This blog is devoted to my love of horses & wild birds, my journey through grief and healing, and moving forward with the adventures of life. Birds, Boots, and Brews is the original work of Eloquent Editing, LLC.
Recently, I received a private message on Facebook informing me that there is nothing spiritual about seeing a hawk or eagle; it is merely a bird sighting and to stop forcing my religious views about birds onto people. Another person informed me that my opinions and actions towards pigeons are unfounded and that I am cruel to these birds. While I am not opposed to constructive criticism, I do feel the need to point out a few things.
First, my blog is not about religion nor is it intended to be.
Anyone that knows me personally will tell you that I am the last person they
expect to see in church on Sunday. I am spiritual, but I am not religious.
There is a difference.
Second, no birds have been harmed during the writing of this
blog. And if I want to use pigeons as an analogy to describe poor human
behavior, I am going to do so because it is my constitutional right to use Zoomorphism in writing.
While these messages had negative intentions behind them, I found them to be entertaining because it’s obvious that these comments were made by people that either didn’t read my blogs in their entirety or they have less than stellar reading comprehension. Or, like many people, they simply wanted to spread their negativity with the world and decided I was a good target to start with. I am guessing it is mainly the latter, and these messages did inspire some thoughts on the power of negativity.
How many negative messages do you think you receive in a day? I
don’t have any statistic to share, I am merely asking the question because it
is worth pondering. When you stop and think about it, we live in a very critical
world. It doesn’t matter where you go or what you do, someone is lying in wait,
ready to pounce on you and spread their negativity at a moment’s notice. These
people are everywhere and show up freely at unforeseen, random times.
Sometimes, it is downright crazy what people choose to be
negative about. I recently ran into a couple of acquaintances at the grocery
store and was surprised at the negativity that came up from a seemingly
harmless subject and how quickly it killed what started out to be a fun,
friendly exchange. For the purpose of this story, I am simply going to refer to
the individuals involved as acquaintance one and acquaintance two.
To give you some background, these two women couldn’t be more
different. Acquaintance one is a pretty, bubbly young lady that has two small
children. She loves being a mom and she is very good at it. Her children are
her world. Acquaintance two is an older lady that lives to watch news programs
and frequently spends her time dwelling on world events and complaining about
things that none of us can control or change. Thankfully, I know from some of
her rants that she isn’t online or believe me, I wouldn’t mention this story
here because I would never hear the end of it.
The conversation began between me and acquaintance one. We had
exchanged pleasantries and I had just inquired about her two young children
when acquaintance two showed up and joined the conversation. I asked
acquaintance one about her daughter’s upcoming birthday. She excitedly told me
that she and her husband were planning a birthday trip for their kids to
Disneyland, the first trip of its kind for them. I mentioned that I had not
been to Disneyland since I was in college. I jokingly stated that my favorite
ride used to be “Pirates of the Caribbean” and that I wasn’t even sure if the
ride existed anymore.
Without missing a beat, acquaintance two spoke up and firmly
declared, “someone died on that ride! That place isn’t as safe as you think it
is. I would think twice before taking a trip there.”
In my mind, I heard “wah-wah” in response to her comment. What
a downer! Why bring that up and squelch the enthusiasm of acquaintance one, who
was visibly excited about taking her kids to Disneyland for the first time? As
fast as the mood changed, you would have thought we were in conflict about
politics and someone’s wardrobe had been insulted.
I wanted to tell acquaintance two that I was hosting a parade
next week and ask if she could show up and rain on it, but I held my
tongue. Some people have no sense of
humor, and she’s one of them. I wasn’t in the mood for a debate with her, and I
know her well enough to know that any sarcasm or humor would have started just
that. And like the adage goes, “if you have nothing nice to say…”
Sadly, the conversation was awkward after that and ended
sooner than it needed to. I felt bad for acquaintance one. All enthusiasm for
her upcoming trip was destroyed in that moment, and I could sense the
conversation upset her.
As I was driving home from the store, I couldn’t help but
think about the conversation and the power of negativity. How does a
conversation about Disneyland become negative? Is it necessary to be negative? Why
are some people negative for the sake of being negative?
When you stop to think about it, negativity is truly toxic. How
many times has the negative perspective of someone else ruined your enthusiasm
for something? How many times has a negative person ruined a social event for yourself
and others? On the flip side, how many times have you gone into something with
a negative perception and the event seemed to drag on and on?
Negative thinking is an easy mind set to fall into, and we have all been guilty of it at one time or another. Everyone has a bad day, after all. But perpetual negative thinking creates a space in our mind that allows depression, anger, sadness, and anxiety to nest, grow, and take over, much like pigeons in a barn. Negativity is very destructive.
It may be hard to stop negativity in your mind, but it can be done. Instead of being the person that brings “wah-wah” to the conversation, bring a ray of humor or sunshine instead. In the end, negativity is like a pigeon that has performed an air raid and pooped all over the barn, saddles and all – it is unpleasant and not enjoyed by others. Please keep your negativity to yourself.
I looked to the sky one day and there they were – large, white
birds with black accents on their wings, flying overhead. It took me a few
moments to identify them. Pelicans. I found it unusual because I didn’t expect
to see Pelicans flying over my yard. In fact, I had not seen Pelicans in this
part of the state of Colorado before. I couldn’t help but follow them and
watch. They landed on a nearby pond, enjoying the afternoon there, swimming
around and fishing. They showed up again the following morning and again the
next afternoon. I was fascinated.
A few days later, I mentioned the Pelicans to my best friend,
Raina. “Pelicans?” She asked. She looked doubtful. “I don’t think we have those
“I’m telling you, I keep seeing Pelicans,” I insisted.
“That’s odd,” Raina replied. “There has to be some meaning
behind seeing those. You don’t just see Pelicans every day.”
Allow me a moment to explain my best friend. Raina is
incredibly insightful and more in tune with the universe and her surroundings
than anyone I know. She is a gifted horse woman; I tease her about being “the
Horse Whisperer” because every horse magically bends to her will. To take it a
step further, I am continually impressed at her unwavering spirituality. When
the rest of the world is falling apart, she is steadfast. She is dialed in to
meanings, like animal behavior and bird sightings, unlike anyone else.
