Three Important Things
Yes, riding horses is a skill. I'm sure some people have a god-given talent to do it exceptionally well, but anyone can learn it. It is not a superpower or an inherit trait. You can learn it in lessons, or from miles in the saddle, or both. Either way if you keep doing it your body will learn.
And yet I remember how little I knew just two years ago and how scared I was on this horse's back. He taught me to ride because I kept riding, and anyone of you reading this that longs for a horse someday but are a little scared to ride one: please know that's okay. The most wonderful things in life are gloriously terrifying, aren't they? Your body will catch up. This is something any of you can have if someone as lost and clumsy as I can. Never let the notion you aren't "talented" enough stop you from doing anything you want to love. That goes for everything from instruments to pilot's licenses.
Merlin sped up to a proper gallop, burning off the last few days of rain and chill. We were chasing the sun together. Cold Antler is on the eastern side of a small mountain and around 4PM the sun is low enough to get lost behind the mountain. But when we ride up the trails we level off on the highest points of our hill and get bathed in the warm shine. We rode just to ride, literally, into the sunset. I needed it. Apparently he did too.
Soon we found ourselves as a hidden pasture, small but familiar. You can’t see it from any roads and need to know the property to find it. There are deer stands and mowed patches, waiting for November. I let Merlin munch on some grass while I look up at the mostly bare trees. How have the Days of Grace found us so fast this season? The explosion of autumn foliage came and left like stolen fireworks and here we were, a copse of skeletons and a sunset on the run.
I noticed Hugin up in a tree, one of the two red tails that live on my mountain. She’s looking good, as always. I wave and she swoops down close enough to see her beautiful tail fresh from summer molt. Past her, high in the sky, is the crescent moon already out to play. I let myself wonder how she gets away with sneaking into daylight like that. You never see the sun at night, now do you?
I asked Merlin to walk home, and he did. Hugin circling above twice before heading towards the bigger fields for a late-day meal. I remembered catching her last year, thinking she was a juvenile and holding her in my hands before letting her go. That was a year ago and here we were again. Holy Crow, I went riding tonight to clear my head, but instead I was filling it. The last few days have felt like the girl from just a few years ago was watching the woman of the present. I think it started with last night’s dinner:
It was Sunday Night and Patty and Mark invited me over for a meal. I had spent the day meeting with Jasper applicants and doing general farm work. I rarely turn down a Livingston Brook Farm meal, and tonight’s menu sounded spectacular. They were serving goose from this week’s hunts, roasted potatoes from their garden, greens still growing from their salad patch and all of this with a glass of bourbon followed by a soak in their hot tub. Would you turn that down!?
I arrived to their farmhouse early, and picked up Patty. Her neighbor Bob had a pile of decorative pumpkins from their annual Ciderfest celebration starting to turn soft. I asked him if I could take them back to my pigs and he said sure. I was expecting a dozen or so, but there was a truckload waiting for us on some hay bales! Patty and I loaded up my dented pickup with squash, thanked Bob, and then returned to the Wesner’s home with red cheeks and growling stomaches. I was so looking forward to this goose!
When I walked into their home I was struck by home warm it was. That is the thing I associate most with the Wesner's: warmth. My home is not unfriendly, but it is not a warm place. Heat comes from fires tended, working outdoors, physical activity, and most of the time it is easier to adjust to being colder. My home rarely reaches above 58 degrees in the winter, and nights dip down into the low 40’s. But this place, this gorgeous farmhouse of theirs, you could wear a tank top. It’s glorious. I instantly feel a little drunk, just off the comfort and smell of goose and spices. We ate, and talked, and drank and laughed. I love these people so much.
Mark heads off to watch a game and Patty and I watch the stars in the hot tub. I have seen more shooting stars in that tub in the past two years than I had in my entire life prior. People rarely look up, I have come to learn. They miss the day moons, and the Hugins, and the stars.
Accept love when it is offered to you without conditions. That is the second important thing to know.
The unhappiest people in the world are unhappy because they can't accept love. Something is broken in them and they are numb to simple joys. They can accept sex, marriage, or relationships but they can't accept their own self worth. It's happiness suicide. They grow angry and resentful and bitter even if everything on the outside seems perfect. If they could just look in the mirror and love what they see, their whole world would change. And when you love yourself for who you are, you draw folks to you who share that. Homesteading has taught me this. I followed my bliss and discovered my clan.
Patty and Mark love me for me, and that is such a warmer feeling than any thermostat. When people ask me if I'm an introvert or an extrovert I always say "I'm whatever wolves are" because all I want is friends I would kills for, a full belly, and to hunt by daylight. Also, meat.
When our soak was over we came inside and warmed by their large Rumsford fireplace, nearly 300 years old and still keeping that house warm. Mark set a three-year-old elm log in there and quoted a beloved poem as it burned like a new lie, “burns like churchyard mould!” he exclaimed. It was a happy night and I drove home to my warm bed, kind dogs, and blessed farm with a load of soft pumpkins jostling around among the damp hay.
The girl from a few years ago (and she was a girl) was so different. For starters she didn’t flow on the top of British ponies like mercery on a warm plate and she never ate wild geese. She didn’t have pigs to feed pumpkins to and she didn’t know the local hawks by how they felt in her hands. She was often so scared, so insecure, so worried all the time. And here she was a few years later: stronger. So much stronger.
I want any of you reading this blog from a place of uncertainty or fear about your future, to know I was in the same place and am in that place now. I have no secret spells or incantations to get you a farm other than stubbornness and totally apathy of peer opinion. If you don't stop and don't care what people think of your passions you are unstoppable. But know that five years ago I was working for a corporation, disliked myself very much, was pretty scared of horses, and would not dream of training hawks or serving friends bacon I knew on a first-name basis. This all just happened. And if I can have any of this, so can you.
I think that is easy to read, but hard to believe. I know that. So don't believe it, just try it. That is the best advice I can offer. If you think you can't have (or don't deserve) the things that will make you happy - just start doing them and find out if the person you are dying to become needs the process of getting there to materialize. I know I needed that. I really did. And I love the woman that came out on the other side.
Which isn’t to say I’m not highly flawed and full of mistakes. Boy howdy, am I ever! But at this south side of thirty I am learning to appreciate the strong parts more than I feel ashamed of the flaws. For example. For 32 years I felt I wasn’t pretty enough to even look men in the eyes at a gas station. I was too short, to chubby, too weird. These days I smile and hold the door for them, and you know what? They smile back. For 32 years I let fear be my motivation for so many choices, and it was choosing this life of horses, hounds, and hawks that choices are made out of love instead of fear. Love of friends. Love of the farm. Love for the hunt, the bow, the hawk, the run, the whole damn fight itself.
I am at 32 just learning to love this woman I have grown into. A woman who knows her body, mind, desires and passions so well. A woman who is flawed but able to forgive. A woman who holds doors for handsome farmers. A woman who chose to look up because she is happy instead of lost. A woman looking for the bird and stars that were always there but she was too scared to touch.
In the before times I never looked up unless I was sad. That may be the biggest difference of all. And to know that while still young enough, and foolish enough, to live this ridiculous life seems like a gift worth savoring instead of remembering. And smiling at that good truth?
That is the third important thing.