Friday, December 26, 2008

Art

A roaring snow dragon has descended upon Dove Creek. The typical high winds found on this desert plain blow the white crystals in horizontally recreating the landscape into a Saharan snow desert. The roads, paths, ditches, mounds and holes are no longer visible and have been replaced by glistening waves and blinding dunes carved by the ever-changing winds. Roads are barely distinguishable from the ditches and farmlands creating an expansive snow ocean. A drive in these conditions looks like you've just put your ship into 'warp speed' with the flakes resembling galaxies coming at your windshield. Already, our car has been pulled into one of those white glittery tidal waves on the side of the road and has had to be towed out.

When walking in it, care is taken with every step, as one can be sucked down into a hole disguised by a snow mound. More than once, all of us have had to crawl out on our knees from one of those sink holes. It borders on ridiculous, but as it is still novel to me, it cracks me up. As one local said, winters here can be intense. I feel like that word is over-used, but can't figure out a better way of expressing it, except with a crazy laugh.

Under these conditions, I've not been able to take long desert walks. Even short walks can be exhausting due to the careful placement of each step and at times falling in up to your thighs. However, I'm fascinated by the animal tracks made more visible by the snow. Although deer and elk have always been in plain sight, most other animals remained hidden. The snow now reveals abundant rabbit and coyote tracks leading to dens once buried from view.

I am again struck by the hardiness of the folks living in this environment. During the winter, locals are always prepared for being stranded and keep snow boots, a sleeping bag and flash light in their cars. Here, Mother Nature takes no prisoners. Some feel the extreme weather helps to evolve one's character. The hot summers and cold winters burn or freeze off layers of protection that no longer serve your soul and the high winds blow the baggage away.

After living here for 5 months, I'm certain I was a swamp thing in a former life. I'm one of those folks who loves riding their bike in 98 degrees and 80% humidity. To me, that's not work. As I told this to a local, she said that what I had needed was to be in an environment that pushed my edges in order to progress, as significant change doesn't occur when you're comfortable.

If this environment teaches me any thing about life, it's to surrender. Surrender and you will be molded into something beautiful, strong, ever-changing and somewhat unpredictable - truly a piece of art.

Winter on steroids

Our car is eaten by a 10-foot wind-blown snow wave.





A view from the livingroom window.

Friday, December 12, 2008

As the snow flies

Though we've already had a few snow showers, the storm this week has become the 'snow that won't melt until the Spring', or so we've been told. Strange concept for a girl from the South.

Waking up this morning, outside it looked like the froth from the top of a cafe latte had poured down from the heavens and landed on every willing and unwilling surface.

Already the quietest place on Earth, the snow has added a dimension of deafening sound that demands one become at ease with their thoughts.





Sunday, November 30, 2008

Return to Innocence

On the Tuesday night before Thanksgiving, between the towns of Helper and Price in Utah, our car hit and killed a Mule Deer. His big, beautiful body flashed for an instant in our headlights before he landed on our hood, flew off into the opposite lane, and was hit by another car. Three young fellas from the town of Helper immediately pulled over to make sure we were O.K. (and we were). They were dressed in matching suits and their nametags identified them as interns with the Church of Latter Day Saints.

The car had sustained significant damage to the hood, which looked like a napkin that had been balled up, and then somewhat reflattened over the engine AND the airbag had deployed. The highway patrol officer said that it was the third accident that evening involving a Deer. This stretch of road was particularly dangerous because there were fields of hay and corn on the one side and a stream on the other. Ranchers had begun erecting tall fences along the road to keep the Deer from crossing, but they had just moved further down the road where the fences hadn’t yet been built.

Because of the upcoming holiday and our remote location, we were told it would be at least three days before the car could be fixed. So, that evening we had our car towed to the nearest town of Price, paid for a hotel, and the next morning rented a U-Haul & trailer to take our mangled car back to the ranch.

Immediately after the accident, I went into a bit of a shock. There was a smoky smell that at first I couldn’t identify, but then realized it was the airbag. Then there was a liquid that was pouring out from under the hood, which later turned out to be the radiator fluid. There were also the dogs in the back seat. But mostly my mind replayed the split second that the four-point Buck leaped in front of the car right before we hit him.

Some Native American traditions would say that the Buck sacrificed his life in order to give us Deer Medicine. In honor of this majestic beast, I’ve been exploring the teachings of Deer Medicine and how they have presented themselves in my life.

When a Deer shows up in your life, so they say, the lesson he has for you is gentleness, innocence and a return to wilderness. These lessons have also come to me from some of my most profound teachers – not so much as a direct teaching, but by their living example.

One of these teachers was Swami Mahadevananda of the Sivananda Ashram in South India where I did my Yoga Teacher Training. As wide as he was tall, Swami Mahadevananda had lived at the Ashram for more than 30 years and his booming presence was matched only by his voice. I loved listening to his daily talks as he appeared to me to have infinite wisdom and yet a lightness of heart.

I remember once coming across him along a quiet path on the grounds of the Ashram. Alone, he was bent down towards the ground. I approached to see what he was doing and found him captivated by the newest arrival of stray young kittens that had adopted the Ashram. Fascinated by the contrast of size, age, and experience, I watched him pet the kitties for a while. At one point he looked up to acknowledge me and with a smile on his face just said ‘kitties’ and went back to petting them. I left him there and was struck by the fact that a person so worldly wise could also be so gentle and innocent in manner.

