Third Generation Suffragist Rides for Women’s Equality

This essay was featured in Horse Network, 7/23/2020.

A long rider, according to the Long Rider’s Guild, is someone who has ridden more than 1,000 continuous miles on a single equestrian journey.

Bernice Ende has ridden over 30,000 miles on horseback since 2005, by herself, across the U.S. and Canada. Her longest ride—traveling coast-to-coast and back, dating from 2014–2016—covered an epic 8,000 miles.

I first encountered the “Lady Long Rider” on the page.

As a book lover with a proclivity to read about women who have endeavored and achieved the impossible, I was drawn to her book, Lady Long Rider: Alone Across America on Horseback. I quickly learned at the root of her long rides pursuit is the sentiment that her freedom to ride was won by the courageous suffragists, who over a hundred years ago, never gave up their fight for equality.

“It is these women, including my maternal grandmother and great aunts,” Bernice says, “who cleared a wide path for me to travel where there was once no path at all.”

In her rides, in her book, and in her countless appearances across the country, Bernice’s mission has been to encourage women to strive for greater participation in leadership.

“Right or left makes no difference to me,” she says. “But women need to go beyond their fears and become more active in political, social and economic areas, standing beside men, not behind, in making world changes.”

Bernice with her Fjords Montana Spirit and Essie Mae. Photo courtesy of Nancy Dodd Photography Studio

Ironically, many assume Bernice longs for a simpler time. Her ability to weather the terrain and elements and live in simplicity off the land with her horses often prompts people to remark: “I bet you wish you lived a hundred years ago” is a common remark.

Bernice’s reply is always the same. “But I wouldn’t have been able to vote!”

RELATED: Read “I Met My Hero at EQUUS Film Festival.“

“President Wilson! How long must women wait for liberty?”

Suffragists began their organized fight for women’s equality in 1848, when they demanded the right to vote during the Seneca Falls Convention.

Sentiment among the male population—post the Civil War (1861–1865)—ranked among President Wilson’s: “Girls aren’t smart enough to vote.” Theologian Lyman Abbott, writing for The Atlantic in 1903, described women who would attempt “man’s function” as “monstrosities of nature.”

That mindset continued for decades. Before World War I (1914–1918), suffragists were claimed to have been instigating a “petticoat coup,” destroying the family unit. In the New York Times in 1913, a reporter wrote, “All the rumpus about female suffrage is made by a very few of our disoriented sisters.”

In the spring of 1917, the President was a “firm believer” in liberty and was quoted as saying, “liberty is the fundamental demand of the human spirit,” but would close his eyes as he was driven past the women protesting for their right to vote outside the White House. He realized these women weren’t going to stand down and could no longer ignore their plea.

Photo courtesy of Ben Allan Smith (The Missoulian)

The Passage of the 19th Amendment

Since the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention, women leaders relentlessly protested for the right to the ballot. Even still, it was some 70 years until the U.S. House of Representatives approved the Susan B. Anthony Amendment on May 21, 1919. The U.S. Senate followed suit two weeks later on June 4, 1919.

Before it could be added to the Constitution, the 19th Amendment needed to be ratified by 3/4ths of the-then-48 states. On August 18, 1920, Tennessee became the last state needed. And on August 26, 1920, U.S. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby issued a proclamation declaring the 19th Amendment part of the U.S. Constitution, forever protecting American women’s right to vote.

We’ve Come Far, but …

The quickly approaching centennial of the 19th Amendment’s passage is a cause for celebration and we continue to see women’s progress in playing a transformative role in political arenas. More women than ever before are running for Congress and governorships and serving in the House and in the Senate.

But the feminist movement is still thwarted by many of the same hindrances that complicated the fight for voting rights a hundred years ago. When will we see our first woman president? Our fight for equality continues.

And Bernice remains committed to her role in it.

Before the pandemic, she and her support team began organizing the “Lady Long Rider’s Suffragist Tour” in honor of the centennial. Bernice and her horses were to launch the tour with the 4th of July parade in Choteau, Montana. She would have then ridden to the home of Janette Rankin in Helena, the first woman senator. In Rochester, New York, she had planned to visit the homes of Susan B. Anthony, Matilda Joslyn Gage and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The tour was to include a stop at Seneca Falls.

As with many events this year however, the Suffragist Tour has been cancelled due to COVID-19. But her fight for equality and epic travels continues—on the page and the screen. Bernice has started a second book with the working title, “Mothers, Aunts, Suffragettes, and Lady Long Riders.” The documentary by W+E1 Productions about her life will be entered in the EQUUS Film and Arts Fest November 2020 at the Kentucky Horse Park.

The road to equality may be long and difficult to navigate. But that’s exactly what the Lady Long Rider does best.

Learn more about Bernice at www.endeofthetrail.com. And don’t forget to pick up a copy of Lady Long Rider: Alone Across America on Horseback.

 

3 Unexpected Signs Your Manifestation is Coming Your Way

Hi. It’s me, again. The fitness nut who has taken two nasty falls in the space of 3 weeks. I pose the million dollar question: Why on God’s green earth would I attract severe injury when much of my joie de vivre comes from biking, hiking, riding horses and doing HIIT?

There’s a reason why and I discovered it yesterday. It’s a form of the law of attraction but it’s not what you think. And I’m totally pumped.

Come along with me on my journey and I’ll connect the dots along the way for you.

The Onset of Physical Challenges

At the end of February on the brink of the pandemic, I was lifting weights, pyramiding, and straining to finish the last set of shoulder presses. I pushed it too far and damaged my AC Joint. The injury has since put a squash on my lifting weights.

Loss of Job Due to the Pandemic’s Effect on the Economy

On May 1 amid a 30-day quest of listening to Bob Proctor’s Calm Guided Meditation to Gain Abundance, Love & Happiness I lost my full time job which had been getting in the way of the things I wanted to manifest—e.g. time to craft customized pitches for Calamity to literary agents and get back to cracking on Calamity’s sequel.

The First Fall

On May 3, I took a nasty fall whereby my knee hit the ground, taking the full brunt of my body weight, at the onset of our favorite 5-mile hike. Dennis helped me up. My knee blew up with fluid. Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt. We managed the first mile’s steep incline and finished the hike an hour and some change later.

The Second Fall

Compromised carrying a 30-gallon bucket of bird seed, I fell off the top step of our porch stairs. Dumbfounded to a galaxy beyond the Milky Way, I laid there, my cheek mashed to the ground, pondering, did I just fall, again?

Dennis helped me up. A bump began to swell on my left shin some inches south of the inflamed location sustained from Fall #1.

Message of Loving Support

It was getting harder and harder for me to get up. But the Universe sent me a message before fall #2 which didn’t resonate until the following morning. It told me “don’t give up” in the form of hearing Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel’s duet as I walked Sabrina passed by a neighbor’s house. This little message, Universe to lil ole me, blew me away.

