Saturday, January 2, 2010

(Almost) completely inspired by the new year (decade, era, etc. etc.) but completely necessary challenge: a new story e-v-e-r-y-d-a-y.

This is exciting, thrilling! to think about. Because I know I have 365 good stories in me. You do, too. I mean, a dozen a year? That every month of our lives something happens that's worth a piece of paper & the thirty minutes to be recalled & written up? Criminy, I hope so.

All these tidbits of life just hiding in the shadowy corners of my mind's museum, waiting like anxious school children to be called upon to share. Their piece of the puzzle is going to be revealed and recorded and revelled in. Here's your big chance to get out, little fellas, so get start thinking about details and prepare for your moment in the sun...

And on that note, the sun.

I have only been horseback riding a very few times in my life - I remember when I was much younger - 9, 10? and my family lived in Hawaii. I was at a girl scout camp & I wonder what I was wearing. It must have been shorts, because there was no reason to own jeans during that geographic time of my life, but can you wear shorts on a horse? Surely I was wearing these, my prized possessions, and surely I was be-ponytailed, in neon attire and overly gawky.

Fast forward 17 years. I am in Ireland, Dublin to be precise, with my husband and first child, visiting his family (in-laws that exponentially outnumbered any number of family I or anyone in my family have ever had living at the same time). It was my first time in Europe and I was in a state of awe over how different everything was...and how much smaller everything felt. I'm not sure if it was the fact that I was travelling with a 4 month old and it was way more restrictive than I had even thought to imagine, or that I was being hosted by my husband's very kind and very accommodating parents in their very small apartment and I felt like I was intruding and slightly (if unreasonably) trapped? Either way, I was not mentally at my best on this trip.

The point of this vacation was the family reunion in Galway at the end of the week. We drove in a very small car across the country, from the East Coast to the West Coast, over terrain like I'd never seen. Dreary, flat and grey all through the middle (and week), when we finally got to the edge of the country, it seemed like the mountains jutted straight up into the sky with no hillside preparations. And then, as the hills began to form, so showed the trademark 'shades of green' grass spread across the fields. It was lovely. It was also lovely to get out of the car when we arrived at the little collection of cottages just outside of town. I was relieved that Bazz & I had our own bedroom, with a little bed for the baby - and boy, was it cold! I can't recall if I even put Ava in her own bed or kept her in ours for her heater-like abilities. Barry was reunited with his dozens of cousins and aunts & uncles and I was agog at the numbers of people. The grey skies continued for the rest of the day, to no one's but my own surprise. It was beautful, regardless, but it also was affecting my mood.

But, aw, tank Jay-sus, there was to be a reprieve. And it was in our designated 'activity day' - for which I had previously chosen that my activity would be -you guessed it- horseback riding. Now, being that this day has been permanently burned onto my brain, I can recall *exactly* what I was wearing. Indeed, blue jeans, along with a grey crewneck cashmere sweater, my favorite sneakers and a tweed coat. My hair was short, half blonde/half eggplant and awesomely curly due to the intense humidity of the Irish air. But the sky was clear that afternoon and blue like I had never seen. I think the Irish have their own palette for their nature. The sun shone generously this afternoon upon the rocks and crags of the coastline and the water itself. I still can see the shades of the ocean in that little bay we were sitting the colors were more intense than the Pacific Ocean of my youth. The beauty of that day absolutely blew my mind. I remember how good and real and electric I felt being part of that unreal landscape. I took pictures, but my mind carries it far better & far longer.

I wore a helmet. My horse was huge and I think I was the only adult who was on a horse - surrounded by my husband's young cousins. Was Barry was supposed to come with me? He stayed back with Ava and his mom, for which I was briefly sad, but I was so incredibly in the moment I recovered quickly. We clopped out of the stables (I was so high up in the air!), across the poorly paved road, and down onto the rocky beach. The horses' feet were wobbly as they navigated the uneven surfaces, and I felt my vulnerability at each of the flicks of my horse's ankles. It was sensory overload - everything: that sky, those cliffs, the colors of the stones beneath our feet and smell and the feel of the salt in the air. I have often felt great awe when I am travelling, out in the world, in nature, and I find that the more intense the experience, the more difficulty I have describing it. And that's the challenge of writing, isn't it? Revisiting the great experiences of our lives and putting them to the words that inevitably could never do them justice. And on the other end of the spectrum is rebuilding the mundane experiences into fresh, new structures that make us feel like we're living through it for the first time all over again. I could say that that afternoon, the world rebuilt for me my first time riding a horse all over again. I did feel like a child, giddy with excitement for the overwhelming everything that was packed into every second, into every sense. At the far end of the curve of the bay, we all turned to look back across the cove, at the shore of pebbles and stones reaching up to the hillside in juts and weeds, across the winding little road and above, to where the little farm sat solemnly waiting for our return. The sun shone warmly upon my 27-year old face for the walk back and my smile was wide with the happy satisfaction of the hour.

Later that night, back at the cottage I was already relieving the experience with Barry and thanking him for staying with Ava and letting me have that afternoon delight. Alone, after my summer camp-esque shower in the little cottage, I stood in front of the mirror and wiped off the fog. Freckles. Dozens of tiny marks the sun had left behind, sprinkled across my cheeks. It felt like I had