Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Be Grateful For Whatever Comes


This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Excerpted from, THE ESSENTIAL RUMI, translated by Coleman Barks

How succinctly this poem sums up the spring we have experienced here at Ravenseyrie! "Every morning a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness...", yes, this has been the flow of our days ever since the stillbirth of Espírito. It has felt as if our usual charmed and poetic existence with the horses has become a crucible of trials and tribulations. No doubt such tempering by chaotic elements is as essential to personal growth as it is to the all of poetry.

An evening view from the "Top of the World" at Ravenseyrie

In my former life, I produced greeting cards and gift books under a free lance contract for the C.R. Gibson Company. While most of the time I was able to create art and verse with minimal manipulation by the company's art director and text editor, we would at times disagree about the content of something I had submitted. Typically, the dissension revolved around an element in the art or text that referenced darkness, difficulties, etc.--the potential negative aspects of life. My aim was not to bring one down by including something perceived as unpleasant, rather my work was always tailored to facilitate a positive transformation--to provide hope and inspiration. Nevertheless, marketing consultants had convinced the staff that only bright colours and cheery words would provide optimum sales of their products. Sometimes I would alter my work to appease them and other times I would manage to convince them to accept my work as it was--I felt strongly the message was much more powerful and useful to people because it did not hide the fact that the world is not always "butterflies and roses".

Two such verses come to mind that I refused to alter, and I include them here to help us all understand that part of the poetry of the life we humans create is to experience and transcend difficulties and sorrow.

"We cannot escape the blowing of life's wind, but we can make sure the seeds we leave behind are seeds of love and understanding."

"Life is not always bright, but if the sun can shine after the darkest storm, so can we."

-Lynne Gerard

This is not to say, however that I have been an adept at being "grateful for whatever comes". Initially, I tend to resist, stomp my foot in frustration, rail with fear, worry, anger, helplessness, etc., but I no longer dwell long in these passing emotions and I am even more frequently able to make a pause, stand apart from the drama as a dispassionate witness and see much more clearly what is required of me in the situation that is most helpful and edifying and the product of love, rather than carrying out an action arising from fear or desire.

Iron bondage artifacts which we found on the Ravenseyrie beach

Each difficulty, or rather "unexpected visitor" we have received in our "guest house" could have its own detailed entry in the Journal of Ravenseyrie, but I confess, I am not up to the task. Perhaps a little later, certain elaborations will be forthcoming, but for now, I will simply list them as they occurred.

--Belina delivered a still born colt.

--Enhanced attacks by Altamiro and now also the younger stallions on Mistral (our 30 year old domestic Arabian gelding) prompted breeches of the fence boundary as Mistral, Zeus and Silvestre (who were also being targeted for lesser attacks) sought refuge on the cattle range to the east. Fortunately, the land owners of that range agreed to a lease so the horses could stay there for awhile.

--The arrival of a foal out of Fada stimulated further social upheaval among Altamiro, Animado and Interessado, i.e. intense aggression among the three stallions, throwing all the typical herd dynamics into a state of agitation and conflict.

Three year old Animado and his surging hormones are on the charge after his herd mates

--Pinoteia (our yearling filly out of Bella) was expelled from the family band by brutal hazing and attacks from her sire, Altamiro. Wounded in body and mind, she went into deep hiding.

--The cattle rancher who also leases the neighbor's range (where Mistral, et al were taking refuge) requested we remove the horses before he released cows and calves there for summer pasturage, so we had to bring Mistral, Zeus and Silvestre home and put them into the holding pasture by our house. This meant we could not yet bring those youngsters who are due to be exported to the states in from the range, since that holding pasture was erected for them and we had no other place available.

--With the deadline looming ever nearer for when the Olson's can come to pick up Encantara, Animado and Segura, Kevin worked on erecting a dual electric fence with a buffer zone to create a separate +/- 10 acres of pasture and woodland on the southwest of our yard, bordering Scotland Road for Mistral, Zeus and Silvestre.