I’ve seen this same kind of gentle, child-like innocence in HH the Dalai Lama. I once had the good fortune to attend one of his lectures. He gave his talk in his native tongue, which was translated into English at appropriate intervals. The subject matter involved the finer differences of the various Buddhist traditions, which frankly was over my head. So instead of listening to the content, I watched and absorbed his mannerisms and tone. I noticed how quickly and with ease he could flow from a very strong and direct tone to a light-hearted, joking manner. With regularity, he would break into laughter for what seemed like a few minutes at what he had just said. Since it had not yet been translated, we couldn’t understand the cause for his laughter; however, it wasn’t long before we were all laughing along with his infectious joy. As with the Swami, I was once again struck by the ability to be both profoundly wise and at times exhibit a child-like innocence.

The workshops at the Buffalo Woman Ranch emphasize authenticity and one of the main impediments towards being authentic is a loss of innocence. Webster defines authenticity as genuine, real, not false or copied. A loss of innocence can come at any stage of one’s life and can take many forms such as betrayal, neglect, abuse or violence. However, no matter when or how our innocence was lost, it can always be reclaimed. One way to do that is to learn to be present, in your body, with the full range of what shows up. By being present, we will have to acknowledge any emotional wounds that exist in our bodies when the come up and be with them, without trying to make them go away, ignore them, feed them with food or movies or alcohol or whatever. If you stay present, over time these wounds will have less of an impact on you, which will make it easier for you to be authentic.

In addition to gentleness and innocence, Deer Medicine also teaches a return to wilderness. I’ve recently read a little from Bill Plotkin’s work, which is also about being authentic, and he believes one of the best ways to do this is through being in nature. I have to concur. The simple rhythms and cycles found in nature mirror our own cycles, which we’ve suppressed through our modern lifestyles. By being in nature, we can again explore our rhythms and return to balance.

So, if a deer shows up in your life, this is the time to express gentleness to yourself and others, reclaim your innocence through being present, and spend some time in nature. The reward will be a reconnection with your authentic self … you might even hear a soft voice saying ‘it’s so nice to be with you again.’

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Secret Life of Nubians

The ranch has just acquired 3 Nubian goats – a mama and her 2 kids. They are quite fascinating creatures and I’ve decided that all I ever needed to know about living the good life can be learned from Nubians.

Chew your food many times before swallowing.












Get plenty of Vitamin D.









Think outside the box.








Be comfortable with giving and receiving love.










Look people directly in the eye.











Eat plenty of fiber, daily.











Laughing is good medicine.











Yawning releases tension.













Head massages feel great.










And ear massages do, too.









And when there's no one around to give you a massage, self-massage is equally rewarding.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Connecting the dots

There are times when language does not do justice to the depth and breadth of intense emotion. The mere act of searching for descriptors and qualifiers tends to reduce the expansiveness of the moment to a finite, boxed-in, flat, one-dimensional instance. Since I've been exploring my reaction to the election, I'll do my best to put my feelings into words, aware of my limitations.

That said, my story is not entirely unique. I have spent my whole life living in the racially-charged South. Raised in a somewhat progressive neighborhood and from a very liberal and open-minded family, you could say that I was not prepared for the anger that racism evoked in both African Americans and Whites.


Growing up in downtown Greensboro, I was a bicycle ride away from the famous Woolworth's which held the first sit-ins in the nation and served the best soul-food in town. In the first grade, I was bussed to a predominantly African American school - a positive experience which further reinforced my family's belief system that all people are created equal.

A few years later, my mother rode her bike in the Communist Worker's Party parade in downtown Greensboro to protest the injustices promoted by the Klan. The KKK showed up with rifles and shot and killed 5 of the protesters. Though the shootings were caught on video tape by the media, no jury would convict a gunman in repeated appeals. One of the folks shot and killed was a classmate of mine's stepfather.

By fourth grade, my parents moved me to an Open School which offered a completely different teaching style to encourage independence amongst the students. It was a predominantly white school and it was also the first time I experienced a class system based on economics, of which I found myself towards the bottom.

In high school I dated an African American fella. We worked together at a grocery store and fell in love. For the first time I experienced prejudism from my own race. The ugly looks and derogatory comments made towards me felt scary and caused me to solidify my compassion for blacks in the South and understand on a visceral level the injustice and fear of prejudism.

My first year of college was spent in central Africa where I was the only White in the school, yet I was treated like an equal. However, after I returned to the U.S., I experienced two incidences of racism from an African American - one from a fellow student at UNC-CH and another from a co-worker while working on a political campaign directly after college. In both cases, the racist anger that was unleashed on me was so irrational, it was as if they were letting loose generations of anger rooted in inequality and injustice for what I represented - the white race.

I have heard many justifications for racism - some from the educated and others not so. Each time I encountered a comment, I would redirect the conversation or ignore it, meanwhile my insides turned upside-down. I knew racism was irrational, but it was also ingrained like a deep groove in the psyche, wrapped in pain and injustice on both sides.


Having grown up without a church home, the words of Martin Luther King and his description of a Promised Land for all peoples made more sense to me than anything I'd read in the bible. His vision of a country where children of all races could sit down together at the table of brotherhood came as close to a description of Heaven on Earth for me.

So on this past election day when I found myself huddled together over homemade tamales and barbecue with Native Americans, African Americans, Latinos and Whites at the Obama HQ in Cortez, Colorado, I was overcome with emotion when Obama was elected the 44th President of the United States. Sitting next to a friend, we both turned to give eachother a hug and all I could think to say was that a very old part of me had been waiting to exhale for a long, long time....

