A Tall Order

It’s amazing what you can get on Amazon. Recently, when I was in Lanesboro Minnesota visiting my friend, I learned that the nearby town of Peterson, population 200, had taken up a collection and ordered an 8 ½-foot gnome to honor their Norwegian heritage (and for fun and to drum up business I imagine). (Who knew you could get an 8 ½-foot gnome on Amazon?) Well, the gnome got lost somehow en route, so Amazon apologized and sent them another one. (How do you lose an 8 ½-foot gnome?)    Eventually, the lost one showed up, leaving Peterson with two 8 ½-foot gnomes. (Apparently Amazon thought it was too much trouble to ship one of them back.) Of course my friend and I had to drive to Peterson to see them. One gnome sits in Peterson’s city park and the other next to a sign welcoming visitors to the town. Turns out 8 ½ feet isn’t as large as you think (though still impressive). See photo. If gnomes are not your thing, we later discovered that the company that made these gnomes also sells (among many other items): A Welsh dragon that is 6 ½ feet high and 9 feet long; An African elephant that is 8 feet tall and 12 feet long; A giraffe that is nearly 12 feet tall and 6 ½ feet long; A charging triceratops that is 10 ½ feet high and 20 ½ feet long; and A Brachiosaurus that is 15 ½ feet high and 18 feet long. These huge items are probably intended for cities or companies, but I laugh, imagining one (or more!) of...

Gift from a Horse

Nearly three weeks ago I went to a daylong personal growth workshop with horses. Because horses are powerful, gentle and extremely sensitive they are used for confidence building with special needs adults and children, in leadership training and team building and in personal coaching. In personal growth work horses are not ridden; participants touch, lead and observe them. I had read that they are excellent mirrors  because they attune to what our bodies, emotions, thoughts and energy tell them and they detect and respond to any conflicting messages that we send. I’d been looking forward to the workshop for weeks—though I was also a bit nervous because I had no experience with horses and had always been rather afraid of them. The day of the workshop I woke feeling tired, spacey, weepy and fragile. And I was limping a little with a sore hip. Yet I had paid my fees and a friend was picking me up, so I went. We worked in an indoor ring with four male horses and their handlers doing a series of exercises, beginning with greeting each horse and deciding which one to partner with. In between exercises we met in circle to discuss our experiences and observations. During the course of the day we spent time breathing with “our” horse, listening for messages from the horse, and leading “our” horse on a path which represented a life challenge. I chose to work with one of the white horses, Shooter, because he seemed the most gentle. And I felt affection for him right away. Shooter taught me something during every activity (and everyone there experienced different...

Beyond the Sights

I just got back from 2 ½ weeks traveling around Alaska with Tom. We tasted Alaskan foods (seafood, salmon, reindeer, fireweed and honey ice cream); walked on the land; cruised on the water; rode a tram up a mountain; heard native stories, drumming and dancing; spent a day at the Alaska State Fair; and had numerous conversations with a variety of people. We saw mountains, glaciers, icebergs, rivers, ocean, waterfalls, forest, tundra, eagles, puffins, sea lions, harbor seals, porpoises, sea otters, beluga whales, humpbacks, bears, salmon, cranes, and a variety of sea birds. In our visual-centric culture of television, videos, facebook, and Instagram, What did you see? is usually our first (and often last) question. Although what I saw was gorgeous, it was when I was startled awake by other sensations that I was most awed: listening to the delicate plick of raindrops dropping on wet leaves in the Alaskan rain forest; hearing sea lions grunting and roaring to each other as they lay on rock shelves in the sea; taking in the scent of greenery, river and crisp mountain air mingled with the stink of dead fish (in pristine salmon streams in Alaska you must have both, since the salmon die after spawning); being startled by the sharp crack crack as a sea otter breaks open a crab for its meal; catching the distinctive prehistoric call of cranes as they fly high overhead on their seasonal migration; listening for the explosive exhale of humpback whales, and to the living silence they create as they fish, dive and flash their huge tails without a sound; sensing the air grow...

