Hey gang, I need your help.
I was digging through old emails trying to find something I’d sent myself long ago, and in the process found something else. It’s the beginning of a story, or maybe the middle, that my past self thought my future self might like to have for her purposes, whatever they might be. Future (present?) me was intrigued. I remember wanting to write a book that would stretch and challenge the reader’s experience of the non-human, one that combined my research about horse ethology, behavior and physiology with the profound depth of relationship, connection and transformation I was only beginning to glimpse with my own horses. Something that would speak to people like those that gather here, and reach over the divide in a way only fiction can to other audiences.
One character is the horse, a Wild One caught and cowboyed the usual way. Another is the girl or woman who ends up with him, whose perceptions of animals, relationship, connection and her own soul shift, implode, and transform in the course of their relationship. Perspective shifts between the two, possibly between more characters as well. I’ve played with the idea of setting the girl and the horse on a long journey overland that effectively forces them together, perhaps unwillingly, but more or less alone with themselves and each other. I don’t want it to be formulaic, or preachy, or too comfortable. I want to pull the reader into each mind and heart. Other than that…
I let it lie fallow like so many other proverbial pies I’ve got my fingers in, and gradually the sharp vision I had for it clouded over into something more ephemeral. Last night, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something still wants to come of this. And that I have a circle of incredible, brilliant, inspired and experienced beings to help me, if they so wish…
That’s you! What I need from you is any reaction (short, long, positive, negative, constructive), insight, images that come to mind, characters you imagine, entire passages, stories from your own life, storyline ideas, or wisdom the horses want to come through – either from the few paragraphs below, or the vague outline above, or both. If you don’t want to share publicly, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am greedy and want to hear absolutely anything that comes up for you!
Here’s the excerpt.
There is a pain in his leg. Not like the tear of lion claws or the dull burn of exertion – this is a more troublesome feeling. There is a looseness to it, an unknown. The way the joint seems uncertain, bone hanging listless from gristle, a scraping feeling when he moves it forward to step, stalwart as ever, with a slow, even pace. He breathes heavily with the effort and knows his gaze wavers; still, he walks quietly, almost thoughtfully, with the poise of a gentleman taking the air. Of utmost importance to him is that they do not see him falter. He wills that leg straight and he begs it to hold him with every step. If it comes to it, he will run, and gracefully, though the pain might cloud his vision. Very little matters to him right now, beyond the rhythm of his foot-beats that halve or even quarter the tempo of his heart, which pounds furiously and without the tact with which he conducts his outward demeanour.
As he rounds the fourth corner of his compound, a small stone under his foot changes the careful angle of his damaged leg and drops him cursing and unprepared to his other knee. A moment’s defeat, his head bowed, is all any onlooker might see before he struggles back to his feet, and, breathing shallowly, stands still with legs locked, swaying only slightly in the evening breeze. His eyes close against his will.
There was a time, not so long ago.
Somewhere under similar skies (shocking blue fading out with the light, dashed with thoughtless white streaks, that electric crackling quality only summer grasslands skies can possess) his mother moves with her sisters. They are done foraging for the day and now mill idly around as they sort themselves out for resting time. His mother gently moves his aunties and the young ones out of her way and into their places with the odd glance or quiet sound, but mostly with the authoritative poise of her head and steady tilt of her hips as she moves through their ranks without urgency or falter. She moves like a slow knife through butter. Like Moses through his Red Sea. Somehow without arrogance or pretense she simply proceeds along her predestined course and nothing and nobody is ever in her way.
He thinks she must have that course drawn straight and simple before her in a substance only she can see; she looks to always be fulfilling her just-future self as though a ghostly projection of her body is always two steps ahead and she is calmly catching up to it. He thinks he’d like to one day move like his mother does, even as he spends most of his efforts in the collected braggadocio of his father’s stride. There are roles to play to in this family that moves across the plains. There are ways and customs and he is learning his place. Was learning his place. He doesn’t know what this place is.
As the sun dips wavering and red behind the hills above, he turns to the edge of the compound. This is not trees down across the trail, this is not the rock chasms or sharp valleys that gape at each end. This dead wood that holds him looks without substance but will not let him go; a thin, vicious line between him and the world. The dust from his slow movement cakes inside his nostrils, along the rims of his eyes. He lowers his head and leans his face hard against the acrid, limbless tree before him. The dark comes in.
