Dreams Come True

 

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The thudding rhythmic beat of the hooves is music to my ears. The momentary pause as man and beast soar over the jump is grace in action. The competitors make it look simple. They just gallop around the course in a collected manner and then spring up over the jump. I’m not sure the audience can fully appreciate the hours of practice and training that goes into the presented teamwork of horse and rider. This is a dream come true, it is the riders dream come true.

I attended the Nations Cup At Spruce Meadows held in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, on September 9, 2017. It wasn’t only an outing to enjoy the beauty of the equestrian sport but it was a small reunion between a few Equine Studies college friends, and myself. We hadn’t been together in over ten years. So what better way to reconnect than to horse around at Spruce Meadows? Yeah, it’s a groaner.

The horse is an instinctual animal that has survived for hundreds of years by living according to it’s fight or flight instincts. I reluctantly add that horses by nature’s choosing are creatures of prey. In the wild they are hoofed grass eaters subject to the laws of the hunt. The weak and slow of the herd are meals for packs of roving wolves, nature’s henchman of the bush. Most horses choose flight over fight, unless they are cornered, and then watch the kicking, striking, and biting commence. This fact alone should add to your admiration for all who sit astride a horse in hopes of controlling the outcome.

I’ve had the pleasure of horses in my life since I was a naive little pea pod on the vine of life. (Such a bad metaphor, no comments from the peanut gallery.) In my days of being tossed, trampled, struck, bowled over, bit and kicked by horses I know painfully and personally, horses are not just instinctual beings, but are emotional creatures as well. They form strong bonds of companionship between other horses, and given time and trust, between people as well. Horses are sensitive to emotion. They can sense fear or hostility in a person by simply being close to them. They don’t need the demonstration of trembling hands or a baseball bat to the fence, to know a person can’t be trusted in that state of mind. This means, for a rider to be successful, they must be calm and confident, even in the face of their own personal fears. The trust between horse and rider must be like the trust between a flying trapeze performer and their partner who catches them. There can be no hesitation, or doubt, timing is everything. Welcome to the Spock Academy for hopeful equestrians.

Now lets add to the mix, the fact that horses actually do have ideas and desires of their own. Sometimes a stallion would rather be mounting a mare than leaping a fence. It takes a strong hand to guide a stallion to a rider’s whims. Sometimes horses are having a bad day. Maybe they miss a stable-mate, or are feeling lazy, like they would rather just lie around the pasture. It’s a whole different ball game when a sport includes a non-verbal teammate.

 

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Ultimately show jumping is communication between man and beast, for the jumper to be successful the horse must want to jump. Somewhere inside them there is the desire to soar. And as I watched the jumping events it is clear to see the horse trusts it’s rider, and the rider trusts his horse. The horses accepts the encouragement and challenge from their director to jump fences they wouldn’t consider jumping on their own.

It’s bloody amazing. The professionals in any sport can make the task look easy. The teamwork in show jumping seems effortless, and therein lays the magic. It is the slippery fricken magic of appearance. We don’t see the in behind scenes of hard work, or countless hours of practice and failure. We haven’t seen the riders struggle to maintain a positive outlook through their feelings of frustration, doubt and fear. If these show jumpers can trust their horse, who by nature is a creature of fight or flight, to go over jumps for them time and time again— then I think you can trust yourself to accomplish whatever dreams you can conjure up in your limitless mind.

You got this. Oh yes. Damn right you do.

An Absence of Sun

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I’m what you would call an early bird. As many of you know early risers don’t only get the worm, they also incubate a dozen eggs and hatch a batch of chicks too. Not to say the night owls and nighthawks are slackers, it’s just that because of the time of the day there might be more alcohol involved. And then we have those akin to the blue-footed booby— we don’t generally talk about those folks. I’m pretty sure it has something to do with a secret society— they may or may not be under investigation. I plead the fifth my interpretation could be flawed.

As we enter into the seasons shift I can’t help but notice the morning light has attained a later state of being. Now as my alarm sounds out and I reluctantly pop my peeper’s open,  I am greeted by a dungeon-like darkness. The only thing missing is the shackles. Now don’t get me wrong. I like the dark. I just don’t like slippery touches, or bony grasping fingers, or weird snuffling, grunting noises in the pitch black. Not that there are right now, because my husband is away at work.

