Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Catch Life as it Flows

"The idea of Zen is to catch life as it flows."
                                                                   --D.T. Suzuki

It is very rare for me to preset my camera for optimum capturing of images...life seems too dynamic for that most times!  I am happy to rely upon the auto-focus setting.  Sometimes auto-focus presents me with marvellous images of its own choosing, like the photo above with the two ravens.  I have cropped the image, but have otherwise left it as is.  How perfectly it illustrates the line from Suzuki's book, An Introduction to Zen Buddhism!

With tourist season on Manitoulin Island in full swing, the activities at my Ravenseyrie Studio & Art Gallery in the Gore Bay Harbour Centre have left little opportunity to write engaging entries for this blog.  Taking advantage of a quiet moment this morning, I will at the very least put up photos from the past few days when I was out "catching life as it flows" with the horses.

Sandhill Cranes on the Ravenseyrie range

Since the very beginning of our efforts to assist in the preservation of the Sorraia and Sorraia Mustang horses by bringing together a purebred Sorraia stallion from Europe and putting him with specially selected North American mustang mares which possess Sorraia characteristics, I have worn a shawl that for some reason they have found an irresistible plaything.  It amazes me that for all the abuse it receives, it remains basically intact and serviceable to me on those days when the air is chilly.

Now that the mares live on a separate range from Altamiro and all their sons, I have noticed my shawl serves yet another purpose...it appears to provide olfactory information from the bachelors to the ladies.  Because we play games with it that involve the horses "wearing" the shawl, it becomes infused with the tantalizing smells that are not so discernible to me, but which the horses "read" with great interest.  I am convinced that through the medium of the shawl, the boys know the girls are still a part of their world - however far removed - and vice versa.

Last Friday I was out for an evening hike and spent some time with the young stallions, who, noting that I was wearing my shawl promptly were determined to take it off me and engage in playful activities.  At these times, I will typically throw the shawl over the first colt who tugs it off my shoulders.  And then, those colts begin playing on their own with it amongst themselves.  I only intervene if they have tossed it to the ground with the intention of trampling it or if they excessively are chewing on it.

Gosto wears the shawl while Sedutor musters the courage to snatch it off him.

With Sedutor looking on, Gosto takes the shawl over to impress Legado

In the end, it is Destimedo who pulls the shawl off from Gosto!

After attentively watching the bachelors engaged in their shawl play, the cranes took to the air.

A brief article written by Hardy Oelke about these shawl games our Sorraias engage in appeared in the July issue of the German magazine Western Horse.  This article sums up what occurs as a sort of "self-sacking-out".  The horses and I know, however, that it bears little resemblance to the forced desensitization of typical "sacking out" that some trainers impose on their horses.

So much for the bachelors of Ravenseyrie and their interest in my old shawl.  What about the Ravenseyrie mares and fillies living on the Twinravens range in Tehkummah?

The mares see me and begin to come up for treats!

Bella, of course, takes the lead.
Then follows Belina, Rija, Altavida, et. al.

How thankful I am for my one day off during this busy tourist season!  Mare Monday yesterday was breezy and coolish, and after the ladies enjoyed the treats I brought them, the shawl games began with Altavida tugging it off my shoulders.

First things first...treats!
Altavida wears the shawl first, with Pinoteia contemplating taking from her. 

Altavida resists Pinoteia's attempts to steal the shawl.

Altavida moved to a space by herself, looking regal in her shawl.

Next up to wear the shawl was Fada, who promptly went out walking with Pinoteia close behind.
Fada seemed to enjoy moving around with the shawl on.

Not the least concerned about the shawl over her loins...and first time for Fada!
While Fada wore the shawl, the others took great whiffs of it and got quite excited!

Pinoteia finally gained the shawl, with little Rija sniffing it while Esperanda and Bella stand by.
Rija and Pinoteia - how lovely!
Game time over, Esperanda and Altavida engage in mutual grooming.
First time I've ever seen three way mutual grooming!  Fada, Esperanda and Altavida.
Here, Esperanda and Zorita snooze in the cool breeze.

"After three and a half centuries spent charting and measuring material nature as though it were a pure exterior, we've at last begun to notice that the world we inhabit (from the ocean floor to the upper atmosphere) is alive.  The feelings that move us--the frights and yearnings that colour our days, the flights of fancy that sometimes seize us, the creativity that surges through us--all are born of the ongoing interchange between our life and the wider Life that surrounds us.  They are nor more ours than they are Earth's.  They blow through us, and often change us, but they are not our private possession, nor an exclusive property of our species.  With the other animals, as with the crinkled lichens and the river-carved rocks, we're all implicated within this intimate and curiously infinite world, poised between the tactile landscape underfoot and the leaden sky overhead, between the floor and the ceiling each of us crouching or tumbling or swooping within the same big interior.  Inside the world."
     --David Abram (from BECOMING ANIMAL/An Earthly Cosmology)

A dramatic panoramic view of the north central range at Ravenseyrie

Friday, June 27, 2014

Summer Scenes

Sorraia stallion, Altamiro

"This air thick with light is an enveloping spell, a trance into which the whole place has now fallen, a viscous state of mind shared by you and the spruces and the bee in this honeyed moment." 
--David Abram (from his book, Becoming Animal / An Earthly Cosmology)

Bachelors in the morning light

It is summer now at the Ravenseyrie Sorraia Mustang Preserve on Manitoulin Island, Lake Huron, Northern Ontario.  How transformed the landscape is!  Let's keep our words to a minimum and wander around a bit via the medium of digital photos...

