It’s a funny thing, but even in the midst of the moving and packing and tearing down and rebuilding, the grass doesn’t stop growing, the laundry and dishes still need to be done, the weeds keep invading the garden and flower beds – life just keeps marching on. The other morning found me ripping great handfuls of clover from around Mom’s chives and lemon thyme. It felt wrong, somehow -?-?- and then I realized that I wanted to save it for the ponies. Yes, the mounding round leaves and yellow flowers were beautiful and lush, but mostly I was struck by a deep nostalgia for grazing with the ponies; for the intimacies of the life we’d shared, for the two years I spent living as part of the herd. I was homesick. In the midst of that Gryph called, asking me to check on line for a Missouri zip code so she could arrange her next mail drop, and I told her about the clover. She laughed and sighed and said that she had that exact same feeling every time she ate an apple when she wasn’t with the herd. She always had the inclination to save the core for the ponies. It’s hard to get over that sort of thing.
The horse part of the herd missed it too. One of the things it’s been hard to write about is how little the ponies and I had in common once the ride was over. I’d go out to visit, but there was nothing to talk about. They had Zero interest in a jaunt around the block. It didn’t work for them to live at the house, nor me out in the pasture. We were estranged: strangers to one anothers lives. Gone were the days of near telepathic closeness, the three of us moving as one being, the bond of adventure, the in-jokes and squabbles. I remember days I’d be talking to myself as we rode along, grumbling and mumbling about something when suddenly mr.James would chime in with his own mumbles and grumbles, making me laugh. Or I’d look back to catch Saint Finehorn making faces at me, reminding me to look around and remember what a grand life we had. Those two knew exactly what they wanted to be doing with their lives, but they needed a human herd member – and once we arrived in Big Creek I was suddenly failing them on that front. The ponies Really don’t care about the book writing project. I try to explain, but they yawn and turn away.
Jesse and Finehorn both adore the Gryphon. They were thrilled to see her when she arrived after so many months away, but she’s come (and gone) before. They were happy enough to accompany her to town and back, but there was still a hint of attitude if they were kept standing in the yard too long and a sort of disdainful brattiness (especially from Finehorn). The moment the big yellow dry-bag packs came out of Gryph’s room – full – there was a huge and palpable change of attitude. They were suddenly 100% on-board and paying attention. mr.James was hovering close and breathing down our arms as we packed Finehorn for the trial overnight jaunt to the Wildlife Management Area up the road. Finehorn was squared up and steady as a rock as we got her packs clipped on and tarped down. Jesse made his opinions clear in terms of the saddle he prefered and the flowing purple silk cloak that he did Not (stomping foot). Their eyes were clear and bright, their ears followed our every move, they were absolute professionals ready to get back in the game. Magnificent Road Creatures – they were heading out – with Gryph this time.
I was literally running with the camera to stay ahead of them as they rode out the drive of the Old Dickens’ Place, their steps buoyant and eager, their ears alert, the happiest I’d seen them in years. The ponies are both around 15 years old at this stage (in human years they’re in their late 40’s) but there was none of that showing, none of the weariness we’d all been feeling by the time we reached Maine. They were bold and bright and exactly in their element. Long Ride Horses, returning to the trail with one of their favorite people in the whole world. When Gryph calls with reports of the ponies sleeping with their heads over her hammock at night, keeping watch, enfolding her in the safety and comfort of the herd, it just squeezes my heart ’til my eyes leak.
But now it’s time to change gears. I’m turning 50 today. Friday I’m getting in the car with my folks and heading up to my brother’s “little cabin in the woods” to celebrate my birthday. My dad is baking our family’s traditional birthday cake (uber-rich chocolate with peppermint frosting) and mom is preparing chicken and zucchini for the grill. Shrimp and pineapple kabobs for appetizers, fruit salad, home made bread – my mouth is watering just thinking about it. And then, on the 4th of July, I’m going to be left alone up there – for 8 weeks – and my only responsibility (apart from keeping body and soul together) will be to work on getting “the book” written. This is an amazing gift from my brother and his family. I finished writing Chapter 12 at the end of April. Then life took over with all sorts of chaos and distractions and I’ve managed a sum total of 3 pages since then.
The cabin is off-grid and secluded, nestled in tall pines by a lovely, rocky creek. There’s no internet, the cell ‘phone doesn’t get reception and the solar panels will (hopefully!) provide just enough power to keep my laptop charged for writing. One mile away there’s cold, pure spring water coming out of the side of a hill through a pipe. Town is 2.5 miles via borrowed bicycle. The plan is to head in once a week to check messages, send chapters out to my “first readers” and re-provision. The goal is a finished first draft before the weather turns. There is a story in the Bible about “the pearl of great price” – it’s about recognizing what really matters most and being willing to give up everything else in exchange. The ride was like that for me. I was riding on faith, and it wasn’t just about giving up comfort and convenience and the illusion of security – in many ways that was the easy part. The harder part was not seeing friends and family for so long. Being so wrapped up in the Journey that I couldn’t be there for the people I love, becoming a stranger to their lives.
And now i’m learning that writing the book takes that same sort of single-pointed focus (read: obsession.) When I’m in writing mode I can’t read or listen to music. A simple conversation, other people’s words and ideas in my head, can end my writing for the day. After my weekend shifts at the Steakhouse it often took two days to find my way back into the story. At my best I was writing about as fast as I had been riding, week for week, and I honestly Do Not want to spend another year and a half writing this book. Twelve chapters in and I can honestly say that I believe it’s worth writing, it’s working, I have what it takes to do this. Now it’s time to give it my full attention and get it finished, adhering to my own rhythms and listening to the voices inside my own head; the long thoughts that come to form the chapters. At this stage I’m not sure if I’ll be writing blog posts while I’m away. I hope so, but I can’t promise. Blessings and Adventures, and thank you all for reading!