Raina left the room for a moment then re-emerged with a book
in her hands. The book was about the spiritual meaning of animals and what
seeing these creatures represents to you and your world at the time you see
them. It is an ideology that is Native American in origin. I was intrigued. If
the Pelican sightings meant something, I wanted to know what. I had been
searching to answer a myriad of things since my husband passed away, so I was
looking forward to the insight. Or so I thought. I wasn’t prepared for what she
Raina started to read the pelican description from the book.
“Pelicans represent forgiveness. Pelicans signify a situation that you need to
come to terms with…” She continued reading, but I didn’t hear another word
because my mind was racing, and I felt sick to my stomach. Forgiveness. That
was the one thing I wasn’t ready to grasp at that moment in time. Quite frankly,
I had been struggling with forgiveness.
As I drove home that day, I got within a few miles of my house and there they were again. Pelicans. Dozens of Pelicans. They were flying all around me, and I felt as though the walls of my car were closing in. I was being swarmed by Pelicans, and I was starting to hate them and their message of forgiveness. They were showing themselves to me because I needed to incorporate forgiveness in my life or I wouldn’t be able to move forward. But how do you forgive the unforgivable?
There were a lot of things in my life that this applied to. I
was struggling to forgive the young man that had killed my husband, an impaired
driver that lost control of his car and hit my husband head on. I was filled
with resentment, frustration, and overwhelming sadness for his irresponsible
behavior and actions on that fateful day. I was also worrying about the
sentencing and the justice system, thinking that the justice I wanted would not
be served. To say that my world was upside down at that time was an
understatement. I was traumatized by the situation and unable or willing to
accept that my husband was truly gone.
Sadly, I had also been dealing with “Pigeons” since the night
my husband died, and it had taken a serious toll on my health and overall
well-being. For those of you not familiar with “Pigeons,” they are defined here
as creatures that fly in, crap everywhere, make a huge mess while trying to
nest in your space, wreak total havoc on everything and everyone around them,
and are extremely complicated to eradicate. Any horse owner will tell you that pigeons
are a nightmare if they set up shop in your barn. Once they are in, they are
nearly impossible to get rid of and cause a type of frustration that is beyond
measure. Sadly, there are people that behave like pigeons; everybody knows one
and every family has a few. Pigeons appear in our lives in many forms.
But I digress. How does one find forgiveness when the actions of
others are truly deemed unforgivable, especially those that are narcissistic in
nature and take place within hours and days of your spouse passing away? Dealing
with these “pigeons” is an overwhelming burden that breaks you mentally and
physically when their wants and expectations are unfairly placed upon you when you’re
trying to grieve, understand, and accept an insurmountable loss that is beyond
Grief is a difficult journey, and I have learned that
forgiveness does go hand in hand with it. But let me be clear – I am not going
to sit here and preach the old “forgive and forget” adage. Not even remotely!
If you are looking for that kind of writing about “forgiveness,” what I have to
say here probably isn’t for you and we will have to agree to disagree.
My thoughts on forgiveness are quite different. Quite frankly,
if you have a grudge against somebody, go ahead and hold it if you want to. It
is yours, after all. I say this because there are circumstances where a grudge
is warranted and can be healthy, specifically if forgiveness is simply going to
open a door that allows the same abusive behavior to take place repeatedly
without any change. I don’t see the point in forgiving someone if they aren’t
sorry, and in my particular experience, the “pigeons” hassling me after my
husband’s passing are repeat offenders and they are not sorry for their
behavior. I have learned the hard way that not everyone has remorse for their
actions. Furthermore, there are some doors that are meant to be closed and it
can be healthier if this occurs and it stays that way. Why allow the “pigeons” back in if you
finally have their crap cleaned up?
So how do you find forgiveness? For me, I had to find the type
of forgiveness that would allow me to accept the situation “as is” and move
forward in peace. Forgiveness was (and
still is) a difficult journey that has required a lot of introspection. I
wholeheartedly admit that I tend to be very hard on myself. I beat myself up
internally for my flaws and imperfections. I acknowledge that I am my own worst
critic, and I do tend to allow the negativity of others to have space in my
head sometimes. Unfortunately, other people know this and take advantage of it.
Acknowledging this about myself has allowed me to move forward in a positive
manner with respect to my feelings about the “pigeons” that were wreaking havoc
in my life amidst the tragedy of my husband’s passing.
While I cannot, and likely never will, forgive the “pigeons”
themselves for their inappropriate behavior, I do forgive myself for not setting
boundaries with them and standing up for myself sooner. I thought I was being a
good person by showing them kindness and tolerating unacceptable behavior that
was a norm for them. Instead, I was enabling them, something I didn’t realize
at the time but can see clearly now. Looking back, I should have set boundaries
with them years ago instead of allowing myself to be bullied for years on end.
I was continually criticized, put down, disrespected, made fun of to my face
and behind my back, and belittled. While this sounds like some bad childhood
trauma, it wasn’t. I was an adult, and I allowed this to happen. I often look
back and wish that I had been a stronger person. However, it was easier at the
time to try to blend in with the wall paper than it was to defend myself and set
firm boundaries that didn’t allow this to happen. It was too uncomfortable to
set boundaries, so instead, I endured things I never should have and paid a
high price for it with my health and sanity later.
Sadly, there were times I used to resent my husband for not defending me. Looking back, I realize he was in a difficult position – defending me would mean setting boundaries that made him uncomfortable, and let’s face it – it would mean starting an endless battle that couldn’t be won on dysfunctional ground. For him, it was easier to try to make a joke and diffuse the situation, a talent my husband had in spades that I can only dream of possessing. I used to be angry with him for not defending me and trying to play everything off as a joke, but looking back, I understand why he did it. Most importantly, I forgive him. I understand and respect his desire to “keep the peace,” even though it often came at my expense.
