It is often revered by our contemporaries, that when one is presented with a conundrum, we run, we spectate or we commit. I can only admit to having done all three, even though I prefer to spectate at the actual event (once again, get your mind out of the gutter, will you?! I was, indeed, referring to horse events or music events). As I wrote in my last blog, running did play a huge part of my weekly life during my twenties and thirties; weekends too, especially those Saturday and Sunday Triathlons. These days, my running is usually from one venue to the next in order to prepare and teach Yoga. I will, however, admit to running from relationships, unless it is the relationship of my commitment to Yoga. Yoga, as you know, is my devotion, it is ‘home’ for me.
Yoga enables me to think about home a lot, as this is, for me, many things; safety, reality, goodness, and, of course, commitment. There is always the temptation to run, of course, and, believe me, when my sons were very young, and in the throes of their pre-teen hormone stage, I could have smashed my personal (10km) best on those days. The sense of commitment and feeling settled, (now that I am, officially home) never really leaves me. It is because the heart needs to ‘feel’ it, and some would argue that it must be a lonely existence, not having someone to share my home with, but, it is actually more connecting and more satisfying, to experience home with my own feelings, and not someone else’s. Truth is, there is a succinct difference between loneliness and being alone, once we understand ourselves, and how to identify love for ourselves, it is only then, that love begins to expose its true self.
‘Om Tat Sat’ (verse 17.23 Bhagavad Gita (Yoga Bible), literally means, ‘that is truth, that is reality, that is good,’ so, even in YogaLand, we are seeking exactly the same as we are in our Homeland, and, even though I did spend over twenty years in a land, far away, that did become my home, my heart and love is right here, in this little British country of connections.
I do want to share a deeper love though, love that came at a time when loss was bigger, bigger than earthquakes, bigger than being alone, and bigger than Yoga (at that time).
‘Alecasam’, was that deep love, and, ever since I first saw a black Friesian horse, I was, undeniably, awestruck. Myself and my two sons, were taking our Summer vacation in Nelson, New Zealand, house sitting for a friend, who, by the way, was and still is, a runner. A different type of runner though, as she does run competitively, and I don’t recall her going through "Hormone Land" with her four children, so maybe there is something in this running?
Anyhow, back to Friesian horses. We were having a BBQ, and it was fairly cold (cold weather is, actually, a very real Kiwi thing, even in Summer), therefore, we clustered together amongst fellow Citizens, who had abandoned their Home Land too, and shared our stories, past and present. One lady, an equine vet, trotted over, I use that word in collaboration with ‘equines’ because a horse conversation ensued. Her experiences resembled mine, although she had married an Irish guy from Cork, and, therefore, unashamedly, decided to breed purebred Irish Draught horses. All except one, this one was Friesian crossed with Irish Draught, which then led my curiosity and conversation passed Ireland and into Holland.
Post vacation, Holland, well to be exact, Friesland (through Google) found me searching ‘NZ Horses For Sale’ ads. Sunday evenings were always so cosy and restful for the boys and me, they were never lonely or without something interesting to do, but, it is fair to say, this one advertisement caught my attention, so I made contact. What harm could there be in talking to a prospective horse seller about a horse? The boys were worn out from sunny, and sometimes rainy, Nelson and they were happily full of food and tucked up in their rooms, TV was a trite banal, so no better time like the present. It almost could have been that first phone call to a new romance, and in a way, it was….
Alecasam, was grazing in Methven, a small town near the Western edge of Canterbury, about an hour away by car. It rains a lot, it is unspoilt, untouched and feral, as was Alecasam.
In New Zealand, a paddock is a like the size of a small country, but with fewer trees, lots of wire fences and usually full of sheep and cattle. But, on this day, Alecasam was grazing alone, not lonely, just alone. He was called to the gate by his owner, Murphy, who wore a tweed cap and used bale band to keep his trousers up (I knew of a similar farmer from my childhood) and this beautiful animal pulled up with a ‘front- hooved’ stop, his head high, his chest out and all 17 hands of this jet black gentle giant had me winched, hooked and, suffice to say, a little bit in love.
I bought Alecasam (it turned out that this delightful acronym was a moniker derived from Alec and Sam, the two grandsons of Murphy the bale banded farmer). Needless to say, after three months of getting to love this beautiful horse, Sam became his name around home, not just because it was easier to call out, but he was big and strong with thick black hair, and, according to the biblical Book Of Judges, Samson’s hair was his strength, and his father, whose name was ‘Manoah’, reminded me that love appears in many forms, as ‘Noah’ is also the name of my eldest son, so, Sam it was.
Sam and I spent hours together, it was my healing space and a sanctuary from old wounds and heartbreak. I had suffered the sudden and premature death of my beloved father in 2010, right before earthquake number one, and then, the loss of Christchurch City and its iconic buildings, (including my home). So, loss was something that Sam transformed into love. Getting home from work, weaving, to avoid potholes and endless road diversions from endless earthquakes and aftershocks meant that I had the comfort and solace of my black beauty to help restore myself, breathe with ease, and remind me that all was peaceful once again. I didn’t have to remind him to breathe and relax, as it was he who reminded me. He didn’t need to prepare for ‘Corpse pose’ or savasana, as I was the one laying in the grass, whilst he stood watch. I didn’t need to ‘feel’ anything, as he, would, voluntarily, wait, however long was needed, until I was ready to stand up and leave the field.
The Emotional and mental exhaustion we can experience, differs greatly from the physical exhaustion (I can testify from those Triathlon days), and sometimes all it takes is a strong, sturdy and unwavering creature to pillar those fragile days. Sam was, indeed, my pillar of strength, my pillar of faith and undoubtedly my salvation from loss. It took a rookie horse from Methven, a solid, and unspoiled feral creature, to undo the crumbling sadness within me. Taming him, and teaching him to carry me in a school ring was the simplest of sequences, teaching him to balance his weight and stretch was a heaven-sent cinch. He was actually teaching me, teaching me to really listen, especially to the silence. That silence was music to my ears, it became my meditation, my mantra of hope. Sam brought more Yoga into my life than any Vinyasa or Hatha sequence, he taught me silent savasana better than any Corpse pose, and he taught me deep meditation and breath, the essential essence of (Yogic) life force (pranayama), the life force of love.