My First Near-Death Experience

(An excerpt from my soon-to-be-released book)

human soul In this life, I have almost died twice. I say almost died, because I never went into the light, the way people often describe. But I was out of my body and aware of what was happening around me as a spirit this first time. It happened when I was about 5 years old, and it remains a vivid memory.

I loved raw potatoes, and would always beg a chunk of potato from my mother when she was cutting them up to cook for supper. I received my chunk of potato and was happily munching away in our living room when I heard the back door open and what I thought was my father’s voice. I thought he was arriving home from work, and started to run out to greet him the way I always did when he came home. I stubbed my toe on the end table leg in the process, started crying, and inhaled the potato.

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Weekend in the Hudson Valley

fleabaneAs much as I love my home, the farm, and my work, once in a while I have to get away. My partner and I went to visit my friend Beth and her husband Mark over the weekend. They live in the Hudson Valley, which isn’t really that far away from here — about a three-hour drive. We had a great time!

Beth and I are old friends from our Morrisville College days. We were in the Equine Program together, and even though we have been through a lot of changes in our lives and live relatively far apart, we have remained the best of friends for 29 years.

The four of us rented bicycles on Saturday morning and rode the Rail Trail. It was beautiful, with all the honeysuckle and spring wildflowers blooming! It was good exercise, and a great way to re-connect and catch up with recent events in our lives. We had a late lunch in Copake. That evening we headed for the Blackthorne Resort in East Durham to see Black 47, an Irish rock band who is on their last tour, after which they are going to retire. The show was fantastic!

Yesterday morning we hung out at their farm (lilacs blooming everywhere), visited with the two resident mares, walked the 20-acre property and just had a lovely, leisurely day until it was time to leave so we could get home at a reasonable hour in order to feed my own horses. The Catskills are magical and beautiful and being surrounded by them this weekend was good for my soul.

My plans for today involve weeding the raised bed gardens in my yard in preparation for planting.

Hope your Memorial Day weekend is a happy one, too! And thanks to all the veterans who served our country. We are deeply indebted to you.


Bless the Noisy Crows

crow(A memory today stirred up this post. I felt the urge to share in the hope that my experience might help someone else going through a similar thing.)

Several years ago, we were battening down the hatches for yet another Nor’easter, which intended to drop several inches of snow and/or ice on us. The sun had been absent from our skies for a long time; the days were grey and sullen. It is this sloppy, wet murkiness, the sodden grey-ness of it all that (still) gets to me after a while. You see, I have Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known by its acronym, SAD. My symptoms were extreme that year, for we had a very long sun-less winter, in which it either rained or snowed an unbelievable amount at once. Thankfully, I have friends in warm places, places where the sun shines a great deal more than it does here in central NY. I did manage to get away for a long weekend, which refreshed me a great deal.

However, in the midst of the darkness, at my lowest low, when I wasn’t communicating with anyone (which, by the way, is a bad thing to do when you’re depressed), in the throes of wading through waist-high snow to get my poor snow-bound horses outside after days of captivity, I fell – and that fall changed everything. As I lay in the snow on my back, physically unharmed but looking skyward with tears streaming down my face, I thought how futile my life seemed, and I had no energy to keep going, to even move from where I had fallen. I could see no reason for my continued existence, no reason…

As they say, it’s always darkest before the dawn. After laying there in the snow for a while, I suddenly heard a crow yelling from a nearby tree, and that call sharply pierced the blackness of my despair. I realized that the sun had come out. The sky was a perfect blue, with light fluffy clouds making their way across my field of vision. And I realized that the snow was very comfortable, so I reclined there and watched the sky for a bit longer, my tears freezing as they rolled from my cheeks. The crow’s call in my ears seemed to change, and, in a most amazing revelation, it dawned on me that this crow was speaking to me, yelling at me, “Get up! Get up! Why do you lay there?! Don’t give up! Get up! Get up!”

Don’t give up.

Imagine my surprise. Fight on, I heard in my head. And I realized in an instant that I was being spoken to by the Divine through this noisy crow. So I did. I wiped my tears, heaved a great sigh, and climbed up out of the snow, with the crow cheering me on, and then more crows. Urged on by their cacophony, I continued to struggle forward through the snow. And yes, it was a great struggle, but I finally got my horses outside in the sun, where they needed to be.

Of course, the encouragement from the crow was more than it seemed at the time. It was really more about the inner journey I had been experiencing than the outer struggle of the moment. I was yanked abruptly from my depression by this experience, for it occurred to me then that, although I am not the center of the universe by a long shot, I am, in fact, a very necessary part — as we all are necessary to the lives of others. My vision expanded outward from the recent wintry obsession of my inner Self hunkering miserably in darkness — to the sky, the clouds, the crows, the horses, and, ultimately, understanding. I understood at that moment that it isn’t all about me, but rather, that I am a servant, a vassal, a productive arm of the Gods of my People, put here on this earth and in this time to do the work they ask of me. Whether I know it or not, I am important, for many reasons. And there are people and creatures that depend on me; not just my family and my horses or pets, but the crows and other wild animals, trees and plants and water spirits that live here under my physical and spiritual protection. In that moment, I rolled the thought around in my mind again: it isn’t all about me.

When you come outside of yourself in such a way, you realize with a blush and a start how selfish you have actually been, withholding your bright energy from the world, withholding that spark within you that is Deity. You understand how your own self-absorption has produced negativity in a world that needs all the positive energy you can muster for it. You make a conscious choice to continue to crouch selfishly in the shadow, or to become a light in the darkness for the benefit of all. Sometimes we are so far gone that only a kick in the ass from a warrior goddess (through her beloved crows) can bring us back into balance — and sometimes we are blessed enough to actually recognize that kick in the ass when we experience it.

