Power Outage

Yesterday afternoon the power went out for more than five hundred people in my town which is, probably, half the people and businesses within the city limits. The electric company sent me texts with links so I could learn the status of the situation but without electricity, I don’t have internet, not even with my phone. My phone company doesn’t have data service in the San Luis Valley. The notice said that it would be 24 hours. I learned from my neighbor that a large tree in the park had blown over and broken power lines.

For the most part, I didn’t care. I just needed to know what to plan for, so I called a friend who checked the link and gave me the info.

I did what you do. I got out the candles, changed the batteries in the flashlight, remembering how it was living in the Southern California mountains where fires were frequent and often caused by sparks from electric lines. The stragedy there was to turn off power to save homes and lives. In those days, I had a little generator, a camping stove — which I didn’t need because my kitchen stove was propane anyway — battery powered lights, etc. I realized yesterday that an electric stove is a major liability mostly because of morning coffee… But there’s tea and hot water, right? At a certain level, it’s not about coffee. It’s about caffeine.

So, I settled in for an evening like that and was relieved of the numerous choices and irritations life with electricity provides. I edited short stories and enjoyed the battery life of my laptop. The days are long now, but when it got mostly dark, I went out to see what my neighbors were doing. All the windows were dark, all but mine. They glowed with candlelight.

But, high winds and a power outage combine to awaken my post-Cedar Fire PTSD and I felt anxious and hyper-alert even though I now live in a town and the risks with which I lived in the Southern California mountains don’t exist here. I was happy to have my stories on which to focus.

I put out a little book of short stories at the beginning of the pandemic just to have something to do that WASN’T COVID0-19 related. I didn’t work on it at all except the minimum of formatting to get it to look like a book. I’ve since read it and decided that many of the stories are too good to be sent out like that, even if only one person ever buys the book (one has <3).

Yesterday I wrote a blog post expressing my opinion about events right now in my country. It was researched and supported. It didn’t come off the top of my head, and it wasn’t just my “feelings” about the world as it is right now. I got trolled in a way I never imagined on WordPress. It was vile. I set the post to private and decided “Fuck it. I’m not doing this anymore.” Christine talked me into still writing, so here I am, but honestly, less interested.

I don’t read many blogs here. I don’t have time. Like everyone else, I read blogs by people who are interesting to me for one or another reason. If I happen on a blog post — even by someone I follow — that I don’t agree with I usually just move on. It’s not that everyone is “entitled” to their own opinion. Opinions are not a matter of “entitlement”. People are just made to have opinions. We can’t help it. I’ve observed that, generally, people are not interested in changing their opinions, and if they are, they’re going to search out the information they need to do that. That’s not my opinion. It’s just how people are. Arguing with them doesn’t avail much. I don’t write blog posts to start inflammatory discussions. I know how to block people.

Right now in this country, maybe the world, tempers are running high and everyone’s a little insane because of the virus and the sudden and not-all-that-pleasant changes it’s brought to all of our lives. But while that is going on the OTHER stuff is going on. People are still losing loved ones to other diseases, fearing for the well-being of their children, fearful that they won’t make ends meet month to month, all that exaggerated now because of the universal fear. I have friends who, in this interval, have lost a parent, lost close friends, faced gruesome diagnoses themselves, have had their spouse diagnosed with illnesses that require long-term treatment, seen the physical degeneration of their loved ones and wondered what to do next.

Fear makes people uncomfortable about themselves, thinking that feeling fear means they are cowards. So, instead of realizing, “Holy fucking shit. I’m terrified!” and investigating WHY, they become angry. Anger is (in our world) an acceptable emotion and fear is not. A belly filled with anger is good; a heart quaking in fear is not. It’s true that fear paralyzes us and anger energizes us, but fear’s paralysis exists to keep us still long enough to figure out what’s going on. Angry, we march forward with a sense of self-righteousness. There is a place for both, but I believe it’s important to realize the source of our anger and, if it’s fear, we need to stop and think.

