Seeking Refuge

Pure folly,
and an unfair imposition to place
on a creature so fine as the horse.
Herein lies a scuffle between longing and love.

How I long to retreat between the warmth of hay-scented hides,
warm and facile, flicking flies away, multi-tasking skin.
Horses’ alert rhythms seem protective, insulating, a shield against the
noisy, grasping, gasping world
of us humans.

Global threats urge me to curl, quiescent,
to freeze and wait.
“It shall pass, it shall pass, it shall pass,” I whisper to myself, less in fear
than in blank comprehension of my perverse happiness
at having a convenient excuse to avoid grocery shopping.

Fear and love.
Herds of horses, provoked by necessity, will run,
a thundering cloud of beauty-dust,
leaving me longing for four hooves and fleetness.

Work and love.
Hordes of humans long for their chance,
that moment of brilliance, an opportunity to hold tight.
We might inadvertently forget to breathe.

I’ve turned myself inside out believing dream after dream,
yielding not to the magnitude of such wonderous construction,
but holding up my imagination like a mirrored shield.
Hungry for an embrace, I’ve allowed seductive images to envelop me,
and even as I struggle to emerge, I stumble.

Tired and clichéd, I hesitate ~

not wanting to wallow,
though I long to stretch my hide against the sand,
to roll satisfyingly,
closer to dust.

To stand apart and stand within,
to urge a way of being by
being true to my soft urges.
This is not so easy, this path is laden with mole holes and ego.

The other side of the field is not so far away.

My horses watch me.
They shy and withdraw, as I do.
They echo my boldness.
They know best as to how to be a horse, and of course, as always,
they are right.

Crumbles

Cake on the plate.
A peaceful break to sit
with the cake on the plate.
To break sweet bread and share a cup of tea
with friends.
Crumbs will fall.

Maybe on this day I will bake an orange loaf
and give it to my neighbor.
Maybe I will clean my office.
Maybe I will wet the beet pulp pellets for my horses.
The pellets will fall apart under hydration.

Oh, I know I will take feed to my horses.
Their hayful life is good keeping.
What to give away, what to keep?
I ponder this question.

I saw one friend disintegrate,
passed out and found,
passed around and lost.
Another friend seemed to slowly remove
bits and pieces of herself
until she was gone.

Once, when I was ten, a teacher asked the class
how we wanted to die.
Maybe this was an odd thing to do.
Maybe it was brave.
I said I wanted to be there and children laughed.

Of course I would be there,
but I wanted be aware, to participate in the moment,
to bring my curiosity.
How much do we get to choose?

My plan for today:
Make the cake.
Take the horse on a walk. Hoofprints will follow in the sandy soil.
Share thoughts and cookies with my friends.
The crumbs fall away like blessings.



Herniated Horsewoman

Gut punched. Stick the knife in and twist it.

I don’t want to spill my guts.
It’s a small tragedy, but it’s mine.
I want to cry and wail
and let the pain go in one massive explosion
then watch the skies clear as dust settles.

My plans were made and I’d saddled my pony,
a practice run for next week.
I thought I saw her looking wistfully at her companions out on the trail.
Desert spring songs are joyously enticing all things nascent.
I figured getting us aging mares out on the trail once or twice a week
would be good for us.

Imagine my disappointment.
It feels like a bodily betrayal, a stab in the soft underbelly, an insult to my intestinal fortitude.
If this is what it takes to bring the tears so be it.
Tears. Tears. Tears. Tears.
You can say it two different ways, you know.

Still, I’d rather pull that pain around and laugh at it
than sit with it.
At the moment it isn’t giving me much of a choice.
You can laugh until you cry.

Platitudes are an easy fallback and distracting.
Trust my gut my ass.



Advocates

When the love is too large
and it spills messily on the floor
and you are two years old,
strapped to a high chair,
you cry,
watching it lonely splat
all over the floor.
You toss your plate of overcooked spaghetti
to join it
then stop your tears,
your breath,
and peer downward.
The pause is needed.
The wails might overwhelm the masterpiece:
love and spaghetti.
When this happens the dog comes scampering over,
hastily lapping up both, heartily,
bringing brightness ~
until you are scolded,
but you know your love is safe in the dog’s belly.

