I had an unexpected week off work. The last time this happened, in the year 2000, I made a godawful mess of it. Couldn’t fill my days, felt useless, cried. It is a measure of how completely different my life is now that this has been one of my best weeks ever. One of the best parts was the fact that I got off my butt and organized riding lessons every other day.

I thought I might blog after each one, but it’s Friday and I haven’t done so. There were bloggable things after each. On Sunday Erin got me riding Seth, the huge dapple-grey Warmblood gelding, in a firm but kind contact with lots of leg. He came through and round and soft and the rest of the lesson gave me everything I asked with the barest hint of an aid. On Monday I was on Bella and tried to ride the same way, but Bella is an adorable little chestnut mare made of cotton candy and moonbeams, and when I used a Seth-strength leg on her she bounded away from me as if she had been stung by a bee. I had to ride whisper-soft through the serpentines and changes, so I did.

Wednesday I rode with Colin and Toni, the barn owners, both Grand Prix riders and very very tough, though nice and fair. They stake out each end of the arena and they both correct you as you ride past, so there is nowhere to flop around and catch your breath. Brutal. The other riders were very good so lesson was very advanced: like an ordinary tough lesson for me, but with no stirrups, meaning everything depended on the correctness and strength of my seat, which is neither very correct nor very strong right now. But Bella, who is the world’s most generous and forgiving horse, kept letting me have lead changes and lovely jump spots entirely free gratis and for nothing. We ended by jumping the wall with two poles stacked on it. Easily the biggest thing I’ve jumped at Mcintosh.

Today I was on Bella again, and again, the best moment was the last line. I lifted up my eyes to the hills, whence cometh my help, and suddenly the little mare was in a steady even rhythm and with the bottom of my eyes I could see the three strides into the fence, and the exact spot where Bella would take off. So I moved with her, balanced over the fence, then sat down and collected her and changed canter leads.

Okay, so maybe I did have a lot to write about. It’s been hard to write about it, though, partly because I have so many other projects on – writing grants for Claire’s school, working on Geek Feminism with Skud and Liz and Sumana and the others. But mostly because I’ve been riding reasonably well all week, and what I feel is this brilliant happy afterglow, and happiness is less conducive to blogging than to staring into space with a vacant grin. At home in my body. All that hard work and discipline and concentration for those few seconds when you are riding a thousand-pound Thoroughbred through the air.

The little side-pleasures, too: being out of doors in gorgeous Northern California August weather. Cool breezes in the plane trees. Bella’s irresistible copper coat, like close-grained satin under your hand.

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