The Universe Working through Youtube’s Algorithms

This is it, folks. The reasons for my sustaining injury. I had finished listening to Bob Proctors’s meditation and looked at my Mac’s display and Youtube had queued up similar videos, including one from Master Sri Akarshana, “3 Unexpected Signs Your Manifestation is Coming Your Way.”

I couldn’t press “play” fast enough.

The first sign, Sri says, that your manifestation is coming your way, is that you experience a loss. That would be my job—check.

The second sign, he says, is “an odd request” is made of you. Dennis had made an odd request of me a couple weeks back that didn’t sit well with me. Check.

The third sign, Sri says, is the universe gives you a challenge (or in my case, a series of them) to see how you manage it. A-ha! The universe is testing me! Triple check!

Epiphany in Motion

There you have it. Depression over. Pilates over. Drowning myself in booze and tator tots over. Onto low-impact circuit work with lightweights. I’m up for weathering the challenge, Universe, like the fighter I’ve always been. I’m focusing on the positive and practicing gratitude. Check.

Dennis and I have been crafting a pitch and proposal for a literary agency with agents who pride themselves on nurturing and championing their writers. We’re hoping to send them the submission in the next couple of days.

Whaddya think will be the outcome?


Lisa publishes essays on the writing life, inspiring women, and her love for horses. Her essays have appeared in Horse Network, Manifest-StationHuffPost, and the IPPY-award-winning anthology Unmasked: Women Write About Sex and Intimacy After Fifty. In August of 2018, she was awarded a one-month writer’s residency at Fairhope Center for the Writing Arts in Fairhope, AL. She lives near Boston, where she bikes, hikes, rides horses, and edits technology blogs for the CTO of Hitachi Vantara. She is at work on the sequel to “Calamity” and sending out an essay collection entitled, “Essays on Love, Career, Writing, and the Creatures Great and Small Who Have Enriched My Life.”

You can contact her at lisa.demasi@gmail.com and follow her on TwitterLinkedIn or via her website nurtureismynature.com.

A Writer’s Gratitude for the Here and Now

I was sipping my coffee this morning; looking out at the garden, contemplating my work. The pansies are blossoms of sunshine. Butter yellow, burnt red, deep purple, pale lilac. They buoy me up and are like little gifts, each one of them.

I’ve been outputting a lot of writing as of late—developing a chapter summary for “Calamity,” one paragraph summaries for each of the 45 chapters to comprise a proposal for a pitch; sending the piece I’ve written about Lady Long Rider Bernice Ende’s mission to encourage women to become more active in political, social and economic areas to various outlets (The Atlantic, The Sun, Ms.) and a collection of essays I compiled on Love, Career, Writing, and the Creatures Great and Small Who Have Enriched My Life for Ohio State Press’ Gournay Prize. And while I’m thankful to be heads-down and churning all this stuff out—the creative flow is nothing short of fantastic—and waiting to receive some form of affirmation, acceptance of a submission, a thought entered my mind: “Yes.” It was the subject header of an email sent from Lorna Reese, editor of Shark Reef in April of 2014, indicating she was picking up my piece The Subversive Writer—my first ever published essay.

I recall the emotion in seeing that “Yes” in my email. Isolated, simple and powerful. It made my heart swell and skin rise in happiness and validation.

It’s another prompt for me to keep going.

Today I’m going to keep that “power of yes” feeling close by, all day long.

From: Shark Reef Editor <editor@sharkreef.org>
Date: Saturday, April 19, 2014 4:51 PM
To: Lisa Mae DeMasi <lisa.demasi@gmail.com>
Subject: Yes

Dear Lisa,

We’re pleased to tell you we will publish your essay, The Subversive Writer, in our summer edition. Congratulations. And thank you.

We’ll contact you again as we get closer to uploading the issue. In the meantime, tell your family and friends.

Sincerely,

Lorna Reese, Editor


Lisa publishes essays on the writing life, inspiring women, and her love for horses. Her essays have appeared in Horse Network, Manifest-StationHuffPost, and the IPPY-award-winning anthology Unmasked: Women Write About Sex and Intimacy After Fifty. In August of 2018, she was awarded a one-month writer’s residency at Fairhope Center for the Writing Arts in Fairhope, AL. She lives near Boston, where she bikes, hikes, rides horses, and edits technology blogs for the CTO of Hitachi Vantara. She is at work on the sequel to “Calamity” and sending out an essay collection entitled, “Essays on Love, Career, Writing, and the Creatures Great and Small Who Have Enriched My Life.”

You can contact her at lisa dot demasi at gmail and follow her on TwitterLinkedIn or via her website nurtureismynature.com.

The Universe Told Me Not to Give Up

I am talking to you from the ground. Where I lay pitched to one side, my shin throbbing and my cheek pressed against the grass. The 30-gallon bucket of bird seed I was carrying is at eye level and has strewn its contents on the other side of the cement steps, leading from our porch, to the backyard. Dennis is here, beside me, saying, Oh, Lisa, not again. I raise my head, acknowledging his presence, gasp and rest my head back down to the ground. Jesus, did I just fall again?

An hour before, Dennis cleaned the windows of our porch as I was finishing Boho Beautiful’s Pilates 21-Day Challenge, a full body 25-minute workout. For his benefit and my own commiseration I had repeated “this is so hard” throughout the various exercises; the workout ending with heel beats, airplane and grasshopper pulses. You know, the kind of drill that hours later leave you with the feeling that your gluts are bleeding. Having completed the last exercise, I got up off the floor, relieved to take pleasure in walking our dog Sabrina.

We strolled the neighborhood. The weather was optimal. Despite the downer of the pandemic, people were out in their yards, raking and planting, and chatting with neighbors. Kids rode their bikes, squealing with laughter. I felt gratitude. With a capital G. For the glorious weather, the blue sky, our home, the feel-good feeling emanating from inside my body, despite the unexpected ripples of change that had recently occurred in my life.

I had lost my full time job on May 1 due to the impact the virus has had on the economy. I loved my job, but it was intense, and although I would have never left it by my own volition I embraced the news. I had told my manager, “It’ll open up space for my memoir to get picked up.” And, I thought, give me the opportunity to kick up my workouts and fold in a daily guided meditation or two.

It would not be so seamless.

Two days after I lost my job, Dennis and Sabrina and I were at the start of our favorite 5-mile hike at Callahan State Park in Framingham. The first mile of “hiking the pipe” is a steep incline. A fallen limb laid unseen in the mud and as I stepped on it, it rolled under my foot and my person crashed down hard to the ground, on my left knee. Sabrina retreated to my side. Dennis entwined his arm in mine, helped me up and started wiping mud off my face.

My knee blew up. My mother saw the ace bandage around my leg the next day. She was parked at the end of our driveway and I stood talking to her by the garage. When I told her we finished the hike after I fell, she said I must not have hurt it too badly.

