Sunday, April 13, 2014

Bookstores on Main Street

Every once in a while this wild life I am living sends me an instantly-nostalgic postcard. A moment I know I will always remember, as if my mind was taking a snapshot and signing and dating the back as it happened. Today as I walked my black horse down Main Street in Cambridge, our reflection cast back from the storefront of Battenkill Books. I looked into the glass and saw a woman on the back of a Fell horse. Saw her in kilt and wool cowboy hat. Saw her in broken, taped, glasses and wide smile trotting behind a best friend on a ton of white Percheron. There was no parade. There was no festival. We were simply out for a ride and using the roads as a system of transport. Like any other citizen traveling that day, us taxpayers wore away the pavement with hoof and sweat instead of tire and gasoline. I rode proud. I rode free.

That was one of those moments you never forget.

Today two women and two horses had an adventure. We trailered the horses to Common Sense Farm, just a mile from downtown Cambridge and rode across farm and fell. The plan was just to try some new land, get the horses used to new sights and sounds and start off the riding year right. So we tacked up and headed into the fallow new grass. Our horses stepping into soft ground sometimes six or seven inches deep with mud. We watched herds of deer fly over ancient stone walls from the time our country was still ran by England. We talked, we sang, we joked. And when our county ride was over we trotted right up to the Mansion on the estate and gave children rides on our horses.

Women came out from the farmhouse and offered us iced chai latte and handed it to us in the saddle. I drank the spiced tea and could not stop smiling. I was in my town and on my horse. The reason was simply because we wanted to see our world on horseback. Know what it was like to travel alongside cars, trucks, motorcycles and bikes. We did it because our horses trusted us, and we them. It was over 70 degrees and the sun warmed my bare arms. A few weeks ago I was waking up shivering with snow all over the ground. And here we were kissed by Lugh himself.

We road all through downtown Cambridge. Some folks waved from their porches, others were annoyed we were in the way. But Patty and I didn't care. We walked past Patty and Mark's first home together, a place they rented for six years before buying Livingston Brook Farm. It was where she learned to raise rabbits and start a life over. The import of the place hummed as we walked by, even though it was someone else's home now. A place where a friend began again is a good place indeed. And I thought about how I was in Idaho when she lived there, 3,000 miles away in the Pacific Time zone reading Jon Katz books about a magical place called Washington County, New York. Now it is mine.

We spent two hours in the saddle today. We trotted past police cars, and over farm fields. We waved and talked to strangers, got good and sore, and have plans tomorrow for another ride at Livingston Brook on her lakeside property. It will be nearly 80 degrees and I am humming for it. Humming like excited history. I am thrilled to be excited about a Monday morning, a feeling I didn't get until I was thirty years old. Brigit's Fire,  you just can't know.

But today? Today I will remember my reflection in a small town bookstore's windows. I will remember waving to friends and people I know by name in my town. I will remember a best friend, an amazing horse, a community of beautiful children and sweet tea, and of the memories you make when you live your life on purpose.

When the hours in the saddle were over we drove back to Patty's large estate and let the horses go in a paddock of green grass by a stream. The horses enjoyed their break and fresh sweat and us women got into the hot tub with adult beverages and sore thighs. It was glorious, under the afternoon sun. Mark (Patty's husband) came out to chat with us as we soaked, his eyes watering from the work of making horseradish paste by hand. One of their neighbors had left them some fine roots and he had spent the afternoon making the paste with vinegar and fortitude. As he headed back inside the farmhouse to finish his task I told Patty I had two rounds of goat cheese waiting for her at home. She glowed at this, and for good reason. My Alpine Chèvre was creamy and mild. It was formed in molds and rolled in herbs and it tasted bright and pure as spring herself.

When we headed back inside the farmhouse at sunset I saw a jar of horseradish waiting for me on the counter. Patty drove me home and when we got to Cold Antler I ran inside for her two rounds of chèvre. We swapped goods and I felt the power of community. That happy exchange of shared skills. It is something I feel more and more these days, popping its fine head out around corners and in our bellies. I knew I had still had chores, milking, writing, and work ahead but I also knew that tomorrow would bring another day of riding in the afternoon. I knew we would have another adventure. I knew that in that saddle, side by side, we could talk about anything and our horses would carry us without complaint.

I will remember today as a smiling reflection in a book store's window. But what I will remember is not glass and light. I will remember the importance and blessing of a friend, of horses, of sunlight and heat after a long winter. Oh, and of horseradish from hangover friends at sunset.

Life is good.

P.S. Thank you to all who have send comments, emails, and donations to help pay off Merlin. We are halfway there!


Blogger The Kelly's Adventures in KY said...

What a wonderful ride with your friend!! That is one mental snapshot you can take with you for the rest of your trails. I'm sure Merlin had just as much fun as you did!!

April 15, 2014 at 6:49 AM  

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