Just Thinkin…Life Has No Set List

park-chair-yarra-river-gapSometimes life as a musician brings me to places and situation which seem beyond fantastic and unimaginable I realized yesterday.  These are the adventures that keep me coming back to loving performing music with people wherever we go. It is my rush.  I have always loved meeting new and interesting (that’s everyone!) people- and I am particularly curious about cultural norms and behaviours. I love the way we as different cultures approach the same situation in different ways. Sometimes tDigital Universehis works to my advantage as I really enjoy adapting my own cultural “norm” to a new one I may be encountering. A “when in Rome do like the Romans” thing.

So yesterday at our private SoulFusion gig I was faced with a particular challenge as we were setting up in a parking lot in 125 degree weather under a deceptively comfortable looking “play area” designed and created by the plant manager of the company for his employees. It was a very different situation to play music in and try and decipher how a “set list” would go – if there were to be such a thing.  The man who hired us was a great lover of music and was someone who had developed a real love for the men and women he works for.  So much so that when he found that the culture of the company he had come into a few years ago was “all work and no play” he took it upon himself to create a more understand and relaxed atmosphere.  This year was the first year upper management had agreed to make a particular investment in the employees excellent positive response to this initiative and the hired Us.  Believe me when I tell you I was aware of the particular challenges coming into this gig – I just had no clue how much bloody fun it would be.

It’s not all glamour in case you thought that…

First we got lost so we arrived agitated, and late for set up. That’s never anyone’s favourite start. Then I had some real challenges…sort of. Except I don’t think the old days would have had all of the variety of faces and people I got to meet on this hot summer day in 2014. As we were setting up, I tried to look around and get handle on our audience so I can create a set list.  As I looked out at the sea of different coloured faces I realized that here was a bunch of people whose lives emerged from places that spanned the globe three times over.

There would be no set list. Big surprise.

Then I was struck by the amazing unlikelihood that we should all find ourselves in this place, drinking beer on a sunny Friday afternoon. Muslims, Jews, Christians, black, white, beige – most cultural versions of humanity were here and accounted for I think.   I wondered right away what it was in their lives they had to have gone through to come to this place, on this day in a hot sunny parking lot in a company just off the behemoth Labatt brewery factory.1175557_607235729326752_1461121346_n

This day was going to be a day of celebration – this is amazing. I thought to myself.

Incredible shit happens in the most unlikely places –

Indian men with beautiful colored turbans on their heads, smiling tables full of people from the Philippines, a new friend to play djembe from Haiti, office women dressed in pretty summer dresses, volunteers manning the BBQ’s while racks of delicious smelling food was served with a smile by upper manage to their employees.  It was warm and inviting and beautiful and all faces smiling.  I feel compelled to play music so…it begins acoustic.

Soon I see the crowd is FULL of people who MUST have danced or drummed or done some type of musical ceremony where they came from – but no one is dancing – they are being quiet and polite.  This is bothering me by the second set so I decide to get together with our drummer who is an amazing percussionsit, and we simply begin a beat. Him first – native sounding earthy tones on the Djembe beat against the ground and I crawl half shy onto the big drum kit. Dave our drummer nods to me to go ahead.  I don’t usually do that but I just felt compelled. My foot begins banging HARD on the bass drum – it feels great – amazing actually. Freeing and a little and letting loose in a way that’s different from when I am “front and center” – I can just close my eyes and feel the music like a meditation my heart settles down into a steady tribal beat on the bass and toms with Dave – eyes are closed…we are having a blast. Some of the men start to dance twirling with their arms as open as the smiles on their faces. Strong legs bend and flex in joyful cadence – Ah this is the best! Everyone was so together in this music – what an amazing feeling.joy

Then I made what I THOUGHT was a colossal cultural mistake. An Indian man came and threw money at my feet when I was dancing – and I was embarrassed so I plucked it up and ran to give it back to him red faced.

In my country when men throw money at you – its a sign of an unhealthy appreciation – I explained rather quickly.

He just smiled at me kindly and said nothing.

But I had stopped his joyful dancing. I had done something wrong.