The new fence follows the line of power poles all the way to the west boundary

--We turned Mistral, Zeus and Silvestre out in their new, much larger area, where they are separated from the aggressive antics of the others, but Mistral was completely distraught and took to pacing near the gate well into the night.

--Next morning, Mistral charged the fence and got tangled in first the electric wire on his side and then pushed through only to get entangled by the outer wire on the buffer side. I could only stand paralyzed in horror as he went on running with the wire around him, pulling up fence posts as he went until finally the wire tripped him and he flip over, landing on his back with his legs completely bound by the wire and more wire tight around his neck. While on the ground he continued to thrash in an attempt to free himself and somehow, miraculously he does! In the next moment he was up and running free of the wire and headed for the northeast. Zeus and Silvestre, who had been as thunderstruck and paralyzed by the event as I, came now unglued themselves and stepped over the downed fence and ran to catch up with their friend.

--With Kevin gone that day, I did my best to repair the fence, only to discover when I got to where the energizer was up by the gate, the force of Mistral's breaking through the wire had pulled the fence charger unit completely off its mooring and it lay smashed to pieces on the ground.

--Zeus, Mistral and Silvestre had disappeared and instead of going on a search for them (they could be anywhere!), I made the decision to carry on with my house chores and wait for them to come back into view, which they did in about an hour. I could see them running up and down the east fence line, so I began to hike out that way to see just how much damage Mistral had caused himself. I saw that Silvestre was on the opposite side of that east fence (now in with the cattle) so I went back and get a halter and lead rope, hoping I could convince him to come back with me.

--As I neared the east fence line, out from the woods came Animado and Interessado running to attack Mistral and Zeus. Soon Mistral and Zeus came galloping my way, and as they flew by I could at least see that Mistral didn't have any signs of blood or torn flesh (amazing!). They ran like the wind to the west and I continued to the east to fetch Silvestre.

--I heard thundering hooves again and saw Mistral and Zeus now coming back to the east while under attack from Altamiro! After sending them back to the east sector, Altamiro thankfully returned to his family band in the west. But as soon as Animado saw Mistral and Zeus, he came after them to attack again and this time they tried to break through the southern fence along Scotland Road. Meanwhile, Silvestre was frantically running the southeast fence from the opposite side until he found a low section and jumped it. Another miracle, and another problem solves itself since he is once again on the proper side of the fence...only now he is being chased and attacked by Interessado.

--Not finding a fitting place to break through the south fence line, Mistral and Zeus started running again back to the west and Silvestre managed to rejoin them as Animado and Interessado had turned away from the chase and headed back to the northeast.

--Mistral, et al stopped by the holding pasture where we first had separated them and just ran up and down the line of that fence. Another miracle, they kept this up until I got back there and I simply opened the gate and let them inside. They soon settled down and incredibly there wasn't a visible wound on any of them!

--Several more days tick by while Kevin reinforced the ten acre fence that Mistral had ruined.

--Once again, we turned Mistral, Zeus and Silvestre out into their larger separate pasture. Once again Mistral paced virtually night and day, but no longer tried to break out. He paced for three straight days before settling down.
Mistral paces the section of snake fence bordering our yard, churning the rain-soaked ground into a path of mud.

--During all this time, we were hiking the property looking for Pinoteia, somedays finding her and somedays not. But she was healing and doing remarkably well. We told people she was on "walkabout" in search of her "inner filly".

--Soon Pinoteia joined in, finally, with Interessado, Animado, Fada and Fada's colt, Destemido. This was short-lived as by the next day, she was no longer with them.

--Our neighbor, Bill, stopped by to let us know that Pinoteia was on his property. She managed to get into the sector of his land that is separate from the cattle and Bill generously agreed to let her hang out there until we could get her to come back with us. (She is not halter trained yet.)

