Freeze and Thaw

Daily Prompt: Fight or Flight

Write about your strongest memory of heart-pounding, belly-twisting nervousness: what caused the adrenaline? Was it justified? How did you respond?

~*~

As someone who’s spent her life surviving the slings and arrows of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the point of almost burning out my adrenal glands, I suppose I could speak volumes on this subject.

To the overwhelmed nervous system almost anything can trigger the heart-pounding, belly-twisting nervousness of the adrenal rush … and not in a good way.

My adrenalin responses have rarely been justified, but when you grow up  feeling constantly under threat of something you lose sight of what constitutes an appropriate adrenal response. Not that you’re even in control of it. It just is, stimulated by whatever trigger pokes its way into a painful point of subconscious memory.

A life time of living in chronic survival mode is hard on the adrenal glands. (As is a life spent chugging down energy drinks, but that’s a discussion for another day.) They do burn out, and chronic anxiety is one of the results. Until I became aware of what was happening beneath the surface of my anxiety there was no way I could change it.

This awareness was finally raised during a trip to Sarajevo in March 2009, when the war-wounded city reflected the incredibly deep wounds of my own emotional trauma. Anxiety attacks in benign circumstances triggered three flight and freeze reactions during our one-week stay, reactions over which I had no control. Since we were travelling with a group of virtual strangers there was the added stress of shame attached to it.

Yes, you need to know that freezing is also a response to trauma.

In simple, primitive terms, this is when prey under pursuit will drop to the ground and play dead so the predator will lose interest and leave them alone.

My freeze ~ the clamp of anxiety. The desperate need to getaway without knowing where is safe to go. Stuck. Immovable. Traumatized. Invisible. On a continuous playback loop.

Since Sarajevo it’s taken years of therapy to get my frozen emotional core to finally thaw. The experience is a bit like the sensation of regaining feeling in your hands and feet after a bout of frost bite. Years of frozen feelings melt into a stinging liquid form. The pain all too present … but it must be felt to be acknowledged and, ultimately, released.

I’m reminded of the time I attended an NFL game in Buffalo with my ex-husband and his family, maybe 20 years ago. It was December, 15 below and snowing, and I was not dressed properly for the occasion. By the fourth quarter I was in the first aid room with thermal blankets wrapped around frozen feet (and a husband angered by the fact he’d had to miss that last quarter).

The agony of the thaw was indescribable. There were a few moments there where I felt like I’d rather die than endure the grief of feeling my limbs come back to life. However, once the worst of it had passed, and I could feel my feet and hands again, the pain of the experience became nothing more than a passing memory. I can recall the incident now as the source for a funny story or, for that matter, a teaching moment.

Feelings that come up while thawing are painful, but they must be felt in order for us to be completely free of them.

The first step, however, is awareness.

I learned ~ through psychotherapy, naturopathy, hormone therapy, equine therapy and other important sources ~ that the freeze response, which had become my go-to place when overwhelmed by circumstances beyond my control (rooted in early childhood trauma), had created a debilitating life pattern affecting mind, body and spirit.

I learned that what we harbour in the way of resentment, fear, jealousy and the like becomes our master and we its slave, and that this plays out in our lives in unhappy and insidious ways. Panic/anxiety attacks, addiction, lashing out or anything else that numbs the mind, body and spirit are all manifestations of the freeze response triggered by overwhelming events.

As horrible as those anxiety-ridden moments in Sarajevo were for me, they taught me it was time to be honest with myself and seek help. The kind of help that would allow the thaw, the healing, to begin and bring to life again the parts of me that had been playing dead.

Freezing was how I’d made myself invisible. If I was invisible, no one could see me; no one would abandon, reject, abuse or hurt me ever again. In the process I had become stuck in the pattern of abandoning, rejecting, abusing and hurting myself. It had to stop.

It’s been almost six years since my rigorous, sometimes hellish and incredibly cleansing journey began. A veritable trip through the refiner’s fire. Still, if I had to choose between who I am now and who I was before the thaw began, there’s no doubt what I’d do. Even knowing how tough it’s been I’d go through it all again to unearth my truth and free myself of the pain that had frozen me in chaos.

