Saturday, September 6, 2008

Back In The Saddle

During a late night discussion with a friend and the subject of love our topic, it became obvious that each of us shared at least a few similar painful past experiences as well as a couple of insecurities. While our stories were different, the end result the same... we both have had relationships that didn't work out and left some residual heartache, but both agreed we gained much from said relationships and were thankful for the experience and the decisions and choices we've since made as a result from the learning and growth of those previous (deemed) failures. My friend was expressing a modicum of frustration with dates that had been less than honest. The idea being how can one get to know another person if there is a wall of lies between them.

My response was, "I think the wall of lies tells everything you would want to know about that person. Besides, I think it's difficult for many people to be honest with themselves so how could you expect them to be honest with you? How can they possibly show up 'real' in a relationship when they can't/aren't even real within? Even THEY do not know who they are!"

As far as insecurities go, do you know anyone who doesn't have at least a few? I guess it comes down to a simple question... are they willing to get back on the horse?

I was born and raised--for the most part--in Texas. When I was about 9 or 10 we moved out of town on a ranch. Besides the chickens and cows, we also had horses and pigs. Now consider this... prior to this moment in my life I was a city girl. We bought our eggs at the Piggly Wiggley and bacon from the butcher and until that summer didn't know anything about roosters and hens much less birds and bees. But what I did know is my step-father, Butch was his nickname, was a master horseman and to this day I've never seen anyone, short of the Olympic Equestrian Gold Medalists, who could be one with an animal like he could with a horse.

Well for some crazy reason he was determined that I would be good with horses too. I think he had me pegged as Isabella Bird, or at the least some sort of Rodeo Queen in the Cowgirl Hall of Fame. I rather liked the queen idea as it suited me, but rodeo? Lots of dirt and animal droppings... anyway, one hot summer afternoon Butch decided today was the day he would teach me to ride. Oh I’d ridden before—lots of times—right in front of him on the saddle with the wind blowing in my hair while he danced the horse around the arena. Lovely it was. But this! This was something entirely different. While my uncles and brothers perched the corral fence he plopped me up on this terribly ornery little horse that certainly didn't want to come out of the cool shade in the barn on a hot summer day, much less entertain a fence lined with whoop-em-up would-be cowboys. Nor did it seem did she want the precious future-Rodeo Queen slapped down on her bareback.

Butch seemed oblivious to this obvious scenario as he stood there giving me directions like some military sergeant and I, being green as you put it, trying to remember everything he said.

Back straight!
Head up!
Heels down.
Shoulders square.
Reins tight but comfortable.
Heels into sides of horse
... and whish!

She took off around the corral at a fast gallop. I was barely able to hang on and was so terrified of falling off I hadn’t noticed she’d looped around and was running full throttle for the barn. I looked up just in time to see the barn door as she ran through it and my head collided into it. I fell hard on the dirt and knocked the wind out of myself—my first experience with being unable to breathe. I don’t recall exactly what happened next other than I saw size twelve’s sharp-pointed in my direction and the sergeant shouting orders while I tried to slither away under the fence. But Butch was determined I’d “get back up on er” like a good cowgirl and grabbed me up and plopped me back on. It might have been that day, with dirt grinding between my teeth and the boys all laughing like hyenas on the fence that I decided I wasn’t cut out as the next Panhandle Rodeo Queen, but I’ve been falling on my feet ever since.

So, does one allow their insecurities (fears) to run their life OR are they willing to get real, get vulnerable, and risk the possibility of falling on their face, of being hurt, rejected, and embarrassed OR does one run the risk (quite possibly) of meeting someone really special, of opening to that person, and developing a mutually loving relationship?

Does seem quite simple doesn't it?


Monday, March 10, 2008

The Swan’s Song

Love. You don’t fall in love.