I learned the utility of fear from rattlesnakes. The first time I saw one, I was scared and ran away. The second time, I was scared, but approached cautiously. My mission, then, was learning skills that I could use to hike in rattlesnake country with minimal risk to myself and my dogs. Fear turned to wariness which turned to curiosity which turned to knowledge. That didn’t stop a rattlesnake from living in my yard and killing two of my dogs, but they stuck their heads in gopher holes. Not the snake’s fault, not my dog’s fault. Justice was served, ultimately, when one of my huskies killed the snake. If you’re a person who understands parables, there’s a lot there to unpack.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/06/08/rdp-monday-belly/

Fear is Information

A few days ago a friend stopped by between here and there. When she got out of her car, I saw she was bent over by at least 30 degrees and walking stiff-legged. I hadn’t seen her in a few months and I was a little stunned. As it happened, she’s also the friend that argued with me about my hip surgery insisting that I hadn’t had my mobility restored but “augmented.” That made me furious and I don’t get angry all that easily. I was ready to set her straight on that when she arrived, but when I saw her I thought, “We have a bigger problem now.”

She’s a very controlling person with strong opinions. I don’t like confrontation (she does), but I have confronted her before back when I was negotiating for my house and she was my agent. I also, frankly, think she’s kind of an idiot. Many of her opinions about things have been refuted for once and for all by solid scientific research, but I just let it roll away into the twilight zone of illusion. I’m not a person who has to be right, even when I am.

So, instead of telling her not to argue with me about stuff I know (like my own hip surgery and repair) I talked to her about her mobility. She was very defensive and attempted denial. “It doesn’t matter what you think,” I said. “Just get X-rays so you know what you’re dealing with. If it’s something, you need to know.”

“So I know what my options are?”

“We don’t always have options,” I said. A person with bone-on-bone osteoarthritis has the option to have surgery or ride around in a wheelchair. I know she’s not a person who “believes” in objective reality, but it’s there, nonetheless.

Even then she’s (allegedly) going to get the X-rays and show them to her sister, a chiropractor, rather than let the doctor read them. I just figure “Whatever.” Then I tried to explain what long-term pain and challenged mobility do materially to our brain, the organ, not our mind the ephemeral entity.

Either that got her attention or she decided that agreeing with me would get me to shut up.

But, if you’re curious, what pain and being crippled do to our brain is this:

People with unrelenting pain are often depressed, anxious and have difficulty making simple decisions. Researchers have identified a clue that may explain how suffering long-term pain could trigger these other pain-related symptoms. Researchers found that in people with chronic pain, a front region of the cortex associated with emotion fails to deactivate when it should. It’s stuck on full throttle, wearing out neurons and altering their connections.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080205171755.htm


What’s more, a person in this situation — because it evolves slowly — has a tendency to accept the unacceptable — like my friend walking like that, and excusing it by saying, “I just drove 3 hours.”

No.

I said straight out, “That doesn’t wash in real life. These are not symptoms of driving. They’re symptoms of a physical problem.”

I think that whether she does anything or not (it’s her life, her body) she knows I care about her. There’s not much more I can do.

I’m still fighting the brain changes every day. I was essentially handicapped and in pain for a decade. Sometimes I’m amazed by what I’m able to do now that I couldn’t do for a long, long time, like figure out a solution so my back storm door doesn’t keep breaking, like cutting back an unwelcome elm tree, like basically figuring out anything.

Today I filled the tires on my real bike which I haven’t ridden in more than 2 years. I was determined to ride it. The whole scenario reminded me of taking out my new Cross Country skis the first, second, third, fourth, fifth times. I felt a nagging apprehension, fear, that threatened to hold me back from doing something I wanted to do. As with Cross Country skiing, I didn’t know if I could ride, but I have no rational reason not to.

My fears are about getting on and stopping at a stop sign. I have to figure out a way to get on when I’m afraid? unable? to lift my leg over the bike. For now I lay the bike on the ground, straddle it and pull it up, but that isn’t what I want to do. So, as I wheeled it out of my yard onto the driveway and laid it down to get on, I felt real terror. What if I fell? Could I get up? Would I be hurt? Then my X-country ski voice said, “Don’t fall. Just ride. Just try. See what it’s like. See what you remember. Stop while you’re still having fun. Get on. Who cares how?”

It was a fresh and lovely morning. I rode a couple of miles where I wouldn’t have to deal with stopping. I thought of how nice it would be ride where I walked Bear in winter. I appreciated how much faster and more exhilarating is than walking. I tested out the gears since it had been so long since I’ve shifted bike gears. I think the seat’s too low, but? I don’t know. I decided to take it to Kristi Mountain Sports in Alamosa and get it fitted to me. It’s a small bike for a small person — maybe too small? I don’t know. Then I turned into the alley and felt the clutch of fear at the rough curb, the rutted dirt and without thinking I was in a solid mountain biking position on my bike. I felt a little spring of joy in my heart.

