“Kathy you are in ‘Circle Time’, you might not know it, but that’s a big deal.”
These are the words that Russell spoke as we sat atop our horses in the driveway of Evangeline Trail Rides near Stanley in the province of Nova Scotia. We were about to head out on an evening ride. But first there was a pause, after the busyness of saddling up. A chance to look at each other’s faces and introductions made for those who had just joined in the day. There was a check in about my stirrups and a last word of instruction where needed.
And we were off….
An evening ride thru the changing landscape of fall in Nova Scotia, making our way past a tidal river and thru the woods….how gorgeous.
After a while we pulled up in an opening and gathered into a circle again. We lingered longer this time. Stories were shared, my stirrups got lengthened, we experienced something together. It was different than the procession of horses we had been when we were heading down the trail.
I was intrigued.
We rode some more. We went thru an opening in the woods and found ourselves at the edge of the Stanley airport field. We circled up again. Crystal posed a question. Crystal. You haven’t met her yet. She and her partner Ron own and operate Evangeline Trail Rides.
Crystal who has always been from Nova Scotia met Russell in 1987 thru family events. Their paths crossed again in 1990 and then many years passed. Facebook brought them back onto each other’s radar. When we planned a trip to Nova Scotia there was certainly going to be a visit with Crystal. Her big and tender heart was brimming over with a welcome to experience her world.
What is her world? Well…….Crystal is a genius. She has taken her love of horses and found a way to make a life from it by having strangers come and pay to ride, “Evangeline Trail Rides” is the family business in addition to some ranching. The work at Evangeline is shared by a faithful group of horse lovers who come help with trail rides and horse care and earn themselves a place in the barn family.
All of that might just sound like a business model but when you are smack dab in the middle of it and privy to the background stories it is abundantly clear there is so much more going on.
That “so much more” is something I get excited about.
I used to kinda scoff at the words I am about to tell you, but not anymore.
What Crystal and Ron look to be nurturing, as clearly as I can see, is community and empowerment. These are big words, vague words, what do I mean when I say them?
Community… having a place where you belong. Where people know your name, some of your stories, some of your needs, you have people you share memories with. The fact that a community exists at Crystal and Ron’s is irrefutable. As we sat around their kitchen and living room before and after the ride Russell and I were wholeheartedly welcomed into the community. We weren’t exactly strangers….
In 2019 Crystal started scheming to take a group of her barn friends and travel west to our ranch for a fall cattle move. Flights and hotels for nine women were booked. It was to be an October 2020 adventure. The plan meant that many became Facebook friends with us to get acquainted before the big trip. Then the reality of Covid hit. The trip was canceled but these new facebook friends remained. We have regularly seen their names and gained a small sense of familiarity with them. Spending actual time together now, matching faces and voices to names was fun. There was alot of getting acquainted happening.
At this kitchen party, once it was certain that there was enough space for the telling, we heard the broken toilet story. It was epic in its own right but told with such vivid skill we were able to laugh away all the stress of April 2022 I think. Russell adds, “what good is a story without actions?” In quiet moments of conversation we were told about jobs and family members, and we found people and places we had in common. Suddenly the world seemed smaller and more caring. We shared stories about Covid and getting through it. We learned, again, that we were not alone. In short, we experienced the community that Crystal and Ron have been nurturing and tending.
And the other word….
Empowerment, isn’t that the word to use when people are welcomed to push their limits, to learn and learn more, to face physical and social challenges and come out stronger? For example Crystal invites her teenage barn women to serve as trail guides helping tourists over 3x their age to handle their horses. Wow.
Does a family gain strength and momentum when they are all welcomed to the barn life and over and over again they practice together all the equine, social and emotional challenges before them? I think so. It was clear to see when observing the busyness in the barn, as all aspects of horse use and care were handled, that everyone on the team has been given chances to grow their confidence. Does this matter? 100% YES. Yes. Yes. Yes!
I don’t know how Crystal and Ron arrived at this model for how they would run their business. However, it honestly strikes me as brilliant. It’s got to be tricky. Most things that involve creatures that breathe, like humans and horses, are a bit complicated at least some of the time. But the rewards…..
I think the wisdom that underscores all of this is useful to everyone. There are things that are accomplished when humans meet in circles. Isn’t this part of the appeal of campfires? Isn’t circle time action a huge part of what makes meals at a table such a powerful practice for humans?
When I asked about “circle time” after we were all done, my questions were research for this blog. The way Russ spoke of it at the start of the ride I felt like I was being allowed into a secret society. But the experience…. stopping in a clearing and doing the moves to get our horses into a circle had a powerful intentionality to it. There is a time for moving forward and there is a time for circling up. When these moves were followed up by Crystal’s invitations for stories and conversation I just knew there was more happening. When I asked a rider about it I was told, “it’s the foundation.”
What I take from that….. its that seeing each other, literally seeing each other’s faces and focusing on what we share is powerful. Its a foundation that allows a business to grow and thrive, humans to feel safe and included, and moments of rest for all.
As I write this I am on a plane, descending into Toronto, we haven’t seen our kids for days and days. It’s time for the Bar MW version of circle time. There will be alot of stories to share. I hope Busterkat will sit in his high chair and Morgan will light a candle. I hope it will feel cozy. Cow chase season is right around the corner and soon that table will be stretched out to the max, ready to share circle time with the characters in our world. I am pretty sure Russ and I will be thinking of Crystal as we savor the stories and moments and tackle the work.