You fall down, fall short, fall apart; but you don’t fall in love. Besides, if you are going to do any ‘action’ in love then stand in love… don’t fall. Now I am assuming we are talking about romantic love, the sort of love that is lasting, one hopes. I agree there is a sense of weightlessness when one becomes enamored with a new relationship—there is a euphoria that exists and it is true a certain endorphin is released which might give one a sense of ‘falling’ I suppose. But love? Are you sure you aren’t talking about infatuation?Webster defines love
Love (1): strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties <maternal love for a child> (2): attraction based on sexual desire: affection and tenderness felt by lovers (3): affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests <love for his old schoolmates> b: an assurance of love <give her my love>2: warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion <love of the sea>3 a: the object of attachment, devotion, or admiration <baseball was his first love> b (1): a beloved person: darling —often used as a term of endearment (2)British —used as an informal term of address4 a: unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another: as (1): the fatherly concern of God for humankind (2): brotherly concern for others b: a person's adoration of God5: a god or personification of love6: an amorous episode : love affair: the sexual embrace : copulation8: a score of zero (as in tennis)

Verb1: to hold dear: cherish2 a: to feel a lover's passion, devotion, or tenderness for b (1): caress (2): to fondle amorously (3): to copulate with3: to like or desire actively : take pleasure in <loved to play the violin> 4: to thrive in <the rose loves sunlight>intransitive verb: to feel affection or experience desire

Clearly the word love has many different meanings—at least in the English language. Love can mean anything from something that gives one a little pleasure to the score of a tennis match. It’s no wonder so many are confused about love. Even Webster’s can’t narrow down a definition!

So what then is love?

I would like to suggest that, as my fellow blogger put it, “… the move of a beautiful woman’s hair, and the glimpse of a cute smile,” have little, or nothing, to do with the sort of love I think of when I consider long-term mutually loving relationships. Traps he says? How could one equate love and trap in the same subject line?

A few years ago, I spoke to a group of high-schoolers about the idea of love.

"Someone define love," I said.

No response.

"Doesn't anyone want to try?" I asked.

Still no response.

"How about this: I'll define it, and you raise your hands if you agree. Okay?"


"Okay. Love is that feeling you get when you meet the right person."

Every hand went up. And I thought, Oh boy!

This is how many people approach a relationship. Consciously or unconsciously, they believe love is a sensation (based on physical and emotional attraction) that magically, spontaneously generates when Mr. or Ms. Right appears. And just as easily, it can spontaneously degenerate when the magic "just isn't there" anymore. As my fellow blogger Rob indicated, you fall in love, and you can fall out of it.

But is that true love?

I’ve had a few relationships where I felt what I deemed was “true love” for the fellow. Some of those moments of feeling love were when we embraced. Others were when we shared intimate personal truths together. And for some of them it was love felt when they left!

How do you define love?

Some say it's mysterious, magical, complex, difficult, imaginary, thought-provoking, inspirational, intuitional, joyous, immeasurable, ecstasy, and undefinable. Perhaps.

In one of Dr. John Gray's audio cassettes he defines love as follows:
"Love is a feeling directed at someone which acknowledges their goodness."

On the same cassette, he refers to the definition by M. Scott Peck:
"The willful intent to serve the well being of another."

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. - 1 Corinthians 13:5-7

My favorite is by ParamahansaYogananda:
"To describe love is very difficult, for the same reason that words cannot fully describe the flavor of an orange. You have to taste the fruit to know its flavor. So with love."

Love itself is a universal experience. Yet, every individual occurrence - while perhaps bound by a common thread - seems absolutely unique. Love is what love is! To everyone it expresses itself differently.

Could it be that Love is a story that can never be fully expressed?

Love is a bond or connection between two people that results in trust, intimacy, and an interdependence that enhances both partners. (quotation by me!)

Love is the ability and willingness to allow those you care for to be what they choose for themselves, without any insistence that they satisfy you. - Leo Buscaglia

Making Love is the highest level and the most loving way we can physically express or demonstrate our Love for our love partner. Everyone knows that the sexual experience can be the single most loving, most exciting, most powerful, most exhilarating, most renewing, most energizing, most affirming, most intimate, most uniting, most stress-relieving, most recreative physical experience of which humans are capable.

Love is More Powerful than Sex

Robert Roy Britt, a LiveScience Senior Writer posted a blog a few years back about a study announced in the July issue of the Journal of Neurophysiology which read:

Sex and romance may seem inextricably linked, but the human brain clearly distinguishes between the two, according to a new study. The upshot: Love is the more powerful emotion.