Now, to keep the truth on track, I admit I’m not totally opposed to the impending winters dark. I often wear black and I confess it’s a classically gorgeous color. If I am not mistaken, black is a combination of colors so it’s kind of like a rainbow in disguise. And who doesn’t like a rainbow? Heh?

So as we return to my 5:00 a.m. rise and shine time. I find the absence of the sun has throttled the very breath out of my fun loving demeanour. I find myself inspired to drag the life size skeleton Mr. Bones from our garage and have him sit beside me on the couch. I am currently playing the top ten hits of funeral music. We mourn the death of my chirpiness together. Although to be frank Mr. Bones seems quite unsympathetic to my state of being.

So here I sit the only live being in the dark. The stars are grieving too, currently veiled by a thick coverlet of clouds. The only light in the room is the orange glow from my Himalayan salt rock. I could turn on a real light but it would interrupt the mood. It’s not even that that I’m miserable. I’m just setting the scene to see if I can invite it in, after all misery loves company.

After sitting a while longer I realize it’s not coming— misery has snubbed my overture. I bring Mr. Bones back to the garage, and set him back on his sled with his sunglasses raised. He’s had enough shade for one day.

I wonder about the night owls, do they ever feel drawn to invite misery into their pitch-black moments? Do the seasons changing rhythms cause them to long for the extended evening light of summer? Or do they prefer to be wrapped in a shroud of shadows when the moon sits high, or to cocoon themselves in the velvety blackness vacant of starlight?

Regardless of my musings, autumn is here. It is robed in reds, scarlet, brick and sangria. It is accented with oranges, ginger, marigold and pumpkin. And lastly, it is crowned with yellows, golden sunflower, corn and flaxen tones. Without a doubt it is the most glorious season of all. It brings the shorter days and chilly nights to forewarn us winter is nigh. I wish the early birds, night owls, nighthawks, and blue-footed boobies a joyful transition time, because no matter what we do— winter is a coming and we have no choice but to nest or fly.

Paddleboard For Peace

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I’ve been contemplating the world from my secluded slice of heaven for a while now. It can be a reflective state as you can see from the photo. It’s a photo of myself and Mica on one paddleboard, and then my hubby on another paddleboard struggling to keep up. I revel in the fact I’m faster than he. He’s normally the fleetest of foot, his legs compare to the stilts of a caribou running in front of a wildfire. If he straps on skies, he’s akin to a bunny on steroids. If you give him a pedal bike, his legs spin around like the roadrunners in the Looney Toon’s cartoons, “Meep Meep, try to catch me.”

So I admit, I practically glow with satisfaction when I look back on him wobbling in my wake. He blames it on his weight and the length of his paddle. However, I patiently tell him, “Your paddle is fine. It’s the way you use it that counts.”

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Anyway, my grand dog Mica loves to go cruising on the lake with me. She is at ease, sometimes she stands up, and sometimes she sits down, and then there are times she lays across the bow like the July playmate in a Playdog magazine. She trusts me. She knows I will do my level best to keep us afloat, and so far we’ve done well.

The contemplative nature of steering across the lake has caused me to toss around the notion that the most troublesome of the world leaders should be required to paddleboard. It should happen on a remote lake in the middle of nowhere. They should be instructed to ride together and then switch up partners taking turns at being the paddler, and then being the passenger. It would be a good teambuilding experiment. It might instigate a sense of trust— no rocking the boat on purpose here.

It would an excellent time to remind them of the beauty of our planet, and how well an ecosystem survives when there is little to no manipulation from human kind. Maybe the leaders causing the most damage should heed the words of Mother Teresa, “ If you want to change the world, go home and love your families. (love your people)” Just imagine if everyone stopped throwing spitballs at each other, and went home to hug their family and pet the cat?

Out here on the lake I see no imaginary lines determining countries or property. It looks to be open access for all. On the water we hear the voice of the wind speaking gently to the trees, and the willowing cry of the loons. We see the fish leap and land with a splash causing circles to ripple outwards. The dragon flies glimmer and sparkle in the fading light as they dip and dive consuming mosquitos that would feed on our blood. Out here there is a sense of freedom, and a definite detachment from the over populated parts of the world. As we sweep along on the wrinkles of the lake there is no phone by our hand, and no call to be judged or judge. Our hearts are open and our minds are free as the sun begins to set. Our world is shaded in splendiferous colors and glows offering hope for tomorrow.

