Are You Listening? The Frontier of Your Life is Whispering, "Be Home".
Have you ever fallen in love with a poet and their poetry? I didn’t grow up reading poetry, well, other than for school assignments. Back then I would fall in love with rock stars or movie stars, but not poets.
As a young mother I had one friend who was a poet, Catherine Graham. Cathy could tell the longest of stories in only 19 words. To me, it was like a magic trick. There was so much conveyed through so little, the richness of every syllable was astounding.
I’ve come to savour it and it seems to me that poetry asks for space, inner space. It takes some silence for it to have its way with you. Living now with the herd and the land around us, I’ve come to savour what David Whyte calls the conversational nature of reality. Whyte talks about this as the frontier between what you think is you and what you think is not you.
For me this frontier is very practical … the song of the birds calling out to life, the step of a foot on a rock, the horses breath and snort as they graze. I often look around me and marvel at how everything and nothing is going on. The visible talking with the invisible.
If you spend time simply being with the horses, they will slowly have their way with you. And before you realize it, you’re in the conversation of living poetry. The endless, precious dialogue of life with life.
Mostly we’ve been raised to see life and the natural world as either fierce, competitive, something to be feared. OR “wild” as in risqué, taboo .. sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll baby. OR something we go to for solace and comfort .. asking more than giving.
They are all actually the same in that they come from a way of seeing the world that separates us humans from nature .. from everything.
This way of seeing is, in my experience, so central to the challenges of our time … depression, anxiety, dis-ease, abuse. We’ve forgotten how to be part of the poetic conversation of life. The really interesting thing is that we can find our way back. The wild hasn’t given up on us. The horses know this too. In my crazy dreams, they are the ambassadors of Nature, calling us Home to our true selves, our whole selves.
Every time people come to work with the herd at our farm, I feel the horses quietly, tenderly working with the crows and the bluejays, the rocks and the moss, the dragonflies and yes, even the flies and mosquitoes, the sunshine and the rain and wind … all of life inviting guests into a deep hearted, ongoing and active conversation.
And, I see and feel the opening of the heart that this type of invitation has for us all. There is something consistently enlivening and also wholly unique in each conversation.
John O’Donohue used to say that one of the necessary tasks is this radical letting alone of yourself in the world, letting the world speak in its own voice and letting this deeper sense of yourself speak out.
~ David Whyte in conversation with Krista Tippet, On Being
When I was growing up with my sisters, my parents took us camping for 5-6 weeks in the summer. Dad worked as a reporter and travelled a lot, taking his overtime as ‘time in leu’ (which meant extra time off). This was some 50 years ago when camping was in fact going off into remote wilderness. My sisters and I loved it – we spent hours searching for all sorts of critters and learning the ways of nature.
We had a ritual – when we turned 9 years old, we spent some weeks at a canoe camp on the river in the town where we lived. At canoe camp we learned how to paddle in different types of water, how to right a canoe we’d been dumped out of and how to portage. Once we proved we mastered these skills, Dad would take one of us off on a week-long adventure deep into the wilderness, while Mom stayed back at camp with my siblings or I.
When we went off with Dad, we had a pup tent, mostly dried food supplies, fishing rod, knives, nets, minimal clothes, a compass … the bare necessities for surviving for a week in the wild. We learned to carry everything we had, including the canoe. We learned the strength it took to paddle through white caps. We learned to pitch our food with a rope over the branch of a tree overhanging water so the bears wouldn’t get it.
And more than anything, we learned to be at home in the wild. We learned that skills, experience, and healthy regard are necessary .. and, that the wild is a deeply relational and lively friend.
As I grew my career, somehow nature became a secret place to retreat and relieve stress. A place separate from the world of mastering success. And so, as I explored what it was to make my way in the world, I came to see it through the lens of ‘power over’ without even be aware of it.
I bet you have your own story of being indoctrinated into our cultural way of seeing ourselves as separate from, and dominant over, nature.
When I came to live with The Courage Herd this way of seeing was still at play in ways I was no longer even aware of. Slowly, slowly, watching and hanging with the horses without agenda, they showed me the value of those camping adventures and the preciousness of what my parents had gifted me (they had no way of knowing what was to come, it was such an honest gift).
The herd opened my seasoned business eyes to how deeply they work in cooperation with everyone with every hoof step on the earth. They live with soul, in tune with Life … even when the wind is blowing like crazy and -30C. In tune no matter what.
Oh there’s a deep respect for the weather, and all beings, and their ways of making life. But it’s an interconnected respect. Respect for their interdependency. Power With, not Power Over.
The mindset of dominance is so pervasive today - many of us live our work and personal lives acting it out without realizing the insidious stronghold it has over our beliefs. Sometimes we feel it’s nauseousness without knowing just what it is, and we hide out from it all, disengaging. Either way, this mostly leaves us feeling stressed or empty or both. Yearning, searching to find our way to wholeness, instead of knowing that we already are.
The horses and blue jays, crows and rocks have not forgotten. They are there, talking with us every day, whispering poetry, patiently waiting for us to simply show up and remember how to engage in the mystery and splendour of it all.
May you have the courage to see the ways the Power Over mindset has you, without judgement or shame. AND, say YES to Power With. To hear, once again, the poetic conversation of life and share in it, just for the pure joy of it.
I know you know all this, or you wouldn’t be here, now. Oh how I long to hear your deeper voice carried on the wings of the birds to our field of sorrow and joy. Shall we do this together? It takes a herd … a courage herd.