“Build it and they will come…..”

Ever since I watched the film ‘Field of Dreams’ many years ago, the line “build it and he will come” has stuck in my mind, except for me it’s always been  “Build and THEY will come” which I think is the classic way the line is misquoted!  Somehow though, for me, that was always how it stuck in my mind and often when I’m at the field with the herd or snuggled with dogs on the sofa, the words will pop into my head and hover there for a bit like a little reminder of something I don’t know I’ve forgotten, before fading into the magical places of my unconscious.

Over the last ten years or so, I have been working hard to create and promote The Free Spirit Ponies Project, trying more ways than I can remember to ‘get the word out there’ and enable people and horses to live together in a kinder, gentler way.  For most of that time, I have had limited success and all of the good ideas I had seemed to stumble slightly and never quite make it to the impressive impact I’d originally envisioned for them. Every time it happens, I get a little disappointed and frustrated as we all would trying to help something we love and care deeply about grow and flourish.

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The really crazy thing is, I think I’ve discovered the problem and the irony is the real solution was there all the time, working away quietly as it was meant to, right under my nose!  You see, for many years I kept seeing or imagining The Free Spirit Ponies Project as a ‘thing’, someTHING  that existed and that I could ‘package up’ and effectively ‘sell’ to those I was trying to reach.  I believed it was the courses and the workshops and the books and the ‘giving of knowledge’ and all those other things I’ve tried to put out there into the world and in some ways, yes, those THINGS are all part of it, of course they are but I was missing the ‘bigger picture’, the essence or heart of what The Free Spirit Ponies Project really is!   The stupid thing is it’s exactly what I wrote about perhaps a decade ago.

What I have been doing is trying to ‘sell’ the interactive accessories without giving people the main product for which those accessories were meant,  the amazing salad dressing without the salad….the beautiful wrapping paper without the gift……..

The words “Build it and they will come” and the ever increasing number of ‘images’ that have been appearing in my mind supposedly randomly weren’t random at all.  The herd ‘calling’ to people….friends and family…. and communicating with people so that they asked to visit were not random events.  The peace and joy on the faces of those who meet and interact with the herd, those who simply ‘be’ with whoever chooses to share space with them or share touch, healing or dreams with them, with no agenda, no ‘programme’, ‘course content’  or  ‘workshop outline’ .  These are not random little moments of pleasure.  THIS is what The Free Spirit Ponies Project is!  It is a PLACE not a THING.  It is where the herd are, connected with nature and the energy of that connectedness.  It is the magic that is created in that space where the herd welcome someone into their embrace and all else disappears.  It is connected souls meeting, breathing, healing each other if needed and loving each other for simply being who they are.

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It is a space of sanctuary for all, people and animals alike, without agenda.  A place where peace and awareness can grow without restriction, where connection with nature can be re-established and all beings can find themselves and become whole again.  One of our herd, now in spirit, talked about ‘soul retrieval’ in a communication we had not so long ago and I finally think I understand what she was referring to because I have now seen it and felt it, not just for myself but for members of the herd and for some of the people who have visited.  That is not an ‘accessory’ I can package up and take to people, they need to experience it and feel it with every fibre of their being.

For all this time, I have been looking in the ‘wrong place’ quite literally for the answers I needed and all the time, they were there quietly happening despite my distraction and frustration.  The most humbling part of this realisation though is that it has nothing to do with me and everything to do with the herd.  I have been misinterpreting my ‘role’ as taking the message out there, trying to ‘bottle up and distribute’ what they wanted to say and while that is still part of the ‘accessory package’ the truth is in fact that all I really needed to do was create a space in which the magic could happen, send out the invitations and step back and let it be – well…and maybe provide the odd cuppa!