Being Watched

There’s somebody new at our house and she keeps staring at me. I recently fell for a fluffy creature with a big personality that I saw in a catalog. I loved that she was so unusual that I wasn’t sure what she was. I loved that her pink and gray feathers gave her a look both elegant and disheveled. I loved that she seemed insistent on being totally her odd self. She didn’t seem like a child’s toy. And she made me laugh so I decided to buy her. Now that she’s here, though, she makes me uneasy. She is delightfully eccentric, both classy and rumpled at the same time. Her “feathers” are actually fluffy polyester, delicate and soft; they remind me of the downy fur of cats I’ve known. Her gray feet (and nose and neck) are velvety, delicious to stroke. She has a no-nonsense presence that I appreciate, uncompromisingly herself. Yet while her colors and odd fluffy shape seem to connect her with a playful, faery-like realm, the energy she exudes is a bit intimidating. She stares at me in the unswerving way my cats did when they wanted something from me. Eying me in heavy expectation. When I ask Ora (my name for her) what she wants to tell me she stares. I listen, then ask again if she has a message for me. She just gazes ever more piercingly. Sigh. (I know I could simply turn her back to me, but that also makes me uneasy; it seems disrespectful to her forceful personality. And since I believe agitation in our outer lives is often due to agitation...

Fish Out of Water

Several days ago, on a cool rainy afternoon up on the north shore of Lake Superior I sat at a cabin table, enjoying the music of the surf and doodling idly. At one point I looked at my drawing in surprise. When my drawing or painting looks  like a person or animal, I assume it represents some hidden part of myself, so imagine my chagrin when I saw this in my notebook: It looked to me like an angry fish, probably a bottom feeder. I had intended to fill the entire page with doodles, but as soon as I saw this creature I gave up that idea. I was almost afraid to mess with him because he seemed so cranky.   Irritated at how we’ve been trashing the waters of the world perhaps? This guy’s arrival was particularly surprising because I was feeling good when I drew him. Maybe ironically I could only draw such a creature when I was feeling good. Now I try to talk with him, ask him what he wants or why he showed up, but he is intimidating to talk to. And he doesn’t want to talk to me. He won’t negotiate with me. He won’t be appeased because he doesn’t want to interact. He just wants to bully his way through to what he thinks he wants. It makes him look a bit crazed, don’t you think? Well, he certainly feels alive to me, with his anger and his stubbornness. I appreciate the intense energy of his unchecked, inflexible crankiness. I’m not sure he can be simply pushed away, denied, or changed by...

Deer Delight

For some time now I’ve been working on living more playfully (the irony of this is not lost on me). A frolicking fawn and her mother reminded me recently how it’s done. As I mentioned in my last newsletter, I gathered with a group of wonderful women a few weeks ago at a camp nestled in the woods on Madeline Island in order to bless Lake Superior. One day, as six or eight of us left the dining hall after a meal, we noticed a fawn and her mother. We were surprised to see them standing in the camp’s fenced in tennis court. Women and deer stood motionless, watching each other. Suddenly the fawn began to play, literally kicking up her heels around her mother, white tail bobbing up and down. Despite trying to be still and quiet so as not to scare them, we couldn’t help but exclaim with delight. And keep watching. After a bit, the mother set aside her caution about us and to our astonishment, joined in the fun, the two of them leaping and bobbing, circling each other with abandon. They lowered their heads and lifted their bottoms in little leaps, the way I’ve seen two dogs cavort, circling each other in play. Goofy-looking, and adorable. We were enchanted. None of us, avid nature-watchers all, had seen a mother and her fawn play together like this. We felt honored and thankful to be treated to this gambol which would ordinarily happen (I assume) deep in the woods. The deer’s exuberance was contagious. We felt the kind of elation—love and laughter entwined with the freshest of breezes–one...