I had hurt it badly; went on meds to reduce the inflammation. The injury put an indefinite end to my riding horses, doing HIIT and running a few times a week, and left me no choice but to seek alternative means of exercise. Calamity continues to become me.

That fall took place on May 3. From where I’m talking to you right now, on the ground with my cheek mashed to the grass, sending out reconnaissance throughout my body for further injury, is May 25. It dawns on me, did any of my neighbors see me go down? Defeat and embarrassment seeps into my every cell. Then, Why has my gravitational pull towards the earth been so much stronger lately?

Dennis is crouching beside me, patiently, observing the questions running through my mind. He knows what I’m asking myself. Does he have an answer as to why I keep falling?

I sit up. The skin of my left chin, just below the injury site of the first fall, is torn and beginning to swell. Dennis is waiting for some kind of communication from me. I say I’m okay. He helps me up. We pile what we can of the bird seed back into the bucket. Numb (traumatized), I top off my feeders; and for the remainder of the afternoon sit in my chair in the porch, granting myself permission to blow off doing any work, and with a heap of ice on my elevated leg, watch the birds feed and bathe, and three chipmunks duke it out over the spilled seed. There are libations in the evening.

The following morning, I wake, feeling blue and teary-eyed. Dennis is “occupied” in the bathroom and I sink into one of the dining room chairs and begin to sulk. Sabrina nudges my elbow, hey, what’s wrong. I reflect on the positive changes I’ve made in my routine.

For nearly every day for a month and a half I’ve been listening to Bob Proctor’s Calm Guided Meditation to Gain Abundance, Love & Happiness. It’s given me “calmness of mind” which is “a beautiful jewel of life” and the ability to use my imagination to build the world I want.

Upon waking, I listen to one of a handful of 10-minute guided meditations for gratitude and have learned I want for nothing and my life is so full of everything wonderful that it’s stupefying.

I started practicing Boho Beautiful’s Yin Yoga after managing a Pilates workout to open up my hips and stretch out my gluts.

These are all good things. And I am grateful I sought them out and will continue to practice them. But I still feel defeated and full of self-pity. I’m injured (what’s with this falling shit?), my weight is not where I want it (fruit is really not a carb and why can’t I stop binge-drinking on the weekends) and I’ve received no word back from the agents I’ve been pitching for my memoir (some of the pitches date back to November).

And that’s when it hits me. Clear as a bell. Unmistakably. Powerfully. Amazingly.

Three words of inspiration. From the Source. Yesterday.

Sabrina and I had been walking by one of our neighbor’s houses. There was a guy working in his yard, listening to music, as he spread mulch in and around his hedges. Being an 80’s girl, I recognized the song that was playing, the chorus, three words of which I only heard, assimilated, and then immediately dismissed.

The words suddenly resonated: Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel singing “Don’t Give Up.”

It’s a message from the Universe, directed to me, of loving support. It knows I’m here. It knows I’m feeling discouraged and falling in defeat. It hears the desires I seek. It’s telling me, “don’t give up.”

I’ve stopped sulking and I’m getting on with my day.

Despite my bum leg, I’m not giving up.

Thank you, Universe, for acknowledging me. I am grateful.


Lisa publishes essays on the writing life, inspiring women, and her love for horses. Her essays have appeared in Horse Network, Manifest-StationHuffPost, and the IPPY-award-winning anthology Unmasked: Women Write About Sex and Intimacy After Fifty. In August of 2018, she was awarded a one-month writer’s residency at Fairhope Center for the Writing Arts in Fairhope, AL. She lives near Boston, where she bikes, hikes, rides horses, and edits technology blogs for the CTO of Hitachi Vantara. She is at work on the sequel to “Calamity” and sending out an essay collection entitled, “Essays on Love, Career, Writing, and the Creatures Great and Small Who Have Enriched My Life.”

You can contact her at lisa.demasi@gmail.com and follow her on TwitterLinkedIn or via her website nurtureismynature.com.

5 Tips to Finding a Writing Coach Who’s Right for You

“A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you.” — Bob Proctor

Do what you love may be the most overused advice in the career-improvement world.  A blogpost on the complexity of this directive went viral on Jacobin a year or so back, it was shared 57,000 times on Facebook and riffed about in the New York Times Opinionator by Gordon Marino.

I know all this first hand. Once upon a time I turned my back on a half-finished MBA and a corporate job with its maddening pace and rigid hierarchy. The fact that my boss gave my job to her newly unemployed husband didn’t help. I escaped to do what I loved. In my case the passion was writing.

The act of quitting made me subversive. And that alone fueled creative expression. I mapped out chapters, the content. Figured I’d have the manuscript written in six months, employ an editor, find an agent, become a best seller, Oprah would call, the whole bit.

Four years later, I found myself gazing into my monitor not knowing whether to put a period at the end of the sentence or keep going with a comma. I’d lost my home in foreclosure, gone bankrupt, written 300,000 words, revised the body of work four times. And while I was slurping away at my second or maybe 87th Cosmo, I understood what I was really missing, a mentor. A guide. A coach. Someone who’d gone before, knew how to shape art into something saleable and would come along with a tribe of like-minded people with whom I could collaborate. I didn’t want to go back to school. What I was looking for was beyond the confines of academia. I needed someone to touch what the poet Mary Oliver called the “wild silky” part of myself and, finally, make it palatable to the world.

Mentors are necessary. Hemingway had Stein, Beethoven had Neefe. The true challenge once you know the secret lies in finding a mentor is how to find that coach who can make your passion work in the world. This is like how to find a raindrop in a rainstorm. There are thousands of coaches out there. They’re like doctors and lawyers. But here’s what I learned (the hard way): some coaches are competent, some are lousy, even soul crushers. I dropped coins in wishing well after wishing well. One wore a floral patterned dress that matched her bonnet and tried to make me into a mystery writer; another one was always throwing theories at me I couldn’t apply; one promised me the stars, took my money and then never contacted me again.

Suzanne, my mentor and writing coach.

How do you find your coach?

