Constant State of Transition – A Quick Note

I am on a plane yet again flying north back to Alaska (River too). Work – the doggies are in need of me. While I am not thrilled to be leaving Shaun, I am ready to see mountains, my ‘Alaska family’ as I refer to the Gardners and a couple of other very close people I am lucky enough to have in my life. This year started off in a state of transition and shows no signs of stopping that trend. My name as a ‘Dog Trainer’ has spread and I continue to be able to make travel and work..well, work. In only a few weeks, I will be flying back to the East Coast for more dogs and to spend time with Shaun.

My time is rather largely shared between Alaska and the East Coast. This is both awesome and exhausting depending on how much sleep I’ve had. I continue to find people in all sorts of places to share things like rock climbing, a festival or just a cup of coffee. Occasionally the stars (I mean schedules here..) align for people whom are very dear to me and we can get together. Recently I had a very short but still sweet visit with Lorien. Sadly my siblings and I have been unable to make it work – but I am hoping in the coming months that will be rectified.

The main thing I’ve come to realize is the difficulty of writing on the blog, returning phone calls, emails and such when one is in a constant state of transition. If I haven’t been quick to respond or you feel ignored, I am sorry and hope that one might understand that is it quite unlikely a personal thing. I will say for those who may need to get a hold of me for whatever reason – a text saying ‘Need to talk’ will get you a callback faster than an email or voicemail will.

The constant change of time zones, climate, driving style (east coast verses Alaska is a VERY different set of challenges), personalities of the people I’m around (in the Gardner house I can say fuck anytime of the day, in my relatives space not so much), and even worse – food option challenges, tends to leave me a little discombobulated. I wouldn’t trade it for staying in one place in the least, but I cannot say it is easy or leaves energy for other things at times. All in the trials of being a Wanderer.

I hope to add more content soon (but I’ve said that a few times before..).

~J

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6 Years Today

The world moves faster than ever, each year fuller and longer, yet somehow short all at the same time. Like many of the previous years, I don’t have much in the way of new things to say. Maybe just a different way to say the same things. Who really knows anymore.

Similar to last year – I am en route to the East Coast for my WildernessFusion class. While the class does not fall on the true date this year, it is close enough that I feel as though I am again going to be sharing this rather Dark & Twisty place that is my mind during this week.

I have even less ‘updates’ to share than I did last year in terms of what my family is up to on this Anniversary. I, like many others, hope they are well.

For me personally, this time of year is incredibly difficult and rather despair-ridden. I often opt to stay busy or ‘distracted’ as my classes would call it, only touching just under the surface tension of the water that is the bottomless well of grief for just a moment, and even then barely feeling the temperature change. I occasionally remark on something, and then let it fade away just as quickly as it came up. At this point in my life I rather feel like I am inflicting my own Dark & Twisty upon those who are in my life. I have little-to-no faith that anyone could actually desire to be in my presence when in such a place.

At the 5-year mark I noted how much more anger and sadness was in my well of grief. This year I am noticing that under the anger, grief and sadness – is despair. Deep. Soul wrenching. Despair. Despair of the reality of the events. Despair that so many people walk around quoting ‘the tragedy’ in my life with no context. No understanding of what that feels like 24/7. What it means to live in such a reality. The fact that people even ask me questions like – do you still wonder “why did He do it?” or my personal favorite – “Do you feel like you’ve moved on yet?”.

Um.

No.

Fuck.

No.

Am I really supposed to? I cannot change the past, and pretending like it never happened just makes me crazy. So yes, I use the word despair versus sadness or grief on purpose.

I rarely go longer than a moment or two without thinking of my Mother in some context. I don’t know that I can, nor do I have the desire to remove her from my thoughts. She is in everything I hold dear. Nature. Dogs. Mountains. Adventure. People important to me. The list goes on. Often people ask me, “where did you learn such [insert praise words that I do not like – i.e courage, loyalty, strength, love, etc]?” and the answer is often in some form ‘My Mother’. She is entirely human – made up of faults and good intentions gone wrong – yet somehow, instead of running away from them or pretending that she wasn’t just as prone to such base, shallow whims as anyone else, she owned them. And that made her larger than life. The integrity of her commitment to living fully and deeply – even in the not-so-pretty places.

