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.