My heart and mind are open; my adrenal glands are functioning more optimally and thus my nervous system is becoming more robust. I’m finally able to live my life more on my terms. I’ve learned to live in the moment; to leave the past behind and to allow the future to be what it will be.

Finally, I feel free to be me.

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

~*~

Useful resources:
Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers: The acclaimed guide to stress, stress-related diseases and coping ~ Robert M. Sapolsky
Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma ~ Peter A. Levine
Riding Between The Worlds: Expanding our Potential Through the Way of the Horse ~ Linda Kohanov
In An Unspoken Voice: How the body releases trauma and restores goodness ~ Peter A. Levine
Mindsight: The new science of personal transformation ~ Dr. Dan Siegel
Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome ~ James L. Wilson

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

Music Never Dies

 

fog
Credit: Favim

~*~

Abandoned in the woods of my mind

The music I used to make.

The songs I used to sing.

The choral symphonies and

A cappella wonders that resonated

So deeply at the time I could never

Imagine my life without them.

Then life happened.

A new chapter unfolded.

A change of direction.

The company of composers

Receded to the heart chamber ~

Gone, but not forgotten

So that when the music played again

Every note; ever nuance

Every syllabic turn

Emerged from the foggy forest of my mind

To live and lighten again.

The pleasure of musical moments

Shared and memories of

Glorious music made live as though

Created yesterday.

But then, I realize, the music we inhabit

Never dies ~ it simply dwells

And resonates in every

Cell of our being to live another

Day, to uplift or

Devour the spirit according to

Our desire. Of course, only the

Heart knows the

Difference.

~*~

Music has always been an important part of my life.

I’m a singer. A soprano. Not of the operatic variety ~ that’s been done in my family. No, I’m a soprano hybrid, I guess I’d say. A little bit of everything.

For 12 years I sang second soprano in the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir ~ Toronto’s esteemed symphonic chorus ~ and loved every minute of it. The rehearsals, the performances, the way 180 people from different walks of life could all come together and create music magic together. Swept away by Brahms, Mozart, Beethoven, Faure, Vaughan Williams, Gabrieli and so many more of the classical and modern repertoire ~ for those moments our troubles disappeared as we focused our minds and hearts on giving voice to music that never dies.

I sang Handel’s Messiah 60-plus times. I know the soprano line (solo and choral) in my sleep. Every Christmas we go to hear the Choir and symphony perform this incredible oratorio and the part of my heart where this slice of heaven dwells opens up and I feel the joy of its presence in my life once more.

And this is so for many, many more wonders of the choral repertoire I had the privilege to perform.

But it doesn’t stop there.

All the music I’ve ever experienced in my life ~ opera, jazz, country, rock, blues, bluegrass, folk, R&B ~ resonates within and reflects who I am.

To me, the type of music we invite in to inhabit our world is every bit as important as the books we read and the people we choose to associate with. It colours who we are and our life experience.

I have heard of people who choose to live their lives without music and I am, frankly, floored by this notion. Still, each of us must walk their own path and live according to the dictates of our own hearts.

Among the music I miss singing the most is a cappella. To me, little can match the purest form of the human voice. “Hear My Prayer, O Lord” by English Baroque composer, Henry Purcell (1659-1695) has long been one of my favourite a cappella pieces, and the first time I sang it with the Mendelssohn Choir it moved me to tears. If you would like to experience this short piece, click here. It’s lovely and meditative for a Sunday morning.

I realize it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I love it. It’s part of who I am and one of those things that reminds me how good it is to be alive.

And as long as I am alive this music will live in me.

Thanks for stopping by …

Dorothy

~*~

1477384_696513200380722_443439577_nPrompted by Kellie Elmore’s Free Write Friday.

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

A Simple Message

This post is written in response to a challenge offered by Lana of Living with Post Concussion Syndrome. Please take a moment to visit her inspiring blog.

