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horse and dog
horse in snowstorm

Luke in 2004

I’ve been working on a chapter in my book about a time when I’d been thrown off a horse (not Luke) and broke my collarbone and wrist. I already had the story written and was just going to clean it up and add a couple things, but as I read what I had written, I realized that the story had been about more than I thought when I originally wrote it.

My horse accident happened at a time in my life when I was extremely happy. I had never had so much in my life that was so good. And I had never had so much to lose. I was terrified.

I couldn’t help but hear my childhood voices asking me, “Who do you think you are?”

horse and dog

I’d been raised to not trust anything good that happened because surely I’d screw it up or someone would take it away from me. The worst sin in my childhood home was to take pride in something you did or to believe you actually deserved anything but hard work and suffering.

After the accident, I couldn’t ride the horse that threw me. I dreaded getting on him and he knew it. I tried for a year to get back to where we had been but it was no use, so I sold him.

It took another year to get my confidence back by riding Luke. Not that Luke was perfect. He was four and would rear whenever something freaked him out. But while I couldn’t deal with a horse that intentially tried to dump people, I seemed to have a gift in calming down fear in animals. If only I was as gifted at calming my own worries.

horseback riding

Luke and me in 2003. My painter pants were ever so flattering.

Being around horses was when I felt most myself. And when I felt most myself, I felt okay. It was only when I questioned who I was and what I was doing that I turned into a basket case.

When I rode, the loneliness and the busyness and confusion in my brain all went away. They disappeared in the movement, the speeding up and slowing down, the turns, and the patterns Luke and I traced across the ground.

All my attention was focused on our surroundings, the feel of the ground under hooves, and on each muscle, both Luke’s and mine, doing the job it was supposed to be doing at that instant.

Riding was a series of concentrated, perfectly present moments.

horse and dog

I wanted to figure out how to hold onto those minutes of being so completely present and bring them into the rest of my life. To not feel bad about what I’d done in the past, or angry about what had been done to me, or worried about what I might accomplish or not accomplish in the future, but to just experience and be fully present here and now. I wanted to remember that even the so called bad times, would become memories that I would look back on later. And, from the distance of time, I would see the treasure there and wish that I had realized it then. So, I wanted, I still want, to know the good right now. Even if it doesn’t feel good right now.

I heard a podcast about the difference between good and perfect by Rob Bell. What I got out of it was that perfect is stagnant. There’s no room for growth. While good is something becoming. Good is okay with the times that we make a wrong turn, or a mistake, or the wrong choice because good knows that there’s still room for us to learn and grow. There’s still time to find more that’s good or a different good or even a bad that becomes a good.

Contrary to the saying, it’s not ALL good. But it has the possibility to get there…

horse and dog

dog walk in the snow

dog walk in the snow

I’m writing this on Sunday afternoon. I’ve had nine days off from work and am trying not to ruin the one remaining day by thinking about going back to work tomorrow.

Late this morning, Steve and I did our run to church, Costco (creating a lunch out of free samples) and the Avant Garden coffee shop for coffee and a scone. I’m now finishing up the remaining coffee at my desk before Steve and I head out for a winter walk with the dogs.

dog walk in the snow

It’s getting to that end of year time when we start to think about another year gone by. We wonder what next year will be like and what we want it to be like. What do we need to do or change to make next year better than this year?

dog walk in the woods

But I don’t know, 2015 was pretty good.

Steve and I had fun with our first overnight bike touring experience last June. I want to do it again in 2016, only maybe a two night stay, or I could see doing an even longer trip if we could find dog care and figure out a route that we and our non-touring bikes could handle.

bike tour


The train trip to Oregon we took in late September-early October and the time we spent exploring that state was amazing! It may be awhile before we can take another trip that grand.

Mt Hood

Another year!

2015 was an expensive year for me with surgery on Luke’s eye and all the followup medications and doctor appointments. Luke’s doing very well but it will take me awhile to recuperate financially from that experience.

But still, it’s been interesting the changes that have come about because of the demands of Luke’s care.