Biting insects, send the horses to spaces that are breezy or shady, depending:

The open expanse of the Ravenseyrie beach on Lake Huron's North Channel

Standing as a group maximizes swishing tails and tossing manes to keep flies at bay

It is worth noting that unlike humans, horses do not wage war against biting insects...they move in defensive ways, they roll in mud, they catch a breeze, etc., these activities provide relief without destroying ecosystems...unlike the pesticides humans have created.  Horses live cooperatively with all that is.  We at Ravenseryie strive to do likewise.

Grulla Sorrais and a gorgeous sky

Ravenseyrie mares down on the Twinravens range in Tehkummah

Belina has regained her good flesh!

Bella and Belina's filly Rija, also in fine form

Some images your author is fortunate to see on her morning walks at Ravenseyrie Sorraia Mustang Preserve:

This coyote watches from the edge of the forest

Lady's Slipper

Shepherd's Purse


Young stallions at play:

Legado and Destimedo (who lost his left eye in 2012)

Having just one eye doesn't keep Destemido from going for the jugular in this game with Legado!

Ousado in the foreground while Destimedo and Legado continue to spar


"We need the vision of an animated connected world, where people matter and where nature matters, and where we develop a new interconnected ethic."
--Jules Pretty (from his book, The Earth Only Endures)

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Influenced by Love and Familiar Forms

The profiles of Pinoteia and her dam, Bella

It occurs to me that the things I paint and write about are immeasurably influenced by feelings of love and familiar forms.  If my creative flow is unimpeded, it is for sure I am working with motifs that are near and dear to me.  

It will come as no surprise to long-time followers of the Journal of Ravenseyrie that a primary form I am especially moved by is that of Sorraia/Iberian Tarpan horse.

Interessado (Altamiro x Ciente)

Altamiro (Ultrajardo x Pompeia)

Pinoteia, Bella, Belina and Rija on the Twinravens range

Bachelors on the Ravenseyrie range

Akina and Bella on the Twinravens range

Bella (Silver Shadow x Miracle)

Such forms lead one to higher thoughts, poetic dreaming and just feeling good all over.  The form of the horse, especially these types of horses reflect something very classical, if not iconic.

"The qualities that define classicism--dignity, strength, grace, ease, confidence, and clarity--are also the principal qualities of the cave paintings.  Above all, the essence of classical art is that it aspires to imitate nature by creating images of nature's ideal forms.  In the Paleolithic era the ideal forms were not the Discus Thrower or the David.  They were horses, bison, mammoths, and the other species that obsessed the early artists, all created as ideals."  
--Gregory Curtis from THE CAVE PAINTERS

Paleolithic style rock painting by Lynne Gerard

Zorita (Sovina x Tia)


It amazes me how even standing idly, catching a breeze, these horses have such an aristocratic presence.  Sigh!  I never tire of being with them, of recording their forms and colours and dynamics with photos, paintings, and words.

I have a few ditties I wrote some time ago that reflect something I learned from the horses.  The first is:  

"Take a break, make a pause, Let the rest of the world go by."
--L. Gerard

This is maybe best illustrated by a long, luxurious nap session the bachelors had the other day:

Altamiro (a.k.a. "Big Daddy") sleeps standing among his many sons

Fidalgo and Sedutor


"...Let the rest of the world go by."

The second phrase the horses inspired I recently put with an ink wash painting I did of Stevie, the crow who visits me at the studio:

Phrase, calligraphy and ink wash painting by Lynne Gerard

Stevie the Crow

This painter rewards her sitters!

Being in the now and savouring the moment are part of the delightful activity of mutual grooming horses engage in.  Many "sport" and "exhibition" horses never have the opportunity to give or receive this type of essential contact with members of their own species, but are kept in a type of solitary confinement that seems to me now to be an ignorant form of cruelty...what a pity.

Kris McCormack's blog had three thoughtful articles devoted to the importance of touch for horses, between each other and between us and them.  Check out Scratching an Itch and Touch and the Spirit of Scratching an Itch and Imke Spilker on Scratching an Itch.

Esperanda and Rija

Capaz and Ousado

Fidalgo and Interessado

Another form I am recently finding myself in love with is that of fish!  I don't eat fish or keep one in a bowl for visual enjoyment, but sometimes, especially in the rock paintings, their image is what desires to be expressed through my brush.  Living on an island, I suppose it was only a matter of time when these aquatic creatures captured my admiration.

Paleolithic style rock painting by Lynne Gerard

I forgot wealth and glory
I love calligraphy
I think of neither life nor death
I honor painting
--Sou Tsen-tsan