The challenge: What Dreams Are Made Of … For this writing event, share a dream or two that’s had a great effect ~ even after waking.

~*~

Full moon

I always pay attention to my night time dreams. I write them down. Review the more dynamic ones with my therapist to find the meaning and application to my life. The subconscious has a lot to say and I want to know what it is.

There have been a few times in my life ~ when I was at my most distressed, as it happens ~ when my dreams have actually proven to be of some comfort.

The first one I recall occurred when I was 12 years old.

I was staying at my grandmother’s at the time and one night had gone to bed quite distressed. A much anticipated trip to a farm to see horses and make a new friend had been cancelled at the last minute by my second cousin who had arranged the excursion. Her husband wasn’t able to go so they’d decided to postpone and arrange to go another time.

I was grief-stricken, sobbing myself to sleep on the couch that served as my bed for the two months of that summer at granny’s trailer home. Inconsolable, actually. Burdened heavily by my life in survival mode (though I didn’t know it at the time) I looked at the chance to be with horses, and maybe even ride, as an escape from the unhappy circumstances in which I found myself.

During the night, a dream. Nothing elaborate. A simple message. An angel, it seems to me, appeared as an ethereal, comforting presence and a gentle voice spoke the words “everything will be alright.”

The next morning I awoke feeling much better; my heart lighter. I recall getting off the couch and going over to my grandmother, who was making breakfast in the galley kitchen, and telling her about my dream and how I felt that everything would, indeed, be okay.

Within moments the telephone rang. Granny answered. It was for me.

It was my cousin. She had changed her mind. We were going to the farm after all. Her husband could go another time.

To this young distraught girl it was a total miracle. Just as the voice in my dream had spoken, everything was going to be alright.

We did go to the farm. I did spend time with, and ride, the horses. And I met a girl the same age whose friendship I would enjoy until several years later when life got in the way.

It has occurred to me since that my grandmother, realizing how distraught I was by the change of plans, may have called my cousin after I went to bed and asked her to reconsider. And that it might have been her standing over me in the night, the angel that she was, with a reassuring voice telling me everything was going to be okay.

It doesn’t matter how it transpired. I have never forgotten those gentle and oh, so important words ~ words that have comforted, guided and consoled ever since, during times of sorrow, grief, uncertainty and pain. At times that simple message was the only thing I had to hold on to, giving me the strength and the understanding to know that whatever happened I would be fine.

In recent years I have come to admire the supremely talented Canadian singer/songwriter Jacob Moon who, a few years ago, penned a song called, believe it or not, “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright.” When I first heard it I was reduced to tears by its simple melody and moving words. Jacob had put to music the song in my heart. Now whenever I hear it I am moved to remember that moment, long ago, when a simple message comforted the heart of a distraught young girl. Words I continue to lean on as my life unfolds and realize that in my trials I am not alone.

Here’s a link to Jacob Moon performing “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” via YouTube. Please take a moment to listen and hear the beautiful words.

Thanks for visiting. And thank you, Lana, for the opportunity to share this special moment from my life …

Dorothy

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

Giving Voice to Anger

God's GrandeurAt this middle-age stage of life I wonder: “Is there time left for me to see and be my truth?”

Recently, at therapy, a discussion around anger. My anger suppressed and turned inward.

Emotionally-abandoned as a child, my MO became to hold all my hurt and anger in so as not to create any more reasons for the adults in my life to walk away.

When certain adults abused my trust I, as any child would, turned that inside and found fault with myself.

Of course, as I grew older I learned to understand that being in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people when one is an innocent is not a fault. It just is. If we are fortunate enough to survive we continue on our life path, however diverted, the best we can until we find our compass once again and can move on.

Still, for many years I paid the price for others’ delusions. As the perps walked off into their miserable sunset I was left with a heap of baggage for which I didn’t ask. For years I struggled to find a way to walk my path with my head held high while bearing the additional burden of a heavy, uncertain heart.

All the while I held my anger. I turned it inside. Beat myself up. Disguised my pain with the quest for perfection demanding nothing less of myself. Nothing I did was ever good enough. I lived in a constant state of needy anxiety, expending my precious energy making good for everyone but myself.

