The text from my husband comes as I am out on a necessary errand. I respond in usual generalities, grateful for his awareness of impending cold temperatures, care of our plants, and willingness to search for the blankets.
Spring brings beautiful sunny days and unexpected chills.
This spring has brought even more unexpected beauty (time to notice the brilliant blooms) and chill (facing COVID-19) as we continue to navigate, slow down, and step into new rhythms and routines. My planner tells me we are in week 5 of sheltering in place, but within that time there have been so many changes.
I have only recently begun to settle in.
Settling in looks like consistently working from the home office, going into the studio on Saturdays. It is the kids getting used to the white noise machine running outside the home office door and knowing I am on a call and not to interrupt. It is interruptions at all other times.
It is fielding questions and needs from each child at home and then when I think I have heard from everyone and can hunker down to work, responding to,Dewey is out of the gate! by flying down the steps and out the side door, because someone has left the yard gate open and Dewey is happily scampering out of bounds freely.
It’s flexibility amidst uncertainty and continuing to do the next thing before me while not knowing when this will end and things will change and how they will look when all is said and done.
How are YOU doing?
Last night I watched a webinar on Compassion Fatigue put on by my sister, Sharon Hicks, MA, LPC, of Kintsukuroi Counseling. The act of creating space to tend to my own heart in the midst of this season brought on copious tears. As I made time to slow down and have someone help me hold space without having to solve or fix anything, I was able to name personal grief and losses.
It felt kind to sit in a space of self-care.
What does this season look like for you? Where do you feel the chill of spring’s freeze and need a blanket brought to cover your tender new growth? How are you caring for yourself during this time? How are you caring for others? Where do you need support?
Don’t walk alone. Don’t hold all of the things for everyone else. Take time for yourself, as well. . . to tend, to think, to create, to breathe.
It’s Good Friday, and I stand at the new desktop in my home office, which brings me eye-level with the hole in the wall, because, yes, there is a hole in the wall of this tiny room full of stories, and I think.
As I think, no words come, and I am flooded with words.
What to write about? What to say?
My work buddy is silent behind me in his cage. I have things to say about him, but I cannot say them today.
The smell of late breakfast wafts up from downstairs. That, too, is something, just not words for now.
Time ticks by, and coffee grows cold, and the feeling inside rises.
You have to do this! It’s been too long since you’ve written something! You are avoiding so hard!
And I stand.
And my fingers move over the keys.
And my mind wrangles words and themes.
Because there are things to say about this year’s mama duck that feel important.
And there are things about the new neighborhood ducks that continue to show up in unexpected places but can’t be pinned down to a single location that are curious.
And it’s Good Friday for goodness sake which holds its own story.
And it has been four weeks since the kids were out of school for an unplanned teacher work day and then didn’t go back.
At the beginning I had lofty ideas about consistent blogging like my friend, Lora, is doing so beautifully over at Storied Living. That lasted four days, or at least four posts. Check out Lora’s blog. It is so beautiful.
I thought I would grow more knowledgeable and skillful in creating useful content like my sister, Sharon, of Kintsukuroi Counseling. I have taken tiny steps but nothing big enough to blog. But go check out her content, because it is so useful.
Because as I watch snowflakes blow past me outside and realize the baby plants need to be covered, and I hear the dog bark furiously, indicating there is someone at the door, and lunch time draws closer, I realize that this is the new normal of my work-at-home day.
I am still trying to figure it out. It is taking shape, but there is still that hole, like the one in the wall in front of me, that sucks time and energy with the energy it takes to simply exist and be present.
That has to be enough for today.
Now what can I find to cover that hole and how is it already mid-afternoon?
Easter afternoon finds me walking downtown towards my parents’ house to celebrate with dinner and an egg hunt at our usual 4:00 time. I love living close enough to walk over and decide to take the route past the nest. I am surprised to find Mama Duck surrounded by broken eggshells.
The ducklings hatched on Easter Sunday.
It is early in duckling season. There are no others in the stream. These will be first or second brood. Last year I was out of town and missed them completely. Other years I missed the hatching, as well, even though I was in town. One day they were in the nest, then they were gone.
This time I see the new ducklings in the nest.
Mama Duck protectively covers them with her body as they scurry around behind her under the bush. I imagine they are practicing using their legs for the journey to water. When I peer in for a closer look, she puffs up and begins breathing heavily, gathering them underneath her.
I give her some space to collect everyone before peeking in again. I see three little heads looking back at me. That seems like enough of a gift for the moment, so I continue on my way to the dinner, celebrating life and resurrection.
By Monday evening when Steve and I walk the dog, the nest is empty. There is only a scattering of broken egg shells. Steve suggests walking to the stream. After initial hesitation, I agree.
In the dark I see movement of a mama with her babies on the water.
Thursday finds me with a child home from school. She has a cold and is uncomfortable but not too ill to go on a morning dog walk. We head down to the water in search of the ducks.
