Archive for April, 2009

well look at us all fancy-like

If you’re reading this in your RSS feed you have NO IDEA! It’s a new era, WordPress replacing clunky old MT, and that is Bellboy’s perfect flank in the banner in case you were wondering. And we’re all cloud-hosted and it is POSH. The end.

attention conservation notice: retold dream

Julia protested the human condition at 3am and so came into bed with us, where she promptly peed. Potty training is going well, one just has to allow for these setbacks. I didn’t really sleep again until about five, when I found myself being chased by a sweaty cowboy around the old Sydney Showground, trying to get to a riding lesson on time; and then there was a series of flashes and pops above the San Bruno Mountains, and first one mushroom cloud and then another and another rose against the dark cloudy sky. “Oh shit,” I said eloquently, for the terrorists had finally obtained nukes, and I wished fervently that it could be just another atomic war dream.

And then I woke up. So however swinish and spectral today might be, at least it isn’t that.

finding the plot

Our number came up at Good Prospect Community Garden! Right now the plot is a mess of artichoke, sage and lemon verbena, but we’re going to cut it all back and plant cherry toms and summer squash! There are lemons and limes and apples and pears and concord grapes and raspberries and it is SO VERY BEAUTIFUL that words cannot adequately describe.

And today I rode Fluffy the Seagull the Horse the Bicycle part of the way to work. Check me out! I am all San Franciscan and sustainable and stuff!

children and animals

In my last riding lesson on Cassie, Mare of Mares, I was mistakenly put in with a group of shiny teenysomethings who are rillyrilly good. It ended with us having to do flying changes at the canter, without stirrups. It was rillyrilly hard!

Afterwards one of the sparkly young X-Men said to me: “You looked good on her.”

It is embarrassing how pleased I still am, over a week later, at this crumb of praise.

hard to swallow

My goodness but I made myself ill last week. I got on a plane on Wednesday sort-of-knowing that I was coming down with something nasty, and when I got to my destination I could neither swallow nor hear. My ears popped about twelve hours later, at which point EVERYTHING BECAME VERY LOUD; then I got on another plane to come home and the same thing happened again.

But my throat stayed raw and horrible for days and days. Talking hurt, breathing hurt and swallowing my own saliva felt like choking down a small roll of rusty barbwire. Every. Damn. Time. I do not think I am particularly wimpy, despite my brothers’ longstanding characterization of me as such; I have had broken ankle bones and ribs and gotten back on the fool horses that gave them to me, and I gave birth to my two babies without any epidurals. Beat that, boyos! But I trudged up to the Emergency Room on Saturday and described my throat pain, unironically, as “severe.” The doctors were very nice but it was viral, which I sort of knew. Nothing to be done. I went home and went to bed.

By Saturday night I was having fever dreams of striking originality. There was a sort of architectural quality to them. It was rather like watching a freight train pass, with its cars made of large pale pastel blocks of light. I tried to harness these dreams and was given various insights, among which was the in-retrospect-blindingly-obvious fact that working myself into exhaustion and subsequent viral pharyngitis is self-defeating behaviour on a number of levels. I set to changing my priorities, which felt like a physical process of lifting giant perspex concentric circles and clicking them back into place in a different order. When I got it right it was deeply satisfying, like solving a puzzle, and I finally went to sleep.

I was somewhat better the next morning and have been feeling profoundly happy ever since. Still sick enough to cancel riding, but well enough to take great pleasure in seeing friends and going to a little movie and hanging with my best girls. Tonight I threw Claire and Jules in the bath, and made dinner for them with strawberries for dessert, and walked Claire through piano practice while Julia sang along, and brushed their teeth and read them the Dragons pop-up book and put them to bed. A perfectly ordinary evening shot through with pure golden joy.

claire and jeremy get on the bus

[09:35] FurHordinge: As we were going down castro, so I said that milk was nicknamed the mayor of castro st
[09:35] FurHordinge: “Does evey street have a mayor?”
[09:35] mizchalmers: awww
[09:35] FurHordinge: No, but milk helped organize the gay men and women politically
[09:36] FurHordinge: “Like martin luther king did for the black people?”

horses, language versus lived experience, birth, death and horses

I haven’t posted about riding for a while because the week after my last post, about falling off Elle, I fell off again. That one was worse. Again at the canter transition, but this time Elle tripped and I went over her head and faceplanted in the arena sand. (The fabulous Miss Kirsty alone in the universe made me feel better about it: I twittered that I had sand in my hair and up my nose and she replied “I am so hot for you right now.”)