Here are five helpful hints for the girl or gal who wants to (or maybe has) dropped everything to do what she loves:

  1. Go with the gut. Have a bad feeling even though her website’s copy seems like a projection of everything lying dormant in your heart? That’s your intuit talking. Run. There are too many fantastic coaches out there who have integrity and know how to move you forward.
  2. She’s part of your tribe: if you see her write a post in a publication you love or show up in a group on social media with whom you share a vibe, chances are you have similar taste, so you might want to take a shot at it. I found my coach through my Reiki teacher. My coach had helped a fellow Reiki student get an agent and a book deal. She’s now distributed with Random House, has been on NPR, has speaking engagements, the whole nine yards.
  3. She has street cred and success: When I went on my coach’s website, she had testimonial after testimonial from people who had published books, made a career out of writing, had gotten bylines with top media outlets and had life changing experiences after being with her. She was also successful in her own right. An internationally-acclaimed author with lots of kudos to her name, she’s made her living writing, which is what I wanted to do and so I knew she could trail blaze a path.
  4. She gets you, every single part of you. The secret to my coach’s success is that she works in the Gateless Writing Method, a very specific method based on brain science, craft tools and community that moves creatives to places they’d only imagined. Through this method, she helps all of you rather than just the part of you working on your craft. That divorce you haven’t quite gotten over? Could be a barrier to next step on your career path. The trauma you suffered as a child might be the thing that needs to be coddled before you begin to really allow yourself to go big. Make sure your coach isn’t just about deliverables, numbers, list building, ideal clients and great gallery gigs.
  5. It doesn’t happen overnight: I know, this one sort of sucks. But anyone who promises you the world in thirty days or even six weeks isn’t really helping you make lasting change. It took most of us years to get here and the true unraveling and resetting can take a while to grab hold. Something magical did happen with my coach, everything my shaman has been teaching me about the process absolutely broke through, and while it felt like it happened overnight, it’s too deep and long lasting for that. Now I feel seasoned at this writing thing. But first I had to undo a lot of the conditioning I’d learned in my corporate gig.

Since working with my coach I’ve been shortlisted for prizes, published in the top online media outlets and have been picked up by prestigious lit journals, but more than that? I understand that often those who fail at doing what they loved just didn’t have the guidance they needed to learn how to soar.

What will you do today to obtain the guidance you need to succeed?

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Lisa publishes essays on the writing life, inspiring women, and her love for horses. Her essays have appeared in Horse Network, Manifest-StationHuffPost, and the IPPY-award-winning anthology Unmasked: Women Write About Sex and Intimacy After Fifty. In August of 2018, she was awarded a one-month writer’s residency at Fairhope Center for the Writing Arts in Fairhope, AL. She lives near Boston, where she bikes, hikes, rides horses, and edits technology blogs for the CTO of Hitachi Vantara. She is at work on the sequel to “Calamity” and sending out an essay collection entitled, “Essays on Love, Career, Writing, and the Creatures Great and Small Who Have Enriched My Life.”

You can contact her at lisa.demasi@gmail.com and follow her on TwitterLinkedIn or via her website nurtureismynature.com.

The Creative Expression Ignited in Hot Power Hour

The best thing you can possibly do with your life is to tackle the mother**king sh*t of it. —Cheryl Strayed

It’s early August, 9:30 a.m., hot and sticky on Saturday in the charming city of Fairhope, Alabama, some twenty miles southeast of Mobile. I steal away from the adobe cottage that keeps me flinching in the wee hours due to its “settling noises” and take up on the sidewalk wearing a pair of CrossFit training shorts and a running bra.

It’s not exactly yoga attire, and in the modesty of the South, nothing short of conspicuous.

What can I say?

I’m from the Northeast.

Sweet Luna, a small, “feral” black cat greets me on the steps of nearby Soul Shine Yoga Studio for the third day of my thirty-day pilgrimage – a writer’s retreat –, in search of creative inspiration and, this morning, to better hone my yoga practice.

I’m holding the camera making kissy noises at Luna when vivid splats of red flash through my mind. Before I left my sometimes-creepy cottage — you know the drill — I squatted on the toilet and my maxi pad got unstuck and plopped into the bowl. Things like this happen to me all the time. I fished the thing out with my fingers, squeezed out the excess fluid and tossed it into the wastebasket. This fourth day of heavy flow began drip-drip-dripping as I sat down into seat 34F aboard the plane at Logan, wearing my favorite white jeans and lusciously deep pink-colored panties with a wide white band that reads “Victoria’s Secret.”

I’m an open-door pee-er in the sunlit privacy of my own home but peeing in the cottage bathroom’s windowless dark keeps “Missy-the-homeless-woman,” who is known to stalk the place, from glimpsing me through the front door window. The same goes for the drummer who lives in his car in the library parking lot next door.

I rose from the toilet and put on the light. Worthy of a CSI crime scene, its white porcelain base, the rim, the seat, under the seat and the tile floor was not dotted, but wildly strewn with bright red blood. “My biology,” as I’ve come to call such things. I cleaned up the mess, thinking, Jesus, really? A voice in my head, a source of infinite encouragement, emitted a self-deprecating, resolved sigh. Not wholly due to the grossness, but because “we” thought my menstruating was done for good.

At fifty-three, my periods stopped six months ago and “personal summers,” e.g. fling-the-covers-off-body-aflame-at-3 a.m., ensued in their wake. Honestly, with no irritability and continued and intended weight loss through cycling, running and High Intensity Interval Training, I was over the moon. My husband began finding me in Namaskarasana at sunrise, staring fixedly at the ceiling and chanting, “Dear God, at last, thank you.”

But why had the flow resumed when I was boarding a plane to take me far away for this month-long writer’s residency awarded to finish the memoir manuscript I’ve had kicking around for eight years? Could it be a cleansing of sorts, a divine reckoning, penetrating that dense layer of dust in the creative cogs of my mind? A rebirth in the advent of leaving the sentient beings I love—my family and furry kids and best-girls behind?

Can’t be—because as time progresses in this creep-du-jour cottage, I’m Bugs Bunny doomed in his aircraft, twisting and turning in a tight downward spiral toward earth.

How come?

It’s the day job. It makes for a tasty morsel of distraction. Same goes for the things that go bump in the night—not the fridge’s compressor turning on and off or the central air. It’s the noises I can’t pinpoint—that banging. The dread of opening my eyes to make for the bathroom when I can’t hold my pee in one second more and fathoming the walking dead standing at the threshold with a blacked-in eye socket and the other eye barely intact, dangling down its cheek by a bloody gnawed-on thread.

The cottage is rent-free, awarded on the merit of my published writing and work-in-process but, let me tell you, everything comes with a price.

My ego doesn’t take the spooky stuff into account or the ample and overwhelming creative-crushing opportunity to get some writing done.

You’re finally here and look at you go, that little voice in my head jeers. I can’t give a fruitful response to each of the good-natured sponsors who take turns treating me to their favorite restaurant every night, all the while suppressing my question, “So, how have the women faired in a month-long stay in the cottage?”

Instead I tell them, “I’m not sure where I’m going start—revising a manuscript or beginning a new one.”

They search my face for intent, some hint of promise.

Look at you go.

I think hard on a source for creativity and inspiration: Yoga.

I pinpointed the studio on the map from Massachusetts, just in case I’d need that source of creativity and inspiration. There, it’s a block from the cottage. Soul Shine Yoga.

The name of the place sunk in well. I-want-my-soul-to-shine.

Luna grows bored with my picture-taking and crosses the patio to the florist next door. I check in with the teacher at reception and step into a studio not even twice the size of our master bedroom back home and heated to ninety-three degrees. It houses no more than four mats three inches apart width-wise times four mats lengthwise, a cramped total of sixteen yogis, plus an instructor, standing.

