Monday, March 22, 2010

Jerry and the Animistic Lightness of Being

After my last rather heavy journal entry, I thought it would be appropriate to offer up some lighter fare this day.

One of the best ways to be lifted out of gloomy negativity is to hang out with Jerry.

Come with me, for a little interaction with this magnificent draft mule, won't you?

Along the way, let's think a little about how alive the world is and how meaningful it is to engage with all of it in a way that reflects our awareness that each entity we encounter (whether mule, or wind, or bulb of garlic) vibrates with what Goethe called "exact sensorial imagination". How thankful I am for this wondrous aliveness of all things!

"Appreciation is the sunlight of love that makes relationships grow and bear fruit. It is the sunlight that can awaken the seed of greatness in another. And it must be admitted that only great individuals can have great relationships. The future of society, if there is a future, will have to be built upon great friendships--friendships between men and men, women and women, men and women, adults and children, of civilized man with the so-called uncivilized, of the privileged with the underprivileged and of people with animals of all kinds." --J. Allen Boone, from ADVENTURES IN KINSHIP WITH ALL LIFE, pg. 27

My friend, Jerry, was born to a Belgian draft mare and fathered by a Mammoth Jack. Jerry, came into our lives, along with his pasture mates, Dee and Doll (also draft mules) in the autumn of 2001. Their former people were moving to the city and knowing Kevin and I already lived with mules on a nice farm (we were still in Michigan at that time) they asked if we would give them a home. Dee, Doll and Jerry were long time companions and their former people did not want them to be split up. We were not looking to expand our equid family further, but in the end, we decided to make room in our hearts for these fine mules even so.

After we moved to Manitoulin Island and established our Sorraia Mustang Preserve, Hardy Oelke (an ardent advocate for the preservation of Sorraias and Sorraia Mustangs) initially encouraged us to create separate environments so that the domestic horses and mules did not mingle with the primitive group of grullas. Both Kevin and I felt differently, however...we desired all our equine friends to have free range over the entire Ravenseyrie landscape. I'm very glad that we allowed this because it provided Jerry (who is in his late teens) with a very stimulating environment in which to fully express his playful qualities and gave us reason to admire him even more than we already did.

Jerry will play with everyone, no matter how old or young, and he is very careful to tailor his games to reflect the age, size and skill of his gaming partner. This is a marvelous re-channeling of Jerry's energies--you see he used to terrorize calves on our old farm, and even attacked Altamiro when we tried to integrate him into the herd as a yearling stud colt. At some point it seems Jerry came to realize that Altamiro and the mares were part of something very special and if he wanted to be a part of it too, he'd better find a different way into a closer connection with them. All by himself, he gave up his thug-like tendencies and created a new persona-- "Uncle Jerry" is a name he now wears proudly.

The half-Sorraia foals, Encantara and Silvestre spend a little time with Uncle Jerry (with Doll in the foreground.)

Past journal entries show Jerry at play with Altamiro and also with Animado.

Earlier this month I was present for a rare instance where Altamiro allowed Silvestre and Encantara to spend a few minutes with Uncle Jerry. Would you like to see how Jerry and Silvestre engaged in their first tentative game? Please enjoy the video clip below:

The games Jerry plays with Silvestre's older brother, Animado and with their father are much more intense...and in time, especially when Silvestre is banished from the family band by Altamiro later this year, he and Jerry will have many more opportunities to develop greater strength and vigor in their game playing.

I went through some older photos in which Jerry appears, and thought I'd share some of them with you.

Isn't this landscape fabulously beautiful and surreal? Jerry, Dee and Doll enjoy the cool breeze coming off Lake Huron on a gorgeous summer day in 2008.

Jerry splashing in the "tide pool" down at the beach in the summer of 2008. Look how big he looks compared to Belina and wee Fada!

Looking magnificent even though covered in clay mud, Jerry of Ravenseyrie, surveys his private beach.

A favorite photo! Taken while I was sitting on top of Jerry (completely at liberty) giving mounted itches.

Jerry, all "fat and shiny" as my friend Jean, once said.

I have been lately peeling what's left of last year's garlic harvest so that we can mince it and dehydrate it before it sprouts. I like to do this outside, so the wind whisks away all the papery layers, keeping me from making a complete mess of our small house. One day I was sitting out on Kevin's stack of barn beams when Jerry noticed me and decided to come investigate.
Can you feel the "heart connection" present? It's far more potent than treats or a halter and lead for bringing together horses (mule) and humans.