I might get this. “Keep trying, every day,” said my Cross Country ski voice. “It’s almost as good as snow, remember? Remember how you rode on all those dirt trails in California imagining you were skiing? It will get you through the summer. Don’t give up.”

I came in the house and cried. Fighting fear is very emotional. You hold it back until you can release it. It’s a very good feeling.

Dating. Puking in the Mercedes

Divorced. “Pushing thirty.” Pressure everywhere to “find someone before it’s too late.” Pretty typical? Yeah. Definitely, but it was the late 70s…

So what? Oh, kid, you have no idea how things WEREN’T back then, but it was pretty odd for a (reasonably) good-looking woman to still be on her own and employment options were far more limited than now. Feminists were IN ACTION but the action was too new to have born fruit. “You wanna’ go to a fern bar and meet some men?” asked her friends one Friday evening. (Actually, no one ever called “fern bars” “fern bars” — but they were. Potted ferns hanging from macrame, uh, hangers; negative ion machines blasting good vibes secretly and silently into the crowd.)

“I’d rather die.”

“You’re never going to meet someone this way.”

“How is some joker asking me my sign meaningful at all?”

Fact was, she loved someone, a sad little love story that might make money if she ever sits down and retypes it (it was printed out from her Amiga back in the 80s).

At work, administrative assistant to the directors of Development and Alumni Relations, she was surrounded by young law students. Sandy, Dean’s secretary, said, “You have to try. Mr. Right isn’t going to come flying through your door.”

Men were icky and gruesome in their way. She’s already been beaten up by her first husband. Once he was gone, the horror didn’t stop. The guy downstairs had attempted to break down her front door. She retreated to her bathroom with the phone and called the cops. When they arrived, and questioned the guy, he said, “I just wanted to get into her pants. What’s wrong with that?” Of course, they cuffed him and took him away. Men — good or bad. You decide.

Meanwhile, Sandy, the Dean’s Secretary, gave Larry Poser the phone number he’d been asking for. She got a call. “You want to go out with me? Sandy said you might.”

Larry Poser. Ah. Skinny, short, big nose, black hair, but funny. Very funny. But ugly. Yeah, definitely fell into the category she found ugly. Hmmm.

“OK.”

They went out and had a pretty good time. Poser WAS funny and so was (is) she so they had a lot of laughs. A week or so later he showed up at her apartment with a bottle of wine. They sat on the floor and drank wine and talked. He said, “I always figured lively funny people like you would be slender. But you’re not. That’s too bad.”

She was far from fat, but God designed her to be compact and strong, and close to the ground. “Fuck you,” she thought. “Why are you here?” she said.

“I like you. I’m here because I like you. Listen. My friends PD and his wife, WIFE, have asked us to go out with them Saturday. We’re going to that new Italian restaurant and then for dessert. Do you want to come?”

PD was the chief public defender. He and his wife — both early thirties and beautiful — lived in a beautiful restored Victorian on Capital Hill. She was a grad student. Shit. And how could Poser be THEIR friend?

“Sure.”

She borrowed an outfit from Bess who had nice clothes. Poser, PD and WIFE came to pick her up in their Mercedes. They went to the restaurant, which was beautiful. The food was delicious, the company was great. PD was VERY funny, but on top of that, she was very nervous. She realized she didn’t really like Poser at all and wondered why she was out with him. She felt she was on exhibition — something that always terrified her (she had a hard time speaking in public and had never made it through a piano recital as a kid). Dinner over, she and WIFE went to the Ladies to do whatever. WIFE said, “Poser really seems to like you.”

She felt a very insistent wave of nausea, a combination of fettuccine, laughing while eating and nerves. She held it down. “Really?”

“I think so. He talks about you a lot.”

The nausea returned.

They walked down the curved staircase to the front door. PD made a show of opening the back door of the Mercedes (brand new) to let she in. She sat down. PD closed the door. She puked all over the door, the floor and an edge of the seat.

“Take me home,” she said.

“No way. We’re going out for dessert.”

And they did.