I must have looked confused because his friend came and explained to my kindly –

“In India where we come from, when we throw money it is an appreciation and to way to protect you from poverty. We do this at weddings for beautiful brides too…” He smiled at me then kindly not like someone who is defiantly defending a cultural norm – as we who are Americanized are inclined to do (Rah!Rah!…blah…). Instead he was patiently explaining to me, because his ego was in check and he didn’t take my misunderstanding personally. What a revelation.

Some people use money not for the exchange of one thing for another – but for appreciation and expression. LIke a ritual. Amazing and beautiful all at once.  I am so grateful for the lesson and the kind way it was taught me.

I was so touched by the whole day.  It was a beautiful celebration of music and I really felt so privileged to be able to intersect with all these beautiful people, on that day in that time in that unli8kely place.

I remember saying to this amazing audience…

“Imagine what it is we all had to get through to get to THIS place today…it is incredible.  We were meant to be friends.”.  It really was how that all felt.,

We made music together, we ate together and we planned next year to do it all over again.

 

Once again the universe shows me clearly that if you follow your heart the pay back is simply unfathomable.stars-purple-light-wallpaper.jpg

 

Peace

 

 

On Death and Loving…

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Morning time at WillowCreek

This morning I fed the horses – its a beautiful day. In Canada we get maybe 25 days like this – clear sunny cool. Birds are singing in this constant perfect cadence – it plays like a mediation song as I go about doing my work. I fill buckets and say good morning to each of my herd. They all have very different personalities and different ways of greeting me.

Did you know horses liked music? I didn’t either, until UI had my own farm. When a horse is sick you will try anything in your power to make them feel better, and so over time I discovered that each of my horses has a certain song or types of sounds they like. Some like silenbce. They don’t want us chattering in their faces all the time. Others, especially younger ones like summer, like singing – in her case I always sang her “Summer Lovin” from the grease album – so now when she hears this song she comes running from anywhere to find me.  I love that.

In the past three years my most special time I have to admit has been with Otis my overly tall gangly love machine of a quarter horse,.

otis10Otis came to me through a friend who had kindly adopted him from Texas even after the vets there declared that he had navicular disorder. She has a huge heart and he was truly a “big gentle giant” as his sale advertising said.  What the seller didn’t tell anyone was that Otis had been so gentle and SO perfect, they had overused him and probably destroyed his feet in the meantime.

In Otis’s case, he is the victim of what humans like to see as esthetically pleasing in a horse.  Over time, we have bred quarter horses to have small tiny delicate looking feet- not big and clunky like they should be. Otis is huge 16″3′ meaning he needs MORE of a base to stand on. But he doesn’t have that – so the bones inside his front hooves are twisted and breaking causing him daily and now in th4e past two days ridiculous amounts of pain.

I have made the decision to have him put down tomorrow at 4:00 and today feel like hell.

otis fall 2012 wearing a scarf
OTIS sporting his handsome scarf

Let me tell you about Otis…

Otis is my friend.

I am a rare a very fortunate soul to have had him in my life.  Most people I imagine never have that kind of intimacy and absolute trust and love with another living being never mind something as awesome and created with “ALL SOUL” as a horse.

 

jo and otisOtis is not just any horse you know…He is my soul-mate horse. Better r than any “man relationship” honestly…

The horse of my life..the one you dream of when you’re a little girl.

I never dreamed of a “specific” horse physically.. like big and black or white and shiny…I loved them, all and didn’t care what they looked like really.  I dreamed of the ULTIMATE relationship I would have with my horse – he would follow me and want to be with me all the time.  I didn’t dream of riding and ribbons like the other girls and boys in my riding classes.  I dreamed of a horse that would BE with me – and magical fairy tale like relationship a soulful understanding and connection.  Like Bucephalus and Alexander something extraordinary.

I am so lucky.  Otis was even better than all that.

paulette and otis

He was with me through my mothers illness, problems in my marriage, being alone – Otis was there. He single handedly got me through this winter and the incredible depression –  – I had Otis. His condition is what made me go outside every day, work with him, keep him moving for nearly four years now. Otherwise I may still be languishing in bed.

