Thursday, June 26, 2014


I was brushing Lakota’s mane. It had been a seemingly endless winter and her long tresses were rolled into tight little spirals and knots. A mist of detangler, some finger pulling and finally the wide toothed comb. I actually enjoy this process – it is a mindless task that allows my brain to wander and relax. As each tangle unfolds I feel my being settle; my breathing quiets. The scent of her filles me, her munching soothes my soul. I know that I love her completely. Then why was I grooming her and preparing her for a potential new owner?

When I thought of losing her or giving up my dreams of us becoming old ladies together, my heart would clench. Tears would well. I could feel anxiety rush over me. It felt like death – sudden, irreparable, final.

The word beginning hit me out of the blue. In an instant, I saw Lakota taking a young girl to the state horse show. I saw her being doted on and fussed over. Lakota would be a best friend and ally as this young lady traversed the pinnacles and canyons of high school. Her life was just entering a new chapter as was mine. When Lakota and I began our story, I envisioned joining folks exploring the Bob Marshall Wilderness and Glacier National Park, going camping on weekends, driving cattle, and possibly learning western dressage. I had only owned her 10 days when I had a serious accident and fractured my sacrum. Lakota waited for me for a year until I could ride again. The next two years we rode around the farm and the forests nearby. I came to realize without a truck and trailer we weren’t able to meet up with groups who were traveling with their horses. All the assurances I had been given that you could just jump in a trailer going by, had been unrealistic. Our third year, Lakota suffered a traumatic injury and sat on the sidelines for over eight months. I have come to a point where I understand I either have to go big, by purchasing a truck and trailer, or find Lakota a new home. Riding around the farm alone has lost its appeal.

My beginning will be to invest in property and put down roots. My choice is financing a home instead of a truck and trailer. If I allow myself to feel the love I have for Lakota and still move forward, allowing us our new beginnings, I feel at peace.

Why do I feel I am losing something? Why do I hang on so desperately to the past? Why do I cling to old dreams even though I can see fresh ideas pouring into my mind? Change can be scary. Change is continual. When I look at my life, the biggest changes have brought the biggest rewards. Getting married, having children, going to college, moving, even dating and buying a horse. Every change has allowed me to grow and become more of the person I am. Change has never made me less.

I am only afraid when I think I am doing it alone, when I forget I have a higher power. At those times, I feel inadequate and not able to face the challenge. When I remember we are all one, we are all connected, that there is a force supporting me – I find the courage. Change is an opportunity for life to get even better.

I am talking to myself here. I saw that the man I care about has moved on with someone else. I put an offer on a “fixer-upper” house and wonder if I have what it takes to pull this off. I am at a workshop for writers because this is my dream. Should I stay with the job I can do with my eyes closed for the security? We all have doubts. All we can do is face them one at a time and keep walking through. I ask each day to see my life the way Spirit sees it. Use me to help others. Let me see me as the loving, perfect soul that the Divine sees. My judgments of myself and my lack of trust in my decisions, perpetuates my fear of change. I ask to see these changes as the new beginnings that they are. Jumping into the void is easier if you go with me. Come on, let’s go.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


I was filled with a mixture of anticipation and anxiety as I tugged on the snorkel mask. Hadn’t I been the first person in the group to say, “I’ll join any small excursion at the conference that does not involve me getting into a bathing suit or putting my head under water?” I was swayed by my colleagues who had seen sea turtles feeding in front of the resort while swimming. I love turtles. They have such a maternal energy. Standing on the beach for the first three days, I only managed to see the silhouette of turtle heads bobbing in the sunset light.

We broke up into groups for team building/leadership activities. One group took a catamaran out to a reef with a tour guide and snorkel instructors. Our entourage decided to do beach activities on our own which included body surfing, snorkeling and tanning. After all, we were saving over a hundred dollars and we all knew what we were doing. The first stop was Snorkel Bob's where we rented our gear. Properly fitted, we were off to the closest beach. My “teacher” had been snorkeling for two days so he was way ahead of me. Here we were in Maui, and a Wyoming, Montana, Nevada and Colorado resident were teaching each other how to take on the ocean. You have to admire academics.

I stood still about shoulder deep and put my face in the water. Ok, yes there were little striped fish down there. Cool. I tried to swim but found my heart racing after only a couple minutes. It was then I realized I was holding my breath while I swam and taking a gigantic breath when I lifted my head. Now to swim, breath and keep my face down. The first time I got the rhythm, I swam easily along the lava rock and spied on all the urchins, coral and neon fish. I was watching the fish dart about when way below me were three scuba divers. Holy cow! How deep was I? I popped up to find myself way out on the reef. I paddled quickly back towards land. I had been so focused on keeping a safe distance from the sharp rocks and coral I lost my sense of space. After a half hour of swimming, I was tired. The water was so warm and inviting but I was done. I took off my mask, tube and flippers and waited on a rock for the men to return. They were all about 20 years younger and able to traverse the increasing waves as the tide came in. It was then that someone from the other side of the reef yelled, “Turtles!”