A few days later, back at the law school where she worked, she was talking to Sandy. “How was it?”

“I puked in the guy’s new Mercedes.”

“Well, that’s memorable.”

“Yeah.”

“Do you like Poser?”

“Not really.”

“Good. I overheard something the other day in the hall.”

“What?”

“He was going out with you because the Dean likes you. He wants a recommendation letter.”

“Yeah, I didn’t think he liked me. It’s mutual. I don’t like him, either. He’s ugly.”

“Well, Tony Pulire has been asking about you. He’s not ugly.”

That’s another scary story for another day…

Nothing ever made her more nervous than dating. Sure, it appears to be a sweet experience, with candy, flowers, romance and so on, but it’s a Mean and Vicious Killer, the “man of her dreams” a holy grail and She NEVER knew her favorite color. And no; the adrenaline was NEVER worth it. She has hiked alone in remote mountains (alone with dogs, that is), had encounters with rattlesnakes, coyotes and seen a mountain lion. She’s traveled around Europe by herself, lived in China during the early 80s, and has done many things that others think require courage. For her, they’re just adventure and life is nothing without adventure. But dating? Gratuitous shame, angst and misery.

Fear Tells Us Nothing

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Phobia, Shmobia.”

In 1977 a man I now suspect was “the great love of my life (glml)” sat across from me at my dinner table and said, “What are you afraid of? File the papers. The guy’s an asshole. Fear tells us nothing.”

He was talking about my husband whom I needed to divorce. I was afraid. I was afraid for a lot of reasons but probably on top of the list was the fact that my husband had abused me numerous times and I was afraid of him. Those times seemed to be over, if for no other reason than he didn’t live with me any more. He’d gotten a scholarship for grad school and had moved to Wyoming six months earlier while I went to grad school in Denver. He’d given me a choice, “Either you drop out of school and go with me, or I go without you.” Not much of a choice.

I was also afraid of the feelings I had for Peter, the “glml”. He was gay. Strangely, though, my love was requited and Peter wanted the “hubby” out of the way.

The next day I drove up to Boulder to see an old friend and lover, Allan. We spent the day and the night together. The next day he was leaving for Berkeley where he’d gotten a grant for a doctoral program. He had an MA in philosophy from the University of Colorado. I got a letter from him soon after and that was the last I heard of him. He was a remarkable man and we both viewed my sudden appearance at his house in Boulder that last day of his Colorado life as a rite of passage for both of us.

That Monday I filed the papers and took them to “the hubby” who didn’t resist. Anyone could tell that when two people didn’t get along and no longer lived together, their marriage was probably over.

Peter, the glml, was wrong, though. Fear is very informative. If you hear a rattlesnake buzz, you will feel afraid. I should have felt afraid of the “hubby” but I never did.

After the divorce, involved in a relationship with the glml, I started reading Hemingway. Courage is a big topic with him and after several books and reading his collected letters, I saw what courage is (according to Hemingway). It is not the absence of fear; courage is unnecessary if one is not afraid. Courage — in Hemingway’s language — is grace under pressure. It’s moving away from the snake without killing it. If I’d been afraid of the “hubby,” I wouldn’t have stayed with him as long as I did.

Not long ago, I thought of Allan and “googled” him. What I learned astonished me. He got his doctorate in social work, not philosophy. He spent his life helping and setting up social justice organizations that rescued, cared for and rehabilitated battered women. I don’t know if a long, long ago night – 1974 – when I drove to his house bruised, crying and terrified had anything to do with what he chose to give his life to, but if it did, then all that pain, fear and humiliation I experienced with the “hubby” was worth it.

Dating. Puking in the Mercedes

 

Divorced. “Pushing thirty.” Pressure everywhere to “find someone before it’s too late.” Pretty typical? Yeah. Definitely, but it was the late 70s…

So what? Oh, kid, you have no idea how things WEREN’T back then, but it was pretty odd for a (reasonably) good-looking woman to still be on her own and employment options were far more limited than now. Feminists were IN ACTION but the action was too new to have born fruit. “You wanna’ go to a fern bar and meet some men?” asked her friends one Friday evening. (Actually, no one ever called “fern bars” “fern bars” — but they were. Potted ferns hanging from macrame, uh, hangers; negative ion machines blasting good vibes secretly and silently into the crowd.)

“I’d rather die.”

“You’re never going to meet someone this way.”

