Sunday, July 25, 2021

It's Out of My Control


I have made it to all of the "visiting hours" for Epona. Her caregivers never fail to take a moment and give me updates, and they have gotten better each day.

She only had to have one IV, and since then has been drinking enough water on her own. They take blood tests every day to make sure that she's staying hydrated.

She is also eating more aggressively, and they said she eats everything they give her, which is timothy hay, milk pellets, and Omolene 300.

Unfortunately, she does aspirate when she stretches her neck to the ground, which is a similar stretch to nursing. Everything she eats and drinks has to be at her chest level. Hay doesn't seem to bother her, though--at any level.  

She still does not receive antibiotics, as we're waiting for the culture to come back, but she hasn't spiked a fever, coughed, or shown any signs of being sick.

They put her in a stall that is front and center to where they do all their work, and that keeps her busy watching them all day. It also puts more eyes on her, something her doctor really wanted. 

This morning, I went in and groomed her.

She whinnies as soon as she hears my voice approaching, and as I leave for the day. I do miss her when we're apart! Home isn't home without her anymore. 

We had a chance to go hiking today, looking for huckleberries, and something miraculous happened. Honestly, I needed something miraculous, because yesterday I was really down. I had come to realize that the universe is, indeed, teaching me something this year. It is teaching me that I have no control over things.  No. Control.  I like control, and it isn't easy to come to such a realization. If not control, than what?

I wrote a short poem, as I tried to make sense of it. My feeling is that when I really learn the lesson I'm being taught, I might cease needing it reinforced. Here it is:

The universe told me
Our hands are empty,
They do not contain miracles
Or, even wise words.
Moment by moment,
Only moments,
The brokenness of hearts,
A temporary rise to our feet,
As if to help,
But we didn’t–Did we?
Because our hands are empty.

The baby birds. Epona. The hurting human beings around me. There are so many things out of my hands, though I tried so, so hard with those very hands to save them. I couldn't. It's not within my power to save things--or to even know the right words to bring comfort.

The miracle is this: 25 years ago, I found a strange flower under a tree on a hike. It was like an albino orchid, very magical, mysterious. At that time, I was into finding flowers, pressing them in a press I'd made for myself, and journaling about them. We'd often go in groups, with our kids, searching for as many wildflowers as we could find.  The one I found, in a cluster of 3, was so delicate and waxy. I picked it and placed it in my cooler to take home and press.

But by the time I got home, my little flower was completely ink black. It had, for all practical purposes, disappeared. Back then, there wasn't this big wide world of the internet or smart phones, and I hadn't taken a photo. 

But I never forgot it, and I continued my search to find it again. 

Through the years, I found out that it was Emily Dickinson's favorite flower. She wrote about it, and it is featured on her book of poems, as tribute. Indian Pipe. Ghost Flower. Corpse Flower. No chlorophyll. Monotropa uniflora. Family: Ericaceae, which contains huckleberry, blueberry & azalea.

25 years, or more, and I had never found another indian pipe, another ghost flower, another corpse flower.

Until today!!

My son-in-law saw this little clump first. He said, Hey look at those crazy mushrooms! And when my head turned toward them, it was as if the heavens opened up. They were so white against the forest floor, and I knew what they were immediately. Within seconds I was on my knees on the bank, taking photos and feeling them. My family stood back in shock. Then, one by one, they came to see what was so special.

I waited a long time for this sighting. I've even told other people to be on the lookout for me. But it, too, was out of my control. These rare flowers do what they do.

Seeing them today was my miracle.

'Tis whiter than an Indian Pipe –
'Tis dimmer than a Lace –
No stature has it, like a Fog
When you approach the place –
Not any voice imply it here –
Or intimate it there –
A spirit – how doth it accost –
What function hath the Air?
This limitless Hyperbole
Each one of us shall be –
'Tis Drama – if Hypothesis
It be not Tragedy –

Emily Dickinson


  1. I have a lot to say about this post, will do my best not to hit delete. We were chatting about horses and related medical stuff yesterday, on our way back to the house. It was a slow stroll, after riding. For whatever reason, post ride always leads to reflection. Our discussion made me think about Epona, and what that filly has already taught you. Good, bad or different. Living it, is how we gain a whole experience. Even the parts we would rather not go through. Epona's update has a lot of positive in it, as well as concern. I truly hope the vets still think your sweet and very loved girl will outgrow her condition. Sending you {hugs} and horsey scratches for Epona, as you wait for favorable information to reveal itself.