--Kevin and I worked on strengthening the section of the east fence that weaves down the bluff to discourage any more escapes by others to Bill's property.

--We were smoothly able to bring Encantara, Segura and Animado into the holding pasture, although the mules came in as well. They had such a calming influence on the youngers that we decided to let them stay in with them.

--I began halter training Encantara, Segura and Animado with no troubles.

The youngers like to help Kevin out when he is working in their corral

--Altamiro expelled Levada from the family band, but without brutality and she immediately joined up with Interessado, Fada and Destemido.

--The veterinarian came to perform the health inspection on Encantara, Segura and Animado, but Segura refused to participate. Encantara and Animado did great and we made an appointment to try Segura again a week later.

--We managed to get Pinoteia home by dismantling a section of the snake fence and creating an opening for her to follow me through, then putting the section back together after. Worked great. She did not join Interessado and the others however, but stayed out of their view just inside the northeast woods.

--Tocara was expelled from the family band, without brutality and joins Interessado's group.

--Pinoteia joined Interessado's group and they all settled in well together.

--But there was no relief from troubles for next up Ciente became ill, much like Bella did last September.

--The health inspection for Segura was successful on the second try.

--Ciente's immune system wasn't strong enough and this beautiful, favourite mare crossed the "Rainbow Bridge". (When I have my grief in a better equilibrium, I will write about this properly, for now, this is all I can say on the matter...)

Between the wise, rather playful writings of Rumi and the earnest effort I have been making to comprehend life as elucidated in the words of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, I have found the strength to "be grateful for whatever comes". And, as you have read, amidst the trials and tribulations we've been experiencing there were many small miracles as well--things could have been much worse if not for these "lucky breaks".

If you seek reality you must set yourself free of all backgrounds, of all cultures, of all patterns of thinking and feeling. Even the idea of being man or woman, or even human, should be discarded. The ocean of life contains all, not only humans. So, first of all abandon all self-identification, stop thinking of yourself as such-and-such, so-and-so, this or that. Abandon all self-concern, worry not about your welfare, material or spiritual, abandon every desire, gross or subtle, stop thinking of achievement of any kind. You are complete here and now, you need absolutely nothing.

It does not mean that you must be brainless and foolhardy, improvident or indifferent; only the basic anxiety for oneself must go. You need some food, clothing, and shelter for you and yours, but this will not create problems as long as greed is not taken for a need. Live in tune with things as they are and not as they are imagined.

--Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
(Excerpted from the book I AM THAT)

To provide some perspective on the way Ravenseyrie is situated on the landscape, I have put together these aerial photos. Click on each of them to see the larger version and read their captions.


Spanish Sulphurs said...

I am so sorry to hear about Ciente! How heart breaking!

You are extremely fortunate that Mistral wasn't severely injured or your other horses (poor old man!). I think this needs to be said: it doesn't sound like your property is large enough to have such an aggressive stallion like Altamiro (the Portuguese I have spoken to said that it is characteristic of the Sorraia to be stubborn and aggressive. My thought it is possibly due to severe inbreeding) and have other family bands with another breeding stallion. In the wild, Animado wouldn't have had the privilege of breeding until he was about 5-6 years of age and would have run with a bachelor band for many years. This just goes to show that despite having hundreds of acres for your horses to roam on, it still isn't replicating a wild state and isn't large enough to have more than one breeding stallion on. It also scares me in regards to Fada's colt and how inbred that poor thing is. I hope that Animado's and Fada's dams are not related! Such inbreeding can cause severe health problems such as what we have seen with the Arabian and Quarter Horse. I would hate to see a new genetic malady in the Sorraia Mustang project! Perhaps you should consider using PZP on some of your mares each year to keep the population under control or consider selling your stock that is for sale to homes that may use them for riding, etc. I feel bad saying this, but I think it needed to be said.

Tanya Mills said...

Thank you for having the strength to share all these happenings with us who care so much about Ravenseyrie and the horses who reside there.