"Still, there is a great power in the world around us. It has not disappeared just because we no longer notice it. Redeveloping the capacity for heart-centered cognition can help each of us reclaim personal perception of the living and sacred intelligence within the world, within each particular thing. It moves us from a rational orientation in a dead, mechanized universe to one in which the unique perceptions of the heart are noticed and strengthened, to a deep experience of the living soulfulness of the world."--Stephen Harrod Buhner, from THE SECRET TEACHINGS OF PLANTS / In the Direct Perception of Nature, pg. 21

This past Sunday, I was once again outside peeling garlic, sitting this time in the yard, with the house at my back sheltering me from what was on that particular day a rather cold March wind. In the lee side of the house, with the sun warming me nicely, I was able to watch Mistral and his group grazing off to the east and also enjoy the vision of Altamiro and his family band off to the northwest. During this very pleasant time of day, Jerry came up once again to see what I was so absorbed in. It pays to keep one's camera handy, and I'm glad I had hung mine off the back of my chair, because Jerry looked so handsome standing there watching me at work:
Unable to disrupt my work by putting his nose into the middle of the garlic basket this time however, Jerry took to making himself look as goofy as possible. The more I laughed at his faces and took rapid fire photos, the more he posed in outrageous ways.
What a clown, eh?!

"Our most immediate experience of things, according to Merleau-Ponty, is necessarily an experience of reciprocal encounter--of tension, communication, and commingling. From within the depths of this encounter, we know the thing or phenomenon only as our interlocutor--as a dynamic presence that confronts us and draws us into relation. We conceptually immobilize or objectify the phenomenon only by mentally absenting ourselves from this relation, by forgetting or repressing our sensuous involvement. To define another being as an inert or passive object is to deny its ability to actively engage us and to provoke our senses; we thus block our perceptual reciprocity with that being. By linguistically defining the surrounding world as a determinate set of objects, we cut our conscious, speaking selves off from the spontaneous life of our sensing bodies.

"If, on the other hand, we wish to describe a particular phenomenon without repressing our direct experience, then we cannot avoid speaking of the phenomenon as an active, animate entity with which we find ourselves engaged. It is for this reason that Merleau-Ponty so consistently uses the active voice to describe things, qualities, and even the enveloping world itself. To the sensing body, no thing presents itself as utterly passive or inert. Only by affirming the animateness of perceived things do we allow our words to emerge directly from the depths of our ongoing reciprocity with the world."--David Abrams, from THE SPELL OF THE SENSUOUS/Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human-World, pg. 56

Why did we ever decide as humans to accept an unconscious world and shut off our perception of our rich heritage of unity? How much more meaningful is this world when all things are perceived as alive and in communication with us! What an exquisite lightness of being we experience in this animistic realm! This is our true heritage, not lost to us, rather, waiting for us to embrace once again. All we need do is set aside those cultured shapings we grew up with which told us animals and plants and the elements were not conscious beings. We are not separate from all that is, but are intricately experiencing all that is, even as all that is is intricately experiencing us. As you've now seen for yourself, Jerry is a good reminder of this. Thank you, Jerry for lifting us up with your playfulness and light-hearted way of being.


Kris McCormack said...

How lovely to get to know Jerry a little bit better, Lynne! Thank you for this spirit-lifting journal entry.

Sandie G Hucal said...

The lightness of Jerry was exactly what I needed this evening. My heart is smiling. Thank you!

JEN-SKA said...

I was interested in your mules too, after reading through this blog. Nice to meet you, Jerry! <3

I am just finishing reading Kinship with all life, and I am hoping that 'the Secret teachings of plants' will be waiting for me in our mailbox when I get home! :)

June said...

what a great guy! The photos remind me of a camel we saw at New Orleans zoo the other day, who was leaning over his fence, trying to get the attention of some people working in the no-man's-land between his fence and the keep-out-the-public fence. I was, like, - Dang, how can they stand there and not go and talk to that adorable camel?

Lynne Gerard said...

Kris, Sandie, Jen-ska and June, I'm glad that you could appreciate the special lifting of spirit Jerry inspires.

Jen-ska, Kinship with all life is for sure a classic book, way ahead of its time. J.Allen Boone also took his stories further in two subsequent books, "Letters to Strongheart" and "Adventures in Kinship With All Life". I'm sure you'll appreciate reading Stephen Buhner's book when you get it.

June, some of Jerry's poses made me think of a camel, too!

JEN-SKA said...

I certainly will read (and probably want to own to read again and again!) both letters.. and adventures.. too!

I was just thinking about a kind of joke in a form of a question, something like:

How do you know a person has read "Kinship with all life"? -when they see a fly, they lift their index finger :)

eva said...

Lynne, Jerry's expressions are priceless!!!! Who says animals don't have a sense of humor. Thanks for providing some comic relief. We need it. (BTW my little donkey friend Plato makes exactly those faces, I think it's a donkey thing).

Lynne Gerard said...

Jen-ska wrote:
"How do you know a person has read "Kinship with all life"? -when they see a fly, they lift their index finger :)"

What typically happens in our house if Kevin or I find ourselves bothered by a fly, we shoo it away and say, "Freddy! Quit being a pest!"

Eva wrote:
"(BTW my little donkey friend Plato makes exactly those faces, I think it's a donkey thing)."

You might be on to something there, maybe Jerry gets that imp face from his donkey dad. I can't say that I've seen a horse be quite so deliberate in making goofy faces, though no doubt there are some out there who do.

I'm glad Jerry brightened your day just as he did mine. Thanks for commenting!