As for finding forgiveness for the young man that killed my
husband, that has been extremely difficult too. He expressed remorse in court,
and I do think he was sincere. He is also serving time in prison. And while
many people may not feel the sentence he received is just, I was steadfast in
my resolve to see to it that justice was served. I did my best, as did the
amazing people in the office of the district attorney. I am forever grateful
for their tireless effort and their kind, caring support throughout the legal
process. Justice does not come easy, and I have a new-found respect for the job
these people perform every day. I know
it is something I could not do.
For what it is worth, I have learned and accepted that there
is the justice you want in your heart and your mind, and there is the justice
the court can give you. They are not one
and the same. As soon as you can accept the justice the court can offer,
you can move forward. It sounds simplistic, but it isn’t. It’s actually a very
big step emotionally. The endless hours I spent focusing on justice would now
have to be filled with something else. The judge that resided over the case
told me this would happen, and he was right.
As I was contemplating forgiveness, my mind kept coming back
to one question. I found myself asking if my husband would forgive the young
man that ended his life and if he would be accepting of the sentence he
received. That question went through my mind repeatedly and robbed me of
countless hours of much needed sleep. I thought repeatedly about the remorseful
words spoken in court and the sorrow showed by the young man. I also thought
about the many mistakes I have made in my life. They are plentiful. I
acknowledge I am not a perfect person, nor will I ever be. And as amazing as my
husband was, he wasn’t perfect either. No one is.
A few months after the sentencing, I was taking a much-needed
walk with my camera at a small lake near my house. I was thinking about forgiveness;
I was contemplating my husband and the court case, questioning his acceptance
of the verdict and sentencing and wondering if he would have forgiveness. I was searching my mind for answers when my
thoughts were interrupted by a pair of white birds with black winged tips
swooping down to land in the water in front of me.
Instinctively, I picked up my camera and started snapping away, not caring what type of birds I was photographing. The birds reminded me of a pair of figure skaters on ice, their wings moving in sync as they glided onto the surface of the smooth water. A few moments later, I realized what I had just taken pictures of – Pelicans. I was photographing Pelicans! Tears filled my eyes as I watched the birds swimming in the water. I knew then I had my answer from my husband, sent from above on the wings of Pelicans – forgiveness, acceptance, and perhaps even peace.
I have learned that forgiveness is a rather powerful entity. I have forgiven myself for a lot of past mistakes. I’m also trying to be less critical and harsh on myself. What can I say? Old habits are hard to break. I have learned to forgive myself for feeling broken, having moments of weakness, and being too trusting of people with less than honorable intentions. I like to think that there is good in everyone, and that is a principle I still try to embrace, although reality has punched me and my naivety in the face with that one more than once. All creatures exist for a reason, even pigeons. I forgive myself for not setting boundaries in the past, and I am working on being strong enough to set boundaries now when they are needed.
I am learning to forgive myself, and as crazy as it sounds, the pelicans are leading the way. Now when I see the pelicans, they are a sight of beauty and peace for me. They also serve as a reminder that forgiveness starts from within.
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Deadlines. We all have them, and for one reason or another, we have all missed at least one. Life happens. It can get in the way with overwhelming obligations and expectations placed upon us by other people. This week has been no exception for me. I try to have a new blog post every Tuesday, but for whatever reason, life got in the way this week.
This is a very hard week for me, and the weekend ahead will be
challenging too. More snow and frigid temperatures are scheduled to hit my home
state of Colorado, and I am dreading that. I have a mare that could give birth
at any time, and as any horse owner will tell you, things like a full moon or
bad weather will bring about the blessed event with the force of a freight
train that has lost its brakes going downhill. But I digress. While the weather
may create challenges for my weekend, something else is weighing heavily on my
mind. Friday, March 1, is my late husband’s 51st birthday.
As my husband’s best friend has said numerous times, “We are the
ones serving a life sentence because we have to live without him.” Those words
ring true in my heart and my mind as I write this. I find myself bursting into
tears at random times, and I keep hearing some of his favorite songs in my
head. This is the third birthday of his I have had to celebrate – and I use
that term loosely – without him, and it is not getting easier. If anything,
this birthday is bothering me worse than the others, and I am not sure why. I
cannot get him off my mind, and I cannot help but wonder what we would be doing
to celebrate his birthday if he was still here. Not that we always had
extravagant birthday celebrations, but we did try to do something special for
As I was watching one of our horses buck and play in his
paddock this morning, a horse that my husband was particularly fond of,
Ichabod, I was reminded of one of the last trips we were able to take together
on his birthday several years ago. We only had the weekend for a getaway, so we
were pressed for time, which ruled out going anywhere extravagant or warm, like
Hawaii, and we had a limited budget. We did agree that we wanted to get out of
Colorado if it was possible, so we started looking online. After a quick search,
we found affordable tickets to fly to Kentucky and boarded a plane shortly after
work on a Thursday night.
You are probably asking yourself, “why in the world would
anyone choose Kentucky the first of March?!” We chose it because it was an
opportunity to take in live horse racing at Turfway Park in Florence, Kentucky,
a track we had never been to before. We had made a pact a few months before to
try to visit as many tracks in North America as we could, and this was as good
of a place as any to start.
While Florence, Kentucky, may not be everyone’s idea of a
dream weekend getaway, it was for us. The hospitality at our modest hotel exceeded
our expectations. The kind people at the hotel had their shuttle take us to and
from the track so we didn’t have to worry about driving, and the hotel manager
was kind enough to help me surprise my husband with a bottle of champagne and
some birthday carrot cake cupcakes in our room when we returned from the races.
We were able to take in one evening of races – something that
was foreign to us since none of the tracks we go to offer racing at night – and
2 days of afternoon racing. Thanks to a wonderful family friend, we had a nice
table in the horse owners’ section with seats near the finish line. It turned
out to be an incredible experience. My husband was amazing at handicapping
races, and this trip was no exception. His long shots were coming in, and we
basically ended up eating and drinking at the races all weekend on his
winnings. We shared so many laughs that my sides hurt, and I couldn’t stop
smiling. It was one of the best trips we ever had, and quite frankly, it was
one of the simplest and most relaxing.
We returned to Colorado after our weekend feeling rejuvenated
and refreshed. Our only regret was that we couldn’t stay in Kentucky longer,
but as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. We were both back
at work on Tuesday morning and normal life resumed.