What do you think – can we write this together? I don’t think I have enough experience and knowledge to write it alone – I don’t even know what it’s going to be – but I want to try something where we use this collaborative energy to create something more than the sum of our parts. It’s worth a shot. Nothing delights or inspires me more than the conversations and messages that form in the comment section of this blog – holy sh*t. So give me your tasty brain bits, whatever they might be!!
A barefoot hoof trimmer, a singer/songwriter, an amateur farmer – these are some of the hats Kesia Nagata wears when she’s not full to bursting with wondrous equine co-creation.
22 thoughts on “A Collaborative Call-Out”
“I am so done with saving things!” she’d said on a recent rant about the rescuers of the world. “I want to get to a place where I respond to the perfection of reality instead of reacting to what I perceive to be the wrong about it.” “Noble sentiments”, she thought to herself ruefully, as she considered why she’d said yes to Lucy when she’d asked her if she wanted to come with her to a horse auction.
She’d done her fair share of falling for the downtrodden, it had shored up her need to have to do something heroic in the world in order to feel worthy. She’d given a fair portion of her life over to suffering, stress and trying hard to make things better and she really thought she was ready for something else. “So what the fuck am I doing here?” she asked herself.
I mean, Lucy was a blast, and horse buddies like her were the best but context counts for something as well. Walking through the cold metal pen compound and seeing the some hopeful and the other altogether shut down beings caged there was just plain sad. There was a newfound feeling of stability in the sorrow, she did feel she could be okay and be here, her heart wasn’t ripping the way it used to. “It’s not like death was a bad thing, sometimes it’s a pretty good option.” she reflected. And there was an opening of some sort to real magic or deep truth that you feel when you’re close to death that she could feel in her heart too. “I want to be open, just not like a garbage can” she thought to herself as she watched Lucy walking towards her chewing the last bite of her stockyard burger and chucking the red and white check wrapper into one.
Thea, this is awesome. Did you write it on the spot?? There’s so much here, the push and pull between a caring, sensitive heart and the burn-out of taking on too much, the acknowledgment that there’s another way through but also how hard it is to find and walk it…. And I get the feeling this character is going to be surprised out of her restless state, at this auction, where she connects in a new way to a horse. Is this…by chance…from your own experience at all?
I wrote it on the spot and yes, it is reflective of my own experience but it’s not something that actually happened to me, I just made it up
. I’m learning to walk the line of being open to what wants to come, discerning about what might be alluring because it fits old victim/rescuer patterns and determining what I want, so I can throw that in the mix not as a determining factor but as a part of the whole.
Thanks, I forgot to check the notify me of comments box and I was excited to hear back from you.
I might be interested in writing more, but thought someone else might want to take it from here.
Checked the box this time. Surprised I’m the only one so far who participated in it instead of commenting on it. Great comments!
I love how you ran with this, it makes me all happy inside. Anyone want to pick up the thread? Or maybe it’s left dangling for you to take further…
I have to say I enjoy your writing, but sometimes It makes me feel a bit dumb. (Even though I consider myself a somewhat intelligent human….albeit with no college degree or acclamates. It’s definitely challenging thought provoking reading, & luckily for me there is the “define” feature on our computer devices so I can learn and understand some of your verbiage. I do know though that it intrigues me & stretches my brain and thought process tremendously. I know from reading other comments on this blog that I am probably in the minority about my feelings of dumbness, because your followers also seem to have such a complex and intelligence about there writing. I guess I just wanted you to hear a perspective from a somewhat simpler reader, such as myself. Not that I would encourage you in anyway to alter your style of writing, maybe just keep us simpletons in the back of your mind, but like I said at the same time keep stretching us. Knowledge is so powerful. You definitely have a writing gift and you should put it out there and not doubt your ability to do so. Please though, through your process try & keep blogging because you an Jini have such great insightful knowledge and it is so comforting to me & I’m sure so many more, to connect, to hear stories of trial and error & learn and share about the best teachers on the planet “THE HORSE” ??✌?️❤️
Wow Michelle, what interesting feedback! I always struggle to express myself simply – the thoughts I have bubble up and out and sometimes I think there are way too many words in the end. I sometimes challenge myself to cut out every word that doesn’t need to be there, as my favourite writers seem to say the most with the least. I never aim to alienate anyone and truly do not value my own type of intelligence over anyone else’s. I also have no college degree so high fives to you, my fellow rogue smarty-pants!
I’ll absolutely keep your comments in the back of my mind next time I write. The way I read them, it’s got nothing to do with intelligence and a lot to do with communication, which I am always game to work on!