When the love is too large
and your offerings form into words
that don’t stick
and aren’t caught,
words that float past unanswered,
not sad,
words that settle on a bluebird’s wing,
then fly
on the proverbial
wing and a prayer.
You hear them,
safe in flight,
as birdsong.

When the love is too large
and boys grow tall and somewhat frightening
because you can no longer run faster than they can
and they look at you differently,
(scared themselves,
of themselves?)
maybe it is too soon.
Love alights on round-backed ponies
in fields and novels and shiny magazine photos.
Black birds on sun-dappled hide.

When the the love is too large
even as years pass,
it lands heavily with a thud.
No innocent dream can carry it forever,
try as it may.
This is when the heart grows tentative,
taken over by a frantic quest for answers.
Careers, degrees, marriages, divorces,
children, hangovers, mistaken recognitions,
fears of love lost or love never found.
Exhaustion.
Resignation.

Love is there,
grazing,
prancing.
Just the right size.
They come to us
in this place and time
because we have earned our way.
Both of us.
Instinctually, unavoidably,
we are pulled
because the fit is inevitable
and perfect.
Our love is great enough
to carry them.

Atop Junior, the horse that called me back.

I’ve not been riding.

Woodshed*

I’ve not been writing.
Yesterday I blew a few barely graceful notes
on my flute.
There were lights to hang and my son could use a hand.
So I lent him mine.
This melancholy isn’t mine.
It’s ours.
We all see it.
I let it walk with me.
It keeps me out of the saddle because of a choice I made.
Our hospital beds are nearly full.
Two short months have passed at our new barn.
Though I’ve taken a ride here and there
the chance of a strong spook
from a horse
or a loss of balance
on my part
is greater now.
We are all out of practice.

Truth be told
I like the peace.

*”Woodshedding” is a term commonly used by musicians to mean rehearsing a difficult passage repeatedly until it can be performed flawlessly. The term is used metaphorically where “the woodshed” means any private place to practice without being heard by anyone else. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woodshedding#:~:text=%22Woodshedding%22%20is%20a%20term%20commonly,being%20heard%20by%20anyone%20else.

When the Curtain Falls

When the curtain falls
the oboe players exhale,
the soprano takes her bow
on stage,
and even the bass players
feel a sense of renewed time.

When the curtain falls
on the opera
the piccolo returns to its case,
lofty punctuation
quieted. The small, the mighty, vanquished.

When the Grand Opera concludes
the vacuum left behind
refills with the mundane.
Reality intrudes.
We see our fellows,
our smiles perplexed
and smudged with the debris
of conclusion.
Air ringing,
echoes of chords
once clearly enunciated,
pathos, logos, ethos,
vaporized.

Grand Operas conclude and
transcendence, that soul caressing
gift, remains ephemeral.
The overture,
anticipatory by
design,
experienced long ago, now synoptic dust.
Forward chords, moved
by tension and
relaxation, retreat to hidden space.
Left to our own devices
we crawl in suit jackets and pearls,
hard, dark,
separated.

The music lives in memory
where beauty’s smooth flank nudges us,
note by note,
unexpectedly.
Staff paper
receives inspiration,
as wriggling nascent epochs.
We are scattered
spots inked by Lucia’s blood.
She sang. Our ears cupped grace.
We are entwined.
Our tears and laughter rush the stage.
We are the Grand Opera.


Haircut

Deaf' genius Beethoven was able to hear his final symphony after all |  Music | The Guardian

Nine months of pandemic has been enough time for my husband’s hair to grow long and unkempt, so much so that he was beginning to resemble a 19th century classical composer. Or maybe a late 18th-early 19th century one. Maybe he was started to resemble Ludwig van Beethoven. I’d say his countenance is quite a bit more cheery, but there is probably good reason for that.