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Feng Shui

The Chinese knew thousands of years ago what we still know today – everything is energy and the energy that radiates from your external environment affects your being on all levels – physical, mental, emotional, energetic and spiritual. Coined Feng Shui, the science involved creating harmonious spaces that energetically provided for optimal health.

The Native Americans among many others say the opposite is also true – and thus the importance of maintaining one’s health for internal and external harmony. This belief is also supported by the well-worn phrases found on t-shirts and bumper stickers that ‘we are all connected’ and ‘everything affects everything.’

More than ever, this belief system resonates with me.

The house that we are living in, coined the Eagle’s Nest, is quite beautiful. It’s an open space with big windows, warm colors on the walls and no internal doors (curtains are used in lieu of doors). It’s a straw bale construction, meaning the walls are insulated with straw bale and covered with stucco. The insulation grading of standard homes is R19. These walls, which are 14 inches thick, have an approximate rating of twice the standard rating. When the windows are closed, the silence inside is so thick, I feel as if I have cotton in my ears.

The floors are made of poured concrete, 3 feet deep, providing radiant heat within. When the heat is on, I love feeling the soles of my feet against the floor’s deep warmth.

This house is obviously built to last until the end of time and will at the very least withstand the cold high desert winters.

Recently while on a 4-day lemon juice fast, I noticed a different sensation about the Eagle’s Nest that I hadn’t felt before. Being on a fast puts me into a completely different frame of mind, as you can imagine. First of all, I am at times extremely fatigued, and as a result conserve energy – focusing only on thoughts and actions that are important to me.

In addition, I become particularly sensitive to my surroundings – noticing things that I’m not aware of otherwise. I remember well the effects of my last fast while I was staying at an Ashram. On the fourth night I attended Satsang where everyone was chanting and playing various percussion instruments. To me, the music seemed to be played in slow motion as I sensed that I could hear each note individually – almost like separate words being spoken instead of the full collective of sound that I normally hear. It was a bit too intense for my senses and I had to leave. The next morning I broke my fast. I noticed that my ears felt like long tubes and with each bite I took, I felt those long tubes closing up until my hearing returned to the less than average hearing I currently have.

During my most recent fast here, I began to notice the weight of the walls and floors of the Eagle’s Nest. Their energy felt heavy and isolating and so I decided to spend some time outside. Taking a walk in the desert, I was drawn to the radiant warmth and strength of the rock faces. Since my body had grown lighter and colder due to the fast, the rocks with their heat and solid nature created needed balance. Lying down across them in various yoga positions, I had thoughts of how much these rocks had seen and been transformed by their thousands of years in this place. A loud rhythmic sound occurred directly over me. It was a raven flying only 4 feet overhead. Did their wings always make this much noise when flying?

I began to really understand the power of one’s environment on their body/mind/spirit. Intellectually I knew this to be true, but hadn’t felt it in my bones. Mostly I became sensitive to the difference between masculine and feminine energies in the environment - and the need to keep them balanced. When I’m feeling overly light and airy or fluid (yin or feminine), my body craved the solid warmth of the rocks (yang or masculine). And when I’m feeling an overabundance of masculine energy – perhaps thru extended physical exertion - I crave water (feminine), by being near a river or taking a bath, to return to balance.

When creating a life of harmony, health and wholeness, it often seems like there’s a lot to consider – but that’s only because we’re thinking too much about it instead of listening to how we feel. Our bodies are the ‘mouthpieces of the soul’ and will let you know what is right and healthy for you, moment-to-moment, if you will listen. That knowledge and wisdom is always available to you. You may think you are doing it for yourself, but you will also do it for everything around you. The trees and birds, air and rocks, your husband and your knees will all benefit.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

On being 'grounded' or a lack thereof

Rite of Passage
I guess I’ve been properly initiated into equestrianism after being chucked off the back of a perfectly good riding horse, over the top of her head, and onto the ground. Although skilled equestrians would say 'come tell me your horse story after falling off a half-dozen times' I find the event to be a rite-of-passage or sorts, so I’m rather proud of it. Finally - the dreaded fall has happened! One of the spectators closeby said I looked like I was 'diving off the high dive' before I tumbled to the ground. Another said that I had learned a valuable lesson to be present and in my body while on the horse – especially valuable as nothing was broken.

To my own recollection, midway through the flight I felt my lowerback over-arch and when I landed on the ground I curled up in child's pose, hoping Angelbella (she has such an unassuming name, doesn't she?) wouldn't then walk on me. As I lay in child’s pose, I felt my lower back muscles relaxing a bit and then I knew I was OK.

Today I’m still getting around rather slowly with a stiff back, but am glad to finally have gotten the dreaded horse fall out of the way – even if it’s the first of many. Good thing I’ve got yoga to gently stretch my tense back muscles!

Obama vs. the Bubba effect
Originally, I was going to start this blog entry with something about how removed I felt from the news – whether that began 6 years ago when we got rid of our television or more recently our life in the high desert. However, having watched the presidential debate last week at someone’s house, I woke up early the next morning with worries about how my candidate (Obama) had performed and how he was perceived by folks ‘on the fence’. (how can any one be on the fence at this point?) Anyways, I quickly got caught up in how serious Obama looked. Sure, he had been getting guff from his supporters who said he needed to be more 'tough' against the opposition. But instead of thinking about the content of the debate, I became afraid that Obama looked too much like the ‘angry black man’ that some white Americans are afraid of. Or maybe he was too smart. Or that he didn’t look enough like the average American voter.

I seem to remember that after the Bush debates (I forget which set), folks said they thought Bush had done better because he 'seemed nicer'. Political pundits analyzed that voters tend to select someone that ‘looks more like them or a neighbor or relative - or Bubba - someone that they knew back in school and liked'. Not that he's educated or qualified, but that he’s 'the kind of person that they'd like to get a drink with at a bar'.