This is my third-ever “Hot Power Hour” and I’ve learned as soon as you exert the slightest bit of energy, the obvious happens. The sweat pores out of your skin in buckets. It’s the effect I’m seeking, although against my mother’s advice. She bravely contended with my frequent acute knee-buckling episodes of teenage tachycardia known in colloquial terms as “heart attacks,” a rampant yee-haw condition in which a stress-induced event (e.g. excessive heat and humidity, exertion) tripped electricity inside my heart to a rogue electrical pathway, spiking my heart up to two hundred beats per minute.

Mom said, sympathetically, “It’ll be too hot for you.”

The instructors at this studio play a diverse mix of music, and Mary Jo leads us into subtle movements to limber our muscles, accompanied by Perry Farrell’s eerie and whiny-pitched voice singing Jane Says, a song about “Jane’s” heroin addiction and how “she’s gonna kick it tomorrow.” Jane’s Addiction’s album covers flood my mind: macabre busts and a recollection of their fantastic rendition of Sympathy for the Devil and how Farrell says he’s visited by aliens.

All this is not good for my practice, so I dismiss the lyrics and imagery for later when I approach my creep-du-jour cottage.

Mary Jo intensifies the movements. Plank, chaturanga, up dog, down dog, crescent lunge. The sweat on my body reflects the recessed ceiling lights, cascades down my nose and limbs, drips to the floor. I do not lapse into a “heart attack”; my mother forgets I had the rogue electrical pathway ablated in my late twenties. When Mary Jo takes us through a hyper-intense flow sequence including Warrior I, II and Reverse Warrior, three women in the class more than half my age (and sporting proper yoga attire) revert to child’s pose.

The voice inside my head sets a precedence. It offers words of affirmation. You’re winning, it says.

Winning?

My heart’s beating so hard it’s going to tear out of my chest, but darkness is not inking over the crown of my head and seeping into my eyes, bringing me to my knees. Back up to Warrior I, I lunge and reach my arms for the sky, my pose a tuning fork and open channel for divine intervention. I am self-aware and my senses keen; my chest and heart uplifted. I radiate empowerment—there “ain’t no mountain high enough” to keep me from anything. My abrupt exhales and the sweat pouring out of my pores tells me I am life, a vessel. Biology. Mary Jo prompts us to transition to Warrior II and, grounding strong in my core and quads, I bend at the knee and stare over my middle finger on my extended arm, and every cell in my body is vibrating, shimmying.

They say to me, You’re rocking the intensity, sister.

The voice in my head echoes, Rockin’ it. Like a warrior.

Mary Jo eventually leads us toward reprieve—my familiar bedside prayer squat—and surprise or perhaps not during this rebirth, this cleansing, I’m called to embrace my womanhood again. My uterus contracts and expels a boatload of blood.

The maxi pad is saturated with sweat and blood and due to routine straining before the pad slipped into the bowl, mucous from my intestinal lining—major biology. Whether the pad is fixed in the right place or not, it’s not going to serve much purpose.

During Savasana, I am at ease. I think how my period after so much time is like it used to be with its heavy flow, but on this occasion without cramps or fatigue or cravings. I think how I was at “my edge” and found strength and empowerment so big and expansive it couldn’t be contained in a single moment. I think how the sweat bubbled up from my skin in bodacious beads and momentarily fatigued and depleted, I held grounded in my stance. I think about one of the T-shirts for sale on a rack near reception that reads “This Isn’t My First Vinyasa,” and smile ever so subtly.

When I leave the studio with my drenched yoga towel draped about my neck and shoulders, I bend down and give the not-so-feral Luna a scratch behind the ears, then retreat to the cottage. Thoughts of Perry Farrell and his creative renderings do not come to mind upon its threshold. I enter the place, take down the towel blocking the front door’s window, open the curtains and snap off the light in every room. I voraciously devour lunch and the words on these pages spill forth: a culmination of the bleeding, sweating, cleansing and opening; the zenith of being a woman.

It’s a miracle; a goddamn beautiful one. I brought it on, knowing yoga and the universe would serve as catalysts to open me up like a flower and weave a story derived in a fresh tantalizing experience, a wanting, a means to an end.

The bumps in the night in this writer’s cottage won’t be so scary tonight.

They’re confronting a warrior.


Lisa publishes essays on the writing life, inspiring women, and her love for horses. Her essays have appeared in Horse Network, Manifest-StationHuffPost, and the IPPY-award-winning anthology Unmasked: Women Write About Sex and Intimacy After Fifty. In August of 2018, she was awarded a one-month writer’s residency at Fairhope Center for the Writing Arts in Fairhope, AL. She lives near Boston, where she bikes, hikes, rides horses, and edits technology blogs for the CTO of Hitachi Vantara. She is at work on the sequel to “Calamity” and sending out an essay collection entitled, “Essays on Love, Career, Writing, and the Creatures Great and Small Who Have Enriched My Life.”

You can contact her at lisa.demasi@gmail.com and follow her on TwitterLinkedIn or via her website nurtureismynature.com.

Who Says You Can’t Get Married at the Barn?

Honored Horse Network picked up my “bit” on getting “hitched” with 2 horses standing in as our witnesses.

On Thanksgiving weekend I sat atop Shadow, one of the two lesson horses I ride, just outside the indoor, wallowing in the delight of being at the barn as I chatted with my riding teacher and a couple of other riders.

Getting married was on my mind. My fiancé and I had been engaged a year and chose January 10th as our wedding date but remained undecided on a venue for the eight-minute-and-seven-second private ceremony.

Our Justice of the Peace had offered to officiate at her home. But I had no attachment to her home. Or to the insides of a church. My attachment, naturally, is was here in the saddle, with my horsey peeps, surrounded by nature and everything-equine. The question came out of my mouth before I even knew what I was asking.

“Linda,” I said to my riding teacher. “Could Dennis and I get married here?”

She didn’t even know we were engaged—I wore riding gloves. Her jaw gaped in surprise. The other riders smiled on.

I said, “You know, here?

Linda recovered her good-natured demeanor in no time. But not before I asked, “With our J.P. and Shadow and Nacho as our two witnesses?”

Linda’s smile was a mile wide. “Let me check with the powers that be,” she replied.

The farm’s owners not only agreed to allowing the ceremony on the property but were thrilled at the prospect.

On a subsequent ride with my two friends, Courtney and Candace, we picked out a spot for the wedding, near the outdoor dressage arena, on the grass before a long sweeping row of cattails that tapered well over ten feet high. It was perfect.

On our wedding day, fourteen years to the day we met, Dennis and I stood before Gayle, our J.P. with Linda and Nacho to Dennis’s side, and Shadow by my own. A video camera was propped on a table, recording.