Well, in recent years this has stopped for the most part. My guided journey to self-awareness has helped me to release a lot of the baggage and, to some degree, lifted the weight off my heart.

Perhaps now it is safe to express my anger in a wholesome and healing way. And perhaps by learning to freely express my anger I will finally secure my voice.

We’ll see …

 

Anger

The beginning of anger

Where does it start?

The abyss of the mind?

The depths of the heart?

Where does it live

When we can’t set it free,

When we turn it inside

So that no one will see?

~*~

Say nothing, I beg you,

No, don’t let them know

Don’t give them another

Bad reason to go.

~*~

So, down I suppress it

Down, down somewhere deep

Where no one will venture.

Still, I feel it creep

Like a deep-sea diversion

Off balance and old,

That feeds my self-loathing ~

My soul feeling sold.

~*~

Dark is this truth that

Resides deep within,

My anger derived

From another man’s sin.

The choices he made;

The energy he stole;

A childhood lost

Made this adult less whole.

~*~

Give voice to my anger?

Oh yes, it is time,

Through essay or story;

Through free verse or rhyme.

Free of the burden

Free of the pain

The loss of this misery

Surely my gain.

~*~

Thanks for visiting.

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

 

 

 

 

#FWF: Spirit Bear

A girl after my own heart!

Source: We Heart It
Source: We Heart It

(This image is so full of meaning for me I hardly know where to begin.)

~*~

There are no coincidences. This is something in which I have firmly believed for some time. For good, or ill, life gives us what we need to learn and develop as spiritual beings in a mortal experience. It also makes available the tools we need to negotiate each challenge. It is up to us to be open of mind and heart so we can recognize them when they appear.

Here’s an example from my own life.

As all who follow this blog will know I have a horse whose registered name is “Shakespeare.” This is a beautiful and meaningful name in its own way, however it’s a bit cumbersome as an every day name at the barn.

So, while I was waiting for him to come home for the first time nearly eight years ago, I spent a bit of time noodling over what name I could give him that would evoke his larger than life personality, cuddly nature and solid physical form.

The name “Bear” came to mind fairly quickly. My home is populated with several collectible bears, and “Bear” includes a letter formulation of “ShakespEARe.” On the surface it made perfect sense, so I soon decided this was going to be his barn name.

Still, I had no idea of the deeper meaning to be held here.

During my trauma-filled childhood I comforted myself with stuffed bears. I’ve always had them around me. I guess they are, and always have been, a totem of some kind.

A couple of months after Bear came home and while I was studying natural horsemanship, I was introduced to the idea of the bear’s spiritual meaning. When I considered the trajectory of my life and the healing that was already in progress, things began to make sense.

According to www.spiritanimal.info the bear can be described spiritually as follows:

Bear Meaning

The bear has several meanings that will inspire those who have this animal as totem: 

  1. The primary meaning of the bear spirit animal is strength and confidence
  2. Standing against adversity; taking action and leadership
  3. The spirit of the the bear indicates it’s time for healing or using healing abilities to help self or others
  4. The bear medicine emphasizes the importance of solitude, quiet time, rest
  5. The spirit of the bear provides strong grounding forces

~*~

Let’s look at the list again and how it relates to my experience.

The advent of my horse, Bear, acknowledged a significant time of healing in my life (no. 3). A time where I’ve had to go to ground (no. 5) and practice solitude and get rest (no. 4). Doing this has brought a greater sense of self-awareness and helped me to reclaim my life. Mr. Bear, as he is often called, has helped me to find the strength I need (no. 1) to smile in the face of adversity (no. 2) as I take action to manage, and heal from, the traumas released by therapy. And he’s helped me to find the confidence (no. 1) I need to move into a new and exciting phase of personal growth.

Bear is an incredible catalyst for positive change. I throw my arms around his neck and thank him every day for the beautiful healing role he plays in my life.