The results of brain scans speak to long-standing questions of whether the pursuit of love and sex are different emotional endeavors or whether romance is just warmed over sexual arousal.

"Our findings show that the brain areas activated when someone looks at a photo of their beloved only partially overlap with the brain regions associated with sexual arousal," said Arthur Aron of the State University of New York-Stony Brook. "Sex and romantic love involve quite different brain systems."

Well, duh! Most of us could have told you that without a scientific experiment. Or is that what we all were doing all along—a scientific experiment?

So what is love -- real, lasting love?

After all this rambling, I suppose I really can’t define love either. Love must be experienced. I can tell you that the opposite of Love is Fear. Think about it.

Expectations and Demands

Last week my buddy Jim said he and his girlfriend were having some troubles. “I love her,” he said to me. “And that is what is killing me.”

I said, “It isn’t love that is killing you, it is your expectations of the one you say you love. Love doesn’t kill.”

Is it possible to have unconditional love? Love for another simply to love them? Expecting nothing in return?

No expectations - no demands… used to be my mantra. That is until I realized I had plenty of expectations and demands of the ones I loved. I expected my husband to come home at night. I expected my children to honor their parents, and in fact, sometimes demanded it. But isn’t real love simply loving someone without expecting anything in return; no judgments, no restrictions; no limitations; no expectations?

My Buddist friend tells me that true love is loving what is. I’m still working on that one.

To me, I’ve discovered that love is embracing differences and discovering ways in which to build a common lifestyle, share decision-making, and taking equal responsibility for the results. True love has a foundation of integrity, respect, faith and trust. Love is the force that brings about unity and harmony.

Although love is at the root of our basic nature, Love for another human being must be cultivated. It takes time for Love to mature.

Robert Heinlein in "Stranger in a Strange Land" said, Love is. . . "That condition whereby the happiness of another is essential to your own." As one who has a strong affection towards eagles, hawks, geese, and so on; I think they may have it closer to 'right' than we humans do for most of these mate for life. Why then is it so difficult for us, the evolved species, to do the same?

So why is it that love receives less instruction than the average driver’s education class? We don’t learn to drive by crashing until we get it right, but this seems to be how we learn about love.

I’ve had my share of crashes. There was even a time in my life I gave up driving all together. But eventually, like most humans, the desire to have companionship won out over my fear of crash and burn. However the first thing I had to do along my own personal journey to love was to learn to love myself and what a ride that was!

And that is a story for another blog…

© Cynthia Stewart

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Spirit Whispers

I BOUGHT A TIPI a few months ago—a big one—22ft in diameter with 30’ poles. I could tell you I bought it because I’ve always wanted one, or because I needed a place to put on the property for meditation, or for an escape. I could tell you I bought it because I thought it would make a good guest quarter, or a neat place to stay on a warm summer night. I could tell you a lot of things but the truth is I bought a tipi because one morning in mediation, I listened to a still small voice within and I followed it.

That voice led me to the top of a mountain on a road my 4x4 truck barely could manage and when there I saw a hillside filled with tipis and I felt my heart sing. I would then have to tell you about the feeling that came over me when I first pulled back the canvas door and stepped inside, but perhaps that feeling is best told in a quiet circle with a selected few…

I met two lovely people on the top of that mountain and witnessed a miracle that day that reminded me that dreams do come true, that life is worth living, and that there is still magic within those who dare to dream.

I bought a tipi. It sits, still, in the packing box it came in. I tried pulling it out once, with the help of a strong Native American man. With both of us we barely managed to get it out on the floor and were overwhelmed at the size of it. Both of us together could hardly open it so we decided to wait… wait until another day, when the time was right.

That was three months ago. I still touch it when I walk by the office… still look at the long poles stacked neatly beside the garden fence… still dream of hoisting it up one day and building a fire within… of making love in the firelight under a blanket of stars and of waking in the morning with sun’s light glowing through the canvas.

I bought a tipi. A big one. Big enough for family to stay over or for guests to enjoy. I drew a design to paint on it this spring. I gathered Red Tail Hawk feathers and owl, and raven for the top of the poles and for the inside. I have two rugs a friend loomed for me that will adorn the inside and I’m always on the look out for more. I have a hide, a big one, to lie on the floor for warmth and some Native art by a local artist.

