Heartache and Joy

Merlin in the shadows

Merlin in the evening shadows

Life can be a lot like riding a roller coaster. High highs and low lows coming in such rapid succession you get whiplash. Great heartache and great joy side by side…

Saturday, another morning that didn’t feel like morning yet, cold, damp, socked in and grey. I had plans today. Hustle through the morning feeding and get on the road with Susan to visit our dear friend Jean in Paonia. Then I would go visit Feather before he hitched a ride home after Carla Lays dropped off Shelby for George. It’s been two weeks since I last saw him and I cannot wait to visit and reinforce that we are still going to be partners.

As I near the south end of the property to throw hay and rearrange turnout for the day I scan the property looking for horses. My eye catches on a dark shape in the farthest corner of the arena area that shouldn’t be there…

Every horse person’s worst nightmare. Realizing it’s a horse that is out where he shouldn’t be. That he’s down and rolling into positions that say ‘I’m in so much pain’. Clearly a bad colic. It’s my friend’s horse who’s lived here for three years and has a sensitive system, funky weather can be his nemesis. And in an instant my plan shifts. I know where I’ll be spending my day. I’ve been doing this long enough that I know not to waste any time, get hay to the horses, secure the area and run for the house to call his owner, the vet and reinforcements. Grab an apple, drink some water, and prepare for a marathon.

And a marathon it was. One of those cases where they don’t get dramatically worse, but there’s no improvement either. He wasn’t turning that corner they need to turn for me to feel confident they are going to snap out of it. At 4 pm I hooked up the trailer and we hauled him to the vet clinic for further diagnosis and treatment, to maybe rally in a warm stall with fluids overnight. Sadly, that was not to be. He had twisted his gut and there was nothing more to be done. He did his best and we did our best by him, letting him go before he had to suffer more pain.

Exhausted and frozen to my core I returned home feeling defeated, and relieved that Carla had hit weather delays and Feather would not be coming in the cold, dark night at the end of this very sad day. I missed Merlin at late night feeding, as I cried into my horse’s manes.

Sunday dawned warmer already than yesterday with sun and blue sky peeking through the foggy low clouds. Up early, I feel like a kid on Christmas morning! And I’m getting a new pony today! It’s an odd place to be in, this middle ground between still feeling the loss of one life while preparing to welcome a new life, a new chapter, the very next day. The first morning after the loss of a herd member always seems extra quiet, a moment of silence for the departed perhaps.

In that deep winter morning silence, I hear Merlin speaking to me from his new perspective. He’s telling me how important it is to stay present in the moment. Yesterday is the past, and if I get stuck there, being sad, then I won’t be able to sense where he is now. Still with us, just in a different way. If I am stuck in the past, the loss, then I can’t hear his wisdom and feel his presence now. If I’m stuck in the past, even though it’s only yesterday, I won’t be fully present today to experience the joy of Feather coming to live with us.

I can feel how at peace he is and feel the rightness of what he shares.

Since Steve and I came to live on this piece of land we’ve laid ten horses to rest. Steve’s Dad has passed. My Mom last summer and my dear friend Cori, and countless others. Death walks hand in hand with life. It is inevitable. In my experience it is not the end though. My loved ones, both two and four legged, are still with me. They live on in my heart and share their wisdom from this new perspective they have. So much wisdom.

I remember, the day after Cori passed, I was out watering my garden while tears streamed down my face. Suddenly I felt this insanely joyful presence. I could just about see her, in her typical fashion, dancing a jig around me for the sheer joy of being free. ‘Seriously’, I thought, ‘is that you Cori? And seriously? Are you really dancing a jig around me right now?’ The answer was clearly ‘yes.’

‘Can’t I have one day to grieve?’

From her perspective there was nothing to grieve. She was free. Filled with joy. At peace. I felt that same sense from my Grandmother the day after she passed.

Life and death walk side by side. I wish we had better cultural traditions that gave us a healthy relationship with death and dying.

Thanking Merlin for sharing his wisdom I decide to honor him and all those passed on, by being fully present in each moment today. Rolling with the punches and adapting to what life decides to gift me. The horses fed and enjoying the warmer weather it’s time to rest up after yesterday’s demands and prepare for Feather’s arrival.

I would have loved to be there when he was loading to reassure him and provide support, but the timing just didn’t work out. So, I eat my breakfast with my laptop open to Facebook anxiously awaiting updates! Around 9:30 George posts the photo of Shelby, his new visitor, in the paddock! I’m on pins and needles awaiting word that they have him loaded. Finally, George sends a message that they are starting to work with him to get on the trailer and they are taking it slow. Some time later he calls, with laughter in his voice, and says: ‘well, he’s on the trailer….. With the burros…..’

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Feather at George’s with Fast Eddie

For those of you that don’t know Feather’s story, he is a 4-year-old, unhandled mustang gelding that I adopted on December 4th. He stayed with George (his foster person) until now because I had a trip mid- January and didn’t want my help here having to care for my new wild child while I was gone. Feather has been sharing his paddock with two BLM burros – Sneaky Pete and Fast Eddie (otherwise known as the Flying Burrito Brothers). Feather was not about to get on that trailer so when the burros scooted onto the rig when they went to move them to another paddock, Carla and George made the decision to leave them on and see if Feather would follow them in.

He did.

George laughed as he told me how he asked Carla: ‘so how do we get the burros out and keep Feather in?’ She shrugged in response and George just burst out laughing. He called me to see if I minded if the Burrito Brothers came along for the ride and stayed for a while. Really, it couldn’t be more perfect! For him to come with buddies to his new home makes the transition so much less stressful. Susan had fallen in love with those burros on her weekly visits with me to see Feather. She joked several times that she thought Feather should come with the burros – as a set – so to speak. I knew she’d be tickled pink they were coming and decided I’d make it a surprise!

An hour and 15 minutes later (it seemed like eons!), with brilliant blue skies and warm sun shining on us, the rig pulled in. The look on Susan’s face was priceless when she realized there were burro ears sticking up in there. When I told her what happened, and why they were along for the ride, she giddily started describing all the fun things we could do with the burros this summer! Ha! George might have to arm wrestle her to get those burros back!

The three of them off loaded and settled in so nicely.

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Jack acting as welcoming commitee

A bunch of grinning fools for the rest of the day. A day that could not have been more different than Saturday. From cold, damp and grey to bright, sunny and warm. From the end of one life to the early chapters of a new one. That roller coaster with its low lows and high highs. The only way to thrive is to enjoy the ride! Be grateful for, and present, in each and every moment. Great heartache and great joy live within me simultaneously.

I am grateful for all of it!

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If you want to hear more about my journey with Feather you can follow along on Facebook!

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Gandalf Gray Feather

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8 thoughts on “Heartache and Joy

  1. Death is not an ending. Not at all. Death is a doorway to eternity. The greatest liberation that I have had in my life, is when I realized that I no longer feared death.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you Andrea for another story that fills my heart and is beautifully written. The sorrow and the joy all in the short space of two days. You are so connected to the other side. That is wonderful. I wish you much happiness with your new pony Feather. I look forward to reading about your journey with Feather.
    Thank you for sharing your heartfelt journey with us.

    Liked by 1 person

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