This morning we awoke in a camper-trailer in Tupman; the horses munching on alflafa in a goat pen where they spent the night. We are at the foot of the foothills of the mountains which we must cross in order to leave this vast valley. It seems strange after a month and more of seeing only flatness to know that today we will climb a hill. It’s officially Winter now, and yes, we do know how cold it gets at night, but the days are growing longer once again – for which we are grateful.
On Friday, after speaking with the vet about Jesse James, we packed up and headed on down the road. I had some serious thinking (and crying) to do and walking along the side of a road can be a good place to do that. We had gone 6 1/2 miles and the blisters on the soles of my feet were getting kind of interesting to walk on when a man greeted us from his fenced in yard. He later told us that God had told him to talk to us and he went miles out of his way (literally!) to be helpful to us. The horses were housed in a nice paddock and given hay, we were taken in and given food and shelter, the house smelled wonderful thanks to 4 generations of women gathered to bake cookies – and in the morning we were driven on a reconnaissance mission and found our next stopping place at the Tule Elk Reserve. He even delivered our gear when we arrived in the afternoon so that I could ride Cowgirl instead of my blisters. We were very glad that God had told him to come out and talk to us!
As we were in the truck, slowly driving along the dirt roads we’d take from his house to the Elk Reserve, we were talking about our need for another horse to join the herd so that we could continue the Journey. He started to warn us about not dealing with Mexicans, as the ones that come up from Mexico are a criminal element and we’d get ripped off. He warned us that we wouldn’t be able to find a good horse within our price range. That he knows how horse people are and they’ll lie to us and sell us horses with problems and that it’s really hard to train a pack horse and it takes a lot of time. This went on for about 10 minutes: a litany of fear, draining hope and confidence and motivation. I know he was trying to be helpful, that he meant to be giving us good advice, warning us to be careful.
Finally I had to stop him. “The way I see it, we have two choices. We can either move forward, doing the best we can within the circumstances, or we can curl up and die. We’ve trained two pack horses already and we’ve done OK with that. We’ve found very good horses for our purposes within our limited price range and we’ve made it thus far safely. We’ve been warned repeatedly about Mexicans and Liberals and People who have huge farms and ranches – and they’ve all been like you! Kind and helpful and generous and welcoming to us – and warning us about their “neighbors” – who turn out to be kind and helpful people as well. So either we can figure out a way to keep going, or we can quit. And since quitting isn’t an option, we’re going to continue moving forward, doing the best we can with what we have.”
Thankfully, he got the message and we spoke of other things for the rest of the ride. But I have been thinking a lot about fear, and how it limits us and keeps us from doing and experiencing and understanding so much. The biggest hurdle I’ve had to cross in terms of moving from dreaming about this trip (for 30+ years!) to actually living out that dream has been fear. However – the panic attacks that were so intense pre-trip stopped as soon as we were underway – and haven’t returned in 11 weeks! Yes, it’s cold at night and things aren’t always easy and smooth and there’s a lot to figure out and deal with on a daily basis. OK – life is like that sometimes – for all of us. Money is tight and plans get turned sideways and beings that we care for deeply get sick or injured and there’s a lot of “unknown” in the world. But living in the fear doesn’t help with any of that.
As Paul wrote to Timothy: “God has not given us a Spirit of Fear, but of Power and of Love and of a Sound Mind.”
What a privilege it is to have a dream, and to finally be living it in reality. Yes, it’s challenging – and sometimes it’s scary! But, as we learned in Ireland, the antidote to Fear is Curiosity. Understanding is Power. Love casts out Fear. And may our Sound Minds help us to stay safe, find the right horse to join the herd, plan adequately for the miles ahead and continue to do the very best with what we have so that we can move forward with the Journey.