My Nevada colleague asked if I wanted to go back out and try to catch a peek. I donned my gear in a hurry and jumped back in. We swam along the far rocks. The waves were pushing us towards the coral and it was a struggle to keep away. I had to use all of my strength. I kept his red swim trunks within sight as the rocks became larger and as confusing as a labyrinth. He pointed to a blow fish and then a needle shaped fish. On we swam. Nevada began signaling with excitement. I searched and searched and saw nothing. Then I saw it. I almost burst with joy. There on the bottom, was a beautiful sea turtle taking a nap in the sand between the giant lava rocks. Finally. I could say I saw one. We came to the surface to talk. The decision was made to continue swimming across the front of the rock formation and then return to shore along the far side.

I hadn’t gone far when I surfaced again. I was exhausted. Each time I tried to relax, the waves pushed me into the sharp rocks or pulled me out to sea. There was no resting. I looked for my companion, I shouted his name but he was nowhere. I was alone and so far out from shore that no one could see me. The people looked like specks on the beach. I had to calm down. I put my snorkel back on and attempted to regain my rhythm and swim for land. I couldn’t do it. I hadn’t swam in water over my head in more than 10 years. Why hadn’t I thought of renting a life belt? How did I get this far out into the sea? How did I lose my swimming partner? There was no way I had the reserves to get to shore. I had heard nightmare stories of people getting impaled on the urchin quills but could I do that to get onto a rock? The waves were getting stronger and stronger. I wondered if this was the way I would go. No one would ever know where I went. I’d just disappear into the vastness.

It was then I saw a snorkeler holding a board maybe 50 yards away. His head was submerged and I could not get his attention. I began paddling his way with all I had left. Plunk went my hand on the board as I found my target. Up he came. I told him I was struggling and could not make it back alone, would he please help me. Still watching fish, he chugged away holding the board with one hand with me trailing behind. I held on and assisted with my flippers to a meager extent. When we got close enough, I waved good bye to my rescuer and he was gone without a word. My friends were not on the beach but came in some time later. Trembling and shaken, I layered on my clothes and drank some water. I made up my mind to set aside the incident, while remaining in a place of gratitude.

The next morning I woke before dawn reliving the experience. I felt my limbs giving out. I could see how small the people looked on the shore. I felt the tide thrashing me first towards the rocks, then out to sea. I watched but there was no emotion. It struck me that my mind was trying to decide how to file this scene. My mind was attempting to give this experience meaning. In this instant I could decide if this was going to be a file of miracles – the man showed up with the board just in the nick of time – or a file of terror- I thought I was going to drown, I was alone, vulnerable, unfit, dragged out to sea to inhale salt water and die. What was it going to be?

It reminded me of an accident that occurred almost 30 years ago. My girls and I had spent a day swimming at our pond with the aunts and cousins. I was packing up the car at the end of the day, stuffing the station wagon with inflatable toys, life jackets, sand pails and towels. I turned back towards the beach to collect the girls. Where was my youngest? My eyes combed the sand and that’s when I saw her. A little pink blur was under the shallow water. In an instant, I was there reaching for her as she lay on the bottom looking at me with wide open eyes. I hauled her out and into my arms. She was fine. When my husband came home from work, I recounted the story. We were both giving thanks for her safety.

She seemed to be fine the first few days and then she became increasingly afraid of the water. Afraid to take a bath, afraid to wash her hair. Eventually, I couldn't get her near water to wash her hands or brush her teeth. Instead of getting better, she was getting worse. My husband and I took her to a counselor. It didn’t take long until he solved the mystery. Her sister was 2 ½ years older. Her sister was dramatically telling the story, as only a four year old can, emphasizing how dire the situation had been. The younger child was listening and becoming more fearful with each telling. The more she heard how scary the situation was, the more she felt afraid. If no one had applied a negative meaning to the experience, she would not have remembered it that way. It would have remained a neutral experience. We began retelling the story in a nonchalant way and the symptoms disappeared. We took away the charge. We changed the file name.

It is time for me to assign the snorkeling incident a meaning or maybe not. Can I leave this as a neutral experience? Can I put it in my memory without denying it happened, without giving it a charge that will sneak up and affect my future dealing with the ocean? Can I use this situation to see how I apply meaning in other areas of my life – negative or positive? It’s a choice. I am choosing to leave it as neutral. It happened. I am still here. I am grateful for my life and every breath I take. That is all the meaning I need.