One Last Hurrah

Well, it’s taken me this long to come to terms with a very self-apparent fact: I really have very little “success” as an online presence.

I have so much in my head, and this blog has, for over a decade, served to be a pressure valve for me when I feel like I really am going to lose my mind, or when I just can’t find an ear that is *that* listening to tolerate my tirades. (It’s not an easy endeavour, I fully realize and acknowledge!) However, the problem is, it doesn’t really seem to matter much . . .

The alternate reality in my head, the one that plays at various volumes depending on the day, my exhaustion/frenetic energy ration, children tantrums/naughtinesses/etcetera, says that my words mean something to someone other than me, that my often-not-very-good photographs still can reach people, touch people, that, somehow, what I say or do or post can make a difference. Heck, maybe even can touch somebody’s heart. But, the reality is that my posts seem more often than not to come off as sympathy bids, as whining, as pleas for help or affirmation or whatever. And, truly, this makes me cringe, because none of that is why I write, truly. As I said, it’s mostly a pressure valve . . .

Some people can be horribly, painfully shy in real life and have a vivid, appealing online presence. Some people are damn lucky enough to be sanguine in real life and are able to carry that bright, butterfly personality through the screen. Me, not so much. As in real life, I seem to be woefully inept at conveying an accurate image of who I am, what I really want to say, who I strive to be. It’s humbling, for sure. And it is, at times, horribly depressing to see what seems to be a virtual failure. In taking stock of all of this, and of how much time I waste on the damn internet, and how little fruit it seems to bear . . . well, I’ve kind of realized that this is not, clearly, where I am meant to be. That, whatever else I may accomplish, and too often that seems precious little, it will not be here. I have removed IG from the home screens on my phone; I have all but nixed FB; I scroll Twitter for news and articles and to keep somewhat abreast of current affairs. But, I am startling myself with the realization that the interwebs are not for me. That, if I have something to say, if I can ever make a success, ti will not be via a virtual reality. And heaven help me, because rarely has the actual reality been much kinder!

For the time being, however, I am striving, with much labor and agony and very slow progress, to complete a couple of *Very* long-running writing goals, and to be more present to my children, and heck, even to train my new horse. Whom I still love, by the by. 😉 I am not doing nearly as well as I would wish in any of my goals, but one must start somewhere. So, as best I can, I start here, by saying au revoir. To be continued at some much later date, dear ones . . .




New beginnings, pt 2: A girl and her horse

A few months ago, one of my old college roommates (hey, roomie!) confessed to me that she’d gotten bitten by the horse bug: she really, really wanted a pony for her kids, and the hunt was on. Happily agreeing to field any questions, one horse she sent me hooked me from the first read of the description: a grey (white; has to do with skin color, not hair color) Arabian mare . . .

It hit me all of a piece, really: I didn’t want to teach lessons any more. I love teaching; I love sharing my horses and my love for them, but it is exhausting – introvert that I am. I had no time to ride, no time to teach my own children, no energy to enjoy my horses. The pressure to “make money” from them was killing all the joy. And even stronger was the realization of a budding desire: I am ready for another horse. My beautiful Nynka is a one-in-a-million horse. My kids have all started riding her solo at 3 – bareback with reins. She’s great with them, one of those horses who treats little kids differently, who stops when she feels them falling. She is so friendly, too, almost like a dog, indiscriminate with her love. I realized how much I missed my Mariah being mine; my cantankerous girl who nonetheless loved me with her whole cranky heart. As quickly as I could, I put my lesson pony up for sale. Not quick enough, though – that beautiful little Arab sold, and I was crushed. God has something else for you, wrote my sweet wise friend.

already so in love with her pretty self (they’re the same age!)

I saw the ad on a facebook horse group, and she intrigued me. Something about her expression in the photos drew me back again, and again. A little bright bay 3 year old Arabian filly. Not saddle broke, not much worked with. “She bites unless you get after her” said her seller. Get after her? You don’t “get after” an untrained 3 year old, especially not an Arabian, I thought. Still waiting for my pony to sell, I asked if I could go see her – just to see, you know, if she was even worth pursuing. I set up to meet her on a Sunday afternoon, bringing a horsey friend who lived out near her far-away self. As luck would have it, my pony sold Saturday morning, and the excitement was building.

Nynka wasn’t sure at first, but they’re nearly inseparable now.

