Celebrating the Seasons of Sunny: Beginning, Awakening, Transformation and Courage

And how grief is a curious creature that stalks the heart, and the mind. Textured with memory, regret, loss, all the questions never asked, all the time never shared. No longer any possibility for change. It becomes a lesson, to make of each moment the most, to hold each heart gently.” – Jackie Morris

A few weeks ago, I invited Paul Fox to help me create a ceremony to honour Sunny and all that he has represented for me over the past 12 years. Paul is a spiritually-inspired human being and fellow psychotherapist. He is a long-time mentor and supervisor of my work.

When Paul arrived at the farm, I described to him the traumatic nature of Sunny’s sudden death: finding him that morning isolated in the field, away from the other horses. He was in distress, covered in sweat and literally steaming with a shattered front leg. There was blood and we needed to address the situation with urgency. There was the putting him down and the taking away of the body. There was the ugliness of it all, the shock and then the grief.

Paul shared that what was coming to him was that this was Sunny’s time. While his death was traumatic, it was also representative of the nature of the work that is done here and the healing that subsequently follows. My intent was to replace the scene that confronted me that morning when I looked out into the field with an alternative experience that carried some meaning with it.

We started our ‘ceremony’ by pulling a horse card from Melisa Pearce’s Touched by a Horse daily inspiration cards. The card was: ‘Go with the Flow’ and read as follows: “Energy and occurrences are all about you. You are being swept along by the forces of the situation. There is no time to stop, pause, reflect, or strategize. Trust that the time will soon be at hand for rest and reconsideration. For now, you are being counseled to go along at the pace and in the direction of a leader, maybe even a leader whom you have lost sight of ahead but know is there. Put faith in the fact that you chose with purpose in the beginning and that all is flowing to the required destination at this time. Soon you will be able to make your own choices to continue in the herd or set your own direction. For now, allow yourself to go with the momentum. It has a purpose that will become clear to you soon.”

Paul and I then went out into the field and walked to create a large circle in the snow that encompassed the area around where Sunny tragically died. In the centre of the circle, I placed a piece of Sunny’s mane hair. We lit some sage and smudged ourselves and the area around us. Paul spoke of the four directions – East, South, West and North and the meaning of each direction. He then walked the circle to visit each direction and smudge, while I softly played my ceremonial drum. Then together we visited each of the directions in the circle.

Beginning: We started in the East – the area that represents birthing and beginnings.  I spoke of what I knew about Sunny’s beginnings. I had been told that Sunny had come from Georgia.  Sunny was imported to Ontario by a woman who imported Tennessee Walker horses and marketed them as ‘beginner horses.’ Sunny was originally purchased around the age of 5 or 6 years by a young woman who bred doodle dogs and whose family owned and bred Gypsy Vanner horses. She had had Sunny for two or three years. I purchased Sunny from her after she had had a car accident, broke her hip and was no longer able to ride. Sunny was 8 years old when he walked into my life when I was 48 years old. These were the early years when everything was new and both Sunny and I were both overcoming our fears.

Awakening:  Then Paul and I moved to the south point of the circle. Paul’s inclination was to speak to Sunny’s past trauma in this spot, but I felt it more important to speak to the many hearts that Sunny had touched. Sunny was a master at his craft, very intuitive, knowing what clients needed in the moment. Often he would connect with clients in the round pen in the south – the place of heart. I noted that I felt Sunny was frozen when he came to me and his heart was awakened when he started to work directly with clients. My own heart was awakened being in that sacred space with Sunny, the herd and the clients we served together.  This was the stage of awakening.

Transformation:  In the West, Paul suggested this was the place where sunsets occurred and endings are acknowledged. Paul invited me to speak about what Sunny represented for me. The word that came to me was transformation.  We looked around and noted that Sunny’s presence, impact and legacy was represented by everything that surrounded us in that moment – the horses, the arena, the barns, and the therapy/workshop space. None of this would have existed in the absence of Sunny from my life. Sunny represents my own personal awakening and subsequent personal and professional transformation.

Courage: We finally moved to the north. In this spot, I read a poem by Jackie Morris: “With courage small spirit sings, in the darkness of the hedges, from thorn, from briar, and her small song stitches the heart to the soul with music.” We noted the tragic nature of Sunny’s death and how it represented the trauma that is often present here at the farm. We acknowledged that from tragedy can come healing.  For me, this area represents the courage that is present when clients arrive seeking support. It also represents my own personal courage needed to move forward in a completely different professional direction and keep going when the path forward is not clear.

Paul then invited me to consider that the circle we had created represented a portal for Sunny to come and go, a place where healing can occur. He noted that when I needed Sunny, I could come back to this sacred circle and call him in. We walked counter clockwise around the circle to close the portal in that moment and complete our ceremony.

The horses kept their space during the ceremony, watching from a distance and not interfering in any way. As we walked out of the field, we passed Sebastian who was standing near the gate, facing north. He licked and chewed and looked directly at me. He acknowledged our presence.

I am still grieving the loss of Sunny. However now when I look out in the field, I do so from a place of love and gratitude.

The Mane Intent

February 15, 2024

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