Monday, November 13, 2006

Lesson Learned the Easy Way (that is, by *not* fracturing my skull first)

I’ve been trying some self-improvement lately, working on getting to know my inner spiritual mechanism a bit better (note: the fact that “mechanism” seems like an appropriate descriptor is maybe a hint that I’ve got a ways to go before true enlightenment). This includes things like paying attention to my intuitions about, oh, which route to drive to avoid traffic; listening to—and heeding—my heart when it says to play the piano instead of vacuuming the floor or going out to lunch with someone; stopping drinking coffee because I decided I didn’t want to be addicted to anything anymore; and, most recently, starting to think about the role my ego plays in my life and where its noisy voice gets in the way of me hearing from the universe.

It’s been difficult for me to work out the difference between self-esteem and ego . . . and I’m not sure that they are, always different. But sometimes, certainly, it seems that they are, and I’ll use an example from my own life to illustrate my point.

Yesterday around noon-time, I felt sleepy, so I decided to take a nap on the couch. In my defense, I’d already hauled about 10 wheelbarrow loads of horse shit from the three small paddocks, plus split several pieces of wood into kindling and restocked the firebox, in addition to feeding horses and cows and dogs and playing with the puppy. So anyway, before heading out for my ride, I thought I’d just snooze a little.

I went to sleep picturing my ego as a huge block of ice somewhere around my throat (or 5th Chakra), blocking communication between my heart and my mind, and I pictured a tiny stream of yellow heat streaming through the ice between my mind and my heart, slowly melting it away. When I woke up around one pm, the first thought I had was “I need to wear my helmet when I’m riding.” The second thought I had was “But if anyone sees me, they’ll think I look ridiculous, out there riding bareback with an English helmet on.” My third thought was “Oh, yes, that’s my ego speaking.”

Now, those who’ve read previous entries will know that I don’t invariably stay on the horses I’m riding, and those who read this entry from Saturday will probably think that my mad, fraught dash on Shadow had something do with the decision to protect my head. If it did, it was only indirectly, through Ian who in Seattle read the entry right about the time I was falling asleep in Idaho and said to himself “God, why can’t she just wear a helmet?!?”

No, my crazy ride on Shadow did nothing to test my confidence in my abilities—I know that I’m a good rider (this is not ego—this is self-esteem, and a fact). I also know that I’m pretty much as safe bareback as not (in fact, my record of falls in the last five years, totaling three, are two-thirds from saddles.). I also know that accidents happen, and that people hit their heads, and that from the lofty back of a horse, those accidents can cause serious head traumas. Really, the one thing that kept me from wearing my helmet was that I thought it looked dorky, and all the good reasons weren’t enough to convince me. The helmet isn’t even uncomfortable, and I wear it all the time in lessons.

I got up from the couch and immediately left Ian a message telling him I was going to wear a helmet from then on, and could he please get me a ski helmet (I tell you, when the ego goes, it goes all the way) for Christmas. I then proceeded to put on my riding clothes, which consisted of cowboy boots, flannel-lined J Crew pants, a turtleneck shirt, a turtleneck sweater I knitted, a green puffy vest, a yellow Patagonia rain jacket, and a blaze orange vest. And I thought it was the helmet that would look ridiculous.

(Yes, that's me looking safe. Safe!)

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Rest in Peace, Chico

About the 3rd time I went by the fridge this morning, I saw a photocopied flier? program? memorial, I guess, with a picture on the front of a guy I recognized. He’d been one of about a dozen people to stop by this last summer when I was here, one of the days that K&A and I moved thousands of pounds of hay. The family had driven into the yard in a giant king cab pickup, full of people, and the bed full of people, too, from three generations ranging in age from, oh, 50s down to toddler. This guy, Chico, was of the middle generation, and clearly beloved by everyone. He had an easy energy, and was gentle, but also funny and strong. Just a great guy, which was obvious to me even on such short acquaintance. Anyway, according to the photocopy, which included pictures of him with friends and family, and funny and sweet stories about him, he died October 1. He was 22. I was shocked, and saddened, as if I’d lost a friend. Life is fragile, my friends. Live it well.

