Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Every man has a dream in his life. My dream, since I ever started with horses, has been to go riding to the mountains. And maybe never come back.
Iceland is full of beautiful mountains, but you need quite some money to rent horses and service for trips – the whole horse-rental business proves to be a lot of work and effort that needs to be paid. Or you borrow horses. Easy for natives, impossible for foreigners. So I spent the last years with watching my young horses grow and reach an age that makes them good and trusty riding-companions.

Last week an offer rained on me like a huge bag of chocolate – join us for a trip! And my mountain dream approached ...
It was 3 days with some very nice women in the beautiful area of Rangársysla. The tour would lead us to the banks of the river Thórsá, through borderless meadows, small rivers and lakes, later through an elfish lava-landscape with a growing forest in between, along a high mountain, the massive vulcano Hekla in front of us, and all the time an endless horizon wherever you would turn your head to. Nothing to bother your sight, nothing to disturb, nothing to bind or to grab, just openness, width and space. I am not sure why this is so important to me, but I never get lost in vastness. I might rather get lost in closeness.
It was a part of Iceland I should know well, as I am working on the other side of the river. But you will never ever get there, except in horseback. No chance to hike, to bike or to drive a car.
Horseback riding is the only way to experience a country from another ankle, deeply connected to the earth by being part of another creature.

Spending 3 days with horses not only calms you down. It makes you completely quiet. 
Puts you into a state of peace you never experienced before.
Erases anything from your mind that could trouble the balance of the two of you. Riding is a prayer of balance.
Cleans your mind from words in any language.
Cleans you from past and future, leaves nothing but presence – the presence of the next 100 meters.
Cleans your love and showers it with determination. 
The horse will only respond to a positive body and an open heart - they know much more about love than most of us do.

It was nothing with a particular horse. They were all nice and just with us. It must have been their aura in a whole, woven around us like an invisible veil. The enormous power of the horses penetrates your body, makes you find their rhythm, and forget your own. Riding on long distances is kind of giving up yourself, and giving yourself to the cooperate project of managing distance – like they do.
No desires, no selfishness, no questions. But intuitive devotion, complete commitment.

I never went on horseback for such a long time. Had to stop riding my mare some weeks ago and was physically completely unprepared. However – no muscle-pain, no tiredness, no stiffness, despite of trotting for many hours. If only my mind could be as easy as my body ….
On the fourth day five of us rounded up the horses and brought them home. I found myself in the front of the herd, on a fast and extremely determined mare, bound for home. She ruled the beat, she defined the speed, and she knew her job in the endless black sands of the Thjórsá banks, when the loose horses tried to run away and she speeded up all of a sudden, in order to stay in the front.
It has been an incredible feeling of being completely alone in my front position, devoted to wind, vastness and to the speed of this fast and relentless tölting horse. I left my fears of losing control behind the resolute beat of her steps.

My own two guys must have felt the deep gratefulness I brought to their meadow today, when they stayed with me for almost one hour while I took a long break in the grass. And maybe they could feel the pictures in my mind, and the rhythm that's still in my body ....

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Tales from the meadow

It feels a little bit like Groundhog day- finding myself alone with two horses, and no one around. Again.
Due to complicated circumstances my mare and my foal ended up in a meadow, just the two of them, far away from other horses. Both came from solid herds, and being alone in the big place has turned them into quite rstless beings. Both have lost their peace, I can see it in their eyes.
People call me mad and make fun about me, but I do understand the worries of these two creatures. The mare misses a mare-friend, instead of having this, she is put into responsibility for the young one, and although being her son, he is not her friend, that's obvious. For her the situation is not appropriate, as she used to be a lady and taught me how to treat a lady.

He is just an easy young horse with a playful mind – and no friend to play with. Good for him, that life outside of his meadow is extremely exciting, presenting free-running horses from the horse-rentals, huge lorries, or seven bicycles in a row. Like a policeman he spends many hours on one of the mounds, just watching.
So I had to give up riding, as the little one can't stay alone. The mare is getting fat, stiff and stubborn – and also very strong, as she has to run with him, whenever he thinks, something at the horizon needs to be examined – in high speed of course. I never saw my horses run so much like in this place. It's breathtaking and beautiful.