Often we would have these intense, complex talks, spanning hours or even days. Life, death, spirituality, love, greed, the human experience and just about anything you could think of. Often she would ask my perspective, my opinions – not just to have something to respond to, but because in her own words, I ‘had more depth than anyone’ she knew – and ‘there were things she needed to learn from me’. So many times she would say to me in full sincerity, “I don’t know why I was given this gift in life, why I was chosen, but I am truly privileged to be your Mother”.

I didn’t always understand, and still don’t fully grasp what she meant by that statement. I wish I could remember if I ever shared a similar sentiment with her. I deeply regret that I don’t know for sure that I did.  Because I am, even with everything that has happened, beyond lucky to have had such a great Mother, teacher and friend. Most of my time is spent in pursuit of the person my Mother insisted I am… One poorly placed step after another.

Much like Cheryl Strayed in the popular memoir – turned movie ‘Wild’, I am on a lifelong journey of living closely to my Mother in the physical reality of which she is no longer apart of, yet still very much alive in spirit.

My Life SHATTERED on this day 6 years ago. For reasons I shall not go into, I was already a struggling survivor of things less than ideal in life when Mom was killed. In an already Dark & Twisty world – Mom was my Sun. She was my champion. She was a humble reminder of what simple joy in the human experience can be. The power of unconditional love and the strength of choice. I wish I could express the depth of her meaning to myself and everyone she touched.

Renée in Alaska

Renée in Alaska

I see the understanding in others who have lost their mothers suddenly. They touch on places I personally struggle to get the words for. These little collections of sentences make me feel the depths of that well of grief where recounting the entire story of loss doesn’t even brush the surface.   Many of you may have read the book by Yann Martel or watched the movie they made recently of ‘Life of Pi’. From his book, he is narrating his story of losing his whole family, and says this:

“To lose a brother is to lose someone with whom you can share the experience of growing old, who is supposed to bring you a sister-in-law and nieces and nephews, creatures who people the tree of your life and give it new branches. To lose your father is to lose the one whose guidance and help you seek, who supports you like a tree trunk supports its branches. To lose your mother, well, that is like losing the sun above you. It is like losing–I’m sorry, I would rather not go on.”

I agree Mr. Martel.

Author Kristin Hannah also neatly sums up what it is like to go on living without your Mother figure:

“A daughter without her mother is a woman broken. It is a loss that turns to arthritis and settles deep into her bones. ”

And a more recent author (for me anyway) Cheryl Strayed – Wild:

“I didn’t get to grow up and pull away from her and bitch about her with my friends and confront her about the things I’d wished she’d done differently and then get older and understand that she had done the best she could and realize that what she had done was pretty damn good and take her fully back into my arms again. Her death had obliterated that. It had obliterated me. It had cut me short at the very height of my youthful arrogance. It had forced me to instantly grow up and forgive her every motherly fault at the same time that it kept me forever a child, my life both ended and begun in that premature place where we’d left off. She was my mother, but I was motherless. I was trapped by her, but utterly alone. She would always be the empty bowl that no one could full. I’d have to fill it myself again and again and again.

One of the worst things about losing my mother at the age I did was how very much there was to regret.”

All these quotes and more share a little tidbit of my reality. Both the wonder at having such a Mother, and the absolute agony of losing her before her time, in such a sudden and terrifying way. I both want to share these things with you, and never write them down let-alone speak them aloud.

And finally, for my family:

“The amount that she loved us was beyond her reach. It could not be quantified or contained. It was the ten thousand named things in the Tao Te Ching’s universe and then ten thousand more. Her love was full-throated and all-encompassing and unadorned. Every day she blew through her entire reserve.” ~ Cheryl Strayed.