I’ve offered to cut his hair for him on a number of occasions, but he has politely declined. Today he finally relented, and as I have taken it upon myself to cut my own hair from time to time, I own a pair of good haircutting scissors and a useful rat tail comb.

Now they say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, but in pandemic times I think a decent haircut might rank right up there in ability to rekindle appreciation for a familiar significant other. He beamed when he saw his freshly shorn head in his bathroom mirror and told me it was better than the cut his regular hairdresser gives him. I may have earned myself a recurring job, but if this is what I must do to earn my keep, so be it.

We forget what we can do. We get caught on that spinning wheel of commerce and business. We want to support local businesses, to help keep the economy spry, to participate in our consumer society and partake of all the good things that money can buy. Sometimes, in our haste and busyness, we might forget to pick up our own thread, to stitch a quick fix or maybe even weave a tale. It’s not that difficult.

*

Beethoven had some really wild hair, but he couldn’t hear that well, he was hearing impaired. His father had cuffed him about the ears, so he drank his wine and maybe some beers from a chalice permeated through with lead. At least this may be a possibility. Whatever the case, he left a graying lock for posterity. https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-2005-12-07-0512070213-story.html

Generous Prompt

Though I’ve only met her through her wonderful, buoyant, humourous (she’s British, damnit, I’ll spell it her way….and damnit again, they actually spell humorous the same way we Americans do….), heart-squeezing words, I call her my friend. I’ve been floundering as far as my writing. Much is going on in my life. My husband has been having some health concerns, so there are doctor’s appointments and an upcoming procedure, sooner than I’ll be ready for, but I’m hopeful. My horses moved to a new barn and have celebrated one month of stall living at Fantazee Farms. So lovely Chip, the Quarter Horse I was taking lessons on and whom I’ve mentioned in previous posts, is now a part of my life. I love calling his name to say hello and seeing his kind, blazed face turn my way. Rocky, Al and I are all adjusting. Maybe they are doing a better job of it than I am, but since there really is nothing but time floating around out there, I’m sure we’ll all be fine. Just give me this right now, okay? Shh, philosophical mind, scientific skepticism, take a seat. Time is floating in this scenario, got it?

Elaine suggested I write something evocative of the sound of Appalachian Spring by Aaron Copland. What a wonderful prompt. I’m intimately familiar with this work, having performed it on numerous occasions. I even directed Aaron Copland to the restroom at a venue in New York City back in the early 1980s. He turned to our group during intermission and inquired, probably directed more to one of the young men in our group, but since he was nearest to me I eagerly volunteered. I always know where the restroom is. I managed to eke out a little verse, in response to Elaine’s prompt. So this little bauble is for her.

What Springs to Mind

Bones beneath my feet,
furrowed rows shadow-defined.
The thin leather soles of my shoes wobble,
unstable in the loosened soil.
Quivering warmth
engages my toes.
We leap
into dance,
solemn and contemplative,
raucous and joyful,
all the things.
Dust kicked up.
Dust settling.
I feel sun tingles
and no memories.

Ride Write (3)

Chip stretches after a square, soft halt.

I had my second lesson two Thursdays ago, on Chip, the former rope Quarter Horse. Last week my instructor was out of town, so no lesson, and today I canceled. Our air quality isn’t good due to particulates that I assume are drifting over from the California fires. My nasal passages swell, even while wearing a mask. My mild asthma gets triggered and as much as I wanted to have my lesson, I’ve realized, at 60, I don’t have to do things “or else.” Taking a moment to assess the reality of a situation, instead of powering through seems to serve me better. Back to Thursday, two weeks ago: I had gone on a trail ride the day before on my mare and with two friends. La Roca was the best girl and it was nice to get out for a saunter through the desert, which was stubbornly showing green and a few poppies despite our fizzled monsoon season and recent fires. I spent most of the ride thinking about the part of my body that actually rides the horse. Not my hands. She and I have spent so much time in tension. We appreciate each other much more in relaxation. We can do it!

