Thursday, May 5, 2011


Essences of the spirit realm move over the Top of the World at Ravenseyrie

It was a perfect morning to deliver a foal. No wind, no rain. No ice. No snow. No biting insects. Gentle sun rising up above the tree tops and coaxing forth new life even as it illuminated death.

"Ah, I passed like a wind through their foliage..."
--Rainer Maria Rilke

On my 2010 calendar, I have noted the last time I saw Altamiro breed Belina (affectionately known to us as PoPo) was on May the 7th. We began to look for a foal to be born to PoPo this year at the beginning of April. Like Ciente and Bella, PoPo decided to wait for inclement weather to pass and so while all indicators suggested she was ready to deliver her foal two weeks ago, she nevertheless kept us waiting and guessing and wondering and worrying.

But not too much worrying, for PoPo is the most physically robust mare in Altamiro's harem and the most inclined to preferring to handle the challenges of her wilderness life with minimal interference from humans and their penchant for creature comforts.

Altamiro and Belina have made three beautiful fillies together. Fada, Encantara and Tocara were all born in the spring and were well up and moving by the time Kevin and I came upon them. I felt quite certain that this fourth foal would be a colt, and as large as PoPo's abdomen was near the end of her gestation and the frequency with which I could observe the fetus kicking, I anticipated it would be a very lively boy indeed!

How could it be then, that on this perfect morning PoPo delivered a dead colt?!!!

It was the anxious running back and forth from the house to the woods that the family band did during their usual breakfast time that helped us find where PoPo had decided to give birth. Neither Kevin nor I had a sense that anything was amiss, rather we each expected to find Belina with a foal standing at her side. Kevin was on the scene first and knew right away that the foal was dead. I had been coming at the scene from a different trail and once there, after determining that PoPo appeared okay with no outward physical issues and willing to eat the compressed alfalfa cubes I had brought for her, we were able to touch the foal and determine its sex.

He is a very big boy, looking completely normal and had been partially out of the amnion, yet the umbilical cord remained attached with the placenta laying over the hind limbs. It appeared that PoPo had been working on licking him as his head, neck and shoulder were clean, but he had likely been dead for over an hour. Had he ever taken a breath? Was he born dead, or did he did his size make for a difficult delivery and he died during the process? I don't think we will ever know the answers.

"Through a tear in fate, a tiny interstice, you absented your soul from its own time..."
--Rainer Maria Rilke

It is one of those "wondrous strange" curiosities that the place where this foal was born is in the area we call the "Hidden Meadow"--a place that the horses spend very little time in and contains our "graveyard". This colt was born just twenty steps away from where our old mule, Riley, and Kevin's old Arabian gelding, Phoenix, are interred, along with our cat, Millie.

While Kevin and I were standing nearby and quietly discussed what could have gone wrong, Altamiro came alongside Kevin and touched his arm. As Kevin stroked this Sorraia stallion's neck it was obvious that we were not the only ones feeling sad for this loss. Indeed, all the family members were sober and well aware that an unseen shadow had made the morning sad and different than other mornings.

Kevin commented that perhaps upon entering the out-of-womb world, this colt decided he'd rather dwell in the spirit realm, rather than the physical one.

We have named the colt Espírito.

Espírito is the Portuguese word for "spirit".

After other members in the family band appeared to "pay their respects", they all left the Hidden Meadow to graze in another sector. For her part, at this writing, PoPo is not yet ready to leave, but stands guard over the lifeless form of Espírito.

"To be a living being is not the ultimate state; there is something beyond, much more wonderful, which is neither being nor non-being, neither living nor not-living. It is a state of pure awareness, beyond the limitations of space and time. Once the illusion that the body-mind is oneself is abandoned, death loses its terror, it becomes a part of living."
--Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

A photo from a week ago, when Belina (PoPo) and Altamiro have a private, rather tender discussion.


Of course my thoughts and feelings were with Belina all throughout the day. As soon as I got home from work I went to her. She was nervous there in the Hidden Meadow, alone with the graveyard spirits and the rustling of forest entities, but after a little while she was pleased to be eating the alfalfa cubes I had brought for her. PoPo looked so small, so vulnerable and so very sad, my heart folded itself around her as best it could. When it was time to leave her and return to the house to make our evening meal, I entreated her to follow me out of the meadow. She watched with such intensity, I believed she would come, but she still was too torn between her desire to be with the herd and her desire to take care of her newborn foal. After long consideration, she went back to stand by her dead colt.