Is it a coincidence my beautiful dream-come-true should attract a name that represents healing on so many levels? I think not.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, our passion ~ whether it’s golf, sailing, horses, knitting, music or whatever ~ is our teacher. At a deeper level it speaks a language that touches our hearts and can heal us. All we need to do is choose to listen and respond in ways that lift us up, not tear us, or our passion, down.

My teacher, my catalyst for positive change is my horse ~ my Spirit Bear.

I am blessed.

Bear and me
Bear and me

~*~

This is my response to this week’s free writing challenge with Kellie Elmore. Slightly off the beaten track, but I don’t question these things in a free writing format. 😉

Thank you for stopping by,

Dorothy

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

Traces of Them; Traces of Me

Traces of Them

We are admonished by some that history belongs in the past. And perhaps it does.

I’m here to offer, however, that we ignore history at our peril, especially as it pertains to our family. The people who preceded us were shaped by world events and their experiences. How they were shaped, shapes us.

I believe that if we are to be able to move forward positively with our lives, and leave history behind, it is important to examine the past, how it effects us, and make peace with it.

Allow me to demonstrate, albeit scratching the surface, with my own experience.

~*~

I am well acquainted with my family history.

After a considerable amount of time spent in my early 20s researching through old family documents, records libraries and history books (in the days before the Internet, I might add), and with the help of professional genealogists, I managed to trace branches of my family tree back to the Middle Ages. Perhaps, more importantly, I began to see the ancestral story that is the backdrop to my life and learn to appreciate, for good or ill, its impact on me.

I began to recognize the sources of prejudice and the pain, of strength and courage. Began to see the talents and traits that had passed down the generations and landed on my doorstep. Ideas, beliefs and emotions that had been programmed into me and that I could examine, accept (or reject) according to my own sense of truth.

This is the story in a nutshell. You’ll likely notice some recurring themes:

My illustrious German and English ancestors settled in New England in the late 1600s, and made lives as magistrates, farmers and politicians. At the time of the American Revolution my branch of the family tree sided with the British (United Empire Loyalist (UEL)) and fought with the notorious Butler’s Rangers. With all their lands and possessions confiscated the remaining family walked from Poughkeepsie, NY, to Niagara, Ontario (Upper Canada at the time) to start a new life. My direct line ancestor was the first white settler in Middlesex County (the area now known as London).

Irish PastoralA couple of generations down the road this family linked up with my Irish ancestors who, in the 1850s, fled the effects of the great potato famine to start a new life as farmers in southern Ontario. My Irish great, great grandmother is purported to have been mad (which looks about right when I consult the old photo in the family archives). Her mental instability left its mark on my great grandfather who grew up to be a rather unpleasant man. The upside ~ being Irish, of course, music was part of the way of life so wherever they settled they became a part of the local music scene. In northern Michigan, where they were farmers for a time, they proudly played in the local brass bands.

A generation or two later, in the late 1800s, the family left Michigan and trekked west across the northern US, helping to build the Great Northern Railway along the way. Eventually they settled in Montana, where the railroad ended, and successfully ran a railroad cafe. My great aunt Margaret, an artist in her own right, studied painting with iconic Western painter, Charles Russell. (A little name dropping never hurts. 😉 ) Her natural forté, however, was apple sculpture.

Around 1920 my great grandparents headed north to Canada, settling in southern Alberta. My great grandfather owned a barber shop and pool hall in town as well as farmed. They did well for a few years before losing everything during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl of the 30s. This took a terrible emotional and financial toll from which they, and their three teenage sons, including my grandfather, never fully recovered. They, like many other families in the area, moved hundreds of miles to northern Alberta to clear more land and start again. Music was the main social outlet and a positive focal point in a home filled with strife. My grandfather, a charismatic (mad) drifter, could play any instrument you handed him.

Alberta PrairieIn the early 1920s my genteel Scottish great grandparents, well into middle age, left their comfortable life in Glasgow, Scotland, to give their eight children a chance at a better life in Canada. (My great grandfather was a retired soldier in the Black Watch.) With a 100-acre land grant from the Canadian government at their disposal they made the uncomfortable journey by boat across the pond and then by train across the prairies to begin a new life as homesteaders in northern Alberta. (I am told that my great grandmother once confessed that if she’d known how hard the life was going to be she would have stayed in Scotland.)

