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!