I never dreamed I would be celebrating his birthday by myself.
I wish I could go back in time to that particular birthday in Kentucky, as well
as a few others, and enjoy our adventures again a second time. I would hold my
husband tighter and laugh even more during our escapades. Those are the moments
I miss the most.
Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way. There is no going
back in time. Instead of enjoying life and celebrating, I find myself overwhelmed
with grief and sadness, longing to hear his laugh again. Words cannot describe
how much I miss him.
As I was walking from the barn to the house this morning, my
heart was heavy and I had tears in my eyes as I thought of my husband. I caught
movement out of the corner of my eye and turned to see a bald eagle, sitting in
the field in the snow, its sharp eyes surveying its surroundings. I stopped and
watched the magnificent bird for several minutes until it flew away, tears
streaming down my cheeks. Hello, my husband! I immediately thought about how he
used to tease me about my struggles to photograph bald eagles, and I found
myself laughing through my tears.
I believe my husband is still with me. Like an eagle, he is
watching from above.
Happy Birthday, My Love.
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Fresh air and a change of scenery was calling out to us. I was
longing to look to the sky and see a hawk or an eagle overhead, while my dad
just wanted to be outside. There had been far too much “together” time in the
confined spaces of my house, and although it was rather blustery outside and
the cold air felt like it might snow, me and my dad loaded up in his truck – a
loud, white dodge diesel pick-up that he has named “Bob” – and headed down the
road. Dad turned right as we left the neighborhood, so I knew we were not going
to town. He was heading out to the countryside to enjoy the sight of farmland
and small, rolling hills. We had no destination in mind. For several minutes,
there was nothing but the sound of Bob’s loud engine as we drove away from the
house. Eventually, we found ourselves bouncing along on a dirt road.
As we rambled down the dirt road, the scenery was changing,
and I loved it. I felt myself relaxing as we drove along, something that was
much needed. I had just survived the holiday season, something that has been
challenging since the passing of my husband. Although it was winter, you could
tell we were driving through farmland. We were surrounded by fields planted for
winter wheat and a few fields with the remnants of sunflowers. Although they
were dark, slumped over, and starting to crumble, a far cry from their bright yellow
glory months before, they still held an allure that kept me looking at them. I really liked the area. Something about it
felt like home to me. I had spotted a few Harris Hawks overhead, flying free,
their sharp, watchful eyes on the lookout for prey below.
I finally broke the silence with my dad. “You know, there are
a few nice-looking horse properties for sale out this way.” I had casually started
looking on the internet at new places to live and had been doing so for a few
weeks. With my husband gone, I simply couldn’t afford the house we were living
in, and it was too large and difficult for me to maintain by myself. I also
wanted something with more acreage for the horses and far fewer neighbors. And
the house was filled with my husband. Endless memories of him, our marriage,
and everything we had shared. It was also a painful reminder of everything I
had lost. Not that memories shouldn’t be present in a home, but having a memory
around every corner and in every room was proving difficult to handle
emotionally and it wasn’t helping me move forward. There were also some very traumatizing
memories related to his passing and his funeral service in the house that I
wanted – and needed – to stop reliving.
Dad responded to my comment with, “Get some addresses and
we’ll do a drive by on a few.” I took out my phone and did as he instructed. A
few minutes later, we were driving by a place that had potential, but something
about it didn’t feel right. We drove on to another place a few miles away. A
nice place, but the barn area looked run-down and the fencing was dreadful. I
could envision my horses running through the fencing and being loose on the
prairie there. Nothing like trying to run after a champion thoroughbred
sprinter in a wide-open space. No! Running along behind has never been my
thing. Not my future home. Moments later, we were driving on to the next one.
It was a new build. The house looked wonderful from the outside, but there were
neighbors close by and no fencing. The place across the street had pigeons
sitting on the fence posts and the yard looked like it should be on an episode
of the tv show “Hoarders.” Dad vetoed it immediately.
We continued down the road. As we were driving along, a large
bird with a wide, dark brown wing span swooped directly in front of the truck then
veered off to the right. Another bird swooped in behind it, and the pair flew
together, just ahead of the truck. “Dad, look at the eagles!” I exclaimed. It
was a pair of big, beautiful bald eagles, and they looked magnificent. They
flew alongside the road, gliding through the air in front of us as if they were
guiding us to our destination. We watched them in awe as we drove along,
marveling at their size and beauty. The pair eventually flew upward and landed
on a power pole. Below the power pole was a real estate sign for a property
that was for sale.
Eagles have tremendous significance for me. If you read one of
my first blog posts, you know that the Bald Eagle was my unicorn, the elusive
creature that cannot be captured. For the longest time, it was the one bird that
was too elusive for me to photograph. I could never take a decent picture, and
it was a source of amusement for me and my late husband. He teased me endlessly
about my quest to take a good photograph of a Bald Eagle. I took out my cell
phone and snapped a picture. Although it was starting to snow lightly, the picture
turned out perfectly. I couldn’t believe it. I finally captured a Bald Eagle –
and it was with my cell phone! I looked to the sky and told my husband thank
you. I cannot explain what I felt at that moment, but I knew my husband was
My thoughts were interrupted by my dad. “Let’s check out this
place for sale.” He turned the truck onto a small dirt road directly in front
of the power pole the eagles had landed on, and we headed towards the place for
sale. We had to drive about a quarter of a mile to get to the house. I couldn’t
stop thinking about the eagles and how they had guided us. I knew in that
moment my husband was with us, and I couldn’t help but feel he was behind the
steering wheel of this journey, especially when the eagles followed us to the
house and circled overhead as we drove around.
As we pulled up to the house, my heart sped up. It was
perfect! It was a quaint, lovely ranch house with columns on the porch and a
beautiful wood front door. It fit the picture I had always had in my mind of a
perfect “ranch” house. The place was lovely. It even had a wheat field! There
was plenty of space for the horses. I would have to build the appropriate
fencing, but I could see me and my herd living there. I loved it, and I had not
even seen the inside of the house yet.