When I listened to that voice inside that directed me to a mountain I previously didn’t know existed, I didn’t realize then, or even in the months that followed, that this tipi would actually be my home… now I do.

I bought a tipi one Sunday afternoon because I listened, and followed and in four months, when the spring flowers have bloomed and summer sun is knocking on spring’s door I will put my tipi upright between tall pine trees at the south garden gate and watch as the sun sets behind my other house… the one I hope to rebuild one day.

I bought a tipi. And I am glad.

© Cynthia Stewart

Sticks and Stuff

I STOOD AT THE KITCHEN sink this afternoon; hands plunged deep in warm soapy water and the smell of chicken soup bubbling on the stove wafting through the house. I stood there after the dishes were finished and watched through the large window that faces the pasture, the snow falling. Silver-dollar-sized flakes whirling in every direction one minute and then floating gently down in another and the two big chestnut trees are cloaked in white, their dark bark barely peeking under the white of winter.

I’ve watched summer come and go from this window. Watched autumn in blazing glory. Watched 375 thousand leaves fall from the trees. And now as the soft whiteness surrounds me it occurs to me that I have been living here longer than I’d imagined already and with no change in sight.

A week from tomorrow, the 28th, of February, will mark exactly eight months since my house was destroyed by fire. Eight months! Is that possible? Standing at this kitchen window it is an anomalous feeling. It’s been so long now that sometimes it seems as if it didn’t really happen at all. I could almost forget for a minute but that my days are consumed with insurance receipts, engineers, contractors, and county building departments… my nights too. Besides, all I really have to do is drive ten minutes down the tree lined winding road, turn the corner, drive up the hill and there it sits—a gapping hole of a house—a mere shell perched precariously at the top, empty. Charred trees still standing like sentinels over an open roof and new wood framing reaching up in the sky like fingers reaching… reaching for what? For help? For a roof? For the family that once resided here? For the love? Do the trees miss the laughter? I know the garden misses my hands.

I know every rock stack on the property, every daffodil planted by little hands over the past six winters and where the red-tail hawk perches watching for his catch. I know the trail cut through the Manzanita by deer and where they lay on hot summer days in tall cool grass under the oaks. I know the time of day by the way the light filters through my window and when winter bids adieu to spring. I know better than to be attached to such things for I know that everything is temporary, but one… and that is love.

I love that place I called home. It's not the sticks and stuff, or even the stones I've placed in a large circle in the garden or the stacks that stand tall around the skirts of the property… it's the feeling I have when my hands are deep in the dirt at planting time or the smell of ripe tomatoes in the summer. It's the screech of the hawk and the coo of the doves I miss most, and light of the full moon as it dances across the back of the house to taunt me awake. It's the sense of belonging and the feeling of utter peace.

Tragedy happens, everyday. People manage to keep going. It’s just a house… wood and walls. Stuff really. In the scheme of life this is but a trifle… a hiccup. I know this yet sometimes I forget.

© Cynthia Stewart

Sunday, February 3, 2008


RECENTLY a friend asked me if I celebrated Valentine’s Day. It gave me pause to think. Valentine’s Day, when my husband was alive, was a week-long event and one we both enjoyed sharing. As years pass Valentine’s Day holds less and less meaning for me. Oh I still help my daughter put together her Valentine’s day gifts for her friends from school and dance and I usually bake something special, but as a single woman, not in the throws of an intimate relationship at present, Valentine’s Day has kind of lost it’s luster.

I’d written a blog of sorts on the second Valentine’s Day after his death and as I searched for it this week I found a letter I’d written to him during that time. Myfirst Valentine’s Day as a widow came only six days after his death. I couldn’t write anything at that time. Writing came later as I came to realize, and accept, that life goes on and me with it.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Sometimes I miss you so much I can barely breathe. For the most part though, it is just the tender missing, the gentle tugging at my heart, the longing to tell you of the feelings saved there, held for you for another day, or another lifetime. To share with you the thoughts running around in my head, or even of the simple things of a lazy afternoon, a hectic week, or the colors of the changing leaves that surround me.