I have refused to succumb to the darkness since this divine intervention. I take vitamin D, I meditate, and I pray on a regular basis. When I feel that black shadow pressing down on me now, I fight it, with every cell in my body and every ounce of my spirit. If I need to, I go south to find the sun — whatever it takes to feed the light of my soul. After all, I did not come to this world to hunker in darkness; I came to this world to shine!


Wisdom from Nelson Mandela’s People

John Lockley 2It’s a good idea for you to come to be with us in ceremony this weekend…and there are just a few spots left!

If you are already signed up and you bring a friend, the two of you get a deeper discount! If you haven’t signed up, now is the time!

Because something unique will be done that has never been done before. John Lockley, South African Xhosa Sangoma, will be teaching the core essence of Nelson Mandela’s philosophy, which comes from Mandela’s people, the Xhosa people. This philosophy is called “ubuntu,” which means “humanity.”

John has been working with his Xhosa teacher for 17 years. He is a medicine man of the Xhosa tribe.

But more than that, this weekend will be a unique opportunity to work with an indigenous shaman through the use of sacred dream medicine. This work helps people get dreams and visions in order to connect with their ancestors. It is safe (non-hallucinogenic) medicine, and part of the White Medicine tradition in South Africa.

We will be working with this sacred dream medicine in 2 forms: as an external blessing and cleanse during the day, and as a tea ceremony in the evening.

So if you or your friend has been undecided, now is the time for action. To attend this unique weekend ceremony, call Cindy today at 315.289.2030.

Mithrandir’s Magik (Alf), July 10, 1987 – April 14, 2014

Alf 1 I said goodbye to my soulmate on Monday, April 14, 2014. It is very difficult to say goodbye to one’s soulmate, maybe especially when that soulmate is a horse you brought into the world as a tiny foal, and with whom you spent 27 years of your life. It’s like burying your child. Well, at least that’s what it feels like for me.

Yes, my best friend, my partner of nearly 27 years is gone. Alf, my Alf, who filled my life with so much joy, and brought me some of my dearest friends, has departed this earthly plane. We knew it was coming, but you can’t really prepare for something like this, and finally the day came when his failing body could no longer support his immense spirit. On the Friday morning when he couldn’t move to get to his breakfast bucket, the morning he looked back at his uncooperative hind legs and then looked at me with a face that clearly said, “Help me,” I knew. I knew the time had finally come to release him from any future suffering; things were only going to go downhill from there. He was ready. I, of course, would never be, but this wasn’t about me.

The weather was perfect, with temperatures up into the low 80s for two glorious days. He had a lovely day on Sunday, being bathed and pampered and snoozing in the sun. Then on Monday morning, he was combed and kissed and fussed over, got to spend a few hours grazing in the lawn unfettered by lead or muzzle, ate a bag of apples, and was escorted like the King he was to the burial ground, where at 12:30 p.m., he passed easily, with help from our skilled and compassionate veterinarian, and surrounded by love. No, surrounded by LOVE. Big letters. Big feelings.

I have no regrets. It could not have gone any better than it did, this strange funeral rite, with Alf’s dignity remaining intact. And, just like he had so many times before, with so many things — training, or trail riding, or showing, or simply being the most cooperative, willing horse I ever knew — he made it easy on me. He crumpled gently to the earth and was gone from his body almost before his knees hit the ground. He looked strangely (or perhaps not so strangely) like a war horse in death, resting on his sternum, knees tucked under, nose touching the ground lightly, hind legs tucked as if caught in the middle of springing forth in ballotade.

I had prayed for an easy go, at least in that way. My prayers were answered, for which I am very grateful.

I have put other beloved horses down: Dusty, Red, Connie. I have assisted in putting horses down for friends. But I have never felt what I felt when Alf went down, a physical ripping sensation at my chest, a tearing, and an excruciating pain, as though some great spirit hand had reached into my body and torn out my soul. The gaping hole remains; I may look okay, I may even seem normal at first glance, but there is this great rent in the very fabric of my being that threatens to consume me.

A light has gone out of the world, and I am swimming through a river of grey, trying to find my way back through the darkness. I know he is with me in spirit. I know it. I trust that, even though I may be too caught up in my grief to see it yet. I am just feeling sorry for myself, because I will never be able to kiss his soft nose or feel that oneness of being, the other half of a centaur, again.

Still, memories of Alf are helping to heal me even now. He was a very smart horse with a great sense of humor, and his antics are the stuff of legend. There was the day in a trail class when I ground-tied him and then turned to see him eating the plastic flower decorations from the markers, or, as a mate recently reminded me, the way he would come for his medicine every day when I said, “Alf, it’s tea time!” He was a real character.

The other horses are grieving “the boss,” he who was their herd leader for their entire lives. They went outside yesterday and called and called for him. And I realized as they did that they weren’t really calling for him because they expected him to come back, as one might imagine. They knew he had gone into spirit. They were mourning, an act akin to my wailing when he dropped, akin to human expressions of grief. It was incredibly difficult to witness that pain. But after about a half-hour, they stopped and went about the business of living. Of course, they continue to look for him, in the fields, in his stall, just as I do, before I remember and emotion takes me again; this, too, will pass.

What a love! What a horse! What an incredible journey! I am what I am because of his presence in my life, because of his devotion, and I will never, ever forget that.

Rest in peace, Alf. I’m glad I could help you cross over when you needed me to. I am happy to know you are free from the horrible pain of DSLD. I will love you forever.