We called the numbers of the real estate agent on the sign and
left messages. Since we couldn’t get a hold of the agent to see the house, we
decided to go grab a much-needed late lunch. We had been driving for hours at
this point, and we were both ready to eat. We weren’t far from the town of
Hudson and one of our favorite restaurants, so we headed that direction. The
eagles were still there as we drove away, circling overhead as if to guard and
watch over the property. We also noticed a herd of mule deer in one of the
nearby wheat fields. This area was definitely feeling like home!
Not long after we ordered lunch, I received a call. It was
from a real estate agent who works for the agent that had the house listed. The
listing agent was out of town, so this agent was filling in for her. We made
plans to meet the agent and see the house in 2 hours. Another showing was
scheduled right before ours, so we had to wait. I was nervous because a snow
storm was moving in and I hate being out and about on snowy roads, but my
desire to see the house far outweighed my desire to be off the roads and out of
the snow. The eagles were calling me.
After our late lunch, we slowly headed towards the property. As
we drove there, we observed the herd of deer not far from where we had left them.
The Bald Eagles greeted us again near the power pole, flying next to the truck,
almost as though they were welcoming us and guiding us back in. We stopped at
the corner near the power pole and waited a few minutes, as we could see the
other people still had not finished their showing. The eagles swooped and flew
around, surveying one of the wheat fields for prey. I was struck by their raw
power and incredible beauty as they flew in the lightly falling snow. Darkness
was setting in.
At last, we saw a vehicle leaving the property and my phone
rang. It was the real estate agent telling us we could head to the house for
the showing. As we pulled in the driveway of the house, I could hardly contain
my excitement. The house was even better than I had remembered.
Walking up to the beautiful front door, I couldn’t help but
think I was home. As the door opened and I walked in, I knew instantly I was in
my future home. It was perfect! The
living room, dining area, and kitchen had a warm, inviting, open feel and it
suited me. Everything about the house was exactly what I wanted. I couldn’t
have designed it better myself. I made an offer that night and the rest is
history. It is my home.
In addition to the beautiful home, I was struck by the women I
met there that night. The owner of the property was present, and as it turned
out, she was also at a crossroads in her life where she had to make changes and
move forward somehow. Selling the place was part of moving on for her, although
it was very hard for her to do. Hopefully she has been able to move forward in
a positive light and find the happiness she deserves.
The real estate agent, Tabatha, became one of my very best
friends. In conversation that night, I poured out my heart to her about the
tragic crash that had taken my husband’s life and my need to move forward in a
different environment and start anew. Tabatha told me about the passing of her
sister years before, also at the hands of an impaired driver. We had an
immediate bond, and to this day, I am blessed to call her a best friend and
confidant. It is amazing how alike we are and how much we have in common. I am
so grateful I have her and her family in my life now. I cannot help but think
that my husband and the eagles guided me to a friendship I know I will have for
the rest of my life.
When I stop to think about that day, I find it amazing that a
simple drive changed my life. It led me to new friends, a new version of home,
and a new path in life. When I see eagles now, I think of my husband and wonder
what he is trying to show me or where he is trying to guide me. I often see the
Bald Eagles in my yard or flying overhead, and I am thankful to them for
showing me that I am, indeed, being watched over from above. And as with most
eagles, they have proven challenging to photograph, although I have gotten
lucky a few times.
Most of all, I am grateful to my late husband and the Bald Eagles for showing me the way home.
While many people were eating chocolates and enjoying the
smell of flowers, I had an important Valentine’s date here at the ranch with my
beautiful horses and my veterinarian and friend, Nancy.
I am blessed to have a wonderful veterinarian that I have known
for several years now. I am always amazed at her knowledge and insight, and
quite frankly, she has the patience of a saint because any other veterinarian
would have fired me as a client years ago.
I didn’t grow up with horses. Having them isn’t second nature
to me, like it is for other “horse” people. I was 38 years old when I bought my
first horse, a thoroughbred mare that I bought at the race track and retired
because she had no interest in running anymore. I had always wanted a horse,
and I was determined to have one.
That was ten years ago; I am still learning about horses, and
I can honestly say that I learn something about these amazing creatures every
day. And God bless Nancy for her patience and kindness with me over the years.
She has endured my tears, panic attacks over nothing, and late evening phone
calls with ridiculous questions and, of course, more panic.
On Monday afternoon, I had to call Nancy and ask her to check
on Baby Note. I noticed she was rather lethargic and walking around her paddock
with her head down. The little spitfire that had been bucking and playing only
hours before didn’t seem quite right. When I called Nancy, she had just saddled
her own horse and was getting ready to ride. She told me she would unsaddle
immediately and head my direction.
As I got Baby Note and her mother, Note This, into their
stall, I noticed that Baby Note had a runny nose. With the crazy fluctuations in
temperature we have been having, I confess that I was worried something like this
Nancy arrived shortly thereafter, and it took some doing to
get Baby Note’s temperature. Not that I blame her. Being held in place and having
a thermometer placed in my rear-end isn’t my idea of a good time either! After
a rather eventful examination of Baby Note, my worries were confirmed. She had
a rather high temperature and would need antibiotics for several days, the
administration of which was challenging each time.
Fast forward to today, and I am pleased to report that Baby
Note is doing well. Nancy looked in on her yesterday and she had her last dose
of antibiotics. Today, she is bucking and playing and even jumped over her
mother while Note This was trying to rest in the paddock. Baby Note is back to her
independent self, exploring the paddock and playing with an energy most of us
could only wish to possess.
As for my Valentine’s Day date with Nancy and the horses, Nancy inadvertently reminded me of something very important – to breathe. Yes, I said breathe. Nancy observed that another mare, Snow Bunny, is showing signs of getting close to giving birth. While these signs had not been lost on me, for whatever reason, having Nancy voice them out loud made me panic. And I mean panic! I must have looked terrified because Nancy hugged me and said everything would be fine. Once I calmed down and remembered to breathe again, we talked about Snow Bunny’s care in the days ahead and I felt better because we had talked out a plan. And while we cannot control everything, it is nice to have a plan in place and know that I am doing everything I can for her. Just remember to breathe.