She *was* far away! Much farther than I realized. But when I saw her, everything I felt was confirmed. Not only was she simply stunning: color, confirmation, movement; she seemed familiar to me, somehow. And, it almost seemed, I had what she needed. The seller, a quarter horse barrel racer, talked the Whole Time! about what a “brat, a diva” she was, about “Arab temper tantrums.” (You do actually want me to buy her, right?) I saw the “sass,” the high-strung, intelligent Arabian. I saw I would have to watch her, that having been virtually unhandled until almost 3, and then with some bad experiences, I had my work cut out for me. She’s no walk in the park, and I had no illusions. But, at the same time, I saw her responsiveness, her willingness, her overall solidness, if I am patient and persistent, overflowing with positive reinforcement and clear definite commands and limits.

two bay Arabian mares

“I was told I wouldn’t be able to sell her” the girl confessed as we were leaving. I remained undaunted. That’s okay, I wanted to say, I’m not interested in selling. We’ll just work together.

The breeder had called her Jasmine, said the seller, but she had been calling her “Diva” for the past two months. Well, I can’t think of a whole lot more cliche than an Arabian named Jasmine, and I certainly wasn’t going to call her Diva. I thought for a long time – it clicked, suddenly, why she looked so familiar: confirmation-wise, she was nearly identical to a Spanish Arabian mare I knew in high school called Picaresca. Not having anything else to go on (working on retrieving her parents’ papers now), I decided I might as well go Spanish Arabian – but I didn’t want to go Spanish. Not so uncommon or attention-getting these days. So, I looked up Basque. I didn’t just want unusual either, though. I felt very strongly that she needed something to counteract her unflattering nicknames, something to override the epithets that still ring in my ears.

Leuna Oparia

Gentle, Gift. I’ll be honest: she’s not what I would call “gentle”, not yet. But we’ll get there – just like Mariah, terror of the barn, was the first horse that my oldest three children rode, as soon as they were old enough to sit. This year so far has been brutal, but she is a gift: a tremendous, unexpected gift, for no other reason than our God is a generous God, a Father who lavishes the unexpected on us, because He loves us. I do not know what lies in store for my Leuna Oparia and me, but I cannot wait to continue on this new beginning with her.

meeting Leuna

New beginnings, pt 1: A horse and her girl

Once upon a time there was a little girl who was, maybe, a little horse crazy. She may have conspired as a little girl, with her friend at family camp, to steal the little pony and run off into the woods. That may have happened. And then her mother met a couple who bred Arabians . . .

Ibn Mic Mazur

Mrs. White taught me to ride English on her welsh/walking horse pony, Pippen, but she and her husband had bred and raised show Arabians and had some truly beautiful animals. Now, back in the 70s and early 80s, the Arab horse world was where it was at. Shows and auctions were semi-formal events; the Whites’ stud, Mic, was worth a pretty penny. (Somewhere around the mid-80s the market crashed, but that’s another story.) As breeders, their horses came and went, sometimes coming back again, and I was used to seeing them appear and disappear without notice. One day, though, Mrs. White brought up a mare that had been down on their West Virginia farm, running wild in the fields. She was red-speckled – white with small red flecks like freckles – and a black main and tail. She was lithe and willowy, wild and frenetic – and the barn “bad girl.” She broke halters and lead ropes and bridles and saddle girths. She was scared of everything, and most people were scared of her, and I thought she was the most beautiful, enchanting, thrilling horse I’d ever seen. Her name was Breath of Mariah {and they call the wind “Mariah”}. I was in love. Fully, madly, deeply in love, as only a horse-crazy girl can be.

trekking across the field after catching her …

We finally got to a point where she was not-dangerous enough, and I was a decent enough rider, to be able to be put together. The first time I rode her was breath-taking. If I hadn’t had been in love before, I was then. She didn’t listen, at all; she jigged around, nose in the air (not good) and full of all kinds of frenetic energy. She was a challenge! Just the kind of challenge I needed, one that called for everything I knew and more. And, too, she may have been crazy, but she was in her own way, “honest” to use the good old British term; which is to say that she laid her crazy right out there for you to see. She didn’t sneak in tricks, or pretend she was going to be good and then try to do something mean to hurt you. But she had a mind of her own, and very little training, and almost no handling as a young horse, which is a tricky combination. A few times it took me up to two hours to catch her in her relatively small corral. I loved her, every bit of her: her independence. Her spirit. Her energy. Her wild beauty. She encapsulated horse to me, the animus of the animal. Once, as I was walking her, sitting in the back field and letting her eat, I said to my friend, “I don’t care whose name is on her registration papers, or if they sell her to someone else, she will always be my horse.” I couldn’t imagine my life without her.