Upon arrival, she holds the leash, sending me ahead to check it out first. Then you can hold the leash, and I will go look. I see mama with her babies.
Papa Duck joins them, flanking the side, while Mama protectively guides them towards the water.
I keep my distance, watching as they move closer to water. They pause to let the ducklings catch up.
Once all have reached water’s edge, the parents pause, allowing the ducklings to splash a bit before launching. I smile as they swim away and turn to face my youngest child who holds the leash of the dog. She smiles, too.
We walk home together sharing memories of duckling days past.
This view from a Charlottesville winery was one of many gifts I received this weekend. Siblings spent time together in Richmond, leaving the house empty and quiet.
Steve and I took advantage of the kid and car exchange to drive around looking at some of his Charlottesville job sites and ended up here.
This was the beginning of a lovely, slow weekend. After stocking up at Trader Joe’s and Martins for food necessities, we returned home to hang out and chill. We ate, drank, and relaxed. We watched some Netflix and took naps.
We grilled steak and roasted asparagus.
Sunday morning we woke slowly and arrived at church in time for me to hang out with my toddler nursery buddies during the Sunday school hour. Church followed and then more naps, some reading, art journaling, and a long walk.
We went to dinner downtown with friends. We made tea and went to bed early to start the week well-rested. I woke this morning to a silent house.
After feeding the animals and walking the dog, I took my time getting ready for the day before driving to Charlottesville to exchange cars again.
My ducks are all back in the nest. It was a nice break for us all to have the gift of space from each other, but it is so good to have them home.
These wise eyes look at me each time I pass through the old pantry to the kitchen. The pass-through pantry is a bane of my existence, its catch-all tendency tripping my longing for order wiring. It reminds me to find beauty in the mess. Always there is that. Both mess and beauty.
This owl was painted by a dear friend (seriously, click on the link to see what kind of friend she is) and won by me at a silent auction for Cross Keys Equine Therapy. It was meaningful to bid on and win something so whimsical and fun. From the silver sparkles to the flower and coloring, everything about this piece spoke to me.
It still speaks. Slow down. Be present. Watch. Remember.
The Barn Bashhappens again tomorrow. I am excited to see what will be offered for silent auction this time. I am eager to see who will attend. It is always a fantastic time of connection with friends old and new and catching up on the goings-on in our respective worlds.
If you are on the fence about going or even a little curious, take a risk and buy a ticket. (I JUST bought mine!) Bring a friend. Come out for an evening of fun and relaxation. I hope to see you there!
Saturday, May 19, is the Hats and Horses Fundraiser out at Cross Keys Equine Therapy. There is still space for you and a friend or several to attend this Preakness-themed event. If you are a last-minute person who waits to see what’s available, wait no longer and hop over here to order your tickets.
Come to think of it, I had better ask Steve if we have ordered ours!
We have attended this event for several years. Once I won the 50/50 raffle which paid for the babysitter hired to tend our houseful of children. Another time, I won a silent auction painting donated by my favorite local artist. Rumor has it she is offering something again this year!
It is always fun to see who attends and to mingle with friends, old and new. There are hats to decorate and silent auction items to browse. There is live music and a cash bar. The bar tender is always handsome and funny. The BBQ is delicious and desserts tempting.
Most important is the money raised to sustain the work of Cross Keys Equine Therapy. Attending this event is a fun way to offer the financial support that is so needed.
You may wonder what happens out at the farm. How do horses help with therapy?
I am glad you asked, because I had an experience at the farm back in January that I would love to share with you.
When engaging with the horse, first get permission. Wait for the horse to come to you and reach out to touch you before touching it. Just like you wouldn’t walk up to a person and begin rubbing their arm, don’t walk up and start petting the horse.
Alicia addresses board members sitting around a table preparing to exit to the fields for an experience with the horses. We are to take some time visioning the work of Cross Keys and think about how we fit into that vision. I take up my spiral-bound journal and walk outside. Our first assignment is to sit and be still.
Walking towards the field with no horses in it, I am redirected kindly to another. I nervously laugh and try not to ascribe deep significance to my faux-pas. It is difficult for me to make a decision and stick with it; to not have someone assign me a place. I carry my pop-up chair to a field with three horses in the distance and sit.
The horses are black, brown, tan. They begin moving in my direction, then stop. Wind whips over me. I settle my heart, not wanting to be rushed in the space. I find it interesting that I am in a field with three horses. What is God doing? I am not a horse person.
My vision keeps tipping to trauma. That theme runs through my story and connects my people. In a month I will commence part 2 of a certificate in story-informed trauma work. I see Cross Keys as a place for healing and hope, recovery of self, a place to engage with what has brought trauma.
Where do I fit? What do I bring?
As I ponder these questions, two horses move closer. They come to me, first the brown then the black. The tan will meet up with me later. I do not yet know this. I feel tears as these powerful animals approach me and nudge me with their noses. In their presence I feel small as I am called to rejoin the others down in the arena.
