Thursday, October 11, 2012

We Ride Through It

This is an audio post. You don't need to listen to the chosen song while you read it, but if you do it will feel a lot more like how it felt to me. Just open this link and then turn up the speakers a bit, minimize the Youtube screen, and read the post below to a soundtrack. You can always replay the song if you read slower than the music. It loses nothing in the repetition.

The wind was picking up just as Merlin moved from a fast trot into a full out gallop. We were on our way up the mountain, heading towards the farm. All around us the yellow, orange and blood red colors of Father Autumn glow. The new squall of bright leaves surround me and the black horse as we climb upward. Every reach of his feathered hooves goes a little farther. I can sense the muscles in his strong back change and lengthen. I lean to his neck and tell him in a whisper, "home" and he is alive in a way a fiddle is in an Old Time solo. He isn't a racehorse, he's a highland pony and past his prime and so am I. We are moving fast and I am feeling everything in his gait. My left side slides deeper into that stirrup for balance, my body leans forward to meet his own center of gravity. We are a nothing near as graceful as a poem but certainly as comfortable as a chorus to a favorite song. He is my horse, and this is my Holy October, and the world was created for this moment.

As the wind slows down and the last sheet of leaves fall I pull gently back into a trot and then a walk. At his hooves a pile of sugar maple leaves swirl, just touching earth for the first time. It must be a humbling fall. I say a prayer under my breath, as this is the month of reflection and mortality. Merlin is sweating and snorting and flicks his mane a bit as he calms himself into a walk. I pat his neck and sit deeper into the saddle. This is Autumn.

I was in kilt and tall boots, a comfortable sweater around my stout body. A black helmet I used to wear in the dressage ring protected my head. I needed the helmet today as we were out on an adventure. We had just been down at Jon Katz's farm, a three mile ride that involved crossing a small highway and some new grassy fields. Merlin didn't care about the trucks whizzing past his hide but he hated the new, wide, field of grass. He must have felt exposed, or smelled a freshly killed deer. I will never know. I can just ride out his panic. A woman from a few months ago would have been scared at his protests, stomps, and crow hops. But I had come to know this horse the way you know a beloved old pickup truck. I sang to him, a few verses of I Will Go, and took in deep breaths. If I was calm and confident, he would feel better. And he did, and we got within a few yards of Jon's back pasture's electric fence when we realized the only way to come to the front door was to turn around and hit the highway (which I wasn't going to do). Oh well, the saddle bag with the bottle of Slyboro Hard Cider would have to wait till I saw Jon again. He was just back from a book tour, and he and his sweet wife Maria deserved some seasonal booze.

We headed home up the mountain at that walk, which is a mode of meditation in a way. I don't have to think much about his auto-pilot amble but I am ready at any second for a rifle to explode on the mountain and spook him (poachers are rank around here) or a car to meet us around a turn. I accept these possibilities but do not ride like they are going to happen, not really. I accept his each step, and the way the hillside smells like wood smoke and dead leaves and think about my dinner recipe of wild rice and yesterday's pheasant. I am contemplating a glaze of honey and butter and coarse seal salt on a bed of kale, served over wild rice. Merlin will have some of Nelson Greene's hay. He skips the honey butter glaze but not by choice.

I think about the two beating hearts on the road. Me and my three decades, Merlin and his fifteen years. I think about the last flight of the pheasant I shot, about the bright yellow leaves on the road, soon be brown. To so many people Autumn is a time of death and coming fear. Halloween is a cartoon. To me this is the one month in the whole year I can not help but wake up and shake with gratitude that I, Jenna Woginrich, am still among the living. I haven't taken my last flight across the tall grass yet. I haven't fallen from the tree. This is a season of death and somehow, someway, I am able to ride through it. It fills me with a wholesome appreciation. It makes me shake a little, the swiftly passing beauty. October is a red fox trotting through a field of corn stumps. It is a pheasant's bright red and green plumage on the tall grass frost. It is a black horse and rider in a flurry of singing leaves.

