Around Town with Michael
During my working life when asked what I did for a living I would reply, “I do work that flows from my soul in service of others.” Over the years that came to mean many things. I volunteered at Maine Audubon for eight years as an environmental educator. I volunteered for New Beginnings, a homeless teen support non-profit, for seven years. I taught at our local middle school for eleven years. I taught horseback riding to disabled adults and children also for eleven years. I helped found and worked at an equine assisted psychotherapy practice for five years.
All of these jobs and volunteer stints have helped me to realize just how blessed I have been in the ways that I have been able to choose to spend my life. Of course all of these various endeavors were not always with out challenges. Quite the opposite was true. What they did all hold however was the ability to feed my soul as I helped others on their journeys. The other common thread to all of these experiences is that there was always a component that connected me and my charges to the natural world. Even in my role at the middle school, I frequently designed units for my students that would take us outside to view and record natural phenomena.
For the last sixteen years of my working life I partnered with horses for teaching riding and participating as a support person in equine assisted therapy sessions. The last five years of my working life my four footed partner was Cyra my Clydesdale cross mare. Now that Cyra has retired she has taken on a new role as “The Village Horse”. In this new role (which suits her to a T), she and I make nearly daily rounds in the village to places where there is a likelihood of finding kids and grown-ups to visit with. While we are not always successful, that does not matter for quiet rides with just the two of us are equally wonderful in a more meditative way.
The Grange Hall Road seems to be our best shot at finding kids out playing in the afternoon. There is a trampoline on a lawn just off the road where we often find as many as five kids and a dog bouncing and laughing. They all know Cyra and will joyously greet her by her name as we approach. A vigorous love fest ensues with lots of hard scratching on Cyra’s neck and face. When we leave, the kids always asks us to “GO FAST!”. We are happy to oblige. Cyra is very capable of a walk canter transition so we always aim to please the delighted kiddos.
Another favorite stop is our friend Joyce’s house where carrots are always on offer which Cyra hungrily accepts. That is a more settled stop but no less enjoyable. Joyce had horses in her past and always enjoys Cyra Time. Next stop might be Kevyn and Lori’s house where in good weather we catch them playing cribbage on their porch. The Town Hall complex is next up. Often there are folks in the parking lot who, not expecting a horse in their travels, are always eager to chat and give Cyra a pat.
Cyra is not my only four footed partner out in the world. Mocha, our seven year old female English Shepard, has passed her AKA Advanced Canine Good Citizen test. This has opened doors for us at nursing homes, schools and libraries. Our current gig is a weekly visit to the Auburn Public Library. While there kids read to Mocha in fifteen minute blocks that they have signed up for ahead of time.
All of these experiences, past and present, have brought and continue to bring me so much joy! While no longer a young man, my life shows no sign of slowing down, or depriving me of gift of joy each day offers.