As I cleaned up the paddock last night, I had the feeling of being watched. I looked to the sky just in time to see a big hawk land on the roof of the barn. It tucked its large brown wings at its sides and watched my every movement as I finished my task. I could feel its eyes on me, ever watchful. I felt protected in that moment, mindful of the knowledge that I am being watched from above; everything happens in its own time, and worrying about things serves no purpose. The hawk also served as a reminder for me to be ever watchful with the horses, especially Snow Bunny. She will be “watched like a hawk.”
Generally, I love birds and find them fascinating. While it is true that I can spend hours searching for and watching hawks or eagles, there is one bird I am not so fond of. The Pigeon. In fact, most horse owners will tell you they hate these birds. Believe me when I tell you that there is nothing worse than having Pigeons try to set up shop in your barn or outbuildings.
Why do I hate Pigeons? Because Pigeons fly in, shit every where, make a huge mess while trying to nest in your space, and are extremely complicated to eradicate. Once they are in, they are nearly impossible to get rid of and cause a type of frustration that is beyond measure. Pigeons, like some people, can be a real bitch. And just as with people, it is against the law in most states to kill them.
Unfortunately, we all have “Pigeons” in our lives. They come to us in many forms daily: the annoying co-worker, the “contribute nothing, complain about everything” in-laws, the guy that has the rest of his life to be in front of you on a two-lane road that you can never get around, and the uninspired restaurant employee that makes dining out miserable instead of a pleasure. This list could go on for days. We all know who these people are. “Pigeons” show up daily in many forms because like the birds themselves, they tend to multiply with ease and rapid speed.
A few weeks before my husband passed away, several pigeons had started to nest in the barn. This was a direct result of the absence of our barn cat, Sheldon. Don’t worry, this is not a tale of how tragedy struck our barn cat. It is actually a tale of how “local barn cat makes good” and becomes a house cat. In other words, Sheldon wandered off one day, charmed a neighbor lady, and moved in with her. He upgraded his status from barn cat to house cat, and good for him. He was able to live out his final years living the dream life he always wanted. His departure, on the other hand, created a problem for my barn because his absence allowed a small flock of Pigeons to move in, and move in they did, lock, stock, and barrel, as the old saying goes.
One morning, less than a month after my husband passed away, I was trying to clean the barn through my tears. The funeral was long over and only a handful of people were still around. I was suffering from a form of PTSD and my grief was at an all time high that day. I was also being hassled by “Pigeons” disguised as my husband’s loved ones, and I had reached a breaking point. I was spending time in the barn to clear my head and to try to find a moment of peace. It was not meant to be. I was sweeping the barn floor when I heard and felt the “whoosh!” of wings over my head and immediately felt something wet on my arm. It was a Pigeon airstrike, and I had been hit!
I looked up and Pigeons were everywhere. I felt as though I was being swarmed in a vicious bird attack. My instinct took over and I started swinging the broom wildly in the air, screaming at the pigeons to get out. Feathers and pigeon shit filled the air in the chaos. I was angry now, and I just wanted the Pigeons out. All of them! Finally, after several frantic moments of swinging the broom wildly and yelling like a mad woman, the broom left my hand and flew out the door, hitting the ground with a loud thud. The Pigeons had finally flown outside. Tears streamed down my face and I started to sob. The Pigeons had to leave. All of them. Permanently. But how does one get rid of Pigeons?
It was in this moment that I knew I needed to talk to someone and seek counseling from an unbiased source. Friends had been encouraging me to go to counseling, but I was too absorbed in my grief to see the value in it. As it turned out, counseling was the best decision I ever made. Initially, I didn’t feel it was helping because I would leave some sessions and cry uncontrollably in my car. I would feel completely spent by the end of the session, and I didn’t see the value in that. Not at first, anyway. However, I stuck with it, because I honestly didn’t know of any other way to get rid of the “Pigeons,” and I needed answers. Something had to give.
It took nearly two years of grief counseling for me to come to some very important realizations. The first one is something that sounds simplistic when I see it written out or say it out loud, yet it was something I didn’t grasp because I had allowed the “Pigeons” of my life to rent entirely too much space, “nesting” in my mind for far too long. Here’s the earth-shattering revelation – I am not responsible for the dysfunctional behavior of other people. I do not own the behavior of other people, and I should not ever hold myself accountable for the actions of others. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? However, when the dysfunctional behavior comes from people you once loved, respected, and considered loved ones, it is hard to comprehend and accept.
To take it a step further, I also learned that it is human nature to question yourself and think that perhaps you did something wrong to deserve being treated that way. No. Odds are, you did nothing wrong and it’s their issue, not yours. In my case, the dysfunction had always been there, my husband and I had just found a way to put a bandage on it and live with it. Unfortunately, the bandage was ripped off with a vengeance when my husband died, and there was simply no adhesive left to put it back in place.
Finally, allow yourself to move on and remove yourself from a situation that has become toxic. It’s okay to let go of people that are going to do nothing but crap in your barn. There are times that the healthiest thing you can do for yourself is move forward in a manner that is best for you and leave the “Pigeons” behind. Let them crap elsewhere! Perhaps the “Pigeons” will acknowledge their behavior was wrong and take responsibility for the mess they created and clean up their shit. And perhaps not. That may well be wishful thinking! If they can never see or acknowledge that what they did was wrong, remember that it falls on them, not you. You don’t own their behavior, nor are you responsible for their actions. Not your nest, not your “Pigeons.”
Circumstances and life events can change people, and unfortunately, those changes may not always be positive. Death can bring out the very best in people, and it can bring out the very worst. I saw both sides of this very clearly when I lost my husband. Right now, the goal of my journey is to move forward in a positive light. The “Pigeons” are gone from the recesses of my mind and my life, and hopefully it stays that way. It feels good to let go.
As for the barn itself, spikes were placed in the rafters to prevent the Pigeons from being able to nest there. I placed large plastic owls in the rafters and completely closed the barn as often as possible, so as not to allow the Pigeons back inside. I also moved.
