A Heavy Burden

Donkeys on the Road

‘Had journeyed along, singing a song, in search of Eldorado’ sang Duncan as he trotted along Owl Creek Road. But then Cor pointed to another donkey, returning from the alluvial mine bearing a heavy load. Now Duncan might not be the brightest donkey in the herd but he sensed that going to the Alluvial Mine might result in having to carry a rather heavy burden. Perhaps there is more to all of this than just setting out and going.



Just sitting, drawing in the sea breezes and remembering Rainbow Beach.

Cor whispers and reminds me to ‘be as light as a feather. Play, whirl around and dance.’ Don’t know about dancing but I do plan to join a choir tonight.

Raven Medicine

Raven Medicine

Duncan came back all agog with the latest news. Cor has set herself up in a tree on Owl Creek Road with an apothecary. It seems she is dispensing her own special medicine. I can recommend a visit to this delightful bird.

Despite Duncan’s protests about the reliability of the winged one I clambered amid the boughs, passing the other ravens who have come calling and who seem to be congregating in the neighboring branches and had a session with her. My session included a special Raven Reading.

Something dead can become food for others: the cut corn, the slaughtered beast. Respect what has died, and help to transform it by ingesting it – with awareness and thanks. Let the Wheel of Life keep turning.

Then she gave me a bottle of something for my gut, telling me that I needed to be kind to it and trust it. She assures me my gut can be an ally if I get it onside! The word is that it the digestive system influences our brain to a large extent.

Decisions Decisions

Owl Creek Road

We have found our way to Owl Creek Road and there is some debate over which way to go. Everyone has a view! Storm clouds in the distance? Which way will lead to the Alluvial Mine? Perhaps the property with the windmill is one of the home stays?

An Artist’s Alchemy

This story was inspired by and has excerpted from the article Anatomy of Creativity at the Soul Food Cafe

“This place is freezing,” Kendalyn muttered to herself. She pulled off her wet rain jacket and scarf as she marched across the living room of her small apartment.

“How could I have left this open?” A frigid wind blasted through the bottom of the window in her dining area. She quickly shut it and then fiddled with the thermostat next to her wall furnace. As the furnace kicked on, she grabbed a green flannel blanket draped over the back of her sofa. Wrapping it around herself, she yanked the first headpiece at hand from the wall hook next to the door– a big floppy sun hat. She knew she looked ridiculous, but the blanket and hat would keep her warm until the apartment heated up.

She considered going to the Bellowing Cow Saloon, just down the block from her building. The manager usually had a fire going, but the thought of spending an evening with the miscreants and malcontents that hung out there just turned her stomach.

Kendalyn had started going to the pub a few months ago when she discovered that it was a place where a number of local artists gathered. She just wanted to be with some like-minded creatives to “talk shop” and generally have a good time. It was good at first, but over the months she found herself spending more and more time there instead of working in her studio. Even worse, the interactions with the artists had devolved from professional talk to nasty gossip and strife.

The kicker came just a few days ago when a business disagreement arose between one of the artists and the owners of the Scarlet Shrike gallery. A lot of foul language and accusations had been exchanged between them, and many of the other artists, including Kendalyn, were set upon as well for just being present and voicing an opinion on the behavior of the individuals.

Stung by the assault on her personal reputation by the individuals involved, Kendalyn left the Bellowing Cow that night and swore she would never set foot in there again. She would rather freeze in her apartment than go anywhere near that pub.

Just thinking about the last horrible encounter there made her queasy. She should have known better and not tried to be the voice of reason. She padded into the kitchen to get something to settle her stomach. As she poured some ginger ale into a glass, she heard a soft thud from her studio which was adjacent to the kitchen. She peered through the doorway of the studio and froze in alarm. The studio window was opened about six inches at the bottom, just like the window in the dining room.

Kendalyn knew she had shut and locked that window before she left for work that morning. Her eyes darted around the room looking for an intruder. There was no place anyone could hide in the cramped, small room and the closet was too full of boxes of art supplies to conceal a person.

Then her eyes settled on her work table. “What–?”

Situated in the center of the table among her brushes and tubes of paint was a small wooden box. She cautiously approached the table to get a better look. Then she saw the intricate carving on the lid of the box: a familiar crest of leaves and curlicues entwined around the letters, “S.R.”.