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What You Did.

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I’m putting in my two cents worth.

We all start out from the same place, as wide-eyed innocent children, full of wonder, exploring our amazing and magical world. More often than not it’s the people and expectations from our culture around us that wipes the sparkle from our existence. It happens through dogma and brainwashed beliefs. It’s taught to us young— be normal, work hard, and don’t fool around. Society wants normal, well-behaved, tax paying citizens.

I’m here to remind you that living within the constraints of society’s ‘normal’ is soul sucking. It leads you into the robot factory. Rise and shine, eat, have a big poop, go to work, eat, work, come home, eat, watch TV or play video games. Intermittently, you will shop and buy stuff you need like food and toilet paper. Most of the time you buy hogwash you don’t really want, something the TV tells you to buy, or the latest hot ticket item that this month’s fashion weekly instructs you to buy. Or sometimes you purchase something because your neighbour has one, and your ego wants to keep up with the Joneses. Apparently the Joneses have everything. Granted there are a few people who are exceptions to the rule— they are the ones smiling.

During your week you might occasionally indulge in exercise, socializing, sports or artistic endeavours. You step out of the robot box. That feels whoo-hoo fun. You feel light and energetic, and you promise yourself to do it again, and then obligations get in the way. You find yourself back on autopilot in a lackluster state.

Let’s pause for a second— You do realise we are all just blood and bone with some muscle and gristle thrown in for good measure, right? You do know, that we are all on our way to the compost heap? Yeah? Then why are we stuck in the robot life? Why not have some fun on the way? As a matter of fact, why not have a whole heap of fun? We don’t need to be so serious about living—  Drop the frowsy faces. I’m serious right now! I am the robber with the balaclava on. I pump the 12 gauge shot-gun and fire it into the air. I holler out, “Listen up folks. I’m taking all your frowns. You figure out how to put a smile on your face, because no one is getting out alive.” The dust from the hole in the ceiling sprinkles down, like fairy godmother glitter in the sunlight. “I bring to you a glimmer of truth. The compost heap is down yonder, and while the timeline is individual for each of us— we’re all heading in the same direction— and it’s a straight shot.” So decipher what brings enchantment into your life now, before the clock strikes twelve.

Plug your ears. Ignore all the shoulds, and coulds, and woulds that try to rule your life. I should do that. I would have done that. I could do that. They all come with a big fat BUT on the end. What’s holding you back? Why are you hesitating? Grab hold of your dreams. Can you smell the compost pile? What is keeping you from what you desire? Is it worry and fear? Or is it about other people? And how they would view you, if you did what you actually wanted to do? At this point I am not supporting fantasies of self-mutilation or murder.

I can almost hear people shouting “Money!” It’s a lack of money keeping me from my smile. Well, you know the line from the Beetles song, ‘Money can’t buy me love?’ Well it’s true, and not only that, it can’t buy you happiness either. You need to figure out what it is that tickles your bliss, and puts a goofy grin on your face. You find that truth, and then  actively do more of that. Be more you and less ‘normal’. Unplug from the robot routine and search out your joys. It is in the doing of it which brings happiness, not in the having of it. And how do you want to be remembered when you hit the compost heap? Do you want to be memorialized by what you did? Or what you had?

A Good Life

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Alvin Richard Mitchell  May 12, 1940 — August 2, 2016

“That was when the world wasn’t so big and I could see everywhere. It was when my father was a hero and not a human.” — Markus Zusak

Dad was the oldest of two children. He excelled at annoying the crap out of his younger sister Shirley. Yet, he still managed to remain the apple of his Mom’s eye. He adored his Mom. “She was a great woman,” Dad said with great emphasis. “A hard working woman —And boy could she swing an axe.”

Being a determined farm boy, Dad was always up for a challenge. He went straight from the field, and right to the oil patch working as a rig hand. When the rigs ran out of jobs, he joined the Navy on a whim. He travelled the seas from San Francisco to Singapore. On shore leave in Victoria, B.C. he met his future wife, Gail.