Thanks Kesia, you seem to be so evolved in your journey through life. I feel like a bit of a late bloomer on the evolving side & trying to become a better human ( & I would definitley be even later without the horses coming into my life). So much THANKS to people like you (including my husband) that help me on my journey to keep evolving to a beautiful peaceful space. Anyway I just want to say you never alienate me, just stretch me, and it’s a good thing ….really!!!
If your journey in life ever brings you to California I would so enjoy meeting you?
Aw Michelle, the way I see it, this stuff is infinite. There’s no Where to get to. So we’re all just somewhere along a continuum puttering along at our own paces and we’re damn lucky if we can pause long enough to wave at each other across the divide and share some meals, laughs, experiences… I should let you know how valuable your contributions are on this blog – the questions you ask and the thoughts you provoke always make me think and rethink!
And I bloody well hope my journey in life brings me to Cali sometime soon (as the snow begins to fly some 2000 miles north)… and I’d so love to meet up when it does!
Wow! This is a compelling invitation, Kesia. The shrink within is leaping around my writing nook clapping in the abandonment of joy. That’s a wondrous exercise for the community.
Michelle’s contribution is yet another important reminder to explicitly include, maybe highlight, the diversity of voices in the horse world. We’re ALL important. Horses do best when we listen to everybody who’s involved in their maintenance.
I’ve learned as much from those who make their livings mucking out and feeding, trimmers and hay growers as I have from veterinarians, chiropractors, psychotherapists and high-minded trainers. Certainly, a novel needs to give their voices credence.
I have a book project in the works now too. Disciplining myself to establish a functional rhythm on that project is my first priority now. Fiction writing is my first love though. I would like to mull over your proposal, Kesia. My psyche needs a minute to be with the concept before I jump in. My guess is, dreams or random thought pop-ups will lead me toward a way to make a meaningful contribution.
I adore team work. Just don’t know what it’ll look like yet. Thank you for yet another push to evolve!
Argh, Pat you make me smile every time! Fist-pumps too! Mull away… I am mulling too and who knows what will come of this…even if it’s just more good conversation, I’m happy! But I think it might bloom further. I have this vague concept that I will be able to weave together these ideas and more that come, so I can’t wait to see what your psyche comes up with. I also adore team work and am always hungry to work with others in new ways, undefined ways, ways that let everyone shine and/or move a message or idea through that’s bigger than the sum of its parts.
What is your writing project at the moment? Hmmmm…. My mother and I have been scheming to create a writer’s cabin and eventually a whole writers’ retreat, with week-long workshops, on our land. Minimal programming, maximum nature time, everything designed for flow, learning to invite what wants to be written. Any thoughts on what a writer needs to feel free to write, while I’ve got your attention? 😉
I like what Michelle said about simplicity. Being around horses has so much depth, and it’s a life-long journey of unfolding understanding. What I understand now is so much more than what I understood 10 years ago. However, there’s no way I could be where I am now without the beginnings of understanding 10 years ago. And, 10 years from now, I’ll have a whole new level of understanding.
For me, understanding is a series of simple moments, and it’s those simple moments all put together that brings depth. Perhaps there’s a way to lead your reader through that journey of increasing understanding through simple moments. You lay out the dots and let the reader connect them. Good luck with the book. I look forward to hearing how it works out.
Yes Mary!! I’m getting a feeling as I read your comment. Like walking slowly down stone steps into a deep pool of water. Fragments and vignettes of learning and moments of clarity, or just connection. You’ve just confirmed an idea I had for structuring this book…wow. Would you be willing to give me an example of a simple moment that stands out as a little step along the way? No matter how simple.
And I fully agree with you. I don’t feel any more “there” than I did years ago, and yet I see how much more confident I am, how much more relaxed, healthy and friendly my horses seem. Right now I feel slightly worried because I don’t feel much connection to them, don’t feel compelled to be with them every spare moment. And I think this is another one of those moments, maybe several months’ worth of moments, and I have to trust that it will move again into something new.
Same with my Aikido practice – I feel like more and more of a beginner as I get further and further in, but maybe the biggest change is that I’m happy with that, I know I’ll never arrive and am just along for the ride at this point…
Kesia, I like your image of going down the stone steps into a deep pool of water. It resonates with me because I prefer to take one step at a time, enjoy it fully and milk it for all its worth. If I were to just jump into the pool in the deep end, I’d still learn something, but I really enjoy the slow process. There’s no need for defenses to come up because it’s at a pace I’m comfortable with and open to.