P.S. The stress and anxiety caused by grief can be overwhelming to the point that you may feel as though you are having a heart attack. An anxiety attack is nothing to take lightly. I suffered from anxiety attacks endlessly the first year after my husband passed away. Trying to find a way to calm down, relax, and manage your anxiety is important. There are a lot of tips and tricks for alleviating anxiety and stress. I found the following blog excerpt from Greg Thurston to have some valuable insight. http://bbbblog19.7minutem.hop.clickbank.net?type=blog3&tid=TRACKINGID
I wanted to take a moment and express my appreciation for the positive response to my blog “Paddock Surprise.” It is truly appreciated and it warms my heart that so many people enjoyed the story.
Several people have emailed me to ask how Note This and her filly are doing. It is my privilege to tell you that they are doing fantastic! Baby Note is a classic “busy body,” curious and exploring everything. She is also turning out to be a bit of a character. Note This is an exceptionally patient mom with a very watchful eye.
The weather has posed the most challenges. It has been rather cold here, with temperatures exceeding ten below zero at night. Since Baby Note was ten days early, she is rather petite. She is so petite that I cannot find a foal blanket that fits her! So, I have done my best to provide a warm indoor environment at night with a lot of bedding and extra food for Mama Note so that they can both be as warm and comfortable as possible until this cold snap passes. During the day, they are out in the paddock, where Baby Note plays endlessly. She is a bundle of energy and already looks like a future champion.
I will do my best to include future blogs that provide updates on these two amazing horses.
Again, thank you all so much for your interest and positive support. On behalf of myself and Mama and Baby Note, we are grateful.
Monday. The very mention of the word makes most people cringe. For many people, Monday symbolizes the beginning of the work week, the start of endless doldrums and toiling away at a job that we would love to quit. It is often a depressing, mundane day.
Monday, January 21, turned out to be anything but mundane or boring. It is a day I will always remember and cherish because it will forever serve as a reminder of how amazing life can be and how quickly things can change in a positive way. It will also serve as yet another reminder of how little control one actually has and how things happen in their own time.
Anyone that knows me is well aware of the fact that I love horses. I have a few. Err…several. More than I probably should have. However, they bring me tremendous joy and they are quite possibly the only reason I am still alive after the loss of my husband. There were days after the passing of my husband that I struggled to get out of bed because my depression was so great. I was overwhelmed with grief, and the fact that the rest of the world was continuing on as though nothing had happened wasn’t lost on me. In fact, it made me angry. But I was forced to pull on my boots and put my anger and self-pity aside because several 1200-pound reasons counted on me – my horses. I can honestly say that my horses were the only thing that brought any sense of joy or peace for me at that time. And they still do!
I am blessed to own many beautiful thoroughbred horses and one quarter horse, the later being my trusted riding pony, Annie, who happens to be a favorite among my friends. The thoroughbreds are a collection of mares and geldings, all beautiful souls that are each special in their own way. Hey, they make me put my boots on and enjoy the outdoors every day, even when it’s 20 degrees below zero. Who wouldn’t love an animal that requires this of you? Horses truly are therapeutic beings.
Last September, my best friend was in Oklahoma City at the Heritage horse sale. She spotted a big, lovely black mare with a white heart on her forehead named “Note This.” My friend called me and was insistent that I needed this mare. Something about this mare was calling out to my friend, and since her instinct with horses is impeccable, I told her to go for it. Note This happened to be pregnant to a stallion with an amazing pedigree, and quite frankly, Note This has nice bloodlines herself. I honestly figured she was a horse we wouldn’t be able to afford, so I told her to go for it, thinking we likely wouldn’t be able to buy her. However, I failed to consider that Note This was the last horse to go through the auction ring. Since most buyers are broke at the end of a sale, no one bid on her. My best friend spoke with the gentleman that had placed her in the sale, and within 24 hours, Note This was standing in my barn.
As I stated before, Note This is a big, beautiful mare. I immediately fell in love with her, and my gratitude for my friend and her insistence on buying this mare is beyond measure. Upon reviewing Note’s paperwork, I noticed that the date she was bred to the stallion coincided with a very important date to me – my late husband’s birthday. It gave me chills when I saw it, and it brings tears to my eyes whenever I think about it. I like to think of my husband in the great beyond, helping me out behind the scenes, because that is something he would do.
Note This settled in to her new life in Colorado and as the months progressed, her body became larger and larger. Her belly started to drop around the first part of January, and I knew it wouldn’t be long until her due date of February 1st arrived and a new addition to the barn would be on the ground and running.
In preparation for the momentous event, I had placed Note This, along with another pregnant mare, Snow Bunny, in an area by themselves. They shared a small paddock during the day but were each enjoying their own large stall at night whenever the weather was bad. The weather had been unusually nice for Colorado in January, so the night of January 20th, I had left the stall doors open and allowed Note This and Snow Bunny access to their little paddock throughout the night. This also happened to be the night of the “Super Blood Wolf Moon.”
As the sun rose the morning of January 21, I looked outside and could see both mares in their paddock. Everything was quiet in the barn area. It looked as though the horses still had hay and nothing was amiss, so I decided to make coffee and watch the morning news. Around 8:30 or so, I looked outside and noticed both Snow Bunny and Note This were laying down in their paddock, soaking up the morning sun. I decided the world wouldn’t end if I continued to enjoy my coffee and watch a cooking segment that was coming up on tv. I should also mention that I have been very blessed this winter to have two good friends of mine staying at my ranch – Mike and Jen – a kind, young couple that are both very good with horses, and quite frankly, very good with me.
I was getting ready to put my boots on and head to the barn when my phone went off, so I stopped to answer a text message. I was writing my reply when my back door flew open and Jen stormed in. “Sandy! There’s a baby! Note had her baby! We have to get to the barn!”
I was stunned, and I am quite certain I had a stupid, dumbfounded look on my face. “What?!” I replied. I looked out the window and sure enough, I could see the white blaze of a very tiny face in the paddock. I couldn’t believe it! How in the hell did I miss that this was happening? I ran to get my coat and fumbled with my boots momentarily. My mind was going a million miles an hour.
As Jen and I were running to the barn, Mike came along, carrying hay for one of their horses that was spending time in the barn. “What’s the big hurry?” he asked. Jen replied that Note This had her baby and he also started to move towards the barn in a higher gear.