Though the chaos may be overwhelming, I am in awe of how well you seem to be managing.

My heart breaks for your loss, but you gave Ciente the respect owed to such a magnificent creature and she had several happy years raising royalty. Ciente lived which I cannot say for all horses.

My prayers are with you and the herd at Ravenseyrie.

Lynne Gerard said...

Spanish Sulphurs wrote: "I feel bad saying this, but I think it needed to be said."

Kim, when I read your comments I immediately thought of the line in Rumi's poem that says, "The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in."

So, I welcome you in with warm feelings, and I can indeed laugh under the critique you've left, because you see there is nothing you have written that was not an initial knee-jerk reaction I myself had and at first I came to many of the same conclusions you have. But I have learned there is always more than one way to perceive things and I am no longer feeling the difficulties are as unfortunate as they may seem.

The picture is broader and more variable than what my initial reactions/conclusions were (and yours are) and I found it helpful to appraise things in a more holistic way. It's important to keep in mind that the variables among free range feral horses mean whatever ethological research we may be privy to provides only a suggestion of the type of behaviour one might expect, but equids may not always conform to the stereotypical activities we have labeled as "normal". I therefore found that it was inappropriate for me to draw any sweeping conclusions based on the shifting dynamics here and instead came to focus on finding ways to "go with the flow".

You can be sure that among wild horse groups there are from time to time half-siblings producing healthy, viable offspring. Such pairings in domestic breeding are often distinctly sought after and many "champions" have resulted from that type of crossing. The old breeders joke that when such crosses work it is called "line-breeding" and when it doesn't, it is called "in-breeding". When our veterinarian was here recently, even he assured us that inbreeding is only a problem when it is reinforced over many generations. So we do not think of Destemido as some inbred "poor thing". While we did necessarily wish for such a cross between half-siblings (and we are working out arrangements so that it doesn't happen in the future), we sure don't feel that it was a bad thing that Fada had this foal--in fact it managed to demonstrate how reliable the Sorraia characteristics replicate in the second generation.

Nevertheless, we desire to keep Ravenseyrie the home of just one breeding group, under the leadership of Altamiro, mostly because with just the two of us and our wish to keep the property as open as possible, having too many separate groups spreads us too thin with our time and energies.

Addressing your comment regarding the aggressiveness of the Sorraia--it is much more likely a reflection of their primitive wild equine genetics than a behavioural adulteration resulting from inbreeding. Overall, while the aggressive actions of Altamiro and his sons would seem undesirable from a horse-keeping management position, from the perspective of a wild stallion living in the wilderness, such a capacity would be a distinct advantage. I admire it, even though it at times makes things difficult. And when not gripped by seasonal testosterone surges these boys are amazingly gentle, intelligent and a pleasure to interact with.

Lynne Gerard said...

Tanya wrote:
"My heart breaks for your loss, but you gave Ciente the respect owed to such a magnificent creature and she had several happy years raising royalty. Ciente lived which I cannot say for all horses.

Thank you, Tanya, for your supportive comments.

Naturally, through all these trials I have been questioning whether or not allowing the horses to live in a semi-wild state was "right" or "worthwhile" because it does at times seem so filled with risks that more protective domestic horse-keeping does not have. But then I realize that domestic horse-keeping is not without risks to the horses health and longevity either, they are just different ones and are more readily accepted by cultural conditioning.

When I compare Ravenseyire to those equine centers that provide drylots, cozy stables and round-the-clock oversight of horses I know that I am much more comfortable with the risks of our wilderness set up than I am with the troubles that arise for horses kept in an unnatural environment.

I agree, Ciente truly lived. It seems incredulous to me that she is gone...

June said...

So sorry about Ciente.

Our family went 11 years without losing a single dog, cat, or horse. And then in one 12-month period from 2009 to 2010, we lost three horses, two dogs, and four cats - to old age, illness, and one traffic accident.

