Letting go, with grace.

Ultimately I think that letting go isn’t about loss or admitting defeat. To let go with grace is to cherish the memories, to overcome and to move on. Letting go gracefully is accepting and having confidence in the future.

Advertisements

I’ve decided my lesson for the past year has been letting go. Now if you had asked me before if I had a problem with this concept, the answer would have been a resounding no. Boy, was I wrong and boy, did I learn my lesson!

We are constantly letting go – of people, relationships, of our childhoods, grown children, our ideas of how things should be or how we expected.

There are lots of versions of letting go but likely the most painful is the death of a loved one. A year ago I made the incredibly heart-breaking decision of saying goodbye to of one of the kindest, most beautiful and honest horses I have ever known. Everyone wanted a horse like Claire. Quite simply put, she lived in grace – quiet, charming and full of love.  I trusted her implicitly, not only with myself but with my riding students, young and old. In turn, she trusted me and we brought out the best in each other. My incredible Claire had come to the end of her journey with cancer. In the prime of her life, at 12 years old, our time together was over.img_5593-copy

I often imagined our future together: her teaching countless kids to ride and me enjoying our peaceful drives in her beautiful Buckeye road cart until she settled into a well-deserved retirement. But, that’s not how it played out.
I think our natural reaction when faced with the possibility of losing something is to hold on even tighter. On our last night together, I prayed for the strength to say goodbye with grace when what I wanted to do was just scream and cry. Eventually, through the tears, I shared out loud all of our special memories in our time together and said thank you for each one. I took comfort in the fact that many people go their whole lives and never find a horse as special as she was.

7740b0e5c4dbab5697c4177a874b2999

In the wake of her death, each day was a struggle – I stopped teaching riding lessons and swore off any future horses.  I prayed for wisdom to explain her death to sad children and to face my own unanswered questions, anger and loss. I prayed for acceptance that no one else could understand my pain and loss. Most of all, I prayed to find joy again.

And the thing that sucked most of all? LIFE WENT ON!

During the dead of winter,  I was asked by a good friend if I wanted to try out her young green broke gelding. My head said, ‘No way, this is not what you want!’, while my heart said ‘Okay, I’ll come try him out’.

tane-hackLong story short:  I went to ride Tane and we connected right away. The ‘coincidences’ added up – Tane and Claire share a well-known grand sire and are both named after their French heritage. Following my heart, he came home to live with us a few weeks later.

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows – he is demanding and inexperienced with an attitude. But he also adores me and tries his heart out. He has made me grow as a horsewoman and forced me to step outside the box and stretch and fear and trust and love more than I ever thought possible.

Left: Tane on his first trail ride, a magical night!

The loss of Claire was book ended by goodbyes to my beautiful Collie, Erran, and German Shepherd, Abbi. They had lived full and long lives with lots of happy memories and accolades. To them, I was grateful for the years of companionship, traveling to dog shows and many lifelong friendships made. I said goodbye with grace and my heart full of love.

erran14455732_10153846367901752_1082273032_o

In June, barely ready to accept another loss, I had to let my beautiful Oakley go (see her story here) . My scarcely mended heart broke again as my little fighter peacefully left us. I said thank you for three years of a high energy wild ride that was a roller coaster of loving and training and learning and the opportunity to educate anyone that would listen about mega-esophagus. I thanked Oakley for the lessons and the friendships and the strength she led me to find so I could raise a spirited, smart little dog who lived to scent track and be a farm girl.

020a8388-x2 Portagecreek’s Sure Shot RI, “Oakley”

And so after all that, I saw things unfold that made me realize I had to let go of some relationships too. I wrestled to hold on so tightly; thinking of all the memories and love and fun we had shared. It was hard to accept that it was over and I wondered if I’d ever find friendships like that again? This time was different; this time I had the choice to let go and it was scary!

I fought it all the way – I made excuses and gave countless apologies though I knew I did nothing wrong. Reluctantly I realized that even the strongest and most loving relationships can be touched by feelings of jealousy, inadequacy and insecurity at times in response to somebody’s growth or change.

11848_141399692687744_153952718_n

Walking away from a toxic relationship isn’t easy, but it is always brave and always strong. It is always okay. And it is always – always – worth it. Hidden in that mess is the beautiful learning and the growth.