As he is too small for riding, although four years old, I started to work with him. Just some minutes every day, with breaks, sometimes more challenge, next day almost nothing, having in mind that his ability to concentrate is only short and needs to be built up gently. And amazingly the mare is helping. She is always by my side, communicating by ears with us, and in fact she is quite a hold in difficult situations, like staying calmly beside us, when he doesn't know what to do or gets nervous (and me getting unsecure of what to do next). I have never trained a horse before.

Together we taught him to walk on halter and rope, walk with us on long walks over this huge meadow, walk on both sides of me, and finally walk alone with me, away from her. His open-mindedness and willingness to say 'yes!' is a precious gift, as my experience with mare and men were rather characterized by constant 'no' and me getting nervous and restless on finding solutions.
The young one and me, we had a strong connection right from the start. I was the last one he saw when they left him alone in a dark stable over night, before he could be brought to a foal herd. He was given to me as a birthday present half a year later, and he remembered me. And as he is close to my heart, his giver will always be. In the following years we lived close to each other, we met daily, and on countless occasions he would lie down next to me, like I was part of his herd.
Trust never dies, if you don't kill it.

He is curious and ready to be a grown-up (at least sometimes ;-) ), he accepts perfumed mane-spray and endless grooming, he endures stinking anti-fly-spray, while the mare immediately leaves, when she catches sight of any of the bottles in my hand. He even tried to follow me into the scary stable (that is too narrow for a horse to turn around) – she refuses, no chance up to now to get her inside in order to take off her irons or even feed her there.
So everything we do has to take place outside and in freedom, with no facility to tie and bind a horse.
Trust never dies, if you don't kill it.

I feel a bit like 200 years ago, living in a remote valley, being forced to find single-person-solutions. You have read hundreds of horsemanship books, only now you know what counts, and how many pages are made of western-european luxury.
In the end the horse is your teacher – it will tell you, where you went wrong and where you have to work on yourself to be convincing enough to lead them through situations that they estimate unsafe.
I am far from that point – but at least I know my goal.

People asked me why I was not selling these horses.
You don't sell your family.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Dance on the line

It's a thin line between life and death. Life requires from us to dance on the line, even if the music is not appropriate or really crap. Crappy music causes the rope to swing. Can be fun.
Funambulating implies keeping your balance with no other means than focus.
Some people use drugs as a balancing pole, but I prefer to be unfettered from expedients.
Keeping the balance means moving forward and backward, focussing on straightness – with the sideward movement being just a variation in the process. If you can find stability on a string made of air, your steps will get easier, faster and lighter. The heavy-loaded, however, have a tendency to fall. They crush through the net and eventually might meet death. But life also allows to climb down and take a rest in the arms of others. Premised, there are others.

The rope under the feet of castaways, witches and bitches presents itsself thinner than any other rope, without granting a resting place except for their hidden cave. No company, no admittance. No net, but sharing cushion with destiny. No cake, but self-healing. No trust. Trust can kill.
You might stumble from a single hit, and fall. Death's door is always open, just crawl inside. It takes some effort to not listen to his seducing song and pass the door.

I have been struggeling with balance in the past weeks. Fought the luring deep, tried to drown the song with silence and bustle, imitating the world around me, but lost hold after a well-aimed kick.The net under my rope, though, is a thin veil, woven by handicapped people and by my two horses. Any time I loose balance, they cure my fall, knowing everything about the pain of broken hearts and humiliation. The walls of my cave are bolstered with gratefulness for their small signs of care.

“When we can do nothing else, we can still love, without expecting any reward, or change, or gratitude.” (Paulo Coelho)
Love is no drug. But a balancing pole.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Have a good time

Soft summer rain is covering the island of lava. After four years of living in the Icelandic countryside I finally understand, why grass culms are so shy and careful to show themselves in late may, and why we should learn from them. They are overcareful, cold spells might come over them and press them to the ground.
Those culms, that are not strong enough, will die.

