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Beltane Mule

Eye of the Mule Oakland, CA by Rachel Medanic
The season of Beltane is just a few days away now. We are nearing our halfway point in the year- jaw dropping as that actually is!
In my path, one of the ways the masculine and feminine are coming together is in my work with Pippi, the mule I'm sponsoring. Not only am I living the sheer "I'm an adult now" delight of having responsibility with an animal all alone in a ring or (soon to be) on a trail, I'm having to really learn how to be in an equine relationship. The experience is rife with non-verbal signals, body language and behavior as the means of "dialogue." It is a desperately needed relief from words (except that Pip is a gaited mule capable of "flat walking" and is more oriented to voice commands). The number of humans you can be talking face to face with who'll notice your breath and the shift your weight as an expression of an idea or an emotion is severely limited- though I am blessed with a few in my life.

Getting in the groove of equine and rider with Pip has been challenging. Once I'm up, I've got her and can deal with pretty much whatever she has to dole out. But from the ground, we are still earning each other's respect, or rather I'm still convincing her that she owes me some. From the ground, we aren't yet on equal footing. She senses that I prefer a softer touch in working with a 1200 lb. animal versus giving her a big punch.

Our relationship feels liks a hard v. soft power struggle, a battle of wills which feels masculine vs. feminine to me. I can't really gauge when I'm riding (one of our biggest struggles is unwillingness to let me mount) whether I am in the masculine or feminine element. I'd like to think it's a softer power that keeps her flat walking, trotting and steering. But cultural stereotypes are overbearing and like a bag of Pirate's Booty, it's just so easy to reach in and invest in the "whoever is on top wins" paradigm. For the longest time, the Bush administration didn't grasp "soft power," but in this post from Daniel Drezner's blog, Robert Gates is giving soft power some reconsideration. See- even the Shrubs are drinking it!

Perhaps as a Beltane treat, I will take her out in the woods with ribbons woven into her mane (for symbolic affect). From her early years as a pack mule, the trail was the work she knew. The riding arena is likely quite boring and mundane for her, though she does show an interest when you ask for obstacle course-like responses from her.

What forces of male and female are uniting in your life this Beltane? Is it a pleasant or unpleasant experience? What would happen if you "shifted your weight" or took non-verbal angle and applied the forces of culture and community to bring your desired outcome to bear on the situation?

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