Sky and me

I now know what (at least in a feeling sense) The Free Spirit Ponies Project is.  It is a place where all are welcome to spend time; sitting beneath the trees, listening to the breeze whispering through the branches; standing with one of the herd, breathing together and connecting; sitting reading a book in the shade with bare feet on the grass; enveloped in the smells of the herb garden or lost in the sounds of willow branches swaying and birds singing.  It is a place where souls can reconnect with the wisdom and heartbeat of the earth, a place to be without fear or judgement and without agenda, learning to hear their own heart and the voice of earth around them. It is a space for people to think, write, listen, sing, dance or simply be still and rejuvenate….whatever they need and it is a space for nature, the herd and any other animals who find their way to our family to live, grow, thrive and be who they truly are and it is a space for us to share with each other.  It is a small sanctuary in what can be a sometimes crazy, often frustrating, occasionally heart-breaking world and it is a glimpse of what can be and what could be……and what is, if only we stopped for a moment and opened our hearts.

Finding ‘Free Spirit’…..the dream behind the project.

My first post on our blog and I thought it was appropriate that I share the dream that was and still is the foundation of The Free Spirit Ponies Project.

I wrote this maybe 8 years ago when someone asked me what my dream was…….my original handwritten manuscript revealed itself while I was looking for something else the other day, just at a time when I was having one of those “what am I doing?” blips and suddenly I remembered.

This is my dream, this is what The Free Spirit Ponies is – at the moment it’s a place in my heart and in the hearts of our herd and animal family but I have a feeling that sometime soon you may be able to find that little battered old sign and come and visit….This is my dream……..

FINDING FREE SPIRIT……

Free Spirit Farm is a wonderful place. It’s tucked away down a quiet country lane, set back slightly from the road. You almost wouldn’t know it’s there except for the tiny weathered sign hanging, just in the right place; it’s metal chain chinking slightly whenever there’s a breeze. It hangs from the aged branch of a huge friendly looking oak tree that almost seems to guide you into the small gravel driveway with its strong welcoming branches.

More trees line the short drive to the equally weathered wooden gates which guard the entrance to this little paradise. On the gate is, what was once, a brightly coloured nameplate, now faded and worn by the years, but somehow warmer and more inviting because of this. It reads “Welcome to Free Spirit Farm – welcome home”.

The gravel driveway extends around to the right to an area where you park your car, sheltered by a ramshackle copse of trees and bushes. There are no individual bays or lines or even any signs telling you what to do or where to park but you won’t even notice that until you leave and realise it couldn’t be any other way.

The entrance gates themselves are tall and solid and very, very old. They look like they would take a great effort to open them but they glide open with a single touch of a tentative fingertip, without a single creak or groan, hinting at the love and compassion that will be found inside. I would defy even the most hardened and bitter of human being to be unmoved by the scene that fills your senses in that first glimpse of the farm.

It is from this moment that you start to see and feel the magic. Instantly you are overcome with the natural beauty of this tiny haven and you become aware that you seem to have left your worries and stresses behind in the car park, although you won’t remember doing it. The strong solid wooden gates close quietly and gracefully behind you and a new world opens up before your eyes.

Just as you think you might just be frozen in the moment, a small black and white cat purrs at your feet and winds itself around and between your legs, begging for a cuddle. This is Patch, the un-official welcoming party, who like everyone and everything else on the farm, does what comes naturally to him.  Nobody told him or trained him to do it……he just does. Once he’s said hello, Patch starts to walk towards what seems to be the centre of the farm, urging you to follow with a gently encouraging meow.

On your left is a small thatched cottage, with very well established roses climbing higgledy-piggledy across the front walls. A small wisp of smoke winds slowly out of the chimney and the smell of fresh baked bread fills your nose as you walk past. The garden which wraps itself around the cottage as if embracing it, is not tidy or ordered – if anything, it is completely the opposite, with far more natural flowers, trees and bushes than any that have been consciously planted there over the years. There is no pattern or order to the garden except the one that Mother Nature intended. What might have once been a lawn has been decorated in numerous places with splashes of colour from more flowers and bulbs than its possible to count, poking through the rich deep green of the grass, their heads lifted up to smile at the warming sun.

