I am writing tonight from the basement of my parent’s house in Greenville, NY. No, the Journey isn’t over, but I had a chance to come home (with the ponies) for a family reunion and a period of rest (and my mom’s amazing cooking) before the last leg of the ride and I went for it. As it turns out, I haven’t been doing a whole lot of resting, but the ponies are ecstatic to be grazing the yard and munching on the apples growing on 3 trees (they’ve also managed to consume all of the sunflowers!) Due to the “family reunion” part of this layover I am behind on all correspondence and this will be a brief post, but at the very least I wanted to let you all know where I am and how it’s been going.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Centaurs. In Greek Mythology, “Centaur” refers to a being which is half human and half horse but there is also a line of thought which uses the Centaur as a metaphor for a horse and rider who are so closely attuned that they function as one being. I’d always thought of this in terms of the horse’s will yielding to the rider’s mind but the human’s body giving itself over to the rhythms of the mount. In other words, the human made the decisions but then worked to stay with the motions and center of balance of the equine so as not to interfere. There’s certainly an element of that, but I’ve come to absolutely value the minds of my equine companions and also to realize that the synthesis and sympatico goes a whole lot deeper than I’d originally supposed.
I’ve been really worried about Jesse James lately, to the point of wondering if it was reasonable to expect him to finish the Journey. I’m also aware that I’m absolutely emotionally exhausted, Finehorn is bored and feeling under-appreciated and we’re all getting grumpy. I’ve found myself riding along trying to find a way to rationalize quitting and simultaneously to “spin” that into some sort of success story. I’ve felt like my blog posts are getting boring, my patience is wearing thin and my nerves are as frazzled as mr.James’ when the big trucks go roaring by on narrow roads. I’ve been walking on the down hills to save Jesse’s knees and worrying about how slowly we’re travelling. I’ve also started having a sneaking suspicion that I have no idea which of the three of us any of these “symptoms” are coming from and who’s catching them – but it’s certain that they’re contagious. We’re all of a piece at this point and the pieces are wearing out. I haven’t been able to discern whether it was Jesse’s joints or my own that were the issue – was I using him as an excuse? Was I projecting? Was I being utterly stubborn at his expense?
Last week I learned of a vet who is also an equine chiropractor. Her name is Barb Allen and she’s out in Canandaigua, close to where I was, so I called her. A week ago Saturday she came out to see the ponies. She watched Jesse walk and trot, she ran her hands down the backs of both ponies, she asked a bunch of questions and she was ultimately very reassuring. She reminded me that it’s completely normal to be exhausted as we near the end of an undertaking as epic as this one has been. She reminded me that when we work hard our bodies wear out. That’s a choice, and not necessarily a bad one. She painted a word picture of a wiry old farmer, walking behind his mules with his plow, all of them thin and strong and keeping on despite the years. Then contrasted that with today’s farmer, up on his giant, climate controlled tractor – and often suffering from obesity and heart disease. Which is the healthier, saner choice? Many of the Amish I’ve met have stuck with the old ways of farming – and not only are they healthy, they often seem happier as well.
The day after Barb looked at the herd and pronounced them fit to travel on I noticed something amazing. We were all happier, moving out better – it was a really good day. I have to wonder how much of the difficulties we were experiencing had their roots in my brain. The lifting of the worry and the guilt removed a psychic burden that literally let us move faster and easier physically! The other great gift that followed from that meeting was learning that Barb was heading east on Monday with Two empty spots in her horse trailer. Monday night the herd and I arrived “home” in Greenville and were welcomed by my parents.
My dad especially was very glad to see me as he was in a lot of pain through his neck and shoulders. I worked on him a little bit before dinner (for those of you who don’t know, I’m a massage therapist as well as a Long Rider) and then again after he’d had a hot shower to relax his muscles. That was when I realized that we had a more serious problem. Two ounces of pressure at one point on his neck had him just about levitating. Ouch! I suspected a pinched nerve and suggested an ice pack and a visit to the Chiropractor in the morning. I was up early for the drive to town and blessings on Dr. Root, he made time. The plan had been for mom and dad to drive down to NYC that day, pick up my sister and her family at Newark, attend two Broadway musicals in 24 hours and return to Greenville by 10pm the next night. My plan was to chill out with the ponies and thoroughly enjoy the peace and quiet!
Well, somehow dad and I wound up trading places! I can’t say I was too terribly upset. Two hours after the decision was made I was driving a minivan Southbound, mom riding shotgun and navigating. I really haven’t driven much in the past four years and I’ve got to say I was ridiculously proud of myself for handling not only a detour for construction, but circling Newark as we waited for the plane And NYC rush hour traffic! We got to “Cinderella” (the first musical) with 15 minutes to spare, Thai food for dinner after the show and a peaceful night at Hephzibah house – a guest house built in 1882 and still feeling very much of another age. Wednesday I had the chance to visit with a friend of mine I haven’t seen in 3 years (the tour included incredible gourmet doughnuts and the oldest Irish pub in the USA – it didn’t allow women in until the 1970’s – tho I wasn’t terribly disappointed that the place serving the octopus balls was closed!) That afternoon we got to see “Matilda” – from a story by Roald Dahl – another brilliant show. Did I mention that I have three nieces, one of whom aspires to a career as an actress?
Lots of walking, lots of people, great vendor food, the subway during rush hour, lugging heavy bags 8 blocks to retrieve the minivan and a long drive home where dad had kept watch over the ponies and was feeling much better. The ponies were overtly glad to see me when I returned, which made me really happy – and they’re obviously feeling great. It’s fun to see them cantering across the yard just for fun and the nieces, who have had almost zero experience with live horses up close and personal, are doing a great job of scratching their itches, feeding them treats and vitamins and letting them know they’re adored. It’s good to be home, even if it’s only a brief hiatus before we complete the ride.