Gayle began reciting the gathering words of the horsey-themed script:

“Lisa and Dennis, after many years as a committed and loving couple, we gather at Course Brook Farm, in Sherborn, Massachusetts, a very special place where Lisa enjoys riding Shadow and Nacho, guided by her kind, patient and encouraging teacher, Linda Smith. We are grateful to Linda and the Mayo family, owners of Course Brook Farm, for their kindness and generosity.

Our purpose for gathering today is to give a new official status to the life that you share. Your lives already are tied together by a deep personal commitment; your marriage is an affirmation and acknowledgement of all that you are to each other. Marriage gives structure and security to a couple’s love. Marriage is a commitment to life, the best that two persons can find and bring out in each other.”

At this juncture in the speech, Shadow and Nacho began ferociously feeding on the frozen grass. Linda had Nacho by the reins, he was well off to the side and not particularly disruptive. Shadow, on the other hand, kept turning his hindquarters to the camera.

What was that thing that W.C. Fields said? Never work with animals or children on live TV?

No matter. I turned Shadow 180 degrees for the second time and announced, “This is going to be a very fluid and dynamic ceremony.”

There was laughter, a whinny from one of the horses in the paddocks. Gayle resumed her task and asked for our consent to one another and instructed Dennis and I to recite our vows:

“Lisa, before you, life was a chore. With you, life is a joy. I want to share in that joy with you for the rest of my life.”

“Dennis, me without you is like sky without blue. As long as there is sky, I shall be with you.”

Shadow was stepping squarely on my foot. Good thing I was wearing cowboy boots, not high heels. I nudged him off my foot as he continued to power through the grass like a fairway mower.

Linda began the reading, the foreword to Dr. Allan J. Hamilton’s book Lead with Your Heart… Lessons from a Life with Horses.

[As humans, we] insist that space represents a “final frontier.” We look out into the depths of the universe with the same naivete that the conquistadors and The Pioneers demonstrated when they faced unexplored territories. Our first instinct is to try to possess it and tame it, not to truly, simply dwell in it. We want to be “out there” rather than “in here.” We see the challenge and the struggle as existing outside ourselves rather than within.

Horses see things differently. They are large and powerful animals and can at times be intimidating up close, but they are the prototypical prey species. They offer us a practical method to see meaningful alternatives to our own voracious way of life. When we spend the time to see the world through their eyes, we can visualize a path to transform our predatory appetites. They challenge us to undertake the journey of mastering ourselves, rather than everything around us.

Teaching without preaching, horses lead by example and employ the lessons of experience. They epitomize immersive learning at its best. And they challenge us with their formidable size and strength to bring results through collaboration rather than by force. Horses have developed their own compelling models of fairness, forgiveness, and leadership. They have acquired a group identity, a consciousness not as singular beings but as members of a family, a herd. They see themselves not as individuals in the isolated context of “me” but as relatives in a family in the broader framework of “we.” And they derive a powerful and gratifying sense of inclusion from it.

Horses share resources for the benefit of the herd. They are a wise, gentle species that eschews the notion that might defines right. While stallions with their reproductive imperative come and go, the alpha mare endures as herd leader. Because they understand what it means to be hunted, horses have the most profound appreciation for the benefits of peace. They yearn for harmony, kindness, and tranquility; they crave freedom from anxiety, abuse and predation. With their nonviolent attitude, horses are a testament that a partnership based on trust is far more productive than one that relies on dominance.

I thanked Linda for her heartfelt reading. Shadow was eating the grass at my feet in such a way that his body made my own disappear; the camera was only capturing my head, a centaur in the midst of getting hitched. Nacho had stopped eating grass and was pawing the ground with his left foreleg. Was this his sign of consent?

Gayle was moving to the ring exchange. Dennis and I didn’t want wedding bands, this wasn’t our first rodeo, and I neglected to give him my engagement ring before the ceremony. I placed Shadow’s reins between my legs, a gesture that would make any true equestrian cringe, and pulled at the glove on my left hand. Shadow, sensing the loosening of the reins, moseyed after more grass.

My glove fell to the ground. I picked it up, took off my ring and handed it to Dennis. Linda was giggling. Nacho was nodding his head up and down in great big gestures. Gayle was maneuvering away from Shadow’s roving hindquarters.

Time skipped and stymied until I realized Dennis was holding the ring before my finger “Lisa, each time you put on this ring, may it remind us both of the love and joy and commitment we share.”

I regained presence of mind. I smiled to Dennis and thought, yes, this is very nice, thank you.

Gayle pronounced:

“Dennis and Lisa, you have chosen each other from among all others to journey through life together. Today, you shared with one another words of trust and loving commitment, and you consented to marriage. Now it is my privilege to say, by the power vested in me by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, but most especially by the power of your own love, I pronounce you husband and wife. You may seal your marriage with a kiss or a neigh!”

After Dennis and I engaged in quick smooch, Linda made the suggestion of a lifetime. “Let’s move the horses to the frozen footing of the dressage arena for picture taking!”

“Good thinking,” I said, laughing and leading Shadow a mere ten feet away to solid ground, where the horses behaved picture-perfect, calm and sweet and even, comical, and we stole away with beautiful snapshots that will forever seal my desire to get married in the presence of horses.


Afterword:

Dennis and I reached out to Dr. Hamilton to tell him we excerpted his introduction to Lead with Your Heart. We were thrilled to receive a note back from him!

Dear Lisa and Dennis:

Thank you for your kind and thoughtful note. I am overjoyed that the book moved you and could be incorporated into your wedding. This is a great honor. My wife (Jane) of forty-five years and I wish you and Dennis a life together filled with joy passion, and purpose.

Best,

Allan J. Hamilton, MD, FACS, FAANS

[our note to Dr. Hamilton}

Dear Dr. Hamilton,

Preparing for our equine-themed wedding last week, we stumbled across Lead with Your Heart and were moved to excerpt a significant piece of your introduction for the reading that gave context to the ceremony. We shared the story, Who Says You Can’t Get Married at the Barn, with Carley at Horse Network, who published it.

We are currently enjoying your book.

Horse Network also published The Breakthrough I Witnessed in the Healing Power of Horses, which I hope you might enjoy.

Thank you for your wonderful contributions!

Yours truly,

Lisa Mae DeMasi & Dennis Ravenelle


Lisa publishes essays on the writing life, inspiring women, and her love for horses. Her essays have appeared in Horse Network, Manifest-StationHuffPost, and the IPPY-award-winning anthology Unmasked: Women Write About Sex and Intimacy After Fifty. In August of 2018, she was awarded a one-month writer’s residency at Fairhope Center for the Writing Arts in Fairhope, AL. She lives near Boston, where she bikes, hikes, rides horses, and edits technology blogs for the CTO of Hitachi Vantara. She is at work on the sequel to “Calamity” and sending out an essay collection entitled, “Essays on Love, Career, Writing, and the Creatures Great and Small Who Have Enriched My Life.”

You can contact her at lisa.demasi@gmail.com and follow her on TwitterLinkedIn or via her website nurtureismynature.com.

