Apifera Farm - where art, story, animals & woman merge. Home to artist Katherine Dunn
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Sunday, August 31, 2014
The challenge and healing reward of Marcella
In which The Shepherdess is reminded by a beautiful white creature that all is well and neither of the two are that bad after all.
UPDATE: A magical encounter was taking place far from Apifera while this experience happened at Apifera. Please read my comment below-after you read the post.
Of all the creatures I've ever worked with, I think Marcella has been my biggest challenge. I have worked with terriers and many other dogs in my life-in obedience training and in therapy work with some. I am certainly not an expert, but I know how to train a dog in basic obedience and boundaries, but this is my first guard dog. It is also the first dog I've ever had that lived in the barn since day one and is separate from the household.
But I want to share a really beautiful episode I had with Marcella yesterday. While you won't need a hankie, it will open your heart a notch.
The day began with beautiful weather, and Martyn was home too, it being a Saturday. We had many things to work on, and the cooler weather had me feeling energized. I had plans. But just about everything went a muck early on. None of it was end-of-the-world-stuff, there were just a whole series of occurrences that made the morning frustrating and at some points stressful for woman, man and beast.
At one point, Marcella had found her way into the lower field where I have three young ewes that I recently separated out from the flock. They are being weaned. It is a horrible time for me-and them-the day of weaning. They often cry and cry in these long horrible blah-h-h-h-s sometimes for hours. But these three settled in well, and all seemed fine. But Marcella went down there and must have startled on of them as one of the ewes ended up in an upper field, alone, and like most sheep, she could not figure out how to get back to her two friends.
Now I am pretty darn good at herding sheep. There is this bossy woman up the road a few miles who keeps trying to sell me one of her herding dogs, I always decline. I work with my flock everyday, some are leaders, some followers, some are not real sharp and can drive you mad, but they herd well, and know the routine. So anyway, I'm out there trying to herd this one lone 5 month old ewe. I'd get her close and she'd abandon ship. Then I got Martyn out there, which meant I had to herd him too. We worked 30 minutes and finally got them back in the barnyard. But I wanted them in a stall, to relax them after this stressful bout of running. Well, to make a long story short, it took another 30 minutes, and even after we did it, Marcella kept ending up in paddocks I didn't want her in, doing a bit of chasing.
I lost my temper, but more importantly, I lost my grounding. I felt that this was it, I was done with breeding sheep, I was no good at it, no good at maintaining the tolerance of separating animals out from mothers to wean them. I was tired. I was fooling myself. And, I didn't stop there, I told Marcella I was a loser guard dog worker, and we both had to accept this and make changes.
I had spent the entire morning-it seemed-trying to fix, control, and manage. And it all felt useless. And I hated for my animals to watch me go through this-I'm supposed to be the healing leader, after all. Where was my leader?
I decided to grab my camera and head up to Donkey Hill to get composed. This is an area that Marcella-normally-does not hang out in, although she knows how to go under fences and gates to get there if she really wants to. I certainly didn't want her there at this minute as I needed a break to clear my head and calm my temper. Shepherdesses can flair up you know, at least the redheads of the bunch. So I was sitting on the dusty mound, near a little Willow tree that I have recently named "The Healing Tree". I am hanging a white strip of raggedy cloth every time I hear of a friend or creature needing my prayer or healing thought. I had hung a few prayer rags for some friends, but had also hung one for me-because I felt I needed guidance.
So there I sat, in a dusty heap, legs stretched out, and I began calling the donkeys. They always come to me, but they were nowhere to be seen. I had a long, good cry. Yes, shepherdesses cry too, for many reasons. I needed to cry. It was better than anger. And in between sobs, as pathetic as it sounds, I continued to call my donkeys. But they didn't come. I hung my sad little head and sniffed away. And then I felt a presence behind me and knew it must be Pino.
I turned and there sat a beautiful white creature, without an ounce of resentment in her eyes. She sat upright, right beside me, and we sat that way for a long time together, looking at our Healing Tree. It was such a beautiful, poignant moment. Marcella is a shapeshifter, she appears without sound or fuss. Eventually, I thanked her for not giving up on me, but in reality I didn't need to say any of it to her. She is just total acceptance, without ego. She had moved on hours ago.
I decided to mill about Donkey Hill with her, and took these photos. She is beautiful while working. And I had an epiphany. I am trying too hard to control her. She is bred to guard, not to sit in front of one gate and not enter it, or come on my command. She is doing just fine, it is me that has to let go more, and roll more with her youthful punches.
Later, over a glass of wine, Martyn told me he saw us the moment Marcella came and sat with me and it nearly broke his heart, in a good way. He said it was a Hallmark moment never to be recorded again, but he saw it, and I was part of it along with Marcella. Some things are not meant to be shared in image, but only through the heart and soul, and that is the experience I had yesterday with a very fine guard dog in training-The Head Mistress–the always forgiving, Marcella.
A meant to be moment.. of learning forgiveness for ourselves and others.. and always the power of unconditional love. Stay Strong Dear Friend!
undoubtedly, just as it should be.
animals have a way of grounding us in the present moment, eh? they live for the here-and-now, and forgive us our human frailties. they do have memories, but thankfully, they usually "move on" and forgive.
all is as it was meant to be.
Lovely story of the shepherdess and the healing wise dog.
I've had those moments too. The ones where they are far more tuned into our emotions then they are ever really given credit for. Your girl is lovely, by the way.
Magical UPDATE to this POST: After I wrote this, I sent the link to one of my friend's who was the person asking me to hang a prayer rag for her, and how The Healing Tree started. She is going through a real challenge and I knew she'd like seeing her prayer rag in action. Well, she wrote me right away, in a state of wonder- it turns out she had a magical little experience with a white dog too, on the same day-Saturday- and in the same time frame. She lives in the country on the other side of the States, and she noticed a beautiful pure white dog sitting in her field. Like many farmers, she knew most of the dogs in the area and didn't know this one. The dog came to her, was friendly, and very peaceful and quiet. She sat with the dog for some time in silence, just stroking her fur and said at the time, it just was the most peaceful few moments she had since she had fallen into a dark place a few weeks ago. She looked at the dog's visit as a meaningful gift. Within the time, the person who was taking care of the dog and let it accidently get away, came and got the dog. She thought that was the end of the story-but then she got the link to my post. I must say when I read her account I was a bit....stopped in my tracks. I know I will never take my little Healing Tree for granted, or Marcella-or perhaps...me. The power of a prayer, a hope, a wish onto a little white rag hanging from a Willow-could it transcend to other healers all over the world? Could the clan of White Dogs work in tandem, making the wishes manifest in different ways to help others? I can't prove it all. But....my little Healing Tree, and Marcella, and the spirit of Donkey Hill will do our best.
Dammit, you fibbed. Tears, certainly tears. Acceptance of the sweetness of imperfection always does that to me. You have a special fur soul in Marcella.
Wonderful post post story. We are all connected aren't we. xox
Love this post, thank you.
The photos and interwoven stories are beautiful, moving, and magical. What a lovely companion Marcella is for you, in so many ways. I also feel blessed by the magic of my less than perfectly white dog. He is more white than gold, whiter than I expected. He glows in the dark, like a little moon.
Aren't animals great? I have a horse that knew when I needed a shoulder to cry on.....
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Thank you for reading! The farm and my art/writing keep me hopping, so might not respond immediately. Thank you for understanding. ~Katherine & Apifera ~