I was getting really sour on the whole horse thing. I missed the friends I used to ride with and the trail rides we went on. Riding had turned to drudgery and loneliness rather than enjoyment, so I was only going out to the barn two to four times a month. I was thinking about trying to find another home for Luke and focus my life on other things.

But suddenly, I had to go to the barn almost every day to check on Luke. Once Luke was feeling okay, I wasn’t going to the barn every day, but I was still going there three to four times a week to keep tabs on him and to ride.

horseback riding

Somehow, the time I spent with Luke reminded me what horses (especially this horse) have meant to me. No one at the new barn we’re at has become my “riding buddy,” but I rarely ride alone. The enjoyment of being around horses and horse people is gradually coming back for me. And once again, I plan to conquer my fear of backing up my trailer so I can go trail riding (even if it’s by myself) during trail riding season. I know I’ve had this plan before, but something inside me says that next year, I’ll follow through.

Because I’ve had a reminder that things happen. Live now.

Don’t put those dog walks and coffee with friends off until tomorrow or next month — when you’ll have time. You’ll NEVER feel like you have enough time. But, really, you do.

dog walk in snow

You make time for what’s important.

I’ve been busy writing a couple hours a day, which is why I took a week off from work, to build up a good head of steam. I resisted the urge to put in more daily writing time, as I just wanted to get a rhythm going and avoid stressing and burning out.

I’m close to having a full rough draft put together. About the only thing I’m not sure of is how to end the story. But for now, I just need to get it together good enough to apply for a manuscript workshop that is only accepting four people. My application has to be in by January 11th. I should have a decent outline and goals put together by then plus a couple chapter samples to mail in.

If I don’t get into the workshop, that’s okay as I’ll have that draft pulled together and I’ll look for another way of working on the revision.  But being a part of that workshop for five months would be super helpful.

I think this is the first year that I’ve ended with a feeling that I did a lot of what I wanted to do in the past year. I don’t think that’s because I was more productive this year. In fact, I think it’s because I was less productive and took more time for having fun.

dog walk in the snow

It finally snowed here!

dog walk in the snow

fat biking

dog by branch of Mississippi River

dog by branch of Mississippi River

First of all, thanks to everyone for their comments on my last blog post.

As difficult as it’s been lately to see disturbing beliefs and opinions come out on high-emotion topics, it has also brought out some voices speaking with reason, care and concern.

I’ve seen people who are generally quiet, who like to observe and study something before they voice their opinion, becoming restless.

I see such people still taking it all in, still listening, still reading everything they can get their hands on, but they aren’t waiting until they have the whole thing figured out before they say what they are thinking or take some sort of action.

There have always been people in our midst working quietly behind the scenes delivering for Meals on Wheels, tutoring kids who are having trouble at school, sitting with their friend during chemo, cooking and serving up food for those in need  and so on. They are the heroes that no one hears about.

I have this picture in my mind of a movement that happens without fanfare or gimmicky calls for attention. Where people simply do what needs to be done by being conscious in their consumption of energy, products, and media; by being informed and participating in the political process; and by doing what they can to give those who need it a “leg up.”

I used to work at a stable leading trail rides where we used English saddles. I literally had to give people a leg up by cupping my hands and having them use me as a mounting block so I could give them a lift up into the saddle. This meant getting my hands dirty and some people were hesitant to allow me to help them.

But I’ve never had another job that I enjoyed so much. I was able to help people up onto the horse and give them a quick balancing and steering lesson. Because an English saddle has no horn to hang onto for balance, my advice before hitting the trail was always to grab the horse’s mane when they felt unsteady. Thank goodness all the horses had thick, shaggy manes!

During the ride, I felt so happy to be able to share the experience of riding that I loved so much. And from the laughter that always came on such rides, I believe the riders were able to share in that same sense of accomplishment and enjoyment that comes from being outdoors and connecting with an animal.

That kind of “leg up” action and the connection it brings to our shared humanity, rather than how we differ, is what I wish more people understood and looked for.

It does feel good to work together.

trail riding on horseback

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