 

How My Disapproving Mother Unwittingly Fuels My Creative Expression

Image

The room began to close in. The air got thick… dense. Tension seeped into my pores. I grew smaller in stature—shrunk right there in my chair before her, as if I was Alice and had just choked down a little red pill.

The topic is forthcoming, typical of family gatherings, a line of discussion of an inquisitive nature. It is terribly humiliating this line, disintegrating the little validation I feel about myself, and certainly paving the way to pulverizing any validation I someday hope to feel.

She is triumphantly sitting across from me in my brother’s parlor, her hands folded over her swollen belly on this Christmas Day.

My hands are not folded over my own swollen belly, but my ever-shrinking Alice fingers are fumbling about, trying to maintain a grip on my ever-growing glass of sherry. I wallow in thought.

It’s a terrible thing to be shrinking, I muse.

I try to convey to her, with an expression of pity, that I’d like her to cut this sort of thing out: Hand me the blue pill! Return my body back to its normal inadequacy!

She picks up on my expression, but it doesn’t stop her. Her eyes, piercingly blue, bore into my forehead, mining my mind for the reasoning that prolongs the ongoing predicament. It is the matter that seemingly sears her brain daily, upon waking.

Words penetrate the thickness.

They loom before me, big and fat and dripping with turkey gravy. She says, “Are you ready to get back into the circle of life yet?”

Here we go.

I resist rolling my eyes, suck in my breath, and feel the pressure against my insides. Time slows to a crawl.

My lungs deflate, a slow leak like a bum tire. I maintain my front, an uneasy smile, thinking I have never departed from the circle of life!

Alice and I sometimes share shrunken commonalityI am here, albeit dwindling to mere molecules in my chair—she, mother; me, daughter—amid a festive family holiday. In my book, that constitutes part of the arc in said circle.

A voice in my mind, sounding as if it’s just taken a hit from a helium-filled balloon, squeals at me: That’s not what she means.

I laugh to myself, entertained: “Girl interrupted.” Say something else…

She’s not referring to procreating or dying or even “eat or be eaten.” She means circulation as in, “Are you ready to get back into circulation yet?”

Oh yeah. “Girl reactivated.”

The topic is the one that translates to me getting a paying job, rather than continuing to “run away from reality,” with my so-called “writing interests.”

I suppose, from her perspective, four years is a long time for her daughter “to run away from reality.” It is a novel pursuit, which thus far has yielded fruit the size of a water meal. However, in these four years she has failed to realize that I’ve poured my heart, soul and angst into this self-proposed commitment. Accordingly, I’ve also sought out Reiki to induce some self-love, since I am—especially when engaged in writing—constantly and colorfully harassed and torn to shreds by my inner critic.

Needless to say, my mother is my outer critic.

In the peace of the lovely colonial room, Dennis sits in a chair to my left, and my father sits beside my mother. My brother is off in the kitchen, cutting cheese.

The question, relating to the humiliating, fruitless topic that my mother could not resist in asking one moment longer, (particularly in light of the New Year—making resolutions, picking up the pieces and starting anew, and so forth) remains there, unaddressed. It lingers, splattering the coffee table with fowl juice, tainting the sherry and the nibbles, while extinguishing the flickering light of the assorted votive candles. This “circle of life” subject deflates the holiday mood; all falls flat.

I gaze back at her, with a hint of incredulousness in my expression saying: Why can’t you support my endeavor? Why can’t you just be a nice mother?

She, of course, does not pick up on this. She has never picked up on it, despite the countless amounts of times I’ve attempted to impress my feelings upon her.

Why should I expect anything different this Christmas Day?

Although he’s sitting beside me, I don’t defer to Dennis for his unwavering sympathy, support or opinion. I keep this subject between my mother and I, leaving open the possibility and space for us to “hash it out,” so-to-speak.

The “hashing it out” (a confrontation of sorts) does not happen. As usual, any real invitation to speak candidly, openly… ends up shunned upon.

There’s no avoiding her intention. She moves the subject right along and puts the question in a more specific form, saying: “What kind of job will you look for?”

My expression sours.

The refrain in which Elton John sings “in the cir-cle, the cir-cle of life” begins to repeat in my head.

The core of me within begs to rise up and show itself—my insides, out. The scorched and glistening spongy tissue springs from my throat and slops to the floor next to the coffee table. I stare at the battered evidence, my guts, and choose to defend myself (something I haven’t dared to do since I was a teenager).

My face is deadpan, void of the four-year compounded emotion relating to my writing efforts (best described as trying to squeeze blood from a stone intermittently). I assert into the space, some distance over my scorched and glistening core—my guts—and say, “I’d like to become a successful writer.”

My mother’s expression remains unmoved, quite serious and probing.

I refrain from glancing at Dennis and keep the perimeter open and clear for fire. I hope for confrontation—for a once-in-a-lifetime candid discussion.

Dad shakes himself out of dozing at the subject matter and pushes his glasses further up on his nose. He interjects, “There are lots of teaching jobs out there. You could be a teacher. All my retired engineer friends teach—you could teach middle school or high school.”

But Dad, I don’t want to be a teacher.

Not quite to my advantage, my mother’s ears fall deaf on the suggestion, and the conversation flatlines.

I focus on the flame of a burning candle, situated in the middle of a marble-topped mahogany end table, between my father and mother. I cross my eyes silly—my forehead cramps. The funky play of light brings me into a world of my own, prompting ironic clarity.

The helium inner voice comes on the wind again—she is from a different time and a different playing field. She knows not what it means, what drives and feeds one’s magnetism for risk, leaving the known for the unknown.

The voice becomes stronger, and sloughs off the high pitch. She is the catalyst to our creative expression, you see, the thing that sates us—our subversive writing.

Anew: I am rebel with a cause, confident, triumphant even, in my own right.

My scorched and glistening guts slither up the couch and climb back down my throat to their rightful place. In a trance-like state I say, “Wait till my manuscript hits the big screen.”

My parents are stunned and wide-eyed. I can just make out their expressions in my periphery.

Nothing more is said on the matter.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

This essay was published in Elephant Journal with the title She, Mother. Me, Daughter, January 17, 2015.

Lisa publishes essays on the writing life, inspiring women, and her love for horses. Her essays have appeared in Horse Network, Manifest-StationHuffPost, and the IPPY-award-winning anthology Unmasked: Women Write About Sex and Intimacy After Fifty. In August of 2018, she was awarded a one-month writer’s residency at Fairhope Center for the Writing Arts in Fairhope, AL. She lives near Boston, where she bikes, hikes, rides horses, and edits technology blogs for the CTO of Hitachi Vantara. She is at work on the sequel to “Calamity” and sending out an essay collection entitled, “Essays on Love, Career, Writing, and the Creatures Great and Small Who Have Enriched My Life.”

