Wading Barefoot

Rediscovering my barefoot-self

What You Think Of – Thinks Of You

Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me.
The Carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality
~Emily Dickinson

I’ve been thinking a lot about death lately. I’ve tried to ignore it because it feels morbid, but it comes back over and over. As I took my shower tonight, I stood thinking about how sudden a traumatic death can happen. Having seen 20+ years of life from the inside of trauma units, emergency departments and intensive/cardiac care units, death is not some obscure concept for me. As a nurse death was daily and came in any number of forms. I’ve always wondered about that finality; does that which appears to be the end of life, in reality end at all? Does our awareness continue after our bodies cease to function? It certainly doesn’t appear so from the perspective of the living. And therein lies the age old mystery and the nature of my morbid fascination

Standing there in the shower I needed some sort of point of reference to consider what ‘traumatic death’ would be like. As if on cue one of the big air freight planes took off from PDX. I can distinguish UPS and FedEX from other planes because of the difference in the sound of their engines. Planes used solely for freight typically take off at a steeper altitude than passenger planes, probably because there aren’t those annoying people to worry about scaring the crap out of. Their engines whine and they have a particular sound that I can only describe as, ‘desperate’. It always sounds as if there is some life and death drama being played out in the sky above. Will it make it? If it crashes… what if? It was that very question of ‘what if’, that I contemplated. How fast would I die? Would there even be time for my brain to recognize that something had happened, or would it be instantaneous oblivion and nothing more?

I happen to be a very visually imaginative person and so as the hot water of my shower began to run out, I realized that I was feeling almost anxious. It was as if, that which I thought of could also think of me! I ended the shower quite abruptly, dislodging the vision that had come over me. I’m not obsessed by death, but I am fascinated by it. Aren’t we all a bit curious about what happens to our awareness and our conciseness after death? So, while I am trying to push these thoughts out of my mind, it just seemed coincidental that random conversations about dying are also on the lips of those around me. Yesterday I spoke with three neighbors who, unprompted, each had something to say about dying; either their own death or that of someone they knew. Maybe I’m not so sure I believe in coincidence, but then again…

© Kathleen Ryan-McCullough

June 8, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Lessons Learned

My parents said I was impatient and pushy, almost to the point of being ‘bossy’. They weren’t wrong, I still have these traits. My folks did help me learn to control my anger and be more tolerant. In fact, they raised me to question everything but to do so with as much respect to my fellow traveler as I possibly could. My temper however has been something I’ve battled with all my life. My father said I had an Irish ‘red-headed’ temper. He warned me not to eat black pepper as he believed it caused stress and ultimately, anger (I have yet to find a correlation between pepper and anger but I love black pepper).

It was his idea that I take equestrian lessons. It was quite a good idea as it turned out; the horses taught me more about my own attitude than any human ever could. You see, dogs and cats forgive easily (okay, more so for dogs than cats). As an example: Have you ever gotten mad and walked away, slamming the door behind you? Of course you have, we all have. I did this just the other day. I was at the end of my rope and knew that I had to get quiet and alone for a few minutes to get myself back together again. As I slammed my bedroom door I caught a glimpse of my three year old German Shepherd, Sally, who was in process of following me into the room. She picks up on my emotions very quickly and responds right away. So, when I let go of the door what I saw was her looking confused and a little worried. I didn’t look back, I slammed the door and laid on my bed until the knot in my throat loosened. When I came out of the room, there she was sitting in that very same spot all wiggling, waiting for me. It made me think of how much happier we all might be if we behaved more like our canine pals. I mean really, you can yell at your dog and walk away, but when you return, there’s your dog all wiggly, waiting to make up. *Dogs don’t hold grudges, although they can, and some would be quite justified in doing so. Dogs help keep us in the moment. They give us a reason to get up in the morning and remind us all the time that forgiveness is the true key to happiness.

Horses however, don’t always take forgiveness to the extremes that dogs do. Some are more tolerant than others, but for the most part, horses see things in black and white. I began training and riding horses around the age of 8. I took to it naturally. I was never afraid, I felt such a wonderful sense of peace and strength from these beautiful beasts. I also found out what it’s like to try to get the cooperation of a 1,200 pound animal when you’re in a ‘bad mood’. Wow can they be stubborn.

One Saturday morning I was riding a 7 year-old mare in an indoor ring and for reasons beyond my understanding at the time, I couldn’t get her to do anything I wanted. I became more and more frustrated until my instructor yelled my name and told me to smile. What? Smile? Ya, right! Not wanting to act like a know-it-all, I smiled and to my shock the mare almost instantly changed her attitude and began cooperating. Whatever I asked of her, I got. She wasn’t willing to ignore my negative energy by going along with me, she just wouldn’t respond to anger and moodiness. It was good for me to have learned these lessons and because I loved horses so much I made a conscious effort to keep my mood in check. It was a wonderful teaching experience that has been very valuable to me all these years later.

* Just a note about dogs who are made to fight, Pitbulls in particular. I think the people who have all but destroyed this particular breed’s reputation should be banned from polite society. I have had several relationships with pittbulls and each time it has been extremely rewarding and happy. These guys are lap-dog, lovers and gentle with children. The state of Oregon, where I live, is working to ban the breed statewide. I can’t tell you the last time I heard of a gun killing someone without a human trigger & dogs are, for the most part, the same way. Humans with greed and hate for motivators have made this breed feared and shunned. Shame on them. Karma…

© Kathleen Ryan-McCullough

June 8, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments


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