Huh?

At this point I might be irritating folks who are not voting for Obama, and for this I apologize. I actually think McCain is an alright guy, but not for President and not against Obama.

Perhaps I should stay away from television altogether, as I can see how riled up I get, and really with no purpose. It’s just wasted energy, and let’s face it, there’s not an infinite supply of renewal energy in my body, so I’ll try to stuff it back in the bottle. I hope to be more centered and grounded in my next blog entry since it’s not been healthy for my lower back!

Or maybe I'll catch the VP debate this week....

cheers!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Authenticity

When I was in the tenth grade, I remember my algebra teacher snapping his fingers and clapping his hands while saying to me ‘Jessica, the action is up here’ and pointing to the chalk board where he was busy creating calculations for us to memorize. Meanwhile, I was looking out the window mesmerized by the flying snow that had just begun. I am still overcome with that same amazement here when I watch the sunsets, the oncoming storms, the mountains and rolling desert lands. When in the company of all this simple and pure beauty, one hardly needs to meditate.

I find that it becomes a lot easier to find your truth when being in nature. I like the phrase that I heard somewhere – ‘the only guru is God’, and for me God is found in it’s most clear form in nature.

A lot of people who come to the ranch have lost contact with their center and so they come here to do the work to again become connected with their truth - who they are. We refer to this way of living as authentic and congruent. A lot of the symptoms of incongruence that people come here to deal with are created by stuffing one's truth in order to create 'harmony', albeit superficial, within community. Whether it’s eating disorders, alcohol abuse, lack of boundaries, stress, busyness, health issues – these are all linked with incongruence or a stuffing of one’s truth.

While here, folks again connect with what is right for them. It’s the work with the horses, the community and the land here that support their transformation. The next step comes when going back into their previous lives with family, friends, neighbors and coworkers and remaining embodied and empowered in their truth, instead of dropping back into their false-self. When in community and dealing with others who are disconnected – folks who are needy on both sides of the scale either with big egos or in their small self – it can be difficult to maintain one’s center. Creating harmony and community means understanding where folks are coming from and to better understand their perspective, sometimes we take on their stuff and over time think it is ours. Again, losing our center.

Though I never met the woman who co-founded the Buffalo Woman Ranch, Charlie McGuire, I imagine that she was good at holding onto her center in the midst of conflict and creating community. This takes a special kind of strength. From some of the stories I have heard, it also created some strife as she did not buy into or try and calm others’ neediness or egos. This at times created conflict as you can imagine, but it was her theory that if they got mad about her interaction with them, that was their problem. People either really appreciated her honesty and authenticity, or they were offended and felt bruised. She was able to create a large community by being congruent and inspired others to become empowered, as well. Finding your center here (or wherever you go to get centered) and then making it stick in community and especially during conflict with others is definitely where the rubber meets the road. The best advice we have to do this is to stay present, in your body, listen to your body's messages (these are pure signals), and be true to who you are and what you stand for. When you are being present and true to yourself, you are always in good company.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

In the News

An article on the Buffalo Woman Ranch made it into the Living Section of the Cortez paper and the front page of the Moab paper. :-) Wind Eagle and I are briefly mentioned. Click here to read the article.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Grit

Two percent of Americans live in towns of less than 1,000 and I definitely feel like that two percent. Dove Creek has a population of 750, however, the local sheriff said this year hasn't been good for the living - a record 50 people died during the last 12 months. A neighbor told me she thought there were more teeth than people living in town. All I want to know is, where are those 700 people?

The town consists of a post office, gas station/convenient mart and 2 liquor stores within one block - both of which were open last Saturday night when we drove past. When you walk into a store or meet someone new here, people give you a long look. If I was anywhere else, I'd think I had spinach on my face. I usually look right back at them just as long with a inquisitive look as if to ask - I don't get what you are seeing? Are you studying my face to make sure that you've never seen me before? Making sure I'm not a cousin? I can't figure it out but it's definitely a common occurrence.

Living in the high desert on this ranch takes grit. Everything here can be at the extremes and raw. There's definitely nothing superficial about this kind of lifestyle. The native desert plants that grow like weeds pretty much exemplify the characteristics of the people. Take for instance the thistle - it is vibrant in color and interesting to look at, hard to eradicate, prickly on the outside, yet soft and fluffy once the flower opens up. That pretty much sums up the high desert people.

The ranch itself lends easily to authentic living, which it promotes. You truly can be whoever you are. Everyone here is highly independent and has no agenda, outside of the health and wellbeing of the land, animals and the community. There's no manipulation, no need to outshine another to move up the ladder or acquire any excess material needs. We carry our wait, are respectful of each other, the land, and those who came before us to protect the land as it exists today. The only being around here who is needy is Roxy - but that's just because she is still a 'city dog' so I've been told. The folks that come here for healing know they are supported by us and the land, yet realize their journey is uniquely their own.

So come as you are.

After being here a few weeks, Armida decided that she was going to shave her head, which she'd always wanted to do but hadn't found the guts to do it. Here's a picture of her when she arrived and then one month later. You won't find this before/after photo on the Buffalo Woman Ranch site as it's not good marketing material. And don't worry - the rest of us are keeping our locks because we'd look downright strange without hair. However, Armida carries it off well - she's got the Demi Moore look going. Most of the personal changes that occur while on this land are more subtle - more like letting your hair down, than getting rid of it.