“How is some joker asking me my sign meaningful at all?”

Fact was, she loved someone, a sad little love story that might make money if Lamont ever sits down and retypes it (it was printed out from her Amiga back in the 80s).

At work, administrative assistant to the directors of Development and Alumni Relations, Lamont was surrounded by young law students. Sandy, Dean’s secretary, said, “You have to try. Mr. Right isn’t going to come flying through your door.”

Men were icky and gruesome in their way. She’s already been beaten up by her first husband. Once he was gone, the horror didn’t stop. The guy downstairs had attempted to break down her front door. Lamont retreated to her bathroom with the phone and called the cops. When they arrived, and questioned the guy, he said, “I just wanted to get into her pants. What’s wrong with that?” Of course, they cuffed him and took him away. Men — good or bad. You decide.

Meanwhile, Sandy, the Dean’s Secretary, gave Larry Poser the phone number he’d been asking for. Lamont got a call. “You want to go out with me? Sandy said you might.”

Larry Poser. Ah. Skinny, short, big nose, black hair, but funny. Very funny. But ugly. Yeah, definitely fell into the category Lamont found ugly. Hmmm.

“OK.”

They went out and had a pretty good time. Poser WAS funny and so was (is) Lamont so they had a lot of laughs. A week or so later he showed up at her apartment with a bottle of wine. They sat on the floor and drank wine and talked. He said, “I always figured lively funny people like you would be slender. But you’re not. That’s too bad.”

She was far from fat, but God designed her to be compact and strong, and close to the ground. “Fuck you,” she thought. “Why are you here?” she said.

“I like you. I’m here because I like you. Listen. My friends PD and his wife, WIFE, have asked us to go out with them Saturday. We’re going to that new Italian restaurant and then for dessert. Do you want to come?”

PD was the chief public defender. He and his wife — both early thirties and beautiful — lived in a beautiful restored Victorian on Capital Hill. Lamont was a grad student. Shit. And how could Poser be THEIR friend?

“Sure.”

Lamont borrowed an outfit from Bess who had nice clothes. Poser, PD and WIFE came to pick her up in their Mercedes. They went to the restaurant, which was beautiful. The food was delicious, the company was great. PD was VERY funny, but on top of that, Lamont was very nervous. She realized she didn’t really like Poser at all and wondered why she was out with him. She felt she was on exhibition — something that always terrified her (she had a hard time speaking in public and had never made it through a piano recital as a kid). Dinner over, she and WIFE went to the Ladies to do whatever. WIFE said, “Poser really seems to like you.”

Lamont felt a very insistent wave of nausea, a combination of fettuccine, laughing while eating and nerves. She held it down. “Really?”

“I think so. He talks about you a lot.”

The nausea returned.

They walked down the curved staircase to the front door. PD made a show of opening the back door of the Mercedes (brand new) to let Lamont in. Lamont sat down. PD closed the door. Lamont puked all over the door, the floor and an edge of the seat.

“Take me home,” she said.

“No way. We’re going out for dessert.”

And they did.

A few days later, back at the law school where she worked, Lamont was talking to Sandy. “How was it?”

“I puked in the guy’s new Mercedes.”

“Well, that’s memorable.”

“Yeah.”

“Do you like Poser?”

“Not really.”

“Good. I overheard something the other day in the hall.”

“What?”

“He was going out with you because the Dean likes you. He wants a recommendation letter.”

“Yeah, I didn’t think he liked me. It’s mutual. I don’t like him, either. He’s ugly.”

“Well, Tony Pulire has been asking about you. He’s not ugly.”

That’s another scary story for another day…

Nothing ever made Lamont more nervous than dating. Sure, it appears to be a sweet experience, with candy, flowers, romance and so on, but it’s a Mean and Vicious Killer, the “man of Lamont’s dreams” a holy grail and She NEVER knew her favorite color. And no; the adrenaline was NEVER worth it. Lamont has hiked alone in remote mountains (alone with dogs, that is), had encounters with rattlesnakes, coyotes and seen a mountain lion. Lamont has traveled around Europe by herself, lived in China during the early 80s, and has done many things that others think require courage. For Lamont, they’re just adventure and life is nothing without adventure. But dating? Gratuitous shame, angst and misery.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/fight-or-flight/

Freedom — Reflections on Riding a Horse on Christmas Eve

Daily Prompt Happy Happy Joy Joy We cry for lots of reasons: sadness, pain, fear . . . and happiness. When was the last time you shed tears of joy?