This is my Halloween. my Great Holiday, the oldest holiday, the most primal holiday we have as a species that lives in common and hunts by daylight and not because of old Celts or modern costumes. Halloween is my greatest Holiday because if I let it be the festival it once was—it reminds me that I am alive in a way that only *just* surviving near death can invoke. It fills me with hope, rebirth, compassion, forgiveness and reflection. Halloween saunters and ambles through us and washes us with life itself. It has for over 3,000 years. It turns us from the confused and distracted into aware animals. He leans over our tight, stretching, necks and gently whispers,


....and it is all we can do to not stop running.


Blogger eidolons said...

I'm a relatively new reader, but I just had to say: this post is one of the most beautiful things I've ever read.

October 11, 2012 at 6:23 PM  
Blogger Moose Hollow Farm said...

I loved the post & the music was a treat ~ thank you for making fall seem so much more special. I've always loved it but the words & music that you provided made me smile and I will keep going back to listen and read them. Have a wonderful night, Jenna.

October 11, 2012 at 6:24 PM  
Blogger Becca at Rabbit Moon Farm said...

What a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing it with us.

October 11, 2012 at 6:43 PM  
Blogger kwdiving said...

Tears in my eyes and a smile on my face. Thank you

October 11, 2012 at 7:43 PM  
Anonymous Kristin said...

I just have to say that I love your blog. It always reminds me of what life is really about -outside of the commercial, artificial world we live in now. Thank you!!

October 11, 2012 at 7:51 PM  
Blogger aleahy said...

...and that post is why Jenna, you are such an awesome writer/blogger/homesteader/lots of other descriptions. You write essays that touch the heart and soul! Thank you for that perspective of Autumn!

October 11, 2012 at 7:59 PM  
Anonymous Neighbor Christine said...


October 11, 2012 at 8:13 PM  
Blogger Fernleaf said...


October 11, 2012 at 8:49 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

Three times through the song and I'm laughing to myself because I am so happy that you didn't get discouraged about writing because if you had I wouldn't have read that just now.

October 11, 2012 at 9:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love it!
You go Girl!
Heather in PA

October 11, 2012 at 10:30 PM  
Blogger T said...

Thank you Jenna, you write just what I love to read!

October 11, 2012 at 10:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, Jenna. This was fabulous.

October 11, 2012 at 10:41 PM  
Anonymous wendy greenspan said...

Oh my, that was so beautiful. Thank you for giving me such reading pleasure. I loved the music ,but for me, I prefer to read with just the sound of my voice in my head. Thanks again

October 11, 2012 at 10:47 PM  
Blogger Karen said...

"home"; that pretty well sums it up for me. Love it when you get lyrical like this.

October 11, 2012 at 10:50 PM  
Blogger Woman Seeking Center said...

Beautifully written, capturing the beauty of what truly matters, of this magical month "October"...

Thank you, as always Jena, for your words.

October 11, 2012 at 11:09 PM  
Blogger Katey and Dave said...

Beautiful. Wow.

October 11, 2012 at 11:40 PM  
Blogger Tiffrz-N-Kidz said...

October in upstate New York was the first place I heard colors singing. It is a glorious event. Thank you for the ride.

October 12, 2012 at 12:05 AM  
Anonymous Steve Harlow said...

Great little story. I felt myself moving through those Autumn woods. Being a native to South Central PA, and having been a transplant to the flatlands of Eastern NC for the last 20 years, October colors of Autumn leaves, climbing glorious mountainsides, are the things that I constantly yearn for. A part of my soul.

October 12, 2012 at 2:55 AM  
Blogger Cathy said...

wow. just wow. The post was awesome but the music added so much to it. I needed this calming - life has been so hectic and crazy. I also love autumn. I have always seen it as the beginning of the year - never realized that in some religions it actually is.



October 12, 2012 at 5:26 AM  
Blogger RamblinHome said...