And so with these sad losses, I’ve seen beautiful opportunities arrive. Old and new friendships have began or re-kindled, accompanied by even more laughter and joy. I get this sneaking suspicion that ‘everything’s gonna be OK’.

Ultimately I think that letting go isn’t about loss or admitting defeat. To let go with grace is to cherish the memories, to overcome and to move on. Letting go gracefully is accepting and having confidence in the future.

Letting go is about staying in grace and staying grateful for the experiences that made you laugh and cry and grow.

224b1223b63755a604251280fbb85f33

If barns could talk.

It has a dirt floor and a questionable field stone retaining wall which is more decorative than useful these days. It doesn’t take kindly to the wooden stall floors we have built, and anything with a latch becomes a nightmare when the frost arrives and leaves.

img_5404

Living in a rural community, I see a lot of barns, many of which are vacant or fallen down and I let my mind wander and imagine the stories that they hold within their weather-beaten boards.

Barns, if they could talk, would have much to say:

They witness birth and death and the never-ending struggle for survival. Their wisdom is the wisdom of life: a calf on unsteady legs.. struggling to its feet for the first time. A kitten catching its first mouse. The loads of fresh-baled hay that are piled high and slowly used up over the quiet winter months. These are the stories that are absorbed into the fading beams of each barn.

I think of my own barn and the dark mornings I have arrived, flicking on the lights as the cats blink to life and starting the daily routine. The cold, anxious nights where I have sat up with a sick animal or the flurry of excitement when a calf was born unexpectedly in the woods and was ushered into the safety of our barn for the night.

My barn is often filled with the noise of children as they excitedly move through their journey of working with horses. Each day they arrive with their stories and laughter, loud with enthusiasm and their voices echoing with questions and looking for direction.

When they leave, the barn returns to its quiet norm of routine and peace, waiting for the next feeding time. I have often said there is no place more peaceful than a barn – at feeding time the methodical sound of horses chewing accompanied by the tick-tock of the electric fence is a comfort. Nowhere else can one find the same air of security, feel the same atmosphere or find the same strong but comforting smell as in a barn.

Barns are an institution in themselves – they are places of business and livelihood, while offering solitude and friendship too. You can always find the local gossip at a dairy barn during milking time. The barn is an ever-present marker of farming, possibly the longest surviving occupation of man, at least in North America. There have been some forms of barns for thousands of years, and that they still exist today is evidence of their necessity to the farmer and life in general. No matter how large or small an operation or what kind of animal husbandry, everyone needs a barn!

I have a very, very old barn. It has been in my family for centuries and it shows it’s age. There is a definite lean to the right and snow drifts in the centre after every storm. It’s barn-board siding has been replaced a few times over with sheet metal but the main structure has survived through the 200 + years mostly in thanks to the fascinating “post and beam” construction.

(“Post and Beam” is a form of building with heavy timbers rather than “dimension lumber” such as 2″x 4″s. Heavy squared-off and carefully fitted and joined timbers with joints held together by large wooden pegs was how many wooden buildings from the 19th century and earlier were constructed. Since access to high-tech power tools and electrical tools was non-existent, this was a very popular and innovative way to quickly and safely create a barn).

My barn is now home to four (how did that happen?!), horses and a few barn cats but it was originally not built for animals. Back in ‘those days’, the livestock barn was attached to the house, like a breeze-way, for convenience and sharing the warmth.

More than likely, our barn housed farm equipment: ploughs, harrows, wagons, harnesses and other odds and ends.

It has a dirt floor and a questionable field stone retaining wall which is more decorative than useful these days. It doesn’t take kindly to the wooden stall floors we have built, and anything with a latch becomes a nightmare when the frost arrives and leaves.

We have a standard tour we give to people when they see it for the first time: we proudly explain how the beams and roof are held together without nails – just simple notches and wooden pegs and demonstrate the meat hanging apparatus which usually horrifies people but reminds us of how everything had a use centuries ago.

I think of how my barn must have been built. There were no tractors or heavy equipment back then. I can picture the group of neighbours, who surely helped each other out time after time, felling big trees and the draft horses pulling logs from the woods to be shaped into the structure that stands there today. It is certainly a far cry from the pre-fabricated barns and metal constructions that being advertised now but, I think that’s why I love it so much. It is a home to many memories and stories to come.