What I noticed while riding my mare on Wednesday, I also noticed while riding Chip on Thursday. So much learning is counterintuitive. Or maybe my relaxed intuition was lost somewhere along the way. The more I rode with the non-grasping part of my body, the more moments of balance I felt…and the less in control I felt, for an instant. The grasping part of me wanted to hold on for dear life still, but the more I released to the horse, the more in sync we felt. Then I’d fall apart and elbows would go akimbo and I’d feel like a floppy scarecrow, but a breath or two would re-center me.

I haven’t ridden since. It continues to be hot; record-setting heat has given us over 100 days of 100 Fahrenheit or hotter as of September 30. I’ve stopped counting. It has also been the second driest monsoon season on record, which means particulate matter hangs in the air in a visible haze. La Roca coughed a couple times on that ride two weeks ago. I don’t really see any sense in pushing ourselves with all the external factors that we are dealing with right now.

But I’m tired of it all. Gathering thoughts becomes challenging as the heat wears on, and so much wears on, and upon us. My barn time always brings me happiness and calm, but even that is becoming more challenging as the air hangs, unmoved, and less than lung friendly.

I breathe more carefully. Clouds will gather again and rains will wash away motes and sweat and summer coats. Morning crisp air greets me before the sun, a fleeting, much appreciated moment. The quail family clucks and calls in the wash bordering our house and lizards rustle in the brittlebush. It is much quieter than it was last spring. Everyone is getting ready for whatever happens next. And even though I may not be on their backs, bumping along with stray elbows and seeking elusive diagonals, the horses continue to carry me.

Ride Write (2)

Back in the dressage saddle after at least six months away. A Niedersuss with a Thinline cushion, comfortable enough. I shortened the stirrups for my stumpy little legs and reluctantly tightened the flash noseband. Chip is a 15-year-old Quarter Horse who used to be a rope horse. He’s been at this barn for about the same amount of time that I’ve been out of the saddle. The 15.2 bay has a sweet eye and a habit of cribbing. He yawned long and deep after I removed the bridle at the end of our lesson. Now, I know. Tension release.
What a stumbling, bumbling trip it is to learn about calming signals and to reach into the depths of understanding where our fellow species dwell. While I was putting on my paddock boots and half chaps beside my car after I arrived this morning, Avery, the Border Collie/Great Pyrenees cross came over to say hello. I’d remembered his name and he was casually hanging out with me. I turned to him and enthusiastically made a move to grab his head between both my hands and give him a good rub. He was mortally offended and I deducted a sizable quantity of points from my trust scorecard. Mostly I laughed at myself, and gave Avery an apology, and being a highly evolved creature, he forgave me by the time my lesson began.
Chip also proved to be a forgiving soul. My instructor gave me a whip to carry. We had warmed up slowly in the desert-flanked dressage arena and worked on the walk and my seat. She was mounted on her 21-year-old Morgan mare, Pia. She asked if I’d like to try a trot and I said sure. My yeehaw days surface way too quickly and I’m prone to lean forward and throw the reins away instead of maintaining contact. Maybe I was holding too much when I asked for the trot, or maybe he just didn’t want to leave Pia. I urged him and gave a bump with the dressage whip, which likely turned out to be an uncoordinated smack right in his tender flank. Chip crouched and jumped a little. Another apology from me. Maybe I’ll forego the whip and work on my clarity and consistency. He quickly did trot easily for me, and I think I mostly posted on the proper diagonal, not that it matters that much. I thought I could feel it. My instructor talked to me about keeping my elbows by my side and allowing my shoulder blades to drop down my back. My back tends to arch, then my heels go up and my body flops forward. She reminded me to push my heels down while I was up when posting. That helped. Not that I did it consistently. There was a fun moment when she looked at me and said I looked really good and asked how I felt. I felt balanced. I wasn’t consciously thinking about it, but there I was, on his back, not perched, not collapsed, up there and in the groove of togetherness and…then it was gone because I started thinking about it. See how it goes? But I felt it.