It was a rude awakening from Old World charm to New World insanity ~ clearing fields, building barns and log homes, battling hungry mosquitoes in the summer and enduring long and fiercely cold winters. It was a difficult life that tested the family in many ways. My grandmother, an independent spirit and therefore considered the “black sheep” of the family, adored her horse and sang like a bird. She married the charismatic (mad) musician of Irish descent and endured 27 years of emotional abuse before leaving him and striking out to successfully rebuild her own life. It was at this time she discovered her talent for oil painting. (Theirs is a compelling story that I started to put in a novel some time ago. I might finish it one day.)

They had one daughter, my mother, who excelled as a singer and miraculously found her place on the international operatic stage based in London, England, which is where I grew up. You’d have to know her parents’ story to understand why it was such a miracle she had this career. I wish she’d write a memoir.

My Hungarian roots were planted in southern Alberta in the 1920s. Peasant stock seeking a new life in a new land. Hardworking but dysfunctional. My nagymama was not allowed to learn English. I recall, however (and I only saw her twice when I was a little girl) she had a lovely productive garden, was a wonderful cook and created the most beautiful lace work. Still, like my other grandmother, hers was a troubled marriage. Nagypapa was a troubled soul. My father ran away from home when he was 14. He became writer; a musician; jack of all trades and master of none. A deadbeat dad. (Though I doubt he’d ever see it that way. If he ever disputes me on this I’ll be happy to engage.)

~*~

Again, this is the tip of the iceberg but, perhaps, you notice the general themes: a lot of starting over; a lot of emotional and financial hardship. Good, hardworking, industrious people with their share of trials and tribulations. People of courage, strength and character. Music, the panacea; the source of joy, of laughter and relief.

Traces of Me

And here I am ~ a veritable melting pot of all of this, plus everything I brought to the world, plus all the things I’ve experienced since I was born.

The marvellous thing is that understanding my family’s story has helped me to understand myself.

Dance Like No One's Watching
Dance Like No One’s Watching by Dorothy Chiotti

Coming from a long line of musicians, artists and writers has been a great blessing. I have sung in one of the world’s great symphonic choirs. Performed in my own vocal group and recorded three CDs. I have been a commissioned animal portrait artist and produced a number of veil paintings. I have written all my life and presently pour my creative focus into the writer’s path.

I have a passion for the land because it is in my blood. We were never city people. My passion for horses rises from this love of the land.

Several years ago, while I was going through divorce, I had an intense dream about my ancestors and awoke in the early morning to write a 20-page journal entry about family history. In the process I realized my purpose ~ to stop the pain. To give myself a chance of a new life unencumbered by the weight of the past. In the ensuing years I have worked tirelessly to make this happen.

As I have no children (my brother and I are the last twigs on this particular branch of our family tree) my focus must be to blossom to my full potential while reclaiming my right to thrive. To go out in a blaze of glory, honouring my place in the world while remembering those who came before and made my journey on the planet possible, is my sincere desire.

Me and BearI have worked extremely hard over the past several years to release the past, so the traces of me that live on in the lives of those I influence are positive, uplifting, meaningful and joyful.

My own journey of moving on and rebuilding a life is not, perhaps, the arduous geographic and physical challenge of my ancestors. Nevertheless it tests my mettle and proves my character, and it is my choice to reclaim the triumph of spirit demonstrated by generations past who lead me by their example.

My mother and late grandmother, each in their own way, escaped emotional tyranny to rebuild their lives on their terms. They are my inspiration as I continue to rebuild my life and endeavour to inspire and move, through art, music and the written word.

Traces of me leaving traces of inspiration in others.

At least, that is my wish.

