For me, it was like there was a tiny bit of space in my thoughts that made me stop and take action. If you’re like me that isn’t always the case. Most of the time, I get into academic arguments with that little piece of clarity that pops up but this time was different.
It was February 2009 and I had just finished a workshop with Linda Kohanvo in Sonoita, Arizona. We had just spent days developing our leadership skills through working with horses.
On the last day I was rushed and needed to drive to Phoenix for my flight back to Vancouver, BC. I jumped in my rental car and roared down the dusty dirt road only to slam on the breaks halfway down the driveway. Without a thought, I turned back and drove straight towards the black stallion, Merlin’s corral. This is the black stallion Midnight Merlin featured in Linda’s books, The Taos of Equus, Riding Between the Worlds, and later in The Power of the Herd.
He stood there watching me as though he was actually waiting for me. I walked over, gave him a pat on his thick neck, and then just stood there with him. My mind was empty and calm. I had no idea why I was there but it felt right. I closed my eyes and felt a jolt of energy travel through my body. It was a feeling of aliveness that I sometimes feel numb to. I opened my eyes and stared into Merlin’s eyes. He was the teacher and I was the student.
One simple message presented itself to me: You matter.
I saw Merlin through images in my mind’s eye of his life and struggles with humans. It made me realize that he always knew that he mattered and that even in dire circumstances he held that belief. He knew he had a special something to share with the world even though there were times in his life that no one believed that he mattered at all.
He blinked. I sighed. I knew I had to leave. I grabbed my camera and took these photos of Merlin:
I kissed him on the muzzle and felt a pang of sadness as I left. Merlin and I shared space that is rarely acknowledged in our modern world. The space that is between the thoughts that is clear, vast, and profound.
About a week after I spent those precious moments with Merlin, he died.
I can remember the shock and sadness I felt at the news but I knew that his life did matter and his influence opened up new worlds to those who were able to listen.
After all these years, Merlin visited me in a dream a few weeks ago. I felt that I needed to give a concrete voice to the dream through artwork and sharing my story.
This artwork is my soulful thanks to Midnight Merlin and to Linda Kohanvo for listening to horses and giving us new ways to open our hearts and souls to other worlds.
I’ll walk you through some key elements in this painting.
I love the idea of a night painting but it’s hard to have a black horse with a dark background without the horse getting lost. I knew that his amazing eyes had to be a focal point with lots of shine. I really hope you can see this! Under his chin there is figure that has the plume of a feather coming out of his head.
At first I thought this figure was a court jester but that didn’t seem right. I feel that he is a warrior with a feather in his cap. There are many mythological stories with feathers being placed in a headdress or cap. This represents the warrior that Merlin was. Plus, I added a little white line near his eye to enhance his tribal look.
I added the birds on the branches as I felt that even though they are perched, they’re still ready to fly away at a moments notice. The impermanent of life is always before us. The full Moon has many meanings in different cultures but to me here it means wholeness and strength in the circle of life.
If you look closely at the top left, you’ll see the outline of butterflies. This is symbolizes our capability for transformation. Merlin embodied this in his life and was able to guide the transformation of others.
Above his head is a white cloud that to me looks like a horse whinnying. Do you see it?
It’s a little abstract.
The upper right is the Milky Way to show his connection to the otherworld.