And this is mine:

“What a gift we were given.

To know you.

To be known by you.

To love you.

To be so loved by you.

 

What a curse we bear.

To know your loss.

To feel your magic fade.

To live in agony.

To carry your light on.

 

What a contradiction we live in.

This gift.

This curse.

That love your love connects.”

~ J

2015 ~ A Quick Note

Now that I’ve let the Blog sit in silence for months…I figured it was at least time for a quick short update of sorts. The Holiday season of 14′ was pretty busy & I spent most of it laid up in bed sick as a dog! Not my favorite way to kick back. I spent my sick Holidays in Alaska with Shaun & my Alaska people. Other than being essentially deathly ill, it was a pretty good time.

Mid January found me headed to Asheville NC to be part of a higher level WildernessFusion class – they needed people with immune system problems to use as teaching. River & Shaun went with me for support. Lorien & her wonderful Mother Barbara stopped by for the night to get a quick visit in. It was short but very sweet!

I spent some time in Ocean City with Shaun and his newly acquired Blue Heeler ~ Dusty. River is officially getting a pack on each coast. I’ve also started getting some dog training clients outside of Anchorage – which is quite helpful for the travel budget. Mid February River and I flew back to Alaska for dog work and friends that were visiting. It was an action packed – social extravaganza  – adventure filled 10 days with great people!

As I write this now, I’m flying back to the East Coast for a week for my quarterly WildernessFusion class. Shaun picks me up from the airport in DC and I get a couple of days before I drive to NY. Due to work in Anchorage, I literally only stay a week on the Eastern Seaboard before flying back to Alaska – where I also will only stay a week (its spring break in AK which means doggie care is in high demand) since I have commitments back on the East Coast! Whew. River is riding out the week in Alaska since it is so much bouncing around. She is not thrilled.

That’s all I can hash out while on a Plane flying over the states at the moment.

~ J

November 12th Has Come Again

It is Mom’s Birthday today. As I have already said in years past – it is often a rewrite about how much she meant. How much I (and everyone) misses her. How much she is still loved. I don’t have much in the way of ‘new’ to write about. She would be 56 today. She should be here. Receiving love from her family – close and afar. And like all the other years, she is not. I could rail on and on about the unfairness of it all. I know people older than me that still have ALL their Grandparents, not just their parents. I cannot tell you that it is easier now that more than a few years have past. That any of the grief is less or that the hole in ones’ chest is suddenly smaller. All I can tell you is that the older I get, the more I understand just how amazing my Mother was. How much of who I am is because of her. How growing up with her has given me the expectation that people are so much more than they ever let themselves be and sadly – often are.

I doubt I will ever sit down on November 12th and think ‘It’s okay she isn’t here’. But even the first year and every one after, I have thought every day – not just on her birthday, that I am grateful in the most sincere way of what time I did get. I don’t really know how that can be, when I would give anything, including my own life to have her here to live a full lifetime. But it is. I don’t have much else to say this Birthday other than this short – rather poorly written poem about her.

 

One Moment or a Hundred within everyday

I see something that is you

Hear something that is you

Feel something that is you.

 

The color Red

So passionate and alive

A Cardinal’s call

Warm and protective.

 

A Dragonfly

The guide of your heart

A light in the dark

The joys in change.

 

The Autumn Leaves

Flashing colors that you danced among

Fires of the heart and soul

Nature’s celebration of your birth.

 

Waterfalls on the landscape

The heights which you climbed

The mist on your hair

The simple delights.

 

Music in the air

Flutes whispering

Drums dancing a primal beat

Loons calling to the heart.

 

My Mother had such a way about her, sometimes the memories feel like dreams themselves ~J

 

Back From Europe – A Quick Update

I have been stateside for a few days now – I can finally get my brain settled enough to do an update tonight! I (obviously) survived my trip to Europe with the Gardners. No fevers or muggings were had. A train or two may have been missed but not the planes! I did get patted down in the France airport (like searched – hands in uncool places) while Kathy & Dave just waltz through..I clearly looking threatening here with the freckles and pants that used to fit and now are just über baggy…

The trip was AMAZING. I am so, so beyond THANKFUL to Kathy & Dave for taking me with them and making this possible. I also very grateful to Kathy’s Sister and her Husband for allowing to stay and showing us around.