I'm glad that Mistral is doing well after his (mis)adventures, and congratulations on getting the youngsters halter-trained and vetted!

June said...

Thanks for posting those great aerial photos - it's so interesting to get a better sense of your location. It's funny to think of you being on a road - I never really thought about how you got to your place - I think I imagined you kind of beamed up!

Don'Qui said...

Great Chaos Lynne ! it's life and we all have to cope with it, great you take the positive side of all of it, i'm trying to do the same, but it's hard at times....
sorry for Ciente, but we'll hear about her when you're ready for it.
Don't bother the sour words of some "enlightened" people, and keep on writing on your natural adventure !
I keep on being jealous even in dark moments !

Annemiek said...

Dear Lynne,

I am so sorry you and Kevin had to deal with all this these problems and stress and losses. And all of it in only a few short weeks! From what I read, you both have done all you could under the circumstances. Of course in such a situation you question yourself and your decisions, and maybe you would have done things differently in the past had you known what was about to transpire, but isn’t that always the case when bad things happen? A friend of mine recently lost 3 horses because the hay she fed them was poisoned with rat poison. Her horses live in a much more controlled environment, not in the semi-wild live like yours, but she questions her decisions just as much as you do.

Ciente’s death is so tragic, but at the same time I cannot help but feel that for a while she has lived the best that Ravenseyrie had to offer, which is A LOT better than 95% of the horses on our planet experience in an entire lifetime. You may never know exactly what caused her death, but these things happen in the wild all the time, whether we like it or not. There are always risks, predators, giving birth, injuries even starvation. That doesn’t mean I am not sad about her passing, I am, and I will miss your wonderful stories about her, but I am convinced she has had a good life with you and Kevin; a beautiful place and lots of love. In the end, that’s what matters!

I hope things will calm down soon and somehow you will find a way to accept it and learn from it. Knowing you, through your wonderful blog, we will too!

Lynne Gerard said...

June, thank you for sharing about the "crowd of sorrows" Rumi spoke which visited that year to "violently sweep your house empty of its furniture". I think all of us must have such a dramatic cleaning take place, and oh! how unsettling it can be to be forced to live without our beloveds!

But then, we hear the birds singing and witness the unfolding of a spring flower, the birth of new spirits all around and we know that it is indeed as Shakespeare said, "It is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all."

Those ever-cheerful birds inspired this from me, several years ago:

"Days that are cold and grey and lonely do not last forever...birds know this and that is why they sing." --L. Gerard

I'm glad you could appreciate the aerial photos. I hope to get some better ones in due time.

Lynne Gerard said...

DonQui wrote: "keep on writing on your natural adventure!

Peter, you probably know that from time to time I contemplate not writing about all these things, especially when they are the down experiences...but I find, as always, that in writing and sharing about them, it is a bit like therapy.

You are right that these periods of chaos are part of life and we all have to cope with them, and there are so many others who are truly suffering unbearable burdens, I still feel tremendously fortunate to have this life at Ravenseyrie and its unique challenges.

Thank you for reading and understanding, even when the content is coloured by the dark side of beauty.

Lynne Gerard said...

Annemiek wrote: "A friend of mine recently lost 3 horses because the hay she fed them was poisoned with rat poison. Her horses live in a much more controlled environment, not in the semi-wild live like yours, but she questions her decisions just as much as you do."

You are quite right, Miek, misfortunes happen even in the most carefully controlled settings humans create for their horses. Your poor friend must have felt appalled at such an awful, unexpected event. I hope she has found a means of coping with all the emotion such a tragedy is filled with.

Thank you for appreciating the insights Ciente's beautiful life brought to us. It was always a pleasure to share stories of her and Altamiro--theirs was a relationship a little different than he and the other mares. He seems a little restless now, and actually, all those in the family band seem so--not depressed, just a little different than usual. But they are all looking after Esperanda and, like me, I know they are cheered by the singing of the birds.

Thank you for your comments and understanding, Miek.