This is Cherokee. She was a Standardbred mare, tried on the track but too slow. One of the lucky ones – sold rather than simply put down for the “crime” of being too slow. This is my favorite picture of her she & I, even though she doesn’t look terribly attractive in it.
No, it’s a favorite because she & I had just been galloping, flat out running, across my pasture several times. Bareback. The bareback part makes a huge difference to the experience, lemme tell you. I am hugging her in happy exhaustion after a day of working with her. That was one of the happiest moments in my life. I felt so… connected to her. I barely needed to think what I wanted and she responded. It wasn’t just a physical thing, it was much, much more than that. We were connected on a spiritual level from the very start, and most of the time I was the only one who she would accept as a rider. I had several horses through my life, and worked running a stable a while, so there are lot’s of horses in my history, but only one Cherokee.
I saw her yesterday. Really saw her. Saw & touched her mane which was always softer & finer than a horse’s mane ought to be, more like human hair than horse hair. Saw & touched her nose, so soft & silky. I forgot how soft a horse’s nose could be. Ran my hands down her back, over her high withers, and felt the contours I used to know so well.
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen her. There was a terrible, terrible night, many years ago… probably 20 years ago now. Cherokee and I had been through a lot. She was the second horse I bought. I hadn’t had her long when the vet came out to stitch up her hoof after she’d torn it in the fence, and gave her an injection that was supposed to go in the vein, but went into the artery instead, and Cherokee went kind of nuts. I nursed her through it.
Then, a few years later, Cherokee got an illness, I can’t remember what it was called now, but usually it causes respiratory issues. In Cherokee, it went to her brain, and caused a rare form of encephalitis. It was horrible. She was out of her mind, running into things, falling down, struggling back up, walking like a drunk. The vet said put her down. But I couldn’t do that, not when she was getting up every time she fell down. If she wasn’t giving up, I couldn’t give up. I managed to haul her the hour-plus drive to the vet’s, and literally lived in the stall with her for a week while we tried everything, and then some. I learned to open my heart and let the power and grace of healing flow through me, and she made an amazing recovery. So amazing that she was written up in a vet journal, the only horse to survive this illness and be rideable afterward, and only 3 others had ever survived it at all but were stable-bound, brain damaged.
I remember how proud I was to ride her in the annual town parade the following year.
Years passed. Cherokee aged. She ran into a branch one stormy night and blinded herself in one eye, but she trusted me, and let me continue to ride her. Then she developed cataracts and went totally blind. By then she was 16 years old. She knew the pasture, so for a little while, she lived on. Because she never gave up.
Then one terrible night, it was snowing, terribly cold, the wind howling… I knew something was wrong, because that was the bond we had. I bundled up and went out to find her down, and this time, she wasn’t trying to get back up. She was shivering. She was suffering. So I woke up my then-husband, loaded the rifle, and sent him out to do the only thing we could do.
She and I, we went through a lot. Many changes. Both inner changes, and outer changes.
I cried for weeks.
So it was with a lot of surprise that I saw her yesterday. Yes, I was journeying shamanically. But this was different. Not just saw her, in the ghostly form so many spirits take when I journey, but saw her clearly, saw the dandruff she always had but that I’d forgotten about. Saw the particular shape to her spine and ribs that I had long ago forgotten. Felt her sweet breath against my hand. Ran my hands over the back I’d ridden so many times. Every detail was there. Every hair. As real as anything I’ve ever felt. And yet, I was not asleep. It was not a dream. It was a journey, a conscious, step out of the meditating body, journey.
Shunka’s great lesson continued. We do not die. Nothing that bears the spark of life ever dies. For that spark comes from the Creator, the Source, and that is a flame that can never, ever, go out.