Today is kind of like Groundhog day for me ,waking up and remembering that I am alone without him and then going through the motions. The truth is that while somehow I have been able to stay the course and keep the farm going through all that has transpired after his death, I still feel like a failure in many ways. I am in therapy and I love and trust my therapist but we are only now getting to the deep grief and loss I feel. It will spill out every once in a while and it still overwhelms and scares me. This year I set out to begin to build my personal life again and I am doing really good and feeling much better but there are still the heavy sad and even angry feelings living under the surface, always giving me the opportunity to grow and learn more.
This work has shown me that I am not alone and that the spirit that lives in the horses can help carry you through anything if you stay open and honest with yourself. I am proud of this work and mission and what happened to Paul is a part of its story as much as any in the long eight years we have been open. I have learned that I prefer to live and roam in the field of possibilities and potential alongside the horses that have carried me so graciously throughout my whole life.
I am so grateful for the many that weathered the storms of emotion that overcame me and swept me away, sometimes for moments and sometimes for days. I am living and learning and I am so proud of so many and so much but today, this anniversary, I am sad all over again.
My own groundhog day…at least I do not have to relive that terrible and awful morning when I learned that my whole world was shattered in a million pieces or more. I am carefully picking up the pieces that serve me and leaving the rest alone, I am doing the very best I can, every moment of every day and that is what I offer my friends that are alongside me. I have great hopes for us all and most especially what lives on this farm, the powerful spirit of love and connection that will always endure, no matter what.
Thanks to Mithra we have a beautiful small flower garden this year. This place will always be a sacred site for so many that loved Paul.
The Center of Hope boys shared this beautiful gift for Paul. What they couldn’t have known is that Pauls mother was an artist and one of Pauls beloved paintings of her is of a young foal and her mother.
Paul helped us raise and train all the young…now adult… horses on our farm. It was a new experience for us both but we both love the horses in the same way…with a profound respect and curiosity and gratitude. Piper and Merlin taking a walk together.
Our wedding night in NYC . A well known street artist that works around Central Park did this as a wedding gift to us. It was freezing that night but he took the time to give us this.
Keith Gordon’s Bella. Keith is now President of Blue Star and I know that Paul must be happy and relieved about that. Paul is not here to look out for me anymore and right from the beginning the people that dislike me, or don’t agree with me or basically hate me…for reasons known to themselves…have had no problem letting me know how much. With Keith I feel protected, respected and loved too. Keith and his wife Inna are friends to both Paul and I. Paul and knew that Bella changed Keith’s life but we had no idea the degree to which she reached his heart. We do now.
Tex and Paul, giants in every way and most especially their great big hearts. Paul had a lot of feelings about his size and spent his life learning how to not be intimidating or loud. He mastered a kind of diplomacy that I am still learning about. He knew his presence was powerful and he worked at making it always a comfortable and easy thing. He was the very best hugger in the world.
Paul and Christina Hansen Co-Founder of BSE. This such a beautiful picture that perfectly illuminates that ease he lent to others in his presence.
Paddy and Paul were both perhaps two of the most incredible teachers. Paddy outlived Paul by eight months.
Paul and I shared a lot of friends new and from our former lives. Many of those folks have gone away, some in pain and anger, some in discomfort, some in confusion and shock. The ones that remain and have remained alongside me will be my friends for all eternity, we are that close.
That amazing tilt of the head and smile. You knew you were special when you got one of those.
The day Paul died Chief Arvol said that it there were only two times he was surprised by death. His fathers and Pauls. I know that even Arvol loved Paul’s competence and genuine goodness. They were friends, even though they come from vastly different worlds. Paul felt very protective of Arvol in the same way he did with me. It is amazing thing to have a man like Paul on your side, looking out for you and taking care of you in ways you didnt imagine. That loss is some of the hardest, having once had that kind of love, whether it be friend or partner, is something you will miss forever.
Paul worked for countless hours developing the pasture and compost system that is being created here. It was all consuming to him. He would study on line, communicate with professionals, handle every aspect of it. Today I hold onto it with all I have although it has been a very difficult road. The work of keeping it alive is so hard and a lot of it has to do with how people relate to me. I am not taken as seriously as Paul was and I dare say many of those involved in it felt strongly that I couldn’t do it anyway. For the horses and for Paul, whether on this farm or another, I will keep it alive. The horses lives are profoundly affected in such deeply positive ways. Ultimately our goal was to create to a walking park along the pastures that brought you to information on the draft breeds, their endangerment and their contribution. I will spend my life trying to create this and I see it one day being completed and on that day I will sit down and have a good cry….about being a woman, effective leadership, communication and flexibility…all powerful lessons I am still learning related to what is simply a well designed pasture management system on environmentally sensitive and limited land.