Anyways, it feels healthy. Balanced. Solid. Real.

Though at times I've heard that it sometimes feels lonely on the ranch, that hasn't been my experience. However, loneliness may be a by-product of the deeper, introspective work.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Faith

During the last few days, Robbie has been on a week-long rafting trip thru the Grand Canyon to release Charlie’s remains into the Colorado River. It’s the first time she’s taken a trip off the ranch in a very long time, and anyone who knows Robbie and sees the size of this ranch always says – I don’t know how she does it. I’ll second that. It will be good for her to get away.

So it’s just been us chickens on the ranch – Armida, Wind Eagle and myself. And of course 17 smaller chickens, 9 horses, 4 cats, 3 kittens, 6 dogs, and all the untamed beasts living right outside the perimeter of the ranch.

Each morning we get up and do yoga on the field overlooking the mountains in front of us. We start early while it’s cool, yet at 7200 ft. the intense sun still pierces through our clothing and warms our bones. We often see deer on the field across from us munching on beans and a farmer or two driving by in his 4x4 probably thinking – what are those crazy buffalo women doing with their bodies in that position on that perfectly good-looking plowing field? Nonetheless, they wave at us and we wave back.

In the afternoons, I take a 1-2 hour walk by myself back behind the property into the desert brush. Each time I follow different paths created by animals, following their footprints and other bodily fluids that they’ve left behind. I never know exactly where I’m going to be led, but let my instincts, the animal tracks and the sun guide me. There’s a ridge that I hike to that is lined with rocks on the backside. This area always feels occupied, so before I go further I state my intention silently, ask permission to cross, and wait until it feels OK to continue. I’m sure it’s fine, but the big cats that we’ve heard usually sleep under rock faces, so it feels appropriate to recognize and respect this area as their home. To avoid any encounters, I always take this walk during the heat of the day while any decent, self-respecting wild life is napping.

Last weekend a young woman stayed on the ranch to do a workstudy and she, Armida and I went on a hike in this same area to collect sage and make smudge sticks. There is so much sage around here – a walk thru the brush rubs sage against your clothing and the sweet smell stays with you all day.

The way we collected sage is the same way to collect herbs/flowers for creating flower essences, as taught by Robbie. First we selected a grandmother plant, which was determined by intuition. When engaging in anything sacred, we call upon the blessings and the ancestors of the Four Directions. With our offering in hand (tobacco) we turned first to the East - the home of the Eagle, the place of illumination, strength of will and new beginnings. Male Energy.

Next we turned to the South – the home of the Coyote and Mouse and the place of innocence, trust, humility. Child energy.

To the West - the home of the Bear and the place of introspection and nurturance. Female energy.

To the North – the home of the Buffalo and the place of sacred wisdom, knowledge and gratitude. Elder energy.

To Father Sky and Mother Earth.

We then offered tobacco to the Grandmother plant, asking for her blessings that the plants that we pick provide the proper medicine to benefit those in need. We then went about selecting sprigs of sage from all of the other plants in the area, except the Grandmother plant.

During our walk back to the ranch, we followed various animal trails, some of them leading to dead-ends into heavy brush, requiring us to turn around and backtrack. However, the more we paid attention to our intuition and the signs of nature around us, the more we were guided. A group of loud grasshoppers seemed to jump out at us and yell, keeping us from taking one turn. The flight of two birds from our path to a slightly different trajectory again changed our direction – always to our advantage. Trusting that nature will support you if you listen and treat it respectfully reminds me of a quote here on the fridge:

Faith is believing one of two things, that there will be something solid for you to stand on or that you will be taught to fly.

Everyone who lives or stays here has been a shining example of this Faith.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Terrain, Cortez & Cactuses (again)

Have you ever gone somewhere so different from your habitat that you periodically find yourself asking – is this really me in this body? How did I get here? … as if your head finally caught up with your body in realizing ‘we’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.’ Anyways, that happens to me on occasion here. And whatever answers I deliver to the questions, they don’t seem to stick, as I find myself again asking the same questions, not in a negative way, but in a more inquisitive way, a week later. Strange.

Anyways, I was listening to Cat Stevens’ song “Miles From Nowhere” which felt so appropriate to where we are living. Oddly enough, this place doesn’t feel isolating – a concern I had before coming here. I’m not sure why that is, but perhaps it is because the environment is so rich and abundant with it’s ever-changing weather, landscapes, and wildlife. We are at 7,200 feet. From the ranch, we can see hundreds of miles in all directions. To the West there is a mountain range probably 60 miles away that stops our view, but only in that isolated area. To the North there is another mountain range that shoots out of the earth, probably 90 miles away. Other than that – it’s as far as the eye can see with farmlands and rolling scrub oak, sagebrush and other desert grasses. With this wide-open ‘Big Sky’ it means that you can see a storm coming 3 hours before it gets here. The lightening from a storm 100 miles away lights up the horizon from the Heavens to the ground. It also means that the sunrises and sunsets are magnificent, as they are unobstructed and vibrant. And the night sky is so very alive. I wish I knew more about astronomy, but nonetheless I can easily see the milky way – a luminescent cloud-like area across the sky.

Another benefit of wide-open skies are rainbows - I have seen more rainbows here in 3 weeks than I have seen in my entire life. The day I got here we saw a double rainbow in the East – one rainbow on top of the other – can you imagine?! I’ve seen a full rainbow – one end of which was in Dolores, right where we were going that day. Last night at 10 pm Robbie saw a rainbow at night! She said it was luminescent and one end of it was hidden by night clouds. This is definitely the land of open skies and rainbows.