I can’t think of a day that I don’t consider you. The memory of your face surrounding me—your eyes, the clarity of color, the intensity… the millions of stories they’ve told me and the millions more to see… the sunlight shining in the blonde of your hair… your fingers pulling on your ear lobe when you are deep in thought. I see you often walking, a slight limp, sometimes turning your head in my direction and looking into my eyes. What a complexity of things I see in that instant… the love, the passion, the hurt, the struggle, the humility, the long-suffering, the patience, the impatience, the frustration, the forgiving, the longing, the gratitude, the struggle, the surrender, the fear, the anger, the affection… the story. I stand still and observe you… your stance, your gait, your shy and humble manner, and your gentle spirit.

I see you in the blue of the Pacific Ocean on a clear sunny day. I see you under the light of a full moon, or in the colors of the sunsets that fill the evening skies. I see you in the hundreds of hand cut prisms that make the glass atop the lighthouse that shines out across the deep blue waters of the ocean. I see you in the round pen on a small ranch across the canyon and in the eyes of the horse I visit more often than not. I feel you in the thick of the redwoods, their ancient wisdom, gentle ways, quiet strength… all serve to remind me of you. I see you in the red dirt at the top of a ridge I found one afternoon. As I sat pulling heat from a massive granite rock that gripped the side of the high slope, I watched as an eagle, which had been perched in an old tree not twenty feet from my head, float quietly, effortlessly down and across the gorge and river below. I wanted to follow him. I wanted to float, to fly away, and to find you once again… or was that you?

I see you in the eyes of our children and in that way your love and beauty never escapes me. I see you in their looks, the turn of their head, and the twinkle in their eyes. I see you too in the kindness of their hearts… each one of them. I see you in Michal’s face and in his hands, strong wide hands like yours—he has them too. I see you in Tyler’s ears, and in Clinton’s smile, and in Rachel’s quickness to laugh, and in the slight tiny twist of the pinky fingers of Rebecca, I see you. I see you when I watch Clinton with baby Becca, the love he has for her like the love you had for all our children… it runs deep. I see you when I watch Tyler open doors for ladies at the market and the gentle way he cares for Rebecca… the way you always did for me. I see you in Rachel, maybe the most… in her gentle but strong ways… in the respect she has earned from all who know her, just by her being… just like you did with all who knew you.

Sometimes I hear your voice, the deep resonance that flows like a melody through my ears and into my heart. I see you at the foot of my bed on an early summer afternoon, smiling with that smile of yours that reaches the ends of the universe and the depth of my soul. I see your hands, hands that seem have a magic healing power… and I remember the feel of their touch. I feel you in the saddle shop as the smell of leather fills me up. I feel the comfort of your offerings as I seek your understanding or vision of a world I can’t see. I feel your presence all around me, especially at the end of a day when the sun is throwing long right angles across the back yard, last light dancing through the leaves of the trees, holding together a story of its own with a connection that neither time, nor absence can break. I feel the swelling in my heart as it fills with light and prayers for you, wherever you may be… for your comfort, your peace.

And I feel the warmth and love that my heart contains when I think of all these things and so, so much more.

And so it is for me, my love.

Friday, January 4, 2008


"For last year's words belong to last year's language. And next year's words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning."
~T.S. Eliot

The first week of the new year. A fresh start. A new chapter in life waiting to be written. New questions to be asked, embraced, and loved. Answers to be discovered and then lived in this transformative year of delight and self discovery.

This weekend carve out a quiet interlude for yourself in which to dream, pen in hand.
Only dreams give birth to change. What are your hopes for the future? Embrace the gentle yearnings of your heart.

This year, instead of writing down resolutions, write down your most private aspirations. Those longings you have kept tucked away until the time seems right.
Trust that now is the time. Ask the questions. Take a leap of faith and begin this wondrous year by believing. Believe in yourself. Believe there is a loving Source just waiting to be asked to help you make your dreams come true.

Turn to face the future with welcome heart and curious eyes,
Something is ending and something new is about to begin...
May the New Year bring you nothing but happiness, love, prosperity
and dreams that are about to come true...
Wishing all my friends a voice for new beginnings....

~May you Always....Be Abundantly Blessed..
With Love,
~ ~ ♥ ~ ~

"There are years that
ask questions, and years
that answer.
- Zora Reale Hurston -