I’m trying to remember my first simple moment. (I write a blog about my experience that you might like for more stories: http://www.SeniorHorseRehab.com/blog). I think it would have to be my first introduction to natural horsemanship training. We were practicing asking a horse to move just with our presence and without touch. (My experience at that point was more traditional horsemanship, where you touch the horse using a halter and lead rope to make them move). In this case, I was near the horse. He was loose. I filled the space with my energy and he tipped his nose away in response. It was the first time I had ever experienced that, and it opened the door to what is possible. That evening I’m at the grocery store in line, and I can feel the person behind me. I can tell he really wants the space I’m in. I decide to step to the side, and sure enough, he comes right into the space I was in and places his order at the deli counter. It dawned on me that that was what I was doing with the horse earlier.
Today I’m in a completely different place with horses, but that experience of my energy and the horse’s energy was a pivotal piece of understanding that has shaped my interaction with horses to this day.
Regarding not feeling compelled to be with your horses every spare moment and not as connected to them, it can be alarming if your experience has always been the opposite. However, this sounds exciting to me because it’s an unknown, and that’s where the new learning comes from. I once rehabbed a horse that didn’t want to be touched. For most people, not touching a horse for months on end would defeat the purpose of having a horse. I decided to honor the horse’s wishes and not touch him. I even took it a step further: I’m going to ignore you (the horse) and let you decide when you want to touch me. It took three years, and people thinking I didn’t love the horse. But over three years little changes started to occur in him and eventually he started initiating contact with me and asking to be scratched.
This sounds exciting. In one sense, the “new” is already here: not being drawn to be with your horses all the time. It just occurred to me that when I get a new senior horse to rehab you’d be the perfect fit for them. They typically need physical and emotional space, and they love people who are not emotionally drawn to them. They’ve been so emotionally used up that it’s a breath of fresh air when they come upon a human who doesn’t need them emotionally. Maybe part of the reason your horses are so healthy is that they don’t have to emotionally take care of you. You both are free to interact of your own free will, and not out of emotional need.
I too train in aikido, and yes, the more I learn, the more there is to learn. The pool just keeps getting deeper and deeper, and I keep growing in my comfort of going deeper and deeper. The great beauty of it is that it will never end. There will always be more to explore.
Okay, my brain just did that record-scratch sound. You do aikido?! How did I miss this?? Tell me more, what kind, how long, when/where did you find it?
If only we all could have your appreciation for the pace of things, the full savouring of all the subtle goodness. I feel like I’m always reminding myself to do this, in between rabidly trying to devour life.
I love this moment you describe, first with the horse and then with the human – coming online to the physical experience of energy and how beings interact with it whether they recognise it or not. Noticing your own ability to notice, and affect, that energy. So powerful… I don’t think I can remember “my” such moment, but I guess I’ve had a million of them over the years. The same tiny realization again and again in slightly different ways.
Thanks for your insight on my current state, too… in fact we just adopted a little shut down yearling who absolutely just needs to be…for as long as it takes. And my guys have been through so much movement on my account, from place to place and idea to idea, I bet we’re all needing to just breathe for a while. I’ll think of you and try not to rush it, remembering there will, as you say, always be more to explore – and also that there IS something happening within all this nothing.
Also I love your blog! Talk about the profundity of simple stories…your peace and care and delight really comes through in your writing. What an amazing project, rehabbing senior horses – something I’ve dreamed of doing too.
Thank you, Kesia. I’m glad you liked the blog. While I enjoy a slow pace, I do like reading about your experience and fast-paced energy. There is value in both.
Regarding aikido, I went to a Pony Boy clinic many years ago when I first got back into horses. I had recently fallen off 2 horses in three-weeks, and my fear level was nearly incapacitating if I felt the rise in energy from a horse because I fell off every time. I knew I needed to do something differently if I was going to stay around horses. I refused to just get back on the horse and have the same thing happen again. Pony Boy gave everyone excellent advice at the clinic. He said, “Go take a martial arts class and learn how to fall. If you’re around horses, chances are you will come off at some point.”
Three weeks later I enrolled in aikido and never looked back. I never fell off again. Yes, on occasion I came off a horse, but I never fell off. I learned how to relax and connect with the horse, how to embrace what is happening in the moment in such a way that a peaceful outcome was most likely to occur. The best part of all, I gained the skills to learn how to handle the change in energy from a horse that ultimately I had no control over. My fear was legitimate because it was my body telling me, “you are not organized to handle this.” I learned how to teach my body to respond in a way that was much safer for me, and when I did that the fear transformed into empowerment.
