odds against prevailing over all of it at once were so poor I found I had struggled to a complete halt.

I had only enough money to buy food and gas and support Dorian. The normal joys of life weren't available. I could walk Lily and be with Dorian. And write.

So I did what was in front of me to do.

Riding was restorative.

I wasn't teaching, so each morning I would wake up very early, often before dawn, and drink one cup of coffee and spend an hour or more trying to rise mentally above the disasters crowding in. And try to be very quiet. And listen for a way forward.

One day, through the window blinds, shafts of the rising sun filtered into my living room and flickered softly along the wall.

I felt the softest sense of warmth surrounding me, an assurance I hadn't earned or asked for. It was the gift of the morning.

Off to the barn to see Dorian. Some days it came down to buying food or gas. I always chose gas because without gas, how would I get to the barn!

My world had shrunk down to very, very little. And yet, I had so much.

Dorian was my constant and nearly only companion. And because I couldn't really "do" much in the usual sense, what I could do was done with deliberate attention.

At the barn door, anything is possible! Grazing, that's what D. is hoping!

During this time, I stumbled across a little known heroine (or I assume she is), named Gertrude Bell. She was a turn-of-the-twentieth-century English aristocrat who gave up a very wealthy life in England to travel to Jerusalem and then throughout the Arab world, becoming enormously influential after the first World War, and gaining the respect of the tribesmen and "barbarians" of the desert lands throughout the Middle East.

Gertrude Bell, quite the Victorian lady.

She traveled with her own men, straddling her horse and camel as a man rides, and led by her much-relied upon Druze. She slept in tents during most of her travels. She was bitten by fleas and mosquitos, bathed when she could, and was subject to incessant harassment by officials, yet she outwitted attempts to stop her and went on her way, writing and exploring a world she grew to love beyond her homeland.

Bell was at one time the most powerful woman in the British Empire: a nation builder, the driving force behind the creation of modern-day Iraq. Georgina Howell

Gertrude Bell archives, Newcastle University.

When speaking of the Arab natives, she mentioned their elegance, refinement, and morality. Of the Turkish officials, she commented only that "fortunately" their visits were brief.

I think she found the freedom in the nomads and desert dwellers she met a sort of integrity she admired much more than those who always came to her with an agenda or attempts to block her path. Her letters have been collected in a book, and are a joy to read (here's the link).

I took comfort in her uncompromising authenticity and in the richness of her life, though it appeared in most of her travels, she had very little.

I thought a lot about her, and about why she'd come into my experience just at that moment.

I think we all long to go our own way in our own way. She, certainly, epitomizes that. And I really needed a model of someone who simply refused to compromise who she was.

Dorian and his pals heading out to the pasture.

I had a couple of what--to the "normal" person--would seem like attractive offers for work during this time. But for one reason or another, neither of them felt like the right thing. It was hard to resist having some income coming in, but for once in my life I trusted myself, trusted there was something to learn, and turned them both down.

That was pretty scary, but only for a moment.

As usual, Dorian gave me the insight I needed.

My friend Anita used to ride a friend's horse. The friend had a lot of difficulty controlling the mare, but with Anita, there was never an issue. The mare wasn't skittish, didn't try to bolt, and in fact was the perfect lady.

"Trust your horse," Anita would say. I've thought about what she meant. Trust what, exactly? Sure-footedness? The horse's compassion and connection to the rider? I'm sure she had something in mind, and not likely what I got out of it.

Riding when we were both still at the rescue.

In my rides with Dorian, "trust" amounts to letting go--not easy for me, that's for sure. And when I puzzle it down to the base, the main thing to let go of is fear. In the case of riding, I've learned isn't actually "my" fear, but the swirling thoughts circulating in the atmosphere about the unpredictability of . . . well, just about everything associated with horses.

Zack--the only horse to ever intentionally buck me off and I went FLYING! And yeah, he's huge and did charge me in the arena, too. If I can have no fear after Zack, anything is possible!

"If it's not one thing, it's another" is an often-heard phrase in the horse world. "He'll be safe to ride right up until the moment he isn't! . . ." Of a wound or illness: "Keep an eye on that, it could turn into . . . " always something pretty bad.

Isn't fear the basis of that?

Poor Dorian! No stirrups and he was going for it, so I hard-reined him in.

I realized that ubiquitous, pervasive fear--though different in nature--runs rampant in the world outside my visits to the barn. Our society is pretty much immersed in fear, it doesn't take much observation to see that.

So I understood that the same trust I have in Dorian, in us, and in the world we move through together is the same trust I can bring into every aspect of my life. That gave me courage to trust in the goodness all around me--in the world, in myself, and in what I have to offer. And wouldn't you know, the way did open up for me.

What struck me about this experience was how effortlessly, how naturally, the way opened. Those activities that were right for me to do were apparent in my life, attracted (I think) by the reality I was acknowledging that goodness surrounds us. The gentle warmth of those morning rays of light drew me in and bloomed into productive activities.

A ray of light gracing Dorian, as it should! :)

And, as always, essential to my opening of thought was Dorian providing the lessons I needed and the courage to learn from them.

There's a hymn I love which reads, paraphrased, "Yield yourself to Love's dominion." However we understand Love, it's good advice, I think.

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