You can contact her at lisa.demasi@gmail.com and follow her on TwitterLinkedIn or via her website nurtureismynature.com.

 

I Met My Hero at the EQUUS Film Festival

Horse Network picked up this story on December 11, 2019.

On a hectic Monday morning just three days before the EQUUS Film Fest, I received an email from Bernice Ende, author of Lady Long Rider: Alone Across America on Horseback, informing her followers that she’d be attending the event. I was struck with disappointment. How would I be able to get a plan into place so quickly and put off work deadlines to get there?

Reading about Bernice’s adventures and her gumption to cover thousands upon thousands of miles riding by her lonesome through the wilds and cities in the U.S., Canada and Europe on horseback had made a lasting impression on me. This was a woman I wanted to meet.

My fiancé walked in the room and found me staring into space. “What’s up?” he asked.

“I’m going to meet Bernice,” I answered in a trance. “In Lexington.”

The travel plans came together seamlessly. Within minutes upon arrival to the Kentucky Horse Park, I bumped into Bernice. I was going into the Visitor’s Building; she was heading to the International Horse Museum to meet and greet and sell her books. I was overwhelmed with happiness at meeting this woman who I deeply revere.

Bernice took my hand in hers and we walked over to two mounted policewomen and as we stood there talking to them, EQUUS Film Fest founder Lisa Diersen snapped a photo.

Bernice and me with Mounted Police at Kentucky Horse Park.

Bernice and I became fast friends. She signed my book; we unpacked things for her display; I served as her ambassador when attendees inquired about Lady Long Rider. After a long day at the Fest, we enjoyed a cocktail and fabulous dinner at Malone’s—just her and me—and we talked and talked. About her next ride, about my own memoir, about the universe granting my wish to meet her, about people and horses and dogs we’ve loved.

Why are we drawn to certain people? Do we see a bit of ourselves in their demeanors and ambitions? Is it reverence? Admiration for those who have courage and resilience to overcome real hardship? An incredible feat we wish we could accomplish but cannot?On Sunday afternoon, Diersen discreetly informed us that Bernice would be winning the Fest’s literary contest that evening for Long Lady Rider. Bernice had a flight to catch and would not be attending the awards ceremony. She asked me to accept the award on her behalf! What a thrill!

I immediately began preparing a speech in my head for the crowd, saying how honored I was to meet Bernice in person and the big magic that brought us together. But there would be no time for speeches, no matter how short.

Bernice and I shared one last meal together at Red State Barbeque before catching an Uber to the airport. In between making her laugh, she told me that although she would beginning short rides in March, she had been thinking about laying down roots in New Mexico—where she currently resided in her trailer with her horses. That the cabin she’s loved for years in Montana no longer held appeal for her. And I shared with her that I too was seeking a transformation or breakthrough.

I walked with Bernice into the American Airways terminal, helping her with two suitcases and the padded western saddle in which she long-rides. We embraced and as I walked away, I’d already begun to miss her. Her smile, the way she laughs, the way she became quiet when she talked about the beings that mean the world to her.

When I had returned to my hotel room, I called my fiancé and the excitement of sharing time with Bernice poured out of me like Thunder Snow bolts out of the start gate. And as I paused for a breath of air, my fiancé said to me, “I’m proud of you.”

Me?

“You wanted to meet Bernice, someone you deeply admire, and you made it happen. You followed through and didn’t let anything get in the way.”

“Yeah, but, Dennis,” I said. “It’s Lady Long Rider.”

A hearty thanks to Lisa Diersen and her team for all the hard work in preparing for this year’s EQUUS Film Fest. It was truly a very special event, showcasing the many, many talents of equine filmmakers and writers, people with huge hearts who rescue abused and terribly neglected horses, and organizations facilitating the healing power of horses with veterans, the disabled, elderly and more.


Lisa publishes essays on the writing life, inspiring women, and her love for horses. Her essays have appeared in Horse Network, Manifest-StationHuffPost, and the IPPY-award-winning anthology Unmasked: Women Write About Sex and Intimacy After Fifty. In August of 2018, she was awarded a one-month writer’s residency at Fairhope Center for the Writing Arts in Fairhope, AL. She lives near Boston, where she bikes, hikes, rides horses, and edits technology blogs for the CTO of Hitachi Vantara. She is at work on the sequel to “Calamity” and sending out an essay collection entitled, “Essays on Love, Career, Writing, and the Creatures Great and Small Who Have Enriched My Life.”

You can contact her at lisa.demasi@gmail.com and follow her on TwitterLinkedIn or via her website nurtureismynature.com.

 

The Breakthrough I Witnessed in the Healing Power of Horses

This article was featured in Horse Network, November 15, 2019.

I’m all in for “anything horse.” Riding, grooming, sharing a horse’s space, stroking a muzzle emanating every fiber of love of my being for the creature, whispering sweet nothings into his or her ear.

This weekend, however, I ventured something hands-off—I audited a fundraiser for Wild Hearts Horses for Heroes, a therapeutic equestrian program for veterans. On a gorgeous autumn morning, nearly forty people came together at Indian Creek Stables in Carver, MA—veterans of the Program, participants with unreconciled childhood trauma, and horsey people with their own therapeutic equestrian programs for youth-at risk as far from home as Florida.

Twenty “auditors” assumed seats in chairs that stretched unilaterally across one side of the arena and within three sessions over a six-hour period, we observed Tim Hayes, renown equine therapeutic clinician and author of Riding Homeask twelve individuals to perform groundwork tasks with their horse-partner to attain increased self-awareness and healing over a past traumatic event.

The most moving interaction occurred when Tim asked a former combat veteran (I’ll call her “Sheila”) to pet her horse and lift each of her horse’s feet. This exercise, Tim told us, tends to “bring stuff up.”

“Sheila,” Tim said, “pick up each of your horse’s feet.”

“No,” she replied, adamantly.

The feel-good bubble infiltrating the arena burst. Tim remained close to where Sheila stood, unaffected and relaxed, standing with his hands loosely clasped across his front. His patience was a mile long. Some moments later, he began to probe Sheila for the reasons why she refused.

“I’m nervous and anxious,” she said.

“Weren’t expecting to be in front of all these people, were you?” Tim reasoned.

Sheila began to cry. The two other veterans enrolled in the Wild Hearts program looked on, their hands resting on some part of their horses’ body—neck, withers; identifying with Sheila’s emotions. My heart was breaking.

Tim nudged, “Why are you crying, Sheila?”

“I get overwhelmed when I’m faced with doing something new,” she replied. “It’s too much at once. No one understands.”

“Well,” Tim said, “We can take it slow. We’ll tackle it one foot at a time.”

Sheila stood unresponsive and still for several moments. Then, she wiped the tears from her face and reached for one of her horse’s front hooves and pulled at it. The horse lowered his head, nudged her thigh with his muzzle and lifted his foot. I exhaled the deep breath I was holding.

Continue reading