Kendalyn relaxed and smiled. S.R.: Sibyl Riversleigh. Artist, writer, global traveler, and Kendalyn’s friend. There was no point in wondering how the box came to be on her studio table. That was Sibyl’s way and Sibyl was, well, magical.

Kendalyn lifted the box’s lid. In it was an envelope inscribed with “Kendalyn J. Pelican” in Sibyl’s flourished handwriting. Underneath the envelope was a silver rectangular case nestled in the red velvet lining of the wooden box. Kendalyn slipped open the flap of the envelope and pulled out a letter.

“Kenda, darling,

Aren’t you the mess! What has happened to you, dear? You are not the woman I used to know. I think you need a little transforming and I have just the thing for you. I was in Venice this summer — oh, you wouldn’t believe what happened to me there — but that story is for another day — Anyhow, I was in an antique shop near the Ponte di Rialto and found a book which I was told had belonged to an alchemist. There were oodles of formulae in it, but this one just stood out — just for you, I knew. I want you to take these words to heart:

‘Carefully mix 300 pounds of daily writing; pray to the creative spirit under the moon; purify your house with the right amount of sage; add twenty five ounces of the divine; spend hours in silence; stir in a pinch of imagination; meditate upon a mandala; daydream a lot.’

Now open the silver case.

Hug, hug, kiss, kiss, and get off your arse, dear.



Kendalyn sat down at the table and read the letter again. Sibyl had always been there with good advice. Kendalyn reflected on the last few months. It was more than just hanging out with the wrong crowd and not working. It was neglecting the inner world that fueled her work.

Kendalyn set aside the letter and opened the silver case. It was a mirror. Just an ordinary make-up kit compact mirror. She placed the open case on the table and sat back to consider it. Nothing happened. It was just her, wrapped in a blanket and wearing a goofy hat, looking back from the mirror. She began fingering one of the paint brushes on the table as she pondered the alchemist formula.

It was like a recipe, or a spell. No, it was more like a ritual or a liturgy. She realized then that whatever art she created lately, or words she wrote, were not coming from that sacred space within. They were mundane, or worse: mechanical and dull. There was no magic in her creations.

Kendalyn closed her eyes and looked inward for the muse that used to live there. Was the duende spirit still there? Or had she been totally abandoned.

“Um… hello? Are you there? Look, I know it’s been a while and I know I totally screwed up by not talking to you lately, but I’m wondering if you and I…. what I’m trying to say is that I need your help. I need to move back to that place… you know the place I’m talking about, right? That place where you and I click and really cool stuff happens. Well, anyway, I’m here if you want to talk to me.”

Kendalyn sat for a moment, waiting for… well, anything. Just as she was beginning to feel very silly about having a conversation with thin air, she heard a tinkling sound, like a strum of chimes. Her eyes flew open and she saw herself in the mirror with a trail of glittering stars swirling about her.

She smiled. Everything had suddenly changed.

ljgloyd (c) 2012

Communicating with Your Mule
by Sophia Sarember

Communicating with an animal is like communicating with a person who speaks a foreign language. If I am trying to get a person who speaks only Chinese to do a task for me and I speak to him in English, he will not understand. If I yell at him in English, wave my arms, and get angry he still won’t understand and he may become fearful of what I am about to do. (If this sounds ridiculous, consider for a moment how some teamsters lose their tempers with their equines, which undoubtedly have perfect hearing and are quite intelligent.) In the process of getting my Chinese-speaking friend to help me in my work, I will learn a little Chinese and he will learn some English.

In trying to communicate with mules, the first thing to understand is that they want to please you. Underneath what may appear to be an unfeeling character is a willing and intelligent creature. I have had experience with draft and light horses, mules, and donkeys. I can say with confidence that after communication and trust have been established, donkeys are some of the hardest working and devoted souls I have ever dealt with. The mule inherits this quality and it makes him a reliable, dependable, and loyal fellow.

Most people who are interested in farming, driving, or riding are familiar with the horse, so their observations on the mule tend to draw comparisons to the horse. The donkey is taken into consideration as far as the mule’s physical values go, yet the mule is expected to think and act like a horse. When it does not, it is labeled as stubborn or recalcitrant. Herein lies most, if not all, the difficulties that trouble mule handlers.