Mic the Magnificent – he was just stunning

We moved when I was a junior in high school, to a house with a barn and some land, and a dead-end dirt road that was good for riding. Mariah came with us: the Whites had moved and were dispersing their horses to various places. I was over the moon! I can only liken it to getting engaged, almost. She was a tremendous blessing to me in those black days to come: navigating public high school for the first time as a junior and senior was treacherous. I doubt I would have stayed at home or graduated without her there, my anchor, my constancy, my best friend. I firmly believe God works through His creation to reach our souls, and I point to her as my main proof (no pun intended). I bought her at the end of my senior year, with my parents’ help – the time when most people are selling their horses – and it was one of the happiest, proudest days of my life, when her papers arrived with my name on them.

at college in the Shenandoah

After several attempts at college, I ended up in Virginia. Did I ever miss her! Working my tail off, I managed to save enough to trailer her down. I remember waiting for her – it was like waiting for part of my own self to return. Waiting for normal to come back. And when I got the call she was there! My senior year was glorious. She was right down the road from my college, and I would take friends to ride her, showing her off.  A couple of times I missed classes, catching her in her huge field. Although still her frenetic self, she had settled down considerably, though. Most of the time she would even do a flat-footed walk on her own. 😉  I rode her to the college for medieval day, which included over a scary scary overpass! But she did it for me. She did so many things for me – overpasses and underpasses, scary loud road noises and trains; I even taught her to bow. The next few years brought more craziness – lots of moving for me, leasing her to a girl in Virginia, back to Michigan, back to Virginia with me and my Arab filly, Nynka, and then back to Michigan when I left for grad school in Texas.

Those five years without her in Texas were really hard. I took up dance instead, and earned my pointe shoes – another dream come true – but it was not right without her there. We weren’t sure where we were going to be in another few months, always hoping for a job to come through, and my parents were gracious enough to hang on to my girls for me. By this time she was getting up there, although Arabs usually live pretty long, and I was praying that she would last long enough that we could be together again. Then we ended up in back in Virginia! And that itself was an answered prayer. Bringing Mariah down was the cream on the cake. And there we were: My crazy wild Terror of the Barn was carrying my toddler son for me, at a sedate (but by no means geriatric!) walk. Having my son ride my Mariah, my beautiful amazing girl now all white with years, the horse that everyone clicked their tongues about, who had dragged me through my front yard, who had fallen over and messed up my knee, who would get out of the field on occasion and run us a merry goose-chase, who caused my mother to wail, “Jaime, why couldn’t you have picked a nice horse?!”

senior picture

But I hadn’t “picked” her, not really. The heart has reasons . . . But the reason was, really, that she needed me. She needed me. She didn’t care how pretty or smart I was, or if I was funny or angsty or melancholic or sanguine or stylish or grunge. She needed me. It was, perhaps, my first encounter with really feeling unconditional love. Somehow, I had something that she needed, or rather, I was something that she needed. Lord knows I needed her. I learned more about Him, and His love, and how to love people, from that horse than almost anywhere else. Once, when I came up from school, her mane was a solid mat of burrs. Solid, from roots to tip. I took a spray bottle, once a cause for broken halters and ties, and spent 3 or 4 hours combing out her mane. She stood there snoozing, one foot cocked up and her nose resting on a fence rail.

I wasn’t quite ready for her go. I had it in my head, somehow, that she would make it to 32. About six weeks before she turned 31, though (her birthday is 25 May), I went out to feed and she was down. Oh, no. Oh no oh no oh no. I called the vet, who said “keep her up and moving and I’ll get there when I finish with the current emergency call. So, I strapped my baby on my back and walked my old lady for an hour. So many times she almost went down; I would talk to her and she would take another step and we’d go ’round the yard again. When the vet came, the diagnosis was twisted intestines, and at almost 31 there’s only one answer for that. I called Ryan, who was at the airport, and cried harder than I had since Sarah died.

Breath of Mariah

Even with all these words, I can’t come close to conveying how much a part of my life she was, how much a part of who I am is because of her. She was my girl, and I was hers – even though she was a stinker about me catching her almost to the very end! She’s buried in my back yard, and I haven’t really been able to talk about her. Until now, and there’s a reason for that. So, till next time . . .



Tree and Leaf

Welcome! Thanks for stopping by my new place. 😉 There is a season, so say The Byrds and Ecclesiastes, and it was high time to update and refresh my cyber claim-stake. Stay tuned for the first installment of a very mini-series on my “old lady,” my Arabian mare Mariah, and new beginnings.

So glad to have you, and hope you come again soon!