I don't feel any fear, instead a growing desire of losing myself in nature. Nature does not hold, but at least the grounds you are walking are reliable and firm. Life as a foreigner in the countryside is not firm. You get used to being alone, of being called 'meri' (bitch) behind your back, get used to live isolated from a society that basically is built on families/clans and has no space for individuals. Studying Icelandic history of the past 200 years made me understand the reason for exclusiveness. Living it, though, is very hard.
So life outside will either kill you, or make you strong, the latter which will isolate you even more. People who never shared the experience and never lived abroad, have no idea what I am talking about. It wouldn't help, either. The lack of caritas is often covered by having a good time, and by alcohol.
Having a good time is really a good idea :-)

It has proven to be easy to forward people in tears to a physician, recommend pills and get rid of the problem. However, when your heart bleeds from the stab of the man you love, no anticoagulant will stop the stream. But even when your author's voice fell silent, while getting lost in languages and culture, the meaning of words might at least give soothing images. If you have lost everything, the images will still be there, although words can't replace human touch. If you need to touch, groom your horse.

I do like the strong story behind the "accolade", the medieval sword ceremony between a king and his knight. Iron touching man, can a gesture be more extreme? It is only a few centimeters between the sword on the shoulder and the blade in the neck vein - between appreciating and deleting. It is only a breath between a smile and the suggestion that you are no longer welcome to a group that used to speak friendly to you.
You should have a good time, at least :-)

Hopelessness starts with the complete lack of ideas. No need to be desparate. Being isolated and out of ideas is enough. The first idea behind the wall of deafness will be the idea to disappear, which is coward, but in fact a sign of desparation.
Maybe the french girl who "went for a walk" a few days ago from a farm in the Westfjords, who got lost and had to be searched by 200 rescuers, had simply tried to disappear. She wore no jacket, had lost her shoes and "forgot" her cell phone. Media stressed that she was an experienced climber and hiker.
You never take a walk without cellphone and jacket into snowy Westfjord mountains.
Maybe a cold spell had swept over this young culm.
Next time she better have a good time.
When I decide to disappear, I will do it the right way, I'm f*ing german.
And try to have a good time.

Friday, April 5, 2013

I wanna do bad things with you

Visiting Meistaradeild/the masterclass of the Icelandic horses today was supposed to be more contemplative, and turned out to be a teaser to my mind. I thought I was through with all that stuff, no purpose, no magazine to write for, but no, I'm not, my brain started to work immediatley on the input.
So today it was about unmasking the section 'tölt on loose reins' /Slaktaumatölt (beginning with free speed, then slow speed, then free speed while letting reins go) - in the good old times a show for a yelling audience.
The competing is rough, the whole thing nothing but a fake.
One of the riders chose Jace Everett's "I wanna do bad things with you" as background music - quite a motto.
There is hardly any tölt in selfcarriage, despite flying reins. Weak hindquarters that are not able to step under the horse in order to carry properly, reveal a quality of homework as do necks without muscles, and in some cases the extreme front leg action doesn't fit into the picture at all. Tension dominates the track. For tölt on loose rein (in order to demonstrate that Icelandic horses need no rein) you need preparation - which soes not involve collection. You need a whip, a rein, clanging curb bit chains, two knees and the riders weight, leaning backwards.
Posing white reins (in order to show how loose they are on dark horses) are nothing but phony, if taken into consideration, how rudely they are used before letting them go. Pulling them like a pump handle means giving an abrupt pain to the mouth, an unfriendly reminder of what is required now. Too many horses in the track have been - from my point of view - pushed up and intimidated, none of them was able to turn inside the track in a proper, correct and calm way, most of them had to be dragged around by the inner rein (of the curb bit, which is no fun on the jaw). 
Valdimar Bergstads white rein was like an iron pike between his hands and the Icelandic curb bit, no movement, no relief - no reward. Most horses were ridden on curb bit, heads were stiff and motionless like put into a vise, and heavy on the reins. I saw no lightness - although there were light horses, beautiful horses, full of elegance and easy motion. All of them were heavily leaning on the bit. The 17-year-old Baldvin frá Stangarholti appeared as a professional in this competition, with amazing movements and speed - but stopping him revealed that his mouth was dead. No answer. I was reminded of a ride on an old competition horse, a wonderful horse, soft and friendly - until he decided that I didn't count and started to run, no chance of holding him back.
These are just descriptions of what was evident. Participants of a masterclass are supposed to know about basics, aren't they, being masters?

