This is the moment when I knew my life would never be the same. I let go of the idea that I would become a person who wondered later in life if they should have followed their heart. I would no longer be that person who was too full of fear to chase after their wildest dreams.
Back in January, I quit my job to pursue my animal portrait business full time. I had reached this point where I realized that for years, I had been helping other people with their business dreams while mine had taken a back seat. Why did this happen? To put it simply, I lost sight of what it was I really wanted to do with my life. When the time came to leap into this dream of mine, some amazing things started happening.
I spent some time setting goals and putting ideas out into the Universe in early January. One of these goals was to plan a trip to photograph wild horses in 2018 or 2019. Most of the guided trips are pretty expensive, so I knew it would take time to save up the money to make this goal happen. I wrote this idea down on my list with about twenty other things, then left it alone. Two weeks later a post appeared in my Facebook feed about a weekend-long yoga and meditation retreat at the Great Escape Mustang Sanctuary (GEMS) in Colorado. It was called Dream Of The Wild, and this description of the retreat spoke to my heart,
“We will be venturing out onto the land to visit with the wild herd. It’s hard to bring words to such a sacred experience, and the impact that it has upon all who meet them. Central to this retreat, our interactions with the wild horses will expand our sense of wonder and transform the way we experience yoga, meditation, art and each other.
Let the land and the horses remind you of what it means to live a wildly imaginative, embodied, and creative life. Their very presence will launch you heart first into your dreams, and reconnect you [with] the intuition of your Soul.”
I followed the link to purchase tickets, and when I saw that they were sold out, I felt relieved. A part of me felt like I wasn’t ready to capture this goal. I wasn’t ready to have this experience that I had longed for all of my life. This was fear talking. A week later they announced a second weekend retreat, and I knew I had to go.
On March 4th, my best friend Tamsyn and I boarded a 6:00 AM flight to Denver. The retreat was set to start at 9:00 AM an hour East of Denver, so we were really cutting it close. By the time we arrived at the sanctuary, the group of women had just finished practicing yoga, and were getting ready to set their intentions for the weekend.
I did not sleep on the plane. I had a photography show the night before in Seattle that went until 9:00 PM, so I didn’t really get much sleep before arriving at the airport at 4:00 AM that morning. When we arrived at GEMS, I was basically a zombie. I was running on empty. I was kind of a mess which meant that I was definitely going to start crying at some point. Not angry or grumpy or whiny crying, but the type of crying that comes from the anticipation of experiencing something life-changing.
After lunch, we walked out onto the sanctuary land to the cabins where we would be sleeping. We changed out of our traveling clothes, and into hiking-appropriate outfits. We looked out across the land to find the herd over the hills passed the arroyos and ponderosa pines.
We hiked in silence across the grasses and through the trees. I fought back my tears every step of the way. I tried to not think about what it was like as a little girl wishing I would wake up to find wild horses running across the beach in front of my home. As we walked out from under the trees into the sight of the herd, their heads lifted, and I lost it. Every tear I had been holding in found its way out of me and onto that sanctuary land.
Our group stood in silence (aside from my sniffling) waiting for the horses to make their way to us. I don’t remember how long we were out there, but it was magical. Some of the horses were interested in us, while others continued to graze as if we were merely a part of the land they call home.
The rest of the weekend filled me with so much love, joy and connection to this world. The retreat ended Sunday afternoon, but Tamsyn and I spent another night on the land to photograph the herd. The retreat was like nourishment for my heart that I did not know I needed. Being able to witness the spirit of the horses on the land fed my soul in ways I cannot express in words, but only share through photographs.
On our last morning at the sanctuary, we woke up before sunrise to go for a walk on the land. We didn’t have to go far to catch sight of the herd in the distance. They lifted their heads in our direction as we waved goodbye. I whispered words of gratitude before turning to walk back to my world where wild horses would no longer be just a dream.
If you would like to learn more about the important work that is being done at Great Escape Mustang Sanctuary, please visit their website HERE. In celebration of National Help A Horse Day (April 26th, 2017) please consider sponsoring one of the horses in the sanctuary herd, or you can learn more about how to help GEMS HERE.
If you are interested in learning more about retreats like the one featured in this post, please visit Wild Earth Medicine HERE to read about Amanda and the amazing gifts she brings to this world through her workshops, classes and retreats. There are more events coming up at the sanctuary, and I cannot recommend them enough for anyone needing to get back in touch with (or experience the connection for the first time) Earth and soul.
If you are interested in purchasing/using any of the images featured in this post, please contact [email protected] .
For collaboration and portrait session inquiries, please email [email protected]