    Your poem made me instantly feel that your hands are the complete opposite of empty. They are full of love, hope, compassion, and yes also some pain. I can feel it through your writing and eloquent full circle message.

    It is nothing short of miraculous that you experienced another ghost flower!! So timely! I have never seen one. There must be something fibrous about the structure of that flower that doesn't lend itself to drying, at least not in its white ghostly form. Getting out in nature sure was healing.

    1. Yes, the flower was amazing. It was a gift, I have no doubt, and a message.

      Epona’s pharyngeal dysfunction hasn’t resolved itself, like they normally do. Our clinic has about 7 vets working together, maybe more. It is huge. Two of the vets are interning there, and live on site. I would say they have a guarded opinion of her outcome. They think she’ll outgrow it, eventually, but pneumonia is a serious condition. They were concerned when she aspirated at the lower level.

      I am a spiritual person, and I always look for what God, through the universe, is trying to tell me. I am certain the message now is that I am not God. I am as weak, frail, and powerless and ignorant as anyone else in this world, on this journey. It’s humbling. It’s sad. It’s confusing. I hope it gets to another point, where it’s freeing.

      I think these lessons with birds, now Epona, are preparing me for something even bigger. And I think those flowers were no coincidence, and part of the message. For Emily Dickinson, who herself was haunted by the many aspects of love and loss, to say something so profound about spirit here—I don’t know exactly what yet, but there is something for me to learn in her words.

      The Indian pipe flowers are the most temporary of flowers, as they turn black when you pick them. They are the most rare. They don’t need sunlight, like the others, they need something else, and can be sustained in the darkest parts of the forest.

      Yes, there’s a message for me in finding the corpse plant at this exact moment in my life, after searching so long.

      Your rides sound lovely. I was talking to my husband, on the way back from the vet, about how wonderful it would be for he and I to load a couple horses next year and do a road trip, stopping along the way to ride at new places. I am happiest exploring nature on horseback, and Tumbleweed will be four, and ready for longer trail rides.

      Thank you for taking the time to write. I know how hard it is to read posts like this, in the middle of the struggle, and then write something to the person. It takes courage…and full hands. Though our hands don’t contain miracles, they do contain love. Thank you.

  2. It sounds to me like Epona is doing much better and learning how to eat and drink. I'm sure they will put her food up at chest level until she can handle it better on the ground. I'm not a vet but maybe the more she matures I think this problem will disappear.

    This has been a learning experience for everyone and has brought lots of stress but also lots of love for a little horse who although she is struggling isn't giving up. Epona is a fighter and with all the love and care she's getting I'm sure things will turn out well for all of you.

    Loved your poem. Finding that ghost flower might be a good sign that things are getting better and will continue to improve. Even though circumstances may be out of our control, I believe that miracles do happen.

    1. Yes, I believe that, too. And sometimes miracles can only be known when we look back and can see the whole picture. The vets do believe this is a maturity issue, which she will eventually outgrow. We support her along the way, and hope for the best. She is a healthy horse in every other respect. Just this little pharyngeal issue. Today is day four, and I hope the lab will have some information for the clinic. The weekend slows them down, but today is Monday, so I expect we will get some preliminary results. Thank you for your encouragement! I deeply appreciate it.

  3. When you let go and let God, miracles happen.
    We try so hard to make things happen, but finding that balance between our try and trust in Him allows things to happen.
    Epona seems to be figuring things out quite well, and she is in good hands. (Including yours)
    Horses teach us so much. Good stuff and heart wrenching stuff. I wouldn't trade a minute of the tough times because they have helped me to be a better person.
    How special that you found your flower right at the moment you needed it most.

    1. A life with horses really is a proving ground, on every level—physical, emotional, and spiritual. I wouldn’t trade it either. The strength they’ve given me. The healing. The growth. Nope, I wouldn’t trade the tears for another, easier life. Letting go is easier said than done, but I am trying to learn how to offer love, and service, without also trying to control the outcome.

      I think empty hands are a powerful symbol. Here are my hands, they are empty, but they are extended to you in love. How can they be placed in service to the greater good?

      That flower, that flower. I have searched for it for so long, and to find it again yesterday, of all times. I can’t let it’s message go to waste. I’ve had 25 years to think about, and study it, so whatever message it contains will be much more profound to me now.


Please feel welcome to join our discussion by telling us about your own thoughts and experiences.