Friday, April 6, 2012

The Difference

We rode out today, the long route that takes us all the way through the neighborhood, past dogs barking, along the road and over it, down into ravines, over deadfall. We crossed water, stopped at the pond, gloried at the wildflowers scattered about like wishes of elves.

Lily and I were the lead, not because we knew where we were going, but because she keeps a good pace. For a while she kept leaning to the left, attempting to will us back to the barn. After a while she resigned herself to the trail, to forward, the sweat darkening her coat In this early heat that has descended in Texas.

Three days earlier I was taking shelter with my co-workers in Dallas in the 11th floor hallway of our building. I'd flown into town for a meeting and we were nearly done when we were warned to listen for sirens. They went off a few minutes later and our little committee moved immediately to the stairs, then up a floor to join the others.

We sat there, those of us from out of town wondering somewhat about our flights, but also worrying over our friends here who had children and spouses somewhere out there where the sky had turned into a collections of angry, whirling gray whips. Tornados dropped down and set to scrubbing away homes, trees, buildings, vehicles, while we stood there, staring at our phones, watching the maps on our screens shift in a color pallet that said yes, these are dangerous times.

That was three days ago, and today I was under bright blue skies, purple and yellow dotting green hillside. It was strange to have the destruction be so completely gone, to have the world right itself so quickly, almost like those terrible plot twists when the problems are all solved when the heroine simply wakes up.

And yet, here we were, my copper horse leading, moving, impatient to go. I wondered if she was enjoying it, it was only when we neared the barn and she slowed, acted as if she wanted to turn back, to be out longer, that I thought maybe she did.

There are many differences between rides with Lily and the rides I had with Smokey. I realize now I'd come to a point where I was waiting for the sky to darken, that I wanted just to stay in that hallway until the sirens stopped with him. Now I simply go, without any prep time or emotional negotiation. The fear is gone, gone as if it had never been there. Sometimes I find myself looking for it, when the road is slippery, when I get disoriented and take a wrong turn.

But it's not there either.

I miss my boy's joy de vive, his youthful curiosity. I look for it, for the happy side in my mare, but my glimpses of it are fleeting, so much so I can't be sure they were there at all. She is, instead, dutiful. Completely in my hands.

Perhaps, in time.

About a week ago we cantered out alone, up a small incline. I felt different, the thrill of the canter without the edge, the wondering if we were going to stop.

Of course we will stop, I felt her say. Why in the world would I not? This is what it is to ride a horse that is finished. That knows her job. That will work, and push through, not for a need to please or for curiosity. But because it's what she has the discipline to do.

Next time I'll stop and tie a wildflower in her mane, so she'll know. She brings me joy and peace. I will look for the patches of green that she seems to like the most and maybe it will bring her of that lightness of spirit I miss a bit from Smokey.

Already she is responding to my style of riding, many times we move as one, smooth and together as I've ever felt. Now I am just looking for it to deepen.

Tomorrow we'll ride again.

16 comments:

Funder said...

I think partly it's just a mares/geldings thing. Both of my mares were/are very reserved. You get more attuned to them, more appreciative of an ear-flick or a happy grunt when you scratch the right place. All the geldings I've met and owned have been much more outgoing fellows. It's not better or worse. You will get attuned to Lily and cherish her reserved ways.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Awww, I'm so happy for you.

I also understand a little of that bitter-sweetness because of my first horse, and now I'm in a similar place as you are now with my Apache mare.
It feels like a simple meat and potatoes kind of feeling, not a spicy Pad Thai feeling.

~Lisa

Kate said...

Glad you survived the storms OK - that's always very scary.

She sounds lovely to ride, and you're very fortunate to have her. I do understand the parts you miss about Smokey, though.

shadowlake2005 said...

Lovely. What a talented writer (wrider?) You are. I was along with you the whole way.

Allenspark Lodge said...

Horses can fill so many needs in people. Sometimes you need a challenge, and a young horse will fit the bill. Sometimes life hands you enough challenges, and you need a partner. Glad you have a partner right now.

Bill

Dan and Betty Cooksey said...

Sounds great to me. Enjoy. Dan

Dom said...

Nothing like riding one horse to make you appreciate another.

aurora said...

I echo what Bill so eloquently said...

Cheyenne said...

I ride mares, always used to ride geldings. Then one day, I had the chance to ride a friends mare. The difference for me was dramatic.
For me, there is more in a mare, more try, more effort, more spirit. However each to their own. I`m sure you`ll settle in together, and find that balance. Good luck.

Wolfie said...

Peaceful rides are a good thing....perhaps exactly what you need right now.....

Maia said...

Beautifully written what else can I say. Everything about this post was perfect.

Laura Crum said...

Breathe--My son's horse and my horse are just the sort Lily is--though both are geldings. Dutiful describes Henry to a T. But you know what, the amount of love I feel for these two steady troopers and the amount of joy they've brought us is just endless. And it is SO linked to that freedom from anxiety. I've ridden young horses that are full of life and I know what you mean. But treasure Lily

Trailrider said...

Ditto what everyone else has said. Horses are sure unique, each with their own personality, and there ARE gender differences, no doubt.

Fantastyk Voyager said...

My first horse, Alfie, was dutiful. He always seemed half asleep but he did whatever I asked of him, without complaint. He was probably the best little horse I've ever owned. We raced trains, had water balloon fights with friends, and naps in the sun...

Shirley said...

The freedom from anxiety is a gift in itself. Good Lily.

achieve1dream said...

Good grief! I didn't know you were in Dallas when that happened. Scary! I'm glad you're okay.

I'm so glad you having so much fun with Lily. :D