These days I spend most of my time on the ground rehabbing senior horses, but the same skills apply: How do I connect with myself in time and space, and then how do I connect with my environment in time and space, and horses tend to be in my environment a lot. If I didn’t have aikido training, I would have given up horses a long-time ago. Aikido not only saved my horse dream, it set the stage for my life’s calling to come into focus: rehabbing senior horses.
Mary, this is just too cool for words! As both a horse and Aikido nerd, this makes me super duper happy. The sensei of our federation (Ki Federation of Great Britain) once asked us, “Why do we practice Ki Aikido?” And after several earnest answers that missed the mark, he said, “To lose our fear of living.” So you being able to integrate your Aikido classes into your daily life and understand and transform your fear – that is what it’s all about. Do you mind if I share this story with my club?
Kesia, yes, please feel free to share the story. I notice your club is in Great Britian. Do you live in Great Britian, or is there a branch in Canada?
I agree that aikido training is a wonderful practice for how to bring the full expression of what it means to be alive into reality. My aikido training and my training around horses go hand in hand. The great thing about horses is they don’t lie, and they will give a straight up answer. I’ve always gotten a thumbs up from them when I approach them from an aikido perspective. They eat it up. It’s the path of no resistance and discovering the unknown with curiosity. They’ve led me down paths I never knew existed. Hands down, it’s my favorite place to be because it is where the magical moments with horses reside all the time, and it only depends on my choice to be open to it.
Yes, we’re affiliated with the GB federation but have our own satellite feds around the world; I’m based in Canada and my dad runs the Canadian federation 🙂
I am so delighted and curious reading what you say about horses and Aikido. I think I’d have lots to learn from your unique approach…
I used to struggle trying to translate directly between the two; my horses wouldn’t engage enough for my novice ideas to work. One day I realized that while a human partner comes to the mat willingly in order to learn and work with you, my horses were not given an option at the time. They couldn’t bring their ki to work the way I idealized because they weren’t truly equal partners. So to truly integrate Aikido with my horses I was going to have to find a whole new approach. It was a huge point in my unravelling of how I wanted to be with horses…
Now, many years later, I find the Aikido is so ingrained in me that I barely notice it when working with horses. It’s in body awareness, in being able to sense around me, in a not-quite-conscious reaction that creates a moment of perfect timing. It’s one of those things that you notice most when you lose – until something goes wrong, things are just going smoothly without explanation. And as you speak about the path of discovering the unknown with curiosity (beautifully put!), now that I think about it, that’s exactly what happens when I’m “in the zone”…
I’m almost envious that you got to “find” Aikido – I was raised in the back of the dojo while my dad trained and later started up just because he wanted me to. While I’m insanely grateful to him now, it took me years to truly appreciate what it was that I was learning!
It reminds me of once I had two little kids with me, about 4 and 6 observing the horses. Their mom was also with them. Since she had no horse experience I explained how I was going to approach one of the horses carrying her 4 year old. She was fine with it. As I approached, the body language of the horses changed, so I changed my route. Later when I talked to their mom she was a bit stressed out because I did something differently than what I said I was going to do. I explained, “Yes, I realize that, and I was responding to the moment and where was the safest place for me and your child in the moment. And at that moment it changed from what it had been 30 seconds earlier.”
Yes, it is awareness of the dynamic moment and being an integrated part of it. How it unfolds you never know, but it is always safer to unfold in harmony with it. Even if there’s a moment where I’m not “in the flow” it really only takes awareness that I’m not in the flow and right then I can consciously decide to flip the switch, breathe, relax and feel and re-enter flow.
Thank you for the great discussion.
My first thought is that you need to read “Maze” by Lucy Rees. You’ll find lots of copies on Amazon UK — maybe Amazon US, too… I don’t agree with everything she says and does in this book, but I think it is the book you need to read. And it’s a good read, so you will enjoy it.
My lesson these days, with horses, seems to be that if my devotion to them is absolute, then I must be willing to give up on all my agendas with them. The agenda to ride, the agenda to “train” even at liberty, even the agenda to “hang out” unless they desire it. My agenda is no longer to get them to have the agenda I wish they had!
I’m loving the aikido stuff, above!
Kris! Thank you for the book tip, I’m going to order it right now! I really like EponaTV’s Lucy Rees series.
This whole “doing nothing” thing with horses…it is so interesting to me that so many people are arriving at this place from so many different backgrounds. I have NO IDEA where it’s going for me, but that’s the thing about letting go of agendas, isn’t it?!
I’m glad you’re enjoying the Aikido stuff – do you practice?
I’m afraid I’m just an admirer of the ideas of Aikido from afar.