I’m pretty easily moved to tears of happiness; tears of sorrow? Not so easy. That’s something to hide, the vulnerable underbelly of our lives, a soft spot. But happiness? I’ve learned that the moments of life’s beauty are fleeting and I want to be fully present when they arrive. Most of the time the moments are bits of the passing parade. My neighbor’s third grade daughter pretending to be Laura in Little House on the Prairie and collecting snow for maple syrup. A little boy running toward our shared fence yelling, “Martha! Martha! Martha!” as if the sun rises and sets with me. The look on a student’s face that says, “I got it!” My friend’s mentally challenged son helping me make Jello. It sounds, maybe, Pollyanna-ish but I think it’s healthy to turn attention to the beautiful moments. Once in a while, though, I’m the central character in a beautiful moment.

That happened last week, Christmas Eve.

I used to be a contender. I mean by that I used to run and hike on hard hills almost every day. If you do that, you’re going to fall and you’re also going to put a lot of wear and tear on your joints. I knew this. I knew that sooner or later (I hoped later) I’d have problems. I’d been told this but no one went farther and said what the problems would be. So, when I was 52, 2004, I started experiencing terrible pain in my hip not just when I was hiking, but all the time. I thought it was a pulled muscle or??? Time passed. I went to the doctor who misdiagnosed it because I was so young — but truth will out and it was advanced osteoarthritis in my right hip. Three YEARS later I had surgery — hip resurfacing — to repair it. By then, other damage had accrued. My knees, both with historical injuries, had been carrying more than their fair share of the burden of me. They were not in good shape, either.

After that, because of that, I was different psychologically. Formerly, the best part of my life was out in nature, challenging my body and seeing what there was to see. Afterward? No. I tried to return to my former pursuits but with the restrictions I had (no running among them) and the knowledge that I could be HURT, it was not the same. It was confusing. All I’d wanted during those three or four painful years was to get back on the trail. When I was able again? There was a core of sadness and fear where there had been nothing before except maybe joy and anticipation — and freedom.

So…move on, right? Other things — good things — found their way into that hollow place and pushed the sad part further and further down. Each age has its beauty, they say.

But…it wasn’t what I wanted. It would be OK. I would make it fine. Great other things existed, right? I could do them — did them. Then, one morning in January I walked out my front door and saw…

A HORSE.

I’d known about him. I’d talked with my neighbor and explained it was OK with me if he used one part of my fence as the horse’s corral. I explained I didn’t mind the smell of horse and I basically liked horses, not with any grand passion. I was never a horse crazy girl, but horses were OK with me.

In fact, in 2005, I’d had an experience with horses related to my arthritis that had made me regard them with respect and affection. The day when my (inept) Dr. had finally made a correct diagnosis, and had his office staff call me, the day I learned I had osteoarthritis in my hip, I was completely bewildered by the information. No one explained what that meant and I was scared. That evening I took my Siberian husky, Lily (then a young dog) for a walk in the pure mountain darkness of Descanso, California. Walking always helped me think.

We just walked down the road — a mile. At the end of the road was a large paddock filled with horses. I never paid any attention to them on my walks, and they never paid attention to me. I knew they were there but? So what. There were more horses than people in my town and, anyway, I’d never related all that well to horses. But that night…in the dark I heard them nicker. I walked over to the fence. In the pitch darkness I couldn’t see them. There were eight or ten, I don’t know, all pressing against the fence asking to be petted. I stroked necks and noses and felt them push each other away to get close to me. I stayed for a while petting them then turned toward home, passing the next paddock, also filled with horses, who did the same thing. That night I must have patted sixteen or twenty horses. It was a strange and intense experience, and I felt I’d been given a gift. Until the next day, I didn’t know the magnitude of the gift.

Grateful to them, I decided to buy a big bag of carrots and visit them in the day time. When I did, I saw that they were all old horses with varying levels of arthritis. All of them returned to the fence, some slowly, each step painful and hard. One had a very hard time reaching me and when she did, I saw her teeth were down to nothing and though she wanted a carrot, she couldn’t easily take it. I chewed it and spit it into my hand and gave it to her. Somehow these immense and alien creatures had KNOWN everything about me the night before. From then on, I have loved horses and wondered about their abilities, their understanding, their empathy.