We gather at the Hope Arena for instructions on part 2. This time some of us will volunteer to enter the ring with the honey-colored horse to experience what the work is like. A therapist and equine specialist facilitate this experience.
I watch the first volunteer engage the horse and do some work. The work is to make a connection with the horse, not to mount it or ride it or do something like that. Just connect. This volunteer courageously engages the experience, following the therapist’s and specialist’s lead. Upon exiting, another volunteer is invited to step in. There is a pregnant pause.
I feel the feeling. You know the one. It’s the standing on the edge of the high dive or the top of the boat house and wanting desperately to both step off and step back. I stepped up and into the ring, terrified. Ambivalence gripped me as I battled desire for more and fear of engagement.
Being so close to a large, powerful animal in the presence of my peers and a therapist and horse specialist was intense. My default is performance, and I wanted to do all of the things right. I wanted to make a connection with the horse which meant she had to move towards me. Because I didn’t check to see, but instinctively I felt her a she.
I began to name what I felt, which was fear. I felt afraid to step in and move closer, but this beautiful creature was inviting me in with her deep brown eyes and golden mane tossed to one side. I decided to trust and engage as myself which meant to walk alongside of her. She drew me in from the edge of the rail where I was lingering and walked with me further into the arena.
I talked with her in this process, naming that it was difficult for me to commit to moving deeper into a space, even here as I ponder where my fit is at the farm. She gently walked with me, leading me to a red pop-up chair further in the arena. Stopping in front of the chair, she tapped her nose down on its seat and stepped aside.
I could have analyzed and excused and come up with all of the reasons why what I felt in my gut was impossible, but instead I chose to stay with the feeling of invitation to sit and be. I sat down. The horse stood beside me. All was still. A cat jumped into my lap.
The ridiculousness of that final touch broke the spell, and laughter ensued from both me and my husband before spreading to the others. Anyone who knows me knows that I am NOT the type of person who has cats randomly jump into their lap, nor do I invite that from cats. This was clearly a moment.
During the debrief with therapist and horse specialist, I named what was stirring inside. Issues of trust, fear, commitment, place, and rest all were current and all were showing up in the presence of the horse. Her engagement with me was completely different than with those who went before and after. It was unique to my need.
I experienced the beauty of equine-assisted therapy, if only briefly. It is the ability of the horse to sense and bring to the present space what is stirring in the client’s world. It is a therapist helping to name what is happening with the client and a horse specialist naming the horse’s role in the process.
It is beautiful and healing. When I wonder how it would feel to move in from the edge of a space and take my place in the room, I remember walking alongside a horse as she moved me further in from the edge. I feel the invitation to sit and belong just as I am. And just in case I doubt, I feel that cat on my lap and the laughter in my heart and know that it is real.
Please consider joining me THIS Saturday out at the farm. I would love to catch up and dream and imagine more with you. Tickets are here.
Shortly after the experience, the girl who is not a horse girl found a picture of herself as a girl wearing her favorite shirt. She feels this when she looks at the picture. That was my favorite shirt! You can see joy in all of the eyes.
I am going to be curious about that girl. Maybe she is a horse girl, after all!
One of the many challenges I face while doing this work is that of staying present in my own story and not carrying everyone else’s along with me.
Last week I sat with a wise friend who reminded me that while I play a major role in my children’s stories for a season, I am not their entire story. They will each walk their own path of growth and self-discovery with God, separate from me.
It is easy and familiar to make myself too big and too responsible. I feel a need to carry each of them with me on the journey. Instead of focusing on the work I need to do for healing, I circle back to how my woundedness has harmed those in my world. This keeps me from the task at hand, which is uncovering more of my own story and tending to my own heart.
We are all wounded and wounding souls. As I get closer to my own wounds, I see how my response to them has wounded others. This week is for tending to my own story. There will be space and time to process with those in my world when I return.
A friend gave me a care package Monday evening before I left. Among the thoughtful items in it was an adult coloring book. It has turned out to be one of the kindest gifts.
Last night, my mind swirled with all of the life still going on at home and all of the things I can’t control in everyone’s world. The bigness of this trip was bearing down on me. I struggled to stay upright and grounded.
Flipping through the coloring book, I came across this page. The scripture and flowers spoke to me as I tore it from the book and began to color one flower, then another.
I focused on the worries of my heart, giving them over to God. As I colored each flower I focused on a particular care or person. My mind stayed present in the moment.
Before bed last night I looked up the reference in my Bible and read the surrounding verses.
Unless the Lord had helped me I would soon have settled in the silence of the grave. I cried out, “I am slipping!” But your unfailing love, O Lord, supported me. When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer. Psalm 94:17-10
My prayer this week is that the doubts in my mind will be replaced with the comfort of God and with renewed hope and cheer, supported by the Lord’s unfailing love.
Blessings, Friends! Thank you for your love and support on the journey and for joining me here in this space. Each of you is a gift to my heart.