It’s also the land of sunflowers. Many of the farms along the dirt roads are sunflower farms – acres and acres of seas of sunflowers. When we first got here, their little heads hadn’t yet opened, but then a couple of weeks ago, they began to open up. Their beautiful faces are all facing East, towards the rising Sun. They look like little eager students lined up and patiently awaiting the wisdom and love from their Sun God. This week their heads have started to get so big and full that they look as if they’re bowing their heads in respect and humility to their beloved Sun. Anyways, it’s a beautiful sight and I never tire of seeing them.

I’ve taken a couple of trips into Cortez, the nearest big city of 5,000 - it’s about a 40-minute ride. It has a cute little downtown area and an interesting farmer’s market and a few coffee shops. To find out about a town, I always like to check the public bulletin boards to see what kind of events are happening and read their local paper. The Four Corners Free Press is a local monthly paper and I’ve discovered that you can learn a lot about the town from the Crime section of their paper – and basically I feel pretty safe in Cortez! Here are two entries in their Crime Waves section:

“July 5 – Two rowdies were cuffed after being taken to the ground and one was ultimately arrested during the fireworks display in Centennial Park, in what was a continuation of a family disturbance at a woman’s house earlier in the day. That suspect accused the arresting officer of trying to be the toughest cop in Cortez by writing as many tickets as he had freckles. He appeared intoxicated and was also uncivil with the jail staff.”

One more so that you get the gist:

“July 15 – A business woman who lives on CR J reported that $1,400 in cash was stolen from a tin can in her home office in February while she was attending a horse show in February and didn’t report it because she didn’t want authorities to view her as ‘really dumb’ for leaving the money so accessible, but then a more recent incident in May during which $150 in change was taken prompted her to report the incidents. She named as a suspect a man who had installed new windows in her house. She said his girlfriend had recently gotten a hysterectomy and a new tattoo, and she wondered where she’d gotten the money for the new decoration. The window-installer was to be contacted.”

In another unrelated article dealing with crimes of an animal nature, a 140 lb. mountain lion had entered someone’s house in the middle of the night thru an open door and took their 70 lb. golden retriever out with him! The couple woke up to see the cat’s tail leaving their bedroom and found their dog dead outside the door ☹ I guess that explains why our dogs tend to stay closer to us than they did in Raleigh. Between the mountain lion that visited us the first 2 nights we were here and the regular coyote calls at night, I’m sure our dogs know they are shrimp bait outside the ranch.

That doesn’t keep them from walking the perimeter of the property, which contains a lot of cactuses and means they regularly come home with cactuses and spurs in and around their feet and mouths. The spurs usually become attached around their lips after they step on a small cactus, which then easily disconnects from the cactus group and sticks to their bodies. Trying to pull the cactus from their feet or underbellies, they spread the needles around their mouths.

Yesterday, Roxy came home with a dozen needles around her mouth, nose and eyes. We did what we could to get them out, but there are probably a half dozen lodged in the top, inside bridge of her mouth that she would not let us get. Today they stayed gone for an hour or so and when they came home, they didn’t appear to be limping so I just let them in. I left and when I came back an hour later, Wylie first peeked towards the door to see it was me and then went back to the bedroom without greeting me, which I thought was strange. A minute later he came running up to me with a cactus in his mouth and dropped it in my hand, as if to say, “Get this thing out of here!” It must have been attached to Roxy’s underbelly when she came in earlier, as I found needles there on her body. What a smart lil’ guy that Wylie is – mama didn’t raise no fool!

The ranch is a little less hectic since the retreat is over. However, there seems to be a steady supply of guests – a young lady arrived for a couple of days to do a workstudy and tonite a former Yoga teacher of Robbie’s is coming with her mate for an overnight stay. The weather is beautiful – 60 at nite and 85 during the day with regular showers. For now, this is the perfect recipe for lazy summer days and cool nights.

Cheers,

jess

Saturday, August 2, 2008

A Life in a Day at the Buffalo Woman Ranch

It’s Day 1 of the first level of the Equine Facilitated Integrative Healing Training. The two ladies that came for the training are both holistic nurses and have fascinating backgrounds and experiences. I love soaking up their knowledge of energy medicine and other means of healing.

This morning started out at sunrise with yoga outside by the horses. This seemed to be an innocent beginning, until the dogs showed up – they have 4 (Shambo, Cuzco, Aruk, Utah). While we were on our backs, they decided they needed to lick our faces and wrestle with each other by our heads. Still, that was ok. Pappy, the Belgian horse, stood by and held the space for us. Then our 2 dogs arrived, which started more wrestling, on our mats, but still that was ok. It wasn’t really until Roxy decided to chase a chicken, which regularly gets out of the pen, did it get a little crazy. The next thing I see while on my back is a big black chicken attempting and succeeding to take flight right towards me at eye level. I turn my head in the other direction thinking a blow to the back of the head by a flying chicken is something I can handle, but luckily she made it over me. Whew!

After breakfast, we had an opening ceremony. The Four Directions of the Native American tradition were called upon (the Four Directions are very important in this work). Robbie cleansed each of us with a singing bowl and then we ‘checked in’ as each person talked about how they were doing and why they were here. Some emotions were raw as one of the ladies who came had been close to Charlie Maguire who was no longer with us. Robbie read us a few pieces about horse medicine and reminded us that ‘we are the ones that we’ve been waiting for’ – that’s always a good lesson.

