Quote of Inspiration

I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Atilla and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.

Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Love Fig

I haven't written about this fig, because I was afraid it was fleeting, my new-found love. I thought it would be much like many other adventures in my life, super-exciting at first and then...a gradual slow-down. I've done a lot of that in my life, and now I'm more cautious. I feel I must take my time to see if something will stick with me, if I will love it even after it's hard.

I have been reading a book entitled The Intentional Family, and the author argues that something isn't a ritual until you've gone away from it and come back to it....and I love the idea of that. I love it because, as a perfectionist, I always feel that whatever it is I'm doing must be done right, perfectly, the first time. If not, then I simply wasn't meant to do it, am not good at it or can't fit it into my life. I don't allow for ups and downs.

Okay....onto the fig.

I began taking horseback riding lessons three weeks ago. It was all very flurry-like because it happened so quickly and without much thought. I just saw the trainer at the local spring street festival, and she had lesson times available at the exact time I had kid-free hours available, and we set it up and it was done. I arrived at the stable on the designated day and time, and Cackie was there, waiting for me.

Cackie is my trainer. Isn't that a total horse-training name? I don't know why I think it is, since I have no experience at all with horses, trainers or people named Cackie, but it fits very well in my mind. Cackie, the horse trainer.

I had no idea what to expect. The only thing I knew was that I wanted nothing to do with English riding and would insist on Western riding lessons. I once attended a horse show in DC, and I was more than horrified by the whole dressage bit, where the horses were prancing about the ring in all sorts of humiliating attire. No, I'd rather do barrel racing and wear fringed chaps than do any of that.

Cackie teaches English-style riding, saddle seat. Only.

Okay. I wasn't going to make a fuss, and the barn had shaggy barn dogs that were slightly mangy (in a rustic rather than dank way), and the horses were peeking out from their stalls to see who I was, and I couldn't very well turn tail and go home simply because I didn't like the saddle. I said nothing. I loved it all too much, and I wasn't even on the horse yet.

Cackie asked me, "Have you been on a horse before?"

I said, "Oh yes, I rode several days on a trail ride in China."

She kind of looked at me, and I assured her that when I said "I rode" what I meant was that I sat atop the horse (with much help getting me up there) and then let him do his thing while we rode through the mountains of Sichuan looking for camp. I never used the reigns. I never said anything to the horse at all, other than a few bits of encouragement that I'm sure he felt were condescending and tedious. Anyway, I told Cackie, "I don't even really know how to get up on one of those things."

She thought that was pretty funny and assured me that by the end of our lesson, I'd at least know that much.

I got up on the horse, Ace, and Cackie told me that she was going to teach me to post.



This is when the rider moves up and down the saddle to the rhythm of the horse's trot. It sounds simple. It is not simple.

Add to this that an English saddle has no horn, and what on earth did I have to hang onto for dear life?

Add to that that Cackie wouldn't let me use the reigns until I could post not only without them, but without using my hands to hold on to anything....anything. Just my thighs. Just rest them on my thighs.

I figured it would take me about a year to do that.....but I gave it my full--force effort. I focused. I rose up and down in the saddle, wobbling more than a bit and sort of flopping about while double-boucning in the seat.

"Don't double bounce," Cackie called out. "Pretend the seat is on fire."

By the end of the first lesson, I was posting with no hands.

I know.

I have had five lessons so far. It is more fun than I've had in years. YEARS, I tell you. I can't hardly think of anything else, and when I'm home all I want to do is cook and clean and play with kids so that when the next lesson comes around, I am free to focus entirely on the lesson, the horse, the posting up and down with no hands. It is exhausting, physically but also mentally. I use all my attention, focus and determination to do well. I really want to do well, not because I want praise, but because I want to learn more. I can't learn more if I don't master each step, and I desperately want to do that. It is thrilling. It is totally unpredictable (for me), and just when I think I've got something down, Cackie says to me, "Okay, here are your reigns."

Lordy, it's just lovely with the reigns. There is more control. I can steer the horse (poorly but somewhat). Ace seems to know we're in business and gets to going at a faster clip when I have the reigns. I sit up higher and post better with the reigns. And then....just when the reigns are so exciting I can barely stand it.....Cackie says, "Okay, let's use a crop."

I could go on. Instead, I will just post a short video here. I will say, in my defense, that by the end of this lesson, I was riding without the lead. But what does it matter. All of it is just so thrilling. I get to go again tomorrow. I have no idea what I'll do in a week, when the kids are out of school and I might have to postpone the lessons. I will figure it out. I must.

Here is the video.....Cackie, Ace and MamaP.

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