We arrived in Paris – and then on to London after a subway and then train through the Chunnel just in time for ‘Dinner’. We  had left Chicago around 8pm the day before! I fell asleep before dinner and then woke up at 1am (London time). I finally figured out that the strange bird calls I was hearing were the Jackdaws (within the Corvidae family – looks similar to a crow) and the wild Ringneck Pheasant. We stayed in England for about 8 days. During that time pubs were visited, the Stonehenge was experienced, a Castle strolled around, the Highlands explored with the help of Kathy & Dave’s Nephew and lets not forget London.. Tink’s a Disney whore – that place is intense! Pictures and details are coming…at some point in the future. Monday Morning after a rather packed weekend found the 3 of us dashing with our luggage in the London Underground on our way back to Paris. Once checked into the Hotel (not as easy when all the signs are in French) we strolled out into the French night to check out the Louvre (weird triangle building that the De Vinci Code talks about). It was pretty cool. The next morning had us up early and on the cobblestones hunting breakfast out. The entire day was spent on foot (and occasionally subway) touring about in the older part of Paris. Notre Damn was visit – well worth it I might add. Crepes consumed and plenty of coffee to fuel the weary. Before dinner, we did the Eiffel Tower during a rain/wind storm..in the dark… Was quite exciting. Dinner was wolfed down. Desert followed later at another vendor with Irish Coffees (really strong ones I might add). It was late upon return to the hotel – I was unable to fall asleep so I started the journey back to the states in traditional Joannie Miller style – totally sleep deprived. 6am came quickly (I just simply got up – was already awake) and the trials of travel started anew. Almost 12 hours of flying (I barely slept) had us in Sunny San Francisco – it was disgustingly hot. Customs and then a packed flight to Seattle – an hours worth of down time and back on the plane again finally landing in Anchorage around 10:30pm. 28 since the flight from Paris officially took off. It was a tad surreal!

The trials of travel were well worth it. I cannot say I wanted to come back…I was ready to set out backpacking and see more! I think my body was grateful to be in a less crowded place with cleaner air though…

Since being back, I’ve only begun to realized how ‘peopled out’ I am. As a fairly introverted person who really likes her quiet and ‘alone’ time – Europe is a fucking populated place! Other than some texts and as minimal phone conversations as possible – I’ve been hiding from Humanity. Dave had to go on a work trip and then Kathy left two days later – so I even have had the whole place to myself the past 2 days. I interacted with dogs and their people only!

Hopefully I will sort through all the pictures in a timely fashion (one can dream anyway) and post them with the details of the adventures!

~J

Leaving for the U.K

I leave for Europe with Kathy & Dave G today (Saturday). Over 24 hours of flying, layovers, trains and such before we arrive in London. We’ll spend a few days in and around the London area, a visit or two to the countryside – maybe even the coast! Then it’s off to Paris for a few days before we come back into the states. I’ll be gone until the 22nd. All the dogs will be boarded (much to their chagrin) during the travels. River has been alternating between super clingy and pissed. Explaining to a demanding dachshund that overseas travel isn’t something she can just ‘come along for’ is not going particularly well. I can probably expect the silent treatment upon my return…

I’m excited for the trip (maybe not the large amount of time sitting in uncomfortable seats) and feel pretty damned humbled that I get to join Kathy and Dave. In some ways I feel rather undeserving (okay, most ways), that would just be one of the ‘images’ that I am working on. I expect I’ll take entirely too many pictures, sample more beers than maybe I need and try to bring more rocks than my pockets can carry back with me. Since this is a short trip – I just plan on soaking in what I can and plotting my next extended visit. No rushing about and trying to fit 1000 things into a few days.