World Champion Bull Rider Brandon Clark and Paul on the day we filmed the commercial that ultimately won us the truck we now have. It happened to be the coldest day of the year.
Dear friend Lee Lee having a conversation with Paul. The tilting of the head was another way he made himself more open and accessible, especially to women.
Paul driving Alfie and Mario before learned about Alfie’s permanent lameness. The day we had to retire Alfie, so young, was one of the hardest because Paul wasn’t there to help take the news too. I stood there thinking what would he do? Probably what I did, cried for a minute than vow to give Alfie the very best life we could until he lets us know when it is time for him to cross over too.
The last year we were together was our hardest. We were both tired, beat up, abandoned but still committed to the horses, the land and each other. I will always feel like that last year was a grueling test in perseverance and commitment. We struggled to maintain the farm and to bring in people that we thought would stay the course and not leave on a whim. We knew we at least had each other for that.
Paul taking pictures of me, the horses, the land, city scapes, farmland, the sky and anything and everything he set his eyes on.
Paul and baby Frida, the real joy of our lives at that time. Paul warned me that German Shepards are different and he was right in more ways than I can describe.
Paul in the garden, in the spot where he took his life. I will always wonder in this lifetime how much he thought bout that fateful act that blew up the world as I knew it. He never gave me any clue I could read, or did he and I was too unconscious to see it. I will spend my life with some of these agonizing questions. My own self doubt was so magnified for so long. I am only now beginning to have confidence in myself again and that I give credit to the horses and humans in my life who keep reminding me that I am ok, however I am in the moment, I am ok and I am worthy of a good and happy life, even if I don’t always feel it.
Paul loved Tommy and Ben and driving for the Fire Dept with them too. He connected deeply with his own roots and great grandfather who died in the line of duty on train tracks with his team, driving a steamer. His great grandfather was also a career Fire Chief.
This image on social media reminded me that I am still in shock, although much much milder than two years ago. A lot like the shock the world is finding itself in with discovering that what we once thought and knew isnt so and that a new world absolutely must be born out of it. I love this picture even though it is so poignant, it reminds me that I am not alone in my feelings.
Paul absolutely loved the garden, the soil, the working in it, growing in it and being with it. Our best time together was when we were in the garden together, in the quiet powerful beauty of it all, together. It was a real safe haven for us. These days it is complicated and painful and with the new limitations even moreso. So much of what has happened since Paul died in regards to how some have treated me is their very concerned notion that I am not able to make our farm successful. Blue Star was never intended to be run with one person but I have become the figure head it is measured by. Many have measured me by my worst moments in grief and some wont even let me try but many many more have dared to believe in me and the horses and the possibilities this work and mission offers…they are the wind in my sail and I will spend my life doing my best to make them proud. I may never be able to connect to the land as I did not too long ago, on this farm, but I will always connect to the spirit that lives here and the place that Paul exited this world in. That grand old tree in the garden will always live in my heart.
In the earlier years of our relationship we grew so close that we completed each other. He was my very best friend and confidant, protector and partner. With our size alone we were quite a commanding couple and we knew that with that came a serious responsibility to do and be the best we could for all that we love.
I will always miss doing jobs together and those days are long gone but it took a lot of paying attention in ways I didnt have to when Paul was with me. These days I rely on my friends and colleagues and most especially Bill Darnley to figure out the hard stuff.
We were always so tired!! I didn’t know until after Paul left that the pain he had in his back and hips on some level was driving him crazy. I wish he could have complained a little more like I did ….just a little less stoic and more honest about how scared he was at his failing health and ability to be the physical person he was his whole life.
Movie star smile and it was as real as the sun. It warmed and nourished every thing and every one around it when you were in it’s light.
One of our most successful Stockbridge classes. Many of the students in the is class have carried on with their horse powered skills working on farms and some even starting their own. Many of them continue to be with us in our mission and work.
This year I wasn’t able to hold onto the farm garden. We donated all of the agricultural equipment that Paul spent years collecting carefully to Chip Pinder and his work helping Veterans. I know Paul must be proud of that. I am deeply hurt by how we were forced to do so though and I will spend my life trying to understand it. I also know that like so many things about this life and work…it wouldnt have happened if Paul were still here, no matter how bad a year we might have had.
This is what is left of our garden and it is more than enough. I am glad that despite I was asked to remove everything immediately, due to non payment of the pasture restoration up to this point….at least we got to keep this and it is enough. I am grateful for that but I will always feel like a bit of a failure in having lost so much that Paul worked so hard to give Blue Star and mostly with his own pension money. Thankfully Chip will value it all as we did.
Paul driving at the Big E with his old friend Bob, who restored old vehicles and built the fire hose wagon that is used in the parades with the Springfield Fire Dept.
Robert Sprague of New Bedford Mass. Paul’s great grandfather before he was killed while responding to a fire.
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