In addition to inheriting the donkey’s penchant for hard work and loyalty, the mule acquires the donkey’s attitude of extreme caution. While horses instinctively react, donkeys appear to evaluate a situation for themselves and then act. The key to working through difficult situations is directly linked to how much trust a mule has in his handler. This trust is gained through patient and systematic methods of training. Whenever a mule refuses to obey, it is because he has not understood you or he does not trust you in what you are asking of him.

You can never force a mule to obey you. If you try, any compliance will be short lived. The best methods are based on explaining to the mule what you want. If you use a method of restraint, like a twitch or a Scotch hobble, it must be approached with the idea that you are explaining to the mule that you want him to stand still, not that you are forcing him to submit.

Handlers often try to “drive” a mule to compel it to do what they wish. Horses may be driven, or pushed into an impulsive state of energy. When a whip is applied to the horse, he will instinctively spring into motion (although sometimes not in the desired direction). When a whip is applied to a donkey, his instinct is to remain where he is until he is sure of the situation. If you continue to whip the donkey, he becomes more resolute and may drop to the ground in a heap of defiance.

It is not the donkey’s nature to panic and flee, as may be observed when a donkey is spooked. He will walk or trot (or, in an extremely frightening situation, canter) a short distance, stop, and evaluate conditions before going farther. A spooked horse may bolt uncontrollably over a great distance, causing harm to himself in the process. What puzzles many mule handlers is that in any given situation the mule may act like either the donkey or the horse. The muleteer must recognize and appeal to both the horse and the donkey temperament resident within the mule.

A mule’s or donkey’s attitude to his work is one of partnership with his handler. While well-trained horses obey without question, mules and donkeys are more task oriented. They seem to be concerned with the overall job, rather than with isolated cues. Once you have taught a job to a mule he will continue to perform the task almost unaided and in clockwork fashion. If you interfere with his task by continually giving cues, he will be offended and may resist.

Here is a simple example: I regularly ride my saddle mule Stanley through a particular gate on our property. When I return from my ride I close the gate while mounted and we go on our way. When I first taught Stanley to work the gate I had to explain with leg and hand cues how to move and what to do so I could close the gate without dismounting. Once he learned the task and knew the routine, it became his job. Now when I go through the gate Stanley automatically turns and positions himself so I may do my half of the job of closing the gate. If I were to give Stanley the physical cues to work the gate he would be confused and resentful—he knows his job, so why am I hindering him?

Some horsemen find this attribute maddening. To others it is a great asset in the process of completing daily chores. But what if you need to change your routine? That, too, is quite simple. Just explain to your mule in a quiet and confident manner that you want him to proceed on a different course.

In the example of the gate, if I no longer wanted to shut it, the first time we went through Stanley may throw his head and refuse to walk on without shutting the gate. Without reacting to his protests I would wait a moment and again ask him to go on. After a couple of days of going through the gate without closing it, he would realize that we are no longer doing this task and he would be fine. Mules can be retrained, but they need assurance that it is not their fault the retraining is required.

My mule, who happily skids logs for firewood, is also a sensitive dressage mount and jumper. Such accomplishments are within the grasp of any responsible, thinking handler. Contrary to what seems to be common belief, mules may be guided with the lightest of cues.

A mule is hard mouthed only when:

  • he does not understand
  • you have lost his trust
  • you have pushed him past the limits of his training level

When you set out to train or retrain a mule, start at the beginning. Assuming your mule already knows something will only leave gaps in his education. Break down tasks into their simplest form, ask only for a little improvement each training session, and reward every effort your mule gives. Build successively from one training goal to another. If you are consistent, fair, and logical in your methods, your mule will gradually learn that under your apparent cool exterior lies a person who has his best interests at heart.

Whenever possible, take time to observe, read, listen, and ask questions about mules and donkeys. Your mule will be your best instructor if you take time to open a respectful dialogue.


Sophia Sarember of Tijeras, New Mexico, gives clinics on mules, donkeys, and horses (both draft and light). This article appeared in the Spring 2000 issue of Rural Heritage.



Cor, Duncan and I have been reunited and are ready to travel together along Lemurian roads. No reservations! No bookings! We will simply travel and rest when need be.