A very long time ago, I passed a man on a couch at Burning Man Festival. It was so late it was almost morning, and the sun had just begun to paint the edges of the mountains with the faintest of light. The man struck up a conversation. And as I warmed my hands at the small fire he had lit at the edge of the road, he told me something that has come back to haunt me more times then I would like to admit.
“You know” he said, hanging in the pause to build up the effect, “sometimes you have to plan your burn… and then burn your plan.”
In this rural, beautiful, messy, animal filled life- where some of the beautiful things you want to create never happen because you have to fix fences instead, and you show up at the grocery store wearing boots covered in muck no matter how hard you try to remember to change them- burning your plan is inevitable. And actually, I think it makes for more love filled creations most of the time. In being willing to let the universe lead the dance every now and then, we make space for magic to happen. And when we have magic, well then anything is possible. We do need a bit of a plan to start with, otherwise we would never get out of bed in the morning, a container and a direction in which to move. But then the more we can be open to running with what happens in the moment, the more our creations and actions can start to suddenly seem a little bigger than ourselves. And that’s always a good thing.
I run a horse and nature based teaching business called Mountain Horse School. This past week I ran 4 days of March Break camp for an amazing little group of kids. I was so proud of the design for this camp: I had found the most amazing natural art activities, and had planned everything out as far as two weeks ahead. But then I found I was unable to source one crucial item for each creation. Then the weather was freezing and that changed the plans I had made too, and one of my horses was terribly grumpy, and so I pulled him halfway through camp and let him watch from the bleachers. Given the circumstances, we did the only thing we could: we improvised.
My newest mare Besa (who is not yet trained to ride and was NOT part of the plan for camp) kept insisting she be included. On the last day as we were getting ready to do horse painting she asked again. I looked at her big black head hanging over the gate, and weighed my options and risks. I was doing something more than that too: I was feeling towards her and towards the empty space between us, to see what might want to happen out of the moment. The look in the mare’s eyes was definitely an invitation. Ok. I thought. The kids have enough horse sense that if something goes sideways, we will all be able to stay safe. We’ve been studying their behaviour and body language all week, and imagining our way into their thoughts. It might be neat to have them involved in the process of introducing Besa to something new.
Not only did Besa decide it was ok to be painted, she stood in a kind of trance, with a look on her face that I have only seen in horses who are very, very deeply concentrating on the work at hand. She didn’t even shiver her skin when the first wet blue brush touched her skin. And now, two days later, she has not rolled, and the colours shine brightly out from her white coat.
If you are driving out in the meadows this week and see a black and white horse with a brightly coloured wing, apple, and heart on her side, you are not losing your mind. You are seeing my plan as it has gone up in flames, and the much more beautiful genuine messy thing that has come in to take its place.