When A Cold Wind Blows
You'd think horses would turn their backs to the wind. It's interesting, because that idea is based on our human experience--who among us would want winter's blast hitting us in the face? Actually, when the cold wind blows, horses turn into it, facing it head-on. Why? Unlike cows, horse hair grows flat backwards. If they turned away from the wind, it would lift their coat and winter's chill would penetrate down to their skin.
Smart. Evolutionarily wise. And a good heads-up that our individual experience isn't always a reliable barometer of the best response in any given situation.
In winter, you'll also often see pastured horses huddling together beneath tall cedars when it gets really cold. Their body heat creates a sort of shared tent of warmth. And beneath the cedars, they're somewhat protected from snow and rainfall.
The metaphors may seem obvious. For instance, I've been thinking lately about what constitutes my "shared tent of warmth."
I am out in the cold a lot during winter, taking care of Dorian. I'm sure I'm not alone in feeling "out in the cold" at times. Our lives can seem bleak, over-burdened, perhaps confusing when we try our best, but our efforts don't seem to result in a path forward.
So where's our "shared tent of warmth"? Where's the place we go--mentally, physically, emotionally, to find peace, purpose, and provision?
Dorian has been that sustaining presence to me. He's helped remind me, over and over, that being with him is about letting go of preconceptions and self-concern, and focusing on his fully present self right in front of me.
“To forget one’s purpose is the commonest form of stupidity.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
The other day, I was at the barn after a significant snowfall. My task for the day was to work with Dorian in the indoor arena, moving him forward in rehab from a recent injury.
We had graduated to trotting in a straight line for five minutes!
The rehab wasn't fun. And certainly less fun in winter's frigidity--we both certainly felt left "out in the cold."
But it was also another opportunity to slow down, be present, discard deflating "if only we could . . ." or "this is so unfair! . . ." or "I can't wait for this to be over . . ." sorts of thoughts. And how often those defeating thoughts crowd in during our everyday lives, at least I've found that to be so.
Those thoughts, though, always take me away from being authentically invested in my purpose, "here and now," and so I'm not able to participate in the the beauty and gifts always with me, wherever that "here and now" may be, and however cold and inhospitable my life in those moments may seem.
For me, discarding self-defeating thoughts takes mental discipline, it takes striving to turn away from them, and to what I know to be true. And striving leads to progress, quite literally. Dorian's injury seemed to prevent him from reaching forward with his hind leg, so this whole process for me--and for him--has been about realizing that we can, we do, move forward when we keep our thoughts on the often quiet truth, always present. The benefits are palpable and substantial.
Guess what? Dr. Olivia's first vet check a month out from the injury showed Dorian had progressed a remarkable amount. He was zooming through the healing process.
Not forgetting my purpose, as Nietzsche notes, and keeping an uplifted thought for Dorian, resulted in progress and healing. For both of us.
And, later that snowy day, there were other gifts in store. I took a walk out to the back pastures with Lily, down to the snowy wood trails. The wind blew, but I oddly felt wrapped in a little circle of warmth the cold couldn't penetrate. Like horses, I was facing the cold winds of challenge and in doing so, was able to go forward with poise and gratitude rather than downtrodden thoughts that take me away from myself and the goodness that's always warmly embracing us all.
There were other gifts, too, of beauty, quietness, and the lovely peace of the snow-filled woods.
Dorian also had something to enjoy-- the warmth of a new friendship.
And so, I'm striving to let this cold winter teach me things I need to learn, or maybe be reminded of . . . that in any situation, there's always an opportunity for progress if we're willing to be present in it. There's always warmth to be shared, and a purposeful, light-filled life to be led.