Then my Dad’s father, Walter, injured his leg in a farming accident. Dad received a compassionate discharge from the Navy to run the farm. When Walter’s leg healed enough to work, our Dad got a job as a timber cruiser. His performance led him into a position working as a Forest Officer for the Alberta Forest service.

During the next five years, at separate intervals, Dad became a proud/confused father to three bouncing/ squealing baby girls. During this time it was with great pleasure he earned his pilots licence by taking night classes.

After a few years of working in the bureaucratic bungling of a government job, Dad escaped the red tape. He bought the family farm off of our Gramps. He worked it for many years until he decided he had enough of cow poop and tractor exhaust.

He retired to British Columbia, with his second wife, Gil, to a life of fishing, curling, and golfing. He even had the occasional game of ‘Why the hell did I play ball? I can hardly walk‘, with a slow-pitch team called the Brew Crew, in Robson B.C.

Dad never considered the possibility that cancer might be the thing to snuff out his life. I’m not sure why. After a lifetime of smoking he should have known the big C would be the logical result. Oddly enough it didn’t take hold in his lungs, it took root in his bowels. They operated, gave him a colostomy, chemo and radiation. He toughed it out. Even though he would have preferred a bolt of lightening rather than the long drawn out treatments making him feel sicker than the illness itself. It was a shocking experience after a lifetime of good health.

When the cancer came back, it sapped his strength and ate away at his body. It angered him, “I look like a goddamn concentration camp victim,” he would say. And he did, I could have learned every bone in a human skeleton on my Dad. Yet he breathed.

He spent his last days staring out the window watching the river meander. I could see in his wistful gaze he wished for the strength to toss a fishing line, and hook a fish one last time. The constant drone of the T.V played, sports, or news. And then for some bizarre reason ‘My Five Hundred Pound Life’ became a short term favourite. He would sip on his coffee and pull deeply on his cigarette finding comfort in those small things.

I asked if he had any regrets. If there was anything he would have liked to change in his life.

He pondered the question inhaling another lungful of smoke. “No,” he said as he paused tilting his head, and tapping the ashes off his ciggy. “Well— I don’t think so. I’ve had a pretty good life.” He nods slowly. “A pretty good life.” And then he gives me a grin, weathered and worn. The familiar smile that all his friends and family loved, the one inviting you to smile along. And of course we all would. That was Alvin, my Dad in his final days. Gil’s cinnamon buns for breakfast, a good cup of coffee, and his smoke. He was a simple man, satisfied with the abundance of ordinary things. Nothing fancy for him in his faded, flannel, thread bare, plaid shirt, his favourite attire— with of course a pocket to hold all the lighters he would inadvertently borrow when looking for a light.

It’s a painful process watching your Dad whither away. He was my hero when I was young. I thought the sun choose him to shine on all day long. I remember being a bobbling child and following his light around just to feel it’s warmth. He walked with giant step, and towered over all things. He was the most handsome, athletic, brilliant Dad that anyone could ever wish for. I felt bad for all the other kids with ordinary Dads.

As age often does, there came a time I saw my Dad as a mortal. He struggled, but he did the best he could. He taught us the basics to succeed in life. First and foremost, he instilled a strong work ethic in his girls— Holy Hannah— the work ethic. Later in life Dad said, “I know I was hard on all you girls, but it’s important to do a good job.” It’s true. If I would have played football, I would have gotten many ass slaps for a job well done.

Growing up on the farm Dad taught us how to drive, disc, rake hay, give a strong left hook, hammer, paint, shoot, fish, and run the grain auger while keeping our body parts safe. He taught me to skidoo—but I missed the part on avoiding trees. He taught us how to dance to the oldies, the jive. I may have kicked my sisters inadvertently. He schooled us on poker, and how to lose the entire contents of your piggy bank at poker. All great lessons.

When he became a grandfather, he literally beamed when spending time with his grandkids, a sunflower would have swivelled on it’s stalk to follow the glow in his heart.

My Dad died at the age of 76, one year ago today. He was the oldest, young hearted  person, I ever knew. He is deeply missed. For such a slender fellow he sure took up a big space in our hearts. God Bless Pops.