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

Other Traces

WEEKLY WRITING CHALLENGE: FADING TRACES AND OLD MEMORIES | SERENDIPITY
Traces | Kansa Muse
Breadcrumbs | Master Of Disaster
The Art of War | K beezy is viral
Wet cement | Margaret Rose Stringer
She was a memory | thinkerscap
Traces: DP Challenge | Lead us from the Unreal to the Real
Arrogance Insults My Intelligence | Bumblepuppies
The Lavender Flowers | Stories From My Mind
Trace | MindMeld
Lavender and Rain | So This Is Writing?
Like Flowers on a Grave | loveletterstoaghost
Day Twenty-Four: Veteran At Death | Clearing My Voice
it’s veterans day | Musings of a Random Mind

#FWF Reprise: Childhood Gift … The Arab Tent by Henry Landseer

Free writing is a great exercise and a little more challenging when the memory is involved.

free-write-friday-kellie-elmoreAs mentioned in my last Free Write Friday post on the Childhood Gift, my childhood is very much a blur. During last week’s free writing exercise I couldn’t think of anything to share besides the bear story. Which is fine ~ it’s a nice story. Somehow, though, it left me feeling empty.

The fact is, my mother had given something of great meaning to me when I was a child (besides a roof over our heads, food at the table and a youth steeped in culture), but what it was I just could not recall through the fog of memory while trying to free write on the topic.

That was until a memory jogging discussion with my therapist on Tuesday reminded me of a special gift I still have and that means the world to me.

I’m actually surprised I didn’t think of it as it’s within eyeshot every day.

I don’t recall the exact age I received this thoughtful gift. Maybe nine years old. And I don’t even remember how it was given to me. Perhaps for my birthday.

When my mother toured with the opera company she would frequent antique shops in the various British cities she visited. She would often return home, after a few days away, with easily transportable items she hadn’t been able to resist, like old picture frames and glassware.

I didn’t pay this much mind until one day she presented me with a gold-leaf antique frame bearing a print of “The Arab Tent” by Edwin (Henry) Landseer (1802-1873). The beautiful print she purchased at the gift shop of the The Wallace Collection in London, where the original is on display.

The Arab Tent

This beautiful print of a grey Arabian mare and her bay colt sheltered in an Arab tent took pride of place on my bedroom wall throughout my formative years. Now, despite more life-altering physical moves than I care to remember during which I lost or misplaced many possessions, it somehow graces a wall in our family room.

I guess this print and I were  meant to be together for a lifetime. 🙂

The Arab Tent has become even more meaningful in recent years …

Before Bear arrived in my life I was part-boarding a beautiful grey thoroughbred mare called Murphy. For two years she felt like she was my horse and her owner was happy for me to treat her as such.

MurphyIn the spring of the second year, Murphy became quite ill. We didn’t know what was wrong with her and for several months she was on-again/off-again with work. By autumn she was dropping weight rapidly and a trip to the equine hospital was in order.

She arrived on a Thursday. Within a day and after several tests she was diagnosed with cancer of the peritoneum (lining of the heart). She was dropping weight by the minute. By Saturday she was dead; euthanized. There was no staying the tide of that terrible disease.

Her loss was devastating to me.

I took two weeks off from riding and then, determined to get back in the saddle, started riding school horses again.

Then, about a month later, my future husband suggested it was time to turn my life-long dream of having a horse into reality.

Three months later Bear entered our lives.

Going back to The Arab Tent for a moment, what amazes me is how prophetic this beautiful piece of art seems ~ like a mysterious foreshadowing of what was going to be.

My experience with the grey mare (Murphy) gave birth to the brown colt (Bear).

A kissI get goosebumps just thinking of it.

Now every time I gaze upon The Arab Tent in my family room, I am reminded  of these two beautiful horses that have graced and brought important meaning to my life, and how their coming was, seemingly, pre-destined.

All that remains is for me to view the original of The Arab Tent at The Wallace Collection. I hope that day comes soon.

God works in mysterious ways His wonders to perform. I’ve experienced enough of life so far to believe this with my whole heart.

You just never know the profound significance of a simple gift.

I’m so glad I remembered this piece of my life and my mother’s role in it.

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013