Otherwise I felt like hell. Riding, which was supposed to replace Zoloft as the key endorphin guarantor of my week, had become a problem instead. I was afraid again, of falling, of hurting myself, of looking like a prize idiot. The week after the second fall I had to have a long stern conversation with myself on the drive down.

I don’t know if I can put this conversation into words. I just read Samuel Delany’s “The Tale of Old Venn” (I am only now noticing the brilliance of that title) which not only describes but tries to embody the limitations of language in encapsulating lived experience. There’s a passage in which one of Venn’s students, trying to absorb the lesson, suddenly wakes up to the play of sunlight in the leaves, the air on her skin, the distant hum of human affairs – direct sensory input. And she feels, right down in her gut, for the first time, the way language acts as a bottleneck for conveying the truth of life. However precise and brilliant the language, most of life is left out.

You’ll laugh – Salome did – when I say that reading this was the first time I realized it. I have lived in my head for so long. I have lived other peoples’ lives in books far more vividly than I ever lived my own, right up until Christmas Day 2002. And here my tale loops around. I want to make a lame Derrida-derivative pun about the Christmas *present*, but for you, dear reader, I will refrain. Feel the love.

I thought about Claire’s birth on that drive down to the barn. I thought about how I needed to find the strength to push, and how I thought it would kill me, and then the moment came when I was perfectly okay with that; I was happy enough to die if it meant that Claire would be born. At which point of course my body opened and Claire was born.

We are mortal. Forward movement is movement towards our death. To get back on the horse means accepting that I might fall off again and hurt or kill myself; but the alternative is not to live at all. Oh, these words are so hopelessly inadequate! I couldn’t know this thing until I felt it in my body, and I can’t convey it to you except in cliches. This is why it is so hard to communicate between generations! I look at myself in my twenties, pathetically cyclothymic, my judgment hopeless, my competence all over the map, and I wish I could give that smooth-skinned young self some of my own wry strength. But where did the strength come from? From all those mistakes, all those falls, all that fear, every time I got back on the damn horse. There are no shortcuts.

I rode Elle that day and we jumped a course in a light and forward and happy frame, as well as could be imagined given my current fitness and capacity. For my next lesson I rode Austin, my friend Beth’s magical Paint and an old, old friend of mine too, my partner in winning the first blue ribbon of my life. Austin and I get on like a house on fire. He’s a jumper, as opposed to Elle’s hunter style, much more what I am used to from Noah and the Samarai days, and I feel so safe and confident on him. We jumped a 2’3″ course! Which is tiny but still! It was amazing!

My classmate Olynda was on Elle for that lesson and this was fascinating to watch. Olynda is an ex-eventer like me, used to an uphill horse like Austin, and like me she found Elle’s long low frame very disconcerting. It was reassuring to see someone else struggle with her balance trying to make the transition from jumper to hunter style. There’s a real difference! It’s not just me!

Yesterday, greatly enfeebled by a hot sun and a very sore shoulder, I rode Elle again. It was not by any means a brilliant lesson, but I am finding my balance. I am learning to give with my hands and hips when I ask for a canter, and to make my lower leg the foundation of my seat so that I don’t risk toppling off. I also suddenly and completely got the point of show hunters.

The action of the field hunter is efficient: the horse does not waste energy bending its legs any more than it has to. This relates back to the hunt field, where the horse had to work for several hours on end, often galloping, and inefficient movement would tire the horse more quickly.

I got Elle into her perfect, cadenced, hypnotic, rocking-horse canter, and despite my various infirmities, I felt like I could stay there all day. If I haven’t already alienated every one of my dozen readers worldwide (you can blame Rose for encouraging me), I will write further obsessive essays about the origins of English equestrian culture in foxhunting and the balanced versus the hunter seat. You can’t wait! I love horses. Did you know?