The horse's pasture to the East...

Monday, October 24, 2011


Sometimes an event, maybe even a small, insignificant event, can change your course in ways you don't expect.

This morning, while coming back up from the compost area, a locust flew from my right (North) and stopped in  the air in front of me, hovering. It made a high pitched "brrrr...rrrrr...rrrr" sound. I stopped to watch it and, out of curiosity, counted. How long was it going to hang in the air in front of me? I counted past thirty. It gave me plenty of time to wonder at how handsome and efficient an insect it was. I had no idea that locusts did that, hovering in the air for long periods of time.

I know that they can travel in huge masses, flying on the wind and settling on crops and landscapes, eating everything in their path. But today is very still, no more than a light breeze, and it was only one locust that looked much like the bottom one in the picture above.

It's wings were dark with a white stripe up towards the connection to the body. It must have been the wings moving against each other that made the high pitched whirring noise. I've had wood bees scan me (I think they're usually called Carpenter Bees for the hole they drill into the surface of anything made of wood). I've never felt a locust stop to sing and look at me. 

Just as the locust began to fly on to my left (south), I looked down and there, on the ground in front of me less than three feet away, was a large, mature Copperhead. It was precisely where I would have stepped. It moved on towards the right (north) at exactly the same time the locust moved on to the left. If I had not stopped to look at the hovering locust...if I hadn't stopped to study it and wonder at it, I would have stepped on or right next to the Copperhead and most likely have been bitten in the leg. 

The locust stopped again, hovering in front of me and about a foot from my left shoulder, still whirring, until the Copperhead had disappeared into the woods about fifteen feet to my right (north). It flew on, never hitting the ground, off into the pasture towards the woods several acres away. And I stood there, listening to a locust sing in mid air and watching more than three feet of Copperhead slither past me.

It was a single locust, out of season, that saved me from serious injury.

We live in snake country out here. I'm usually very careful about where I walk or what I lean over and pick up. I carry a walking stick with me to flip rocks and logs over or to poke underneath them before I step over or sit on anything. But this time it was a locust who was my warning system.

Being with my horses is a meditative experience for me. It meshes perfectly with my life as an artist. During the day I'm usually here by myself, working and playing with my horses, working in the barn or on fences, planting my gardens, painting or sketching, and sometimes writing about my life, here, on my BLOG. Most of what I do is quiet, without words, and experienced  from the right, more intuitive side, of my brain. 

The older I get, the further into living in quiet I go, the easier it is to still the constant voice that jabbers away in my brain. I've become more connected to my horses, dogs and cats, the cattle that live here in Summer and the wild life. There are no radios, no TV, and most of the time the only music I listen to comes from the sounds of the wind and trees around me, the birds and frogs that sing through three seasons of the year. 

I've been reading a book that a friend gave to me; ZEN MIND, ZEN HORSE written by Allan Hamilton, MD. He's (you're going to love this!) a renowned Harvard trained Neuro Surgeon and a Natural Horsemanship Clinician. Both John and I have read it and now I'm reading it again. It's an excellent book that very closely parallels the techniques and philosophies that I've been learning with the Parelli System. 

In the book, Dr. Hamilton discusses and compares the brain of a human and the brain of a horse and how they function...the differences and similarities. Not surprisingly, he also talks about the two sides of his own personality and the ways that his mind works in his polar opposite roles as a Surgeon working with highly precise instruments, putting his emotions to the side to perform his operations and the Horseman, working in an environment where your intuitive side has to reign, making snap decisions for you. 

This morning I was in a place I call the "Zone". I open myself to the rhythms of the world around me. I let time go. There are no watches or time schedules in the "Zone". And, for the most part, there is no voice in my head. I'm in the moment, feeling, smelling, tasting, touching, hearing and seeing. It's really a very sensuous place to be. I always feel more connected and fully awake when I'm in the "Zone". When you spend as much time with super prey that weigh, on average, around a thousand pounds each, as I do,  it's not a bad place to be. Things with horses can change in a nano second.

I'd been aware that something was making them nervous, keeping them up closer to the barn this morning. And Miniver, my dog, had come over and kept putting herself in my path too. She weighs around 100 pounds, so she's hard to ignore when she does that. Usually I pay more attention to her when she behaves so protective, but I was visualizing my last session with Lucky and Apache, playing at Liberty together out in the pasture. I was not as focused on my surroundings as I should have been. So I wasn't as in the "Zone" as I thought I was either. 

All of the animals around me were. 

But I did reconnect with the "Zone" when I listened to the locust. 

My question for myself is "Why didn't I do a better job of listening to the horses and Miniver?" and the sixty four thousand dollar question is "Where did the locust come from and why did it hover in front of me at that precise moment?" (I'm not questioning the snake. It was in it's habitat, doing what it always does.)

I'm going to be licking and chewing on this one for quite a while. Oh, and if you want a really good read (and I can suggest it even if you aren't a horse person!), I would definitely put a copy of Dr. Hamilton's book, ZEN MIND, ZEN HORSE on your holiday list this year. 

I am, ever yours, Nancy, smiling at you from the "Zone"

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