So, this past January walking out my front door one morning and seeing a horse essentially in my front yard was a real thrill. I’d have done a little dance if I could.

Horse

I got to know Brownie well and I really loved him. My neighbors tried to persuade me to get up on him and ride, but I didn’t think I could. I spent a lot of time with Brownie, though, talking to him, feeding him carrots, giving him his hay when his people were gone for the weekend. Mostly, though, I just liked hanging out with him. Knowing Brownie made me very happy and I missed him a lot when he and his family moved away.

I have known for a while that horses have been trotting into my heart, but what, I wondered, would I do with them if I couldn’t ride them? Could I learn to care for them and train them? Maybe. Could I work at a horse rescue, mucking out stalls? Well, the physical limitations that kept me off a horse also didn’t make it that easy for me to lift heavy shovel-loads of manure, but maybe. Then, last week when I was in Colorado Springs, I went with my friend to her riding/horse knowledge lesson at RCA Equestrian.

I was going to watch. That was OK with me. I liked it a lot, just being outside and being around horses and I am completely behind what my friend, LM, is trying to accomplish. I love it.

My friend’s lessons involve not just getting on a horse, but getting the horse out of the barn (putting the halter on and leading her out), brushing her down, saddling her, leading her to the ring, “talking” to her with body language and a whip (not to strike the horse but to talk to the horse). My friend is learning to tell the horse to walk around the ring to the right, the left, to come to her, to back away from her. My friend is learning to speak “horse as a second language.” Her horse is a good teacher.

When my friend got her horse out of the barn, the teacher, Rebecca, brought another horse out of the barn. She told us about the horse, how he was a lease. She told us about some of his qualities and that she’d only had him out to ride once. She tied him next to LM’s horse.

I watched for an hour or so and enjoyed it very much. Other horses were all around, some in fenced paddocks, a couple of them running free. It was a glorious day on the open prairie and except that I could feel my lips getting sunburned, everything was GREAT! The kind of compromised great I’ve known since my hip surgery. “I can’t ride, but I can be here,” kind of great.

There’s a lot to be said for acquiring that kind of philosophy. It’s the lesson of my experience. In a bizarre way, the pain and suffering and fear and so on led me to a peaceful resignation with each passing moment. Love it or lose it, what it amounts to.

Then, suddenly (it seemed to me) Rebecca told her daughter to saddle the other horse. “Use my saddle,” she said, “With the soft pad.” I imagined the next step in LM’s lesson was going to be “talking” to her horse while another horse was in the ring. I thought it would be cool to watch.

Rebecca’s daughter brought the saddled horse over to the ring and Rebecca called out, “Martha, do you want to ride?” I was stunned.
“I don’t think I can.”
“Do you want to try?”
“I don’t think I can get on the horse. I’ve had this surgery and I can’t swing my leg over the horse. I guess I could try getting on from the wrong side.”
“Do you want to try? I’ll hold him and you can use the steps. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, OK?”

Oh, I wanted to. I was deeply tired of what I could not do and, anyway, I’ve never been afraid of trying.

“OK. I’m not afraid to ride, Rebecca. I’m not afraid of the horse. It’s getting on. It’s a mechanical problem.”

She uses horses as therapy animals for lots of physically disabled people, people with MS, MD, paraplegics. I KNOW I’m a person with no problems in comparison to that. I was simply afraid of dislocating my femur or cracking the femoral head or shifting the acetabular cup. I had also NEVER attempted to mount a horse from the right.

I climbed the steps. Rebecca held the horse (Spanky). I put my right foot in the stirrup, and awkwardly swung my left leg over the back of the horse. I was on. Rebecca is short like I am and the stirrups were already fine. She let go of Spanky. I felt an intense rush of absolute joy run through my body. I was on the horse. I began to sob. Here was something I could do. This wonderful species who’d shown me — out of no where — so much care and affection, I was ON him. I leaned forward on my saddle and wrapped my arms around his neck, I was so incredibly happy. I was embracing all those old horses and Brownie and this horse who held me standing perfectly still.

After that? I can ride. I rode. I was liberated from everything on Spanky’s back. Liberated from the arthritis in my knees. Liberated from the inability to move across the earth. Here was freedom.

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