Processing Montana

The pond at the ranch at sunrise, before I went for a run.

I’m back from my time at the Haven Writing Retreat. I’m sure I’ll be digesting this experience for a long while. I ended up there on pure instinct. It’s been years since I called myself a writer, at least the sort of writer who goes on writing retreats. I imagine those sorts of writers to be working towards publication, or at least working on a specific project. I’m doing neither. I chanced across the description online, registered the location and that all levels of writers were welcome, and felt I needed to go. I had many reasons not to–distance, expense, timing, and a nagging feeling that I was being selfish. We’re all familiar with those excuses, I think. But I listened to my instinct. I kept in touch with that voice, which had no supporting arguments but was insistent. It just said, GO.

Haven was transformative, and much needed at this particular time in my life. I knit out in Montana nature, I hiked, I ran through the misty sunrise, I spent time with women of all ages, and yes, I wrote. On the first night, we were asked to share our intention for coming on the retreat. This was mine:

My intention is to be far from home and everyone I know and see what comes out, given space, time, and distance.

Some amazing words came out.

While there, I also took advantage of a couple of optional activities, a guided hike and a session with horses. We weren’t riding; it was all ground work with the horses–and grounding work for the humans. In other words, equine therapy. Before getting back to the focus of this site–art, creativity, and projects–I want to share something I wrote after my time with the horses. The riding crop is used to define our personal space to the horse, and “B” was our guide with the horses.

I step out into the ring, riding crop in hand. I face the closest horse and move my arm from side to side. I hear B say, “I’m going to help you.”

“Why?” I want to do it myself. I keep my eyes on the horse but feel her come up behind me. She presses close, her right hand on mine, holding the crop, her left on my waist.

“Breathe in and relax. Let go.” I soften. The horse notices. B moves my hand from side to side with firm motions and then steps back as I carry on myself. The horse moves back. I move forward, arm still swinging. The horse turns and moves faster. I stride toward the next horse.

“You too,” I say. “Move.” The horse moves. I feel the power in me, the force of my intention, pouring out through my swinging arm. Back and forth with the crop as I broadcast: This is my space. This is my boundary. As I stride forward purposefully, the horses respond, always staying beyond my boundary. Soon all five horses are trotting in a circle around the arena before me. It’s fluid. I feel the grin on my face. It radiates through every surface of my body–my entire self smiles. I am in control of these horses.

After I’ve circled the arena a few times, B tells me to stop in the middle, take a deep breath, and lower the crop. The horses continue to move around me, powerful, but their power still under command of my intention. I stand at the calm center, still grinning, observing what my firm intention has produced: five thousand pounds of powerful equine flesh moving in controlled rhythm because of me, as I stand fearless in the middle, loose and happy.

16 thoughts on “Processing Montana

  1. karen

    wow! what a wonderful treat (retreat) for yourself. As mothers we instinctively put our wants and needs last in the family so i bet you felt indulgent while at this retreat :)

    1. amy Post author

      One of the best parts was not having to cook or clean up or even THINK about food. The couple that prepared the food was so, so cognizant of my intolerances and allergies (I have celiac + some other issues), and I never once worried that I’d accidentally eat something I shouldn’t. For someone with food issues that is a tremendous gift, especially when away from home.

  2. donna lee

    What a powerful piece that is. I can see you standing there exuding power. I think we all need to feel that way and life doesn’t give us the chance very often (especially mothers). You are amazing and wonderful and I’m glad you got to see that part of yourself. Now to translate that to real life.

    1. amy Post author

      Thank you Donna Lee, and yes, that’s the challenge. I very much needed to feel in control; I’ve spent much of the past year coming to terms with lack of control.

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