When I arrived at the paddock, Baby Note was trying to stand on very wobbly legs and take those first uncertain steps. The baby was lovely, but oh so tiny and petite! Baby Note could best be described as a dark bay with a big, unusually shaped white blaze that seemed to dominate her tiny face. Note This was very protective of her baby, and she was busy trying to keep not only Snow Bunny away from her foal, but some other horses that had gathered along the fence to see what the commotion was.
A flurry of activity ensued. Mike and Jen grabbed a rope and halter and somehow managed to catch an elusive Snow Bunny and get her in a stall. I was frantically trying to clean the floor of the remaining stall, because naturally, both mares had decided that was the ideal place to poop throughout the night. It was important to get a clean, dry area for mom and baby, so I frantically cleaned. While I was busy cleaning, Mike was trying to assist Baby Note with standing up on those long, wobbly legs. Jen put a halter on Note This, and mom and baby were slowly moved into the barn where they could be safe in a clean, quiet stall, free from the prying noses of other horses. Jen held Note This while Mike helped Baby Note nurse on her mother. “It’s a filly,” Mike proclaimed with a big smile. He had his hands full, as Baby Note wiggled and wobbled as she nursed, not quite sure of how to behave in her new world. Three proud parents were born in that moment, and we all continue to make a fuss over Baby Note.
I called my vet and told her of our morning excitement. Before she set out for my ranch to examine Mom and Baby Note, she expressed the importance of leaving Note This and her baby alone for a bit so they could have some much-needed bonding time. So, the three proud parents vacated the barn for a bit. We were all in awe of what had just transpired. Note This had given no signs that she was THAT close to giving birth, and yet, we had a baby! I was struck by the fact that life can begin just as quickly as it can end. A new life was in our midst; things would not be the same at the ranch. Life can truly be unexpected and crazy sometimes.
As I walked away from the barn toward my house, I looked to the sky to say thank you to my husband and the heavens above. It was then I noticed a hawk soaring in the sky directly overhead, its dark brown wings shining in the sun. New life in the barn and life in the form of wings above. The world is truly beautiful in its own time.
Eagles are fascinating, powerful creatures that fly through my imagination and grasp the hands of time for me. When I see an eagle, its as though everything around me comes to a standstill except for the presence of the majestic bird I am blessed to be seeing.
As an amateur photographer, I spent years pursuing bald eagles, struggling to catch a glimpse let alone a decent photograph. It is a well-known fact that I have the world’s largest collection of blurry eagle photographs known to man. This is rather pathetic when you consider the fact that I live within ten miles of one of the largest bald eagle nesting grounds within the state of Colorado.
The fact that I could never capture a decent photograph of an eagle was not lost on my late husband. He used to laugh at my antics and adventures to photograph the ever-elusive eagle. One incident will forever stand out in my mind.
It was a particularly blustery day in Brighton, Colorado. I happened to have a day off from work in the middle of the week, and I was determined to make the most of it. I laced up my hiking boots, grabbed my coat and camera, and headed to Barr Lake in pursuit of the elusive bald eagle. I was determined that this would be the day my quest for an eagle picture would end.
Barr Lake is a small lake situated not far off Interstate 76. There is an 8.8-mile trail that circles the lake, and there are some nice spots along the way that are ideal for bird watching. And, Barr Lake is known as one of the largest eagle nesting grounds in Colorado.
My hike around the lake began in a rather non-descript manner. I noticed a few sparrows and pigeons as I set out and nothing more for what seemed like a rather long time. Not exactly the bird watching adventure I had been hoping for. Finally, a small gaggle of Canadian Geese came across my path, and eventually, a Northern Flicker Woodpecker. Things were looking up! My hopes soared as I looked to the sky and could see an eagle soaring in the distance. It was too far away to photograph, but there was no mistaking its magnificent wing span as it soared high above.
I continued walking. My feet were starting to twinge with a bit of pain. Unfortunately, my hiking boots were relatively new, and my feet were starting to feel it. “Carry on!” I told myself. I was so determined to photograph an eagle that pain be damned! This pursuit was ending today.
After walking for endless miles, or at least what felt like it, I arrived at the area where eagles could be seen and photographed. Allegedly. I had arrived at the area where a pair of bald eagles are known to nest, but naturally, the nest was empty and camping out there for 2 hours produced no results.
My quest to photograph an eagle was, in fact, a rather miserable experience in the end. The weather gradually deteriorated; the cold wind whipped my face. Dirt found its way into my contact lenses, and my feet were beyond painful. I had blisters above my big toe on both feet as well as my heels, and the bottom of both feet were screaming in agony. Defeated, I finally made my way back to my car and put my camera back in its case. I placed my camera behind the driver’s seat and headed home, blasting the heater as I drove.
As I pulled into my drive way, I couldn’t believe my eyes. There, perched on a fence post in my yard, was the most spectacular bald eagle I had ever seen! At that moment, a string of expletives was going through my mind, many of which I cannot write down here. Let’s suffice it to say that my frustration and disbelief was at an all time high. Nothing like marching around an eagle nesting area to no avail, only to have one show up in your own yard!
By the time I got out of my car, got my camera out of its case and attached the action lens, the eagle was in the air, flying away at rapid speed. My hands were shaking, and I was fumbling with my camera. This was it! My opportunity to get the picture I had been longing for all day! I zoomed in on the magnificent bird as much as I could. I was snapping pictures furiously, praying to get a decent shot. It was not meant to be. I managed to capture another series of “blurry eagle at a distance” pictures.
After this incident, my husband declared the Bald Eagle to be my unicorn, the mythical creature that could never be captured. And my husband loved to joke about it! He never failed to remind me of my quest for eagles and some of the funny adventures that ensued as part of this pursuit.
When I see an eagle, I always think of my husband and often find myself saying hello. My husband is much like an eagle to me now; elusive but ever present. Like an eagle, he is soaring free, released from the binds, ties, pressures, and struggles of every day life that we all endure daily. He may not be here physically, but he is definitely present.
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton
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