That's one big foot! Posted by Picasa

84 acres, and *this* is the best grass? Posted by Picasa

Up this way to Calin's Loop! Posted by Picasa

Too and Eddie. Yum! Posted by Picasa

Come along, Sadie. Posted by Picasa

Um, the drive took longer this time. Extra almost 2 hours in the pass. Posted by Picasa

Puppies and Cows and Clearcuts Oh My

I’m in Jerome Creek again, for my annual fall weekend trip. I left the day after my birthday this year, and didn’t, in fact, eat a birthday breakfast of bacon and toasted banana bread with peanut butter. I’ve got the place to myself for a couple days, and it’s afforded me a much-needed retreat (minus leaping up to put Sadie, the new puppy, outside when she pees on the kitchen rug—or ideally before that happens—or goes into the living room for the fifth time after I’ve told her not to). I’ve been focusing on living in the moment, you know, having my attention here, and choosing not to borrow trouble. It’s not as easy as it sounds, actually. Most of us spend a lot of time resenting people or events in the past, and worrying about events in the future, which wastes a lot of energy. I’m just now beginning to chip off the tip of the iceberg of my own non-present time.

It gets dark here at about 4:00pm these days, and by 5:30 it feels like the middle of the night (I actually took a nap on the sofa this evening before dinner, and argued with myself for awhile when I woke up about whether or not 6:00pm was too early to turn in). I returned home from my ride (on Shadow, of course) around 3:00pm instead of starting to think about going out then. Neither Kit nor Sadie came along; he’s getting very arthritic, and she’s just twelve weeks old, and I left Spackle in Seattle with Ian (although it felt pretty weird to be making rest stops just for myself). Shadow are companions enough, though, and she’s all the more like riding a big stuffed animal now that she’s got her shaggy Appaloosa winter coat on.

We found a lot of new clear-cutting today, one of the hazards of riding around in Potlatch Logging Company land. One of my discoveries, a trail that K&A dubbed “Calin’s Loop”, is now buried under a pile of branches and mud and other logging refuse. We were able to pick our way through some other brush, though, and wend our way down the Long Gallop. I will point out here that the Long Gallop is only that on the way up—it’s steep enough that galloping down is entirely out of the question. At least, I think so. Shadow was itching to try it, and jogged much of the way which, I will say, is not very comfortable bareback, even on a horse with virtually no withers.

We had a rager of a gallop, though, to make up for the missed Long Gallop, when we got to Maple Creek Meadow. I wanted to gallop, and Shadow wanted to gallop, but she took off slightly before I was ready, tossing me up her shoulders a bit. She wasn’t paying any attention to mud, ditches running with water, or major cow wallows, either (all things that can make a horse slip or lose footing), so I had to try and steer her, and try to not fall off, even though I was way too far forward which was making her run in a really weird up-and-down, bucky way (and then she jumped a couple logs). I eventually relaxed my thighs’ death grip on her enough to sit back, and I managed to stop her just before I’m sure she would’ve tried to jump a tree that lay across our path, probably killing both of us. Or just me. Anyway, we were about 10 minutes from home, and she was, naturally, still sweaty when we arrived (although I made her walk all the rest of the way), and so, rather than let her just dry out in the 33 degree wind, I walked her around the yard a bit, and she was perfectly content to hang out with me. As long as I had the lead rope.

Earlier in the day, I’d taken the two dogs out for a walk, and I started eating an apple as we came to the horses grazing in their pasture. We paused to say hi (allowed) or bark (not allowed) at the horses, and then Sikem caught the apple scent, evidently registered the complete lack of halters, and suddenly I had three horses milling around me, noses in my pockets, in my face, nibbling my braids, snorting in my ears, and basically trying to eat the apple out of my hand. I gave each one a bite and starting walking again (I took the bite and then fed the horse by hand), and Toby was satisfied and went back to her grass, Shadow dropped off in a few paces, and only Sikem followed me for several yards before giving up. I felt bad, briefly, for not holding on to the apple core to give him on the way back. But only briefly.

In addition to Sadie, there are also two new cows, called Eddie and Eddie Too, or just Too. They’re very cute palomino-colored steers, but I don’t remember what the breed is. Ian asked today and without thinking I said “Probably something tasty . . .” and he said “Oh! Right! Farm cows! I should probably stop forming an attachment to them . . .” I do like cows, though. They’re just kind of dopey and non-threatening.

Doucely is still around, doing her own thing, and the people in the family will be back tomorrow night.