Next we did a round pen session with one of the participants. The round pen sessions are the ‘meat’ of this work. Each person chooses a horse in which they ‘resonate’ with to do this work. There are 9 in the herd – all very different. Horses are used for this work because they are prey animals and as such are extremely sensitive to their surroundings. They can tell the emotions of each person around them and will mirror the person that they work with, showing that person underlying emotions that are stuck and need to be processed.

Each round pen session that I have witnessed has been completely different – even with the same horse. And almost all of the sessions are emotional. It is completely unpredictable what will happen when a person and the horse they’ve chosen get into a round pen together.

Before entering the round pen with the horse, the person receives a body scan in which the facilitator walks them thru each part of their body to find out what is coming up for them in their bodies at that moment. When sensations arise, that person is asked to sit with that sensation and see if any message comes up for them in that area of the body. This is the beginning of teaching participants how to be ‘in their body’ – an important part in learning to heal. So many folks who’ve had traumatic events (and haven’t we all) have learned to cope with those events by ignoring them and not processing them, however, the memories have remained in their bodies. When we learn to go back into our bodies and listen, old memories can and do surface. But until those memories have been witnessed, they will stay in the body. Later, this can and often does cause disease.

The first round pen was very emotional for the person within the pen. The session can last as long as they want, but usually lasts 10-30 minutes. Afterwards they come out of the pen and tell their story of what transpired. A therapist uses the Hakomie (sp?) method of questioning to bring them into their bodies and ask them how each part felt for them. Then, the rest of us not in the round pen give our feedback on what we saw.

This is the basis of the work. It is extremely powerful and you do not have to be a horse person (as is the case with me) in order to see the benefits.

It can be quite heavy but also very transformative.

Today’s first round-pen session ended with our dogs asking…

Is living in the wild West - Heaven or Hell?

Our dogs have seemingly enjoyed the freedom here, as does everyone. But with it comes a price. Being gone for hours at a time, they’ve returned home limping with cactus spurs in their feet and around their mouths (where they’ve tried to pull the cactus off their bodies). They’ve also been learning about boundaries, as all the ranch dogs have quite strong boundaries. Even the 3 kittens, which Roxy has tried to chase and intimidate, embody their space and have had to smack Roxy a few times, while in the very next moment rub up against her. This completely confuses Roxy, but I think it’s a powerful way to be - especially when you weigh a half pound.

Today’s lesson on freedom and boundaries occurred towards the end of the round pen session when Roxy and Wylie entered the round pen area. From afar, it looked like Wylie had a bone in his mouth. I went running up to him because he had stopped and had a strange stance. When I got right on him, I realized he was covered with huge 2-3 inch quills all around his mouth and nose, and one even went thru his lower and upper eyelid. It looked horrific, almost surreal, like his mouth had been sown shut with needles by a voodoo frontier medicine man from the west. I was horrified and tried to pull one out but it wouldn’t come and only pulled on his lip. He was bleeding and seemed in shock - or maybe that was me. But anyways, Roxy ran over to the other folks, who immediately went into action. They grabbed pliers and scissors and being nurses, also had painkillers, which they gave to the dogs. I needed a painkiller myself as I couldn’t bear to watch as the dogs were held down and blood poured from every hole where a quill was extracted.

They had wrestled with a porcupine, leaving atleast 25 quills in Wylie’s face, tongue and mouth and Roxy having less, but equal pain. It’s 8 hours later and they still have pitiful looks on their faces as they mope around. I hope they only have to learn this lesson once.

Anyways, it was only lunchtime and I was drained from the drama and took a short nap. At 3 pm, the Cortez newspaper came by to do a story on the ranch and sat in on our second round pen session. You could tell when she first got here that she didn’t know what to make of us wild Horsewomen. She ended up staying much longer than she said she could, so I think she was fascinated. I’m curious how she’ll report the round pen session.

There is a clock on the wall that is a Day clock – tells you what day it is, rather than what time. It’s a good thing, because you’d never know otherwise. As far as the time, the sun is either coming up, right over head, or going down. That’s all we need to know. The sun is going down so I'll check out now. Have a great weekend!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Our voyage here

So much to tell since we started our voyage a week ago.

We left Raleigh with everything we’d need for 3 months in our Saturn - which included 2 computers, clothes for weather of all extremes, herbs, supplements, 2 dogs and a chicken. Loretta Hen was a last-minute addition as she was not well liked by one of the chickens on MacNair’s County Acres, where our other chickens are sojourning over the next 3 months. Her addition to the trip made things a bit more interesting as Roxy stayed overly interested in Loretta throughout the trip, especially when she laid an egg (she laid 2 during the 3 day trip). If you know anything about chickens, you know they are extremely proud of this accomplish and cluck for a good 10 minutes after laying the egg. During our stops at rest areas, everyone would get out and stretch their legs – even Loretta Hen who’d been cooped up in a cat-carrying case. She’d follow me around on the green grass to one travelers surprise in Arkansas who Clark heard say: “I thought I was seeing things – but that is a damn chicken on the grass!”

The last evening of the trip we chased a sunset as we went West that was one of the most amazing I’d ever seen. The orange and vibrant pink/purple against the backdrop of a turquoise blue had us oooing and ahhing for an hour. Before coming out, a friend had told us that the most marvelous sunsets he’d ever seen were out West. I was reminded of their beauty when I lived and worked one summer in Yellowstone National Park.

As we traveled that night during the last leg of the trip, a lightening storm erupted while driving through various reservations on roads not-well-traveled. Since the view around us at this point was 360, we could see lightening all around us which would light up the otherwise hidden terrain. I usually like traveling somewhere new during the sunlight so that I can experience the environment, so it was nice to have the periodic lightening to light our way.