You are a master at crafting images with words, my friend. In my mind's eye, it was me up there on that Highland pony with the leaves swirling around us. Very magickal!

October 12, 2012 at 7:09 AM  
Blogger DarcC said...

Gorgeous evocation of the soul of autumn.

October 12, 2012 at 7:38 AM  
Blogger missliss40 said...

Jenna, this is so beautiful it made me cry, not from saddness, but from longing. My husband, of one year, and I just looked a farm house and 5 acres. We are in our 40s with a combination of 5 kids. I dont know how long it will take for us to reach our goal, but we will get there. Your encouragement has been lifesaving. And I now look at fall from a new perspective. Although it is a lovely season, I always resented it because that I knew that a long, brutal winter would follow. I now think of it as the end of one chapter and the slow beginning of another. Thank you. Melissa

October 12, 2012 at 8:09 AM  
Anonymous Sim said...

You have such amazing taste in music and write in a way that whisks the reader into a wonderful, carefree world. Thanks for that.

October 12, 2012 at 9:29 AM  
Blogger greendria said...

BRILLIANT. Thank you! Totally resonates with me, your words are a gift.

October 12, 2012 at 9:35 AM  
Blogger Glyndalyn said...

Great post. There is nothing better than riding your horse.

Do not think of Merlin as past his prime. I rode an "older" horse for years and she was fantastic. I rode bareback and barefooted. She would go almost anywhere. Merlin appears to be about the right weight for bareback. Give it a try.

October 12, 2012 at 10:09 AM  
Blogger Brenda London said...

I really enjoyed reading this Jenna. Now I have to disagree on two points: you are not past your prime, my dear lady! When you are much older you will look back at this and smile, realizing you hadn't yet reached your prime. You are still a fledgling, so much to look forward to, so much growing and changing. This old lady loves reading your blog as you unfold and grow with your farm adventures.and you are NOT STOUT!! I know you wrote that without a bit of chagrin, but seriously, you are not stout. Stout is relative, you are not even close. Some kinds of beer are stout, you are not. About the horses: One thing we have found with all our horses is that they are spooky in the fall. All of them, from the race horses to the mares and donk here at home. We find that putting a fly mask with ears on them helps them to calm down a bit. I assume it is the winds, temp changes, so many things that hit them in the fall but this little bit of fall clothing does seem to make a difference. At the track there are a couple mares that will "walk" on 2 legs when I am trying to lead them, the fly mask makes all the difference. One horse needed "ears" too, on really windy days(they look like vinyl cones that fit in an ear hood or fly mask with ears. She just spooked so bad in big winds, this helped her greatly. You cannot argue with a horse's instincts to flight when they feel the urge, so we try to do some things to help them deal with the season changes. I also sing to them as you do, they seem to prefer the old Scot ballad "Carry Me Over to Charlie","The Gypsy Rover" or a nice "How Can I Keep from Singing", with many made up verses (Kumbyya style).

October 12, 2012 at 12:12 PM  
Anonymous Sarah said...

Past your prime at 30 - seriously, really? Heck, when I turned 30, I was just hitting my straps and now, as I'm about to turn 40, I'm probably in better shape and in a better headspace than I've ever been. Don't write yourself off just yet.

October 12, 2012 at 2:45 PM  
Blogger Fernleaf said...

Oh and just for the record, from everything I've read Jenna, you are not past your prime, you are IN your prime.

October 12, 2012 at 4:15 PM  
Blogger seagrrlz said...

That was an .... The lead up to Samhain is my favourite time of the year. I have but the one question. What is seal salt?

October 12, 2012 at 8:11 PM  
Blogger Lorie Hyten, adult services said...

Really, really, really lovely. Reads like home to me. I rode today, alas in an indoor arena while storm front rumbled through and doused us with buckets and buckets of rain. But so great to be on a horse in fall, no matter the weather.

Thanks for the post.

October 13, 2012 at 10:50 PM  

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