My friend Jo lives above a barn in what has always seemed to me to be a storybook setting. She is an artist and a lover of all animals. But Jo has a special connection with horses and an exquisite ability to capture their beauty and majesty through her artwork and animal portraits.


I first met Jo many years ago, after she stopped by my barn and left a note. Later, she told me that she had been looking for a friend who might share her passion for horses, and she felt that God had led her to me. At one time, Jo kept her white Arabian named Pride at our barn. We rode together, attended clinics and she cared for the horses at our barn when I was out of town.


Jo eventually bought her own small farm, and I remember being thrilled that it was 3.5 miles away. I could drive there in about 5 minutes. As the barn and her living space above it were being built, Jo painted this lovely signpost of places that were important to her or places she dreamed of going. I was so honored to be on it! I remember us discussing how horses keep a person tied down, but she hoped that this sign would bring travel into her life.


Perhaps it did. Jo traveled to Panama a few years ago on a mission trip. I had lived there for five years during my growing up years. It’s the place where I was first introduced to horses.

I’ve had the privilege of sharing more than horses with Jo. In addition to her amazing artwork, she is also a poet and writer. Several years ago, Jo tentatively shared with me a beautiful poem that she had written and illustrated, that I hope will one day be a child’s picture book. We have wonderful conversations about creativity, and being with her inspires me.

Jo also knows my history. She listened and cared for me and my animals as my mother slowly descended into Alzheimer’s. She knew about my many miscarriages. And she was there to celebrate with me when Sydney was born, bearing a gift of artwork…a beautiful collage of fabric made into a bucking bronco. I had seen it before and loved the energy it exuded. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was the perfect metaphor for a 40-year-old woman learning to embrace motherhood.


Once I became a mother, I didn’t see Jo as often as I would have liked. But we continued to stay in touch. When another horse friend and I put together a collection of work called, Riding Out: Poems of Grief and Redemption, Jo allowed us to use her beautiful painting of Pride as the cover, and she displayed this amazing piece and other horse artwork during a series of readings we did.

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“The King’s Horse” painted by Jo Rissanen


When Crimson died, Jo came over and said a prayer at his grave. When she was considering buying or selling a horse, she would give me a call to talk things over. When I saw on Facebook that her beloved Pride had died suddenly, I picked up the phone.

We sought out opportunities to stay connected. Over the years, Jo became an art teacher for Sydney and a succession of her homeschooled friends. During art class, I took walks down her dirt road, often with one of her dogs, sometimes with a friend and sometimes alone. There was always a special peace during those walks.







Jo helped both Sydney and Lauren-Kate create covers for their books. Under Jo’s warm and inspiring tutelage, Sydney, in fact, just finished painting the artwork that will grace her third book cover. (for more information on these books, go to

Before I began this journey back into the horse world, I talked with Jo. She knew my fears and desires: that I didn’t want to be overwhelmed, that I wanted to move slowly and that it was important to me to be in touch with the Spirit. Each step of the way Jo has supported me and offered help. Her gentle listening ear heard each of my concerns.

About six weeks ago, Jo and I had a rare chance to visit and share our hopes and dreams with each other for the future. We both seemed to be on the brink of something new (with horses) in our lives, and we were both unsure of how to proceed. Jo became a prayer warrior for me, and I have tried to keep her covered in prayer also. This is one of the rare gifts that a long and special friendship provides. It also provides perspective. And hope.

Knowing that Jo has been praying for my dreams has helped me to embrace expectancy. I am able to connect the dots, trace the path that is being laid down before me. And believe that all will be well.


Note: I have been blessed with many special friends and family members. Each one is different and unique. I am filled with gratitude for these dear people who play such an important role in my life.  


2 Comments on “Friendship”

  1. kitty hahn-campanella says:


    I have admired you slow, meticulously thoughtful approach to everything you process. Your approach is entirely opposite of mine but, because you are a loving sister to me and have always embraced me without judgement, I have been drawn in my how you proceed in life. Thank you for telling, once again, how important long and true friendships are for spiritual and emotional strength for life’s journey. And kudos to Jo.


    • awcamp says:

      Kitty, thank you for this warm and beautiful response to my post. Likewise, I admire the open-hearted way you embrace life and people. A definite contrast to my slow, “toe-in-the-water” approach. 🙂 And, yes, what would life be without the cherished gift of friendship….xo


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