When you are so far away from city lights, the dark wraps around you so that nothing is visible except for what is directly in front of you. At one point we didn’t realize we were right under Shiprock Peak in the Navaho Nation until a lightening strike backlit the 2,000 ft. volcanic pinnacle. That visual is still with me as one of the more striking visuals of our trip.

The last part of the trip was a 12-mile drive down County Road #8 - a dirt road in which we saw a couple of bucks in our headlights. The first time I came here 2 months ago, this place felt like the Western frontier and I again had that same feeling as we turned into the Buffalo Woman Ranch (BWR) in the middle of the night and arrived at the straw-bale ranch house (known as the Eagle’s Nest) where we’ll be living.

The trip to the BWR was 2,000 miles and I felt every mile of it. Almost nothing here of my lifestyle is the same as it was while in Raleigh. When I arrived, I felt like I could sleep for 2 weeks. The stress from all the change, saying goodbyes, moving, traveling and the unknown had caught up with me. As we opened the door to the Eagle’s Nest, a huge bird – I think an owl - flew within a foot over my head. Then in the middle of the night we heard a loud screech that sounded prehistoric - right outside our window. The same animal appeared again the next night and Robbie (the owner of the BWR) said she thought it was a bobcat, so I looked up the symbolism of this cat in the Animal Speak book. Interestingly enough, the medicine that the bobcat teaches is how to be alone without being lonely. He also teaches one to trust your instincts, expect new learning opportunities, and that there is true strength and power in silence. Good medicine.

The next morning we went down to the main house to visit with Robbie, Rumi, and Armita. Robbie is the owner of the BWR. Armita recently left her job, sold all her things and moved out here from San Francisco to live for 10 months. Rumi is a wise old soul that we had met at our previous trip here. She is a healer of many modalities and college professor in Huntington Beach, CA. She came to stay for a few weeks during her summer break and ended up staying a few months. She calls everyone her sister or brother and refers to people by their Spirit. She says I am a young spirit and she calls me little sister, but I think of her as grandmother wisdom. Her nickname is Tsunami and though she is only 5’4”, her presence is much larger. A talk with her always includes advice to take care of yourself, slow down and listen to your inner guide. We are happy that we get to see her for a few days before she goes back to her city home.

Rumi Tsunami originally came here after meeting Charlie, the original co-founder of the BWR. Charlie was a big personality and has been a magnet for many of the folks that have come here. She started the American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA) and was a speaker at Omega. She is also the reason why Clark (named Wind Eagle by Charlie) originally came here. She had breast cancer, which had spread into her spine and a call was made out thru the AHNA for help on this healing ranch, since Charlie was no longer able to carry on her duties here. Thru a friend, Wind Eagle got the email and we both decided that this would be an awesome opportunity. Wind Eagle also grew fond of Charlie during his time here and wanted me to come visit.

A month later I came out with him for a vacation and sat beside Charlie’s bed in the ranch while she had already dropped into a coma. It was an emotional experience for Wind Eagle and all the other folks who were staying at the ranch. That night Charlie passed and a drum ceremony was held in the middle of the night that we could hear from the Eagle’s Nest. The next day participants came in from around the country for a 5-day training on Equine Facilitated Integrative Healing. Emotions were intense as all those who had been drawn to this work and came to the training were originally drawn by Charlie. I was the only one on the ranch who had not known and been changed by her. However, I quickly learned much about her from all the stories and outpouring of love from those on the ranch. During a 2-hour Lakota ceremony we held in her honor, I heard much of what she was about. One of my favorite quotes from her was that she would tell folks going thru pain and healing that she would “walk thru the fire” with them.

The Lakota ceremony was intense and included some of the horses, fire, meditation, drumming, a pipe ceremony, and a personal message from Charlie (Charlie was a medicine woman who was given a pipe which has powerful healing properties). I could write more about Charlie now, but I will probably sprinkle that in throughout future postings, as her Spirit is strong here.

Anyways, a lot happens here before 10 am and it's already 10 pm, so I'm down for the night.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

A Yogi on the Buffalo Woman Ranch

Can I first say that I never thought I'd be using a blog. I am in general uncomfortable with self-disclosure to groups of people that I do not know well - which is why I couldn't imagine doing something like this. However, drastic times call for drastic measures. I'm kidding, of course, but in getting ready for a complete lifestyle change - from a busy urban lifestyle to the isolated frontier of the Buffalo Woman Ranch near Four Corners (Colorado) - I'm figuring I will need a new form of communication since we'll be 40 miles from the nearest town (Cortez, Co.) and likely weeks on the ranch without seeing another soul outside of my husband and Robbie - except when there are retreats.


As I'm getting use to this whole autobiography via the blog, I'll make my first entry brief.


Here's who we're taking with us: Wylie (aka, Wiglet, Piglet, Sir Wig-a-lot, Yoda). Roxy the Rockstar is in the background - an unlikely place for her normal up-front-and-in-your-face personality so this is a rare shot.



Unfortunately, we aren't taking our Chicklets and Mama Chick. I've become quite fond of them and they of me. In their eyes, I'm most definitely the Big Chicken and they are always so curious about my strange featherless body, and I of their incessant desire to find the perfect next worm and to clean me free of mosquitos and other small particles of dirt. They'll be staying at a friend's ranch in Raleigh for safe-keeping until we return.

I've learned so much from these companions, as well as from our dogs. And, have found such pleasure in watching their curious natures. Maybe some of that has rubbed off on me. Or, maybe I've just realized that I am sometimes the big chicken that they see in me, but I'm OK with that. Chickens make good company.