I went to her again after dinner. On my hike out to the Hidden Meadow I had determined I would refrain from coming to look at the colt, instead I began a mental break away from the physical aspect of this foal. I did not go directly to where she and Espírito were and instead stopped near the opening of the trail leading out of this space. I had brought with me this time a bagful of hay and a sliced apple. (Rainwater was available in nearby puddles.) I shook out the hay and she came over. I was dismayed to see how uncomfortable her overburdened udder was and it was also obvious that her hips and pelvic area were very sore as she walked very wide and stiffly. I crooned to her and showed her that I had also brought an apple. My how she brightened for this!

While Belina ate, I sat down beside her and for awhile we two were quite at ease. Then, like the turning of a switch, PoPo left the hay and went to stand by Espírito. She whickered to him softly. Then she lifted her head and neighed to the surrounding environment. Her voice was weak and of such a low decibel that the action of helping her call to her herd mates spilled out without thinking. I stood up and began loudly calling: "Altamiro! Bella! Ciente! Zorita!" PoPo's response to this was to increase her own efforts of calling to them. And so we both were hollering outward, hoping the wind would take our voices to the rest of the family. The more we called, the stronger and more animated PoPo's voice became. It reminded me of how calling for one dog will often set all of them to howling in unison with my call. I had never experienced this with a horse before and it was an amazing sensation!

During a pause, I heard PoPo trotting and thought she was coming up behind me, but she had slipped into the woods and was heading to the north! I knew the horses were in the southwest sector, so I began trotting myself in the opposite direction calling for the family band all the while. When I got out into the open I could see that PoPo had changed course and was now trotting towards my direction. I continued to trot and call toward the southwest and PoPo did likewise. I finally could see the family band and they raised their heads up and PoPo saw them too and picked up a gallop. Altamiro came running to meet her halfway and in no time at all the two of them were back with the entire family. I wanted to stop and photograph the scene, but could not bring myself to break the moment by taking my eyes off from them. With a heart-swell of emotion I hiked back to the house feeling that when the sun went down, things would be a little better for Belina now that she was out of the graveyard and rejoined with the living members of her family band.

I slept very well and when dawn came, it was a relief to see PoPo still with the family, anxious for her breakfast and moving not as painfully as before. The birds were singing, the world seemed renewed and Belina and I found a deeper closeness from our shared experience of loss.

The family band of Sorraia Mustangs at Ravenseyrie
(photo taken a week ago)


JEN-SKA said...

I am so very sorry for your loss - this was a sad story but still it left a warm feeling of understanding and accepting, somehow. Thank you for sharing.

Kris McCormack said...

My condolences to all of you, Lynne -- and some especially warm loving thoughts for Espirito's bereaved mother.

June said...

Sad. Poor Belina.

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

Annemiek said...

O Lynne, how sad! To think that we were all so worried about Ciente and Esperanda. Now, when the weather and everything seems fine, something like this happens. The ways of Nature and life and death are mysterious. My thoughts go out to Belina and the rest of the group. And to you and Kevin of course.

Lynne Gerard said...

Jenny, June, Kris and Miek, thank you for your warm, supportive words for PoPo and us.

I have just edited in an afterword to yesterday's entry.

It seems incredulous to me that some people still believe animals do not feel sorrow or loss. Though we are all already moving forward, the sense of loss remains and is very palpable, but as Jenny noted one also can feel an understanding and acceptance. Horses are so far ahead of us in their emotional adjustments to the experiences they encounter. I love to be with them and learn from them, even when it is through sorrow and loss.

June said...

Lynne, your Afterword is so beautiful.

eva said...

Lynne, your story touched me deeply and sadly. How Belina felt drawn to the graveyard meadow we will never know, but it certainly suggests all kinds of thoughts. Thank you for writing an afterthought, at least we know she is reunited with her family.

Tanya Mills said...

If only more people recognized how incredibly spiritual in nature horses really are. They're both feel and living-in-the-moment incarnate, as well as inexplicable otherworldliness.

I am sorry that Esprito chose not to join us on this plane, as it caused Belina so much grief, but I am deeply relieved that she had a human friend as understanding as you, Lynne.

Diane said...

Dearest Lynne and Kevin -- so very sorry for you and for the herd. I hope that by now time has dulled the pain. And more joy at the little romping lives has taken the spotlight again.

June said...

It's a blessing he died on a fine morning. If you'd come upon him in an icy puddle, you'd have assumed he'd died of hypothermia, and then you'd have felt so bad that you weren't there to help.

Lynne Gerard said...

Tanya, Diane and June, thank you for leaving your comments. Belina seems to have recovered nicely and with the flush of green grass taking over the drab landscape we do feel like happier times are once again with us.

Leslie said...

So sad to hear this but your writing of the event and afterwards was so beautiful and vivid that the whole story played out visually in my mind as clear as an Imax movie...
Hugs to you and Kevin and the herd...