Tucked away under the trailing branches of an enormous willow are two hives, worn so the edges are softened and rounded by years of use and weather; the soft humming of the bees that live there travels gently on the breeze to reach your ears. Sparrows and starlings flit between the branches of the dark green bushes, carrying food back to their young, tucked away in one of the many hidden and well used nests. Although the garden is clearly well loved and cared for, it is apparent that it is Mother Nature who decides what flourishes here. It is also obvious that she has a knowledgeable eye because the garden is beautiful and inviting and smells intoxicating.

Just beyond the cottage is another small gate which leads to an orchard and beyond that a large meadow. On the left of the meadow is a huge barn, weathered and ramshackle like everything else.  Everything about its presence, partly tucked away into the woodlands behind, makes you realise it’s been here a long time and will be here for a long time to come. Up until this point it is possible to have not noticed the sounds of the farm, there is so much beauty for the eyes to see and such a peaceful harmonious atmosphere, that you could be mistaken for thinking that it is silent. The truth is that Free Spirit Farm is in fact a very noisy place – it’s just that the sounds are all those of nature living and breathing in harmony.  These sounds complement each other and are calming and soothing to the human ear – it’s just that we, in our busy lives, have forgotten to listen for them.

Along one side of the orchard is a gurgling spring, spurting water from deep in the earth and bubbling down into a small, perfectly formed, stream that runs all of the way around the meadow beyond. As your eyes follow the journey of the babbling brook, you will start to see the other inhabitants of this little haven. Head bent low, taking a long slow drink from the stream is a sandy coloured pony. Alongside him, a small black and white pig, splashing her nose in the water and rolling around the muddy bank.

As you scan around the meadow and the orchard, suddenly the wonder of the farm becomes clear. Under the boughs of one of the many apple trees another pig, black this time, sunbathes as a small black and white goat tries to nibble the grass between her ears. Several other ponies are grazing together in the middle of the meadow and tucked between them are three sheep, enthusiastically cropping the bits of grass the ponies are choosing to leave. There are chickens, ducks and geese everywhere – all colours, shapes and sizes, pecking at the grass; dust-bathing under the trees or simply strutting between the legs of the other animals and you are likely to wonder how you didn’t see them before.

Take a walk over to the barn and you will sense the soul of this place; the heart that beats bringing it all together. There are no pens, no stables, no enclosures or designated areas. The barn is completely open inside and the smell of the fresh, soft straw that carpets the floor is unmistakable and surprisingly welcoming. Look closer and you will see a small Shetland pony, lying in a corner sleeping peacefully and dreaming deeply. Snuggled between his legs is a pink pig, her head buried in the straw, snoring happily. If you look really closely, you may even see a little foot twitching or an ear flicking as they dream of apples and playing in the sun. In another corner, several chickens are sitting or choosing where to lay their eggs. Over to the right, a sheep is feeding her two lambs, while others play in the straw, trying to convince a nearby goat to join in.

Take a step back and allow yourself to see the farm as a whole, living and breathing in harmony and you will become aware that this is a place like no other. Yet it feels absolutely as if this is exactly as it should be; how it’s supposed to be – animals, nature and people living as one. There are no rules and regulations, no bars or cages, no demands or duties, just life at its purest, brightest and most surprising.

As you stand and watch, embraced by the safety and comfort of the atmosphere, having completely forgotten the stresses and rigidness of the outside world, you will have a sense of coming home. I still do every day but I am lucky….because this is my home and I share it with the animals, plants, insects and birds. I experience every day the deep joy of letting go and allowing nature to decide and of being part of her amazing creations.

The front gate is always unlocked. If you happen to be driving down a quiet country lane this way and you notice a small, weathered sign, hanging from the branch of an old oak tree…..pull in and come and share it with me. Everyone is welcome.