The exception tonight was Hrimnir frá Ósi, a white stallion that showed movements in harmony, speed in tune with himself, and peace in the small moments of break. He was the only horse that could stand still, do proper turns - and just go forward without being stressed.
Hrimnir was like a sparkling fountain, compared to the other horses being popped water-pipes.
I wish we could see more riding of his kind.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Strong things

„You can't go much further.“
This statement of a close friend is the essence of what could be said about life these days.

After the silent losses of last autumn – a home, the person I love, the presence of horses  – mainly survival was on the schedule. Surviving alone in this beautiful and silent new place, each fucking day, only being saved by the work with my handicapped people – and by their incredible sensitivity for pain, where hardly anyone took notice. A terrible desember/christmas time marked the end of a year of changes, and I knew the experience had to lead into something.
Either into death (nobody would find me after a fatal accident in my hot-tub, or a heart attack, the latter which is no joke) - or to a rope as a spiritual guiding line.

The rope appeared, like the materialized katharsis of christmas. 
I started with a new book, and the story manages to fill the emptiness. The strange secret behind „Iceland is a good place for writing“: when in doubt, write a book. Stories serve perfectly as substitutes, like music does, or dogs, or excessive work. Life tends to repeat chapters: together with a book-project I share this place that, being too far away from life, never sees visitors, although my door is always open. 
I fell back to the old customs from 4 years ago – sleepless, due to nightly fear and a overbusy mind, foodless, with no one to share a meal, and clueless about myself. The story is the alchemistic elixier.
Writers, musicians and painters are mad.

Iceland has been a good teacher in the matter of isolation, so I suffer far less than the above mentioned friend, a newbie on this island, who is speechless about how people ignore circumstances and simply leave you alone when you are too weak to cry for help. After 3 years you don't expect anything from people anymore, and you enjoy the warm shower of gladness, when you get an unexpected invitation, or when your postman chases you like an imbecile in the fields, just to forward personally a package from Russia :-)

We two girls made it through the winter, and to see her leave next month will be a big loss, as some winter will still be left.
Then loneliest ever - and the strongest also, in any sense. Strong impressions of nature, experienced night by night in my hot-tub (the greatest gift ever) – dozens of falling stars in the past months, or a northern light like the one that just brought me home from work are proofs of God being near. And Him being love. „Let us have love for each other, because love is of God, and everyone who has love is a child of God and has knowledge of God. He who has no love, has no knowledge of God, because God is love.“ (Joh. 4,7,8)
Truths like this create softness, and in hard times they form a mantra, inviting you into a peaceful circle, where there is no „But ...“- just a "yes".

Love no longer creates desparation. Love makes me even more sure, the longer it takes to wait. Sure also, that nothing is ever going to break me down.
It is like starting to play guitar. In the beginning your fingers are nothing but painful and you are pretty sure, you will never be able to play for more than 2 minutes. But your fingers get used to the pain, though not numb! – and at the same time more and more skilled, more sensitive. Less pain, more melody, and some day creating beauty.
The fingers on the strings are an allegory of life.
You have to experience the shapes of pain in order to grow.
You have to experience the pain of growing in order to be a melody for someone.
A strong heart does not get desparate, like a strong finger on the string does not get tired.

And the meme of the day was to be found on my Yogi-tea this morning (and Yogi knows):
Strong desire needs strong will.
Yesss! :-)