I wish I could say I’m all ‘packed’ and ready to go..but that would be a lie. At this point in the game, I do have clean clothes at least to pack with! Stocked my e-reader up with books (this is infinitely more important than clean clothes) and have my cameras ready go. Packing for trips is all about priorities. Reading material should always be high on the list!

Here’s to the next adventure along the journey ~ J

What I Haven’t Said ~ Horses

Many people have commented over the years that I don’t share much about the horses – and with the one exception of when I was living in Maryland, attempting to possibly make a go of it one last time – this true. It was simply too painful to write about them. Things went skewed for my plans with the horses and farm, but my time on the Eastern Shore was priceless in terms of experiences and events that led on to other ones. Once it became clear that at this point in my life, there just isn’t a place for me to work with horses (and be able to support my own). It was time to change focus. Accepting that, I slowly started the mental process of selling my Andalusian mare and finding a more permanent boarding place/home for my beloved older horse Domino. These things are hard in person, and 4 time zones away and strained communication with family made things 100x more difficult. I don’t really want to go into the details, but after months of attempting to have conversations with family members starting in the late Spring – I learned in mid July that my Father had sold all the horses, tack, and associated equipment. I can logically understand that it was time for the horses to be sold. My issue with Dad is not that he sold the horses, but how he sold them, the fact that he didn’t tell me beforehand, didn’t let me know after, and then had everyone else in the family keep it a secret. For weeks. Again, I’ve no desire to go into the details (I am sure I have already upset a few people by now as it is), but to say that this didn’t affect me – is a huge understatement. See, my mare Domino I had since she was about 4 years old. Or to put in terms you may know – since I was around 12 years old (possibly younger). This horse SHAPED how I approached all other horses and eventually their people. Domino is the main reason I got into horse training. Domino is why I learned more about equine psychology than any other type of area I could have spent my teenage years pursuing. Domino was my best friend, when the human world didn’t understand. I had Domino longer than my best friend Lorien and I have known each other… And I didn’t even get to say goodbye. By the time I tracked down the man who had bought the horses (no one in my family was forthcoming with this information due to reasons still unexplained to me) – he had already auctioned her off to somewhere in VA. I cannot explain the heartbreak and distress the weeks during and after these events brought me.

Even now, months later, I have little to say to my Dad. I love him, always will. But I have little to say to him now. I don’t expect most people to understand, nor do I need them to. The way he handled the events following his selling of the horses just doesn’t lend to a casual conversation over the phone or a ‘nice’ family visit on my part. He rationalized that due to me spending next to no time at the farm or with the horses, it somehow wouldn’t bother me. He couldn’t have been more wrong. My time at the farm and in TN is clearly a thing of the past. People move on, and often to places you cannot be in.

My last horse – Mikka – who was originally Mom’s horse is safely being boarded long-term with the Myerson family (who have been beyond amazing in helping me with her and all things that involve TN). She will stay with them as long as it works for them or more subtle place for her becomes apparent. As the last living animal that my Mother dearly loved, I will not give her up (unless it is because I can no longer safely care for her) even though horses don’t seem to have a place in my life anymore. She is very well cared for and living with horses she knows, and gets to spend time with people who genuinely enjoy her. I couldn’t ask for a better home away from me. As one of my Mother’s good friends – Barbara gets a lot out of having her as well. For all of this I thankful.

At this point in my life I have my faithful companion River, and make sure Mikka is getting what she needs. All my other animals are gone, some in the most heartbreaking of ways. Everything about who I used to be as a horse person is gone. Even my saddle. After the way this went down, I cannot say if I’ll ever try my hand with horses (outside of Mikka) again. To not even get to say goodbye to one of my most loved animals of all time – is particularly devastating to me. This experience, like many others – is just another painful part of my life that I hide behind pretty pictures and book quotes. Because in the end, it is mostly just I who cares, and will still feel this loss and lack of consideration years from now. This is another of those ‘what I haven’t said’ events.

~J