He loves and adores all humans but especially my mom. He would walk with us when she was in a wheelchair. He was the most gentle safe loving perfect listener. He never interrupted or told me what he thought he knew I just had to talk things out. And when I cried just TOO much – he would rap himself around me like a perfect blanket of love. God Ill miss him and our many hours spent in his stall, brushing him and just humming happily…

He is a grand champion line bred, in Texas he is Pine Zippo Bar something or other…blah blah blah – they tell me. Both grandfathers were most winning quarter horses in the history of quarter horses in USA. Why does this matter ? well because – humans bred him for humans – they were not thinking about the horse. .

otis faceI have tried meds, no meds, shoes, no shoes…walking, stall rest…all of it. I have gone as far as praying over his foot. I have held his leg on my lap and begged the sky. I must have looked like a lunatic in my field on my knees begging.

But my friend Otis is in terrible pain and so it is in my power to relieve him of it.

RANGER
Ranger was 32 when he died

I wonder that we can’t do this for humans…

I saw my vet today and cried all over him. Poor guy. He has had to put up with me for so many years. But again – he is the most HUMAN of all the vets I know. He comes to my fundraisers, quietly always supporting those who would work hard for their horses.  He doesn’t like killing them  I saw today the years had not in fact hardened him – this made me feel good. I need only LOVE to be present when we do this to my horse,

I have not put many horses down in my life. My first horse to die was Ranger – Masters old parted. I was inconsolable for at least 6months.

BY time has passed and I am a real farmer now – not just a suburban throwback hoping to have a pony and a larger garden.

I am a real farmer now.

My hands are hard like leather. I like them like that. It hurts less when I cut them on baling twine.

My back is sore – because I did a good days work.

My feet are permanenelty black with dirt – cause that’s the way we roll in my garden.

I’d rather smell like midnight in the pastures than midnight in paris…:)

I am a real farmer now.

But my heart doesn’t seem very “tough” or farmerish today – I wish it would take a lesson from my hands…

 

When you work on a farm, you are CONSTANTLY in the middle of life and death.

If you watch a death you will see it is just a birth – backwards…cropped-374558_10200344549270175_1888065410_n.jpg

Death and birth are the same.   I feel sorry for people who are not aware of this. Death is not so scary. But living disconnected from nature and the reality of the earth like most people do – is very scary to me.

Death is an opening – a space for something living to come in.

I am not afraid that Otis is going to DISAPPEAR. Nothing disappears.  If you work in nature – you know that very well. IO don’t know allot of farmers who fear death – their own or others.

We leave that to the city people who believe we are all separate living things.

But death is hardest on the living.  I will be lieft5 here…while Otis traipses off to go see my mom and everyone else I love who is on the other side.

I KNOW he will be there for me when its my time to “ride off”…

jo n otis
I love you My Buddy.

But holy shit this is hard.

Thanks for reading.  Please hug your animals and all the living creations you love tonight.

Namaste.

 

I love you buddy…

All About Our BIG BIG Mac…

10400774_10154231481905230_3168287367305301677_n10371922_10154156160555230_526702342723462853_nThis is a story about our horse Big Mac.

The first you need to know if you haven’t met him is that Mac is HUGE.

The second thing is that the reason is that he was made so big is because no other body would have been big enough for his heart – he is comprised entirely of love.

He is nearly as big as the biggest horses in the world who I think beats him by a little under 7 inches.

He is a Belgian Draft horse brought to us to foster and remained here as a permanent adoption as of four years ago.  When he got here he had been left in a field abandoned suffering from malnutrition.  That’s why we didn’t really understand the infections in his eyes when they began. Cancer is very often activated by a compromised immune system which is a natural result of malnutrition.  and the fact that Mac was a pure Belgian didn’t help with their fair skin and proclivity to ocular melanomas.

 

Mac’s first eye surgery for cancer happened back in 2011 in his right eye.  A tumour that looked like a cyst had grown on the bottom eye lid of his eye.  We had a small fundraiser but the costs were enormous and the first surgery nearly cost us a years worth of hay for our entire herd.  10380886_10154232134705230_8153907542623386918_n

Two and a half years later the cancer returned to Mac’s left eye this time with an ugly aggressivity that made it obvious that it was causing Mac a serious amount of distress especially after the warmer weather began to arrive and his tissues became swollen.  AT first I thought it was just an eye infection but nothing I did seemed to make any positive difference. His eye was bleeding and he couldn’t stay outside in warm weather.  Something had to be urgently done and we were in no financial position to do any of it.  Many sleepless nights ensued.

A friend suggested that our band had done so many successful fundraisers for other beneficial organizations, that maybe we could put some of that music behind our very own Big Mac. That’s when the miracles began. 10300516_10154154843540230_1917414507954571037_n

In only four short days a fundraiser was organized to raise money to send mac off to the hospital for his surgery.  Our band played one evening and a local restaurant donated their time and staff to help us out.  Friends came and helped us have an open house at our farm WillowCreek Stables where everyone could come and meet mac themselves. The community and our friends really stepped forward and helped us the create something amazing for Mac.  Soon we had enough to send him in and just four days later I was making arrangements to have the surgery done. I love that horses seem to have that effect on bringing together communities and folks that work together to make it all a little better.  Mac became everyone’s horse that weekend.

And to tell you the truth, without all of generosity and all of the amazing synchronicity that the universe offered us Mac’s ultimate outcome would have to have been euthanasia because the amount of pain he was enduring would have been catastrophic.  We are so eternally grateful.

 

10322760_10154154844940230_1654912656934628871_nMAC THE PIRATE…

The procedure that Mac had is called ENUCLEATION – it involves full removal of the eye.

Just so you know, we didn’t take that decision lightly at all…I had trouble with the idea of this so an equine ophthalmologist specialist was called in to consult.  Dr. Ollivier was very gentle in handling me (and Mac) especially as the first thing I suggested to him is that he not tell me he is going to take out my horse’s eye based on a photograph(good thing I’m studying Non-Violent Communication?) 980673_10152865275580313_1084612641_o

“You know Doc…This isn’t just ANY refuge horse”, I glowered at him, still holding his hand from our initial handshake.”This is MY refuge horse”, saying it with some contrived authority.  Like who I was should somehow mattered to him.

He was smart. He knew how to defuse me immediately…

“I only put the horse first. I don’t even care what it is YOU want”, smiling sardonically. Ballsy and brave. OK. Good. I could see this man would champion the highest and best choice for my horse and my death grip relaxed.

10408109_10154231785725230_2591927709080191288_nWe began an exam with a whole gang of doctors and students. Smart questions, suggestions and treatment options were flying around the room.  They students and doctors  were all so kind and careful to cover any  questions I had.  No quesuiotn was left unexamined and definitely there were no such thing as stupid questions. I felt so comfortable asking as did John.

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My husband and I stayed with Mac for his surgery.  We felt it important that we have our energy there with him to support him – and it felt like one of my kids was on that table.

The surgeon doing the procedure was amazing. Smiling great energy with a room full of curious students.  It was much less difficult to see the procedure when you are watching a bunch of fresh faced curious kids.

The eye removal wasn’t as horrible as I thought. I was actually surprised at how much effort it seemed to take the small female surgeon, her arms wiry and strong looking, to really complete that part of the procedure. I always had the impression an eye would come out easily. It doesn.t We can leave it at that.

Then they cut the skin and tumour off from around his eye.  It was WAY more enormous than I knew.  When I saw the sheer daunting size of the tumour, there was absolutely no question in my mind we were doing the right thing. Then a cryogenics treatment was performed within the eye so that the cancer cells would either die or be unable to grow.

 

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The Observation Room for Mac’s surgery
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The surgery room at ST Hyacinth VeterinaryTeaching hospital

 

Mac will come home tomorrow now THE GREAT PIRATE MAC – ARGH MATEY!!

He will:

* Have no pain whatsoever . I know this is amazing – but removal of the eye for horses causes them to have a great relief.

* He will live much longer and totally pain-free from cancer.

* He will gain weight (he has lost about 300 pounds again and trust me …not for lack of food ugh…:(

* We will be able to ride and play with him again

 

Very exciting!

 

We are very grateful for our Mac and for all the love that ahs been demonstrated here.

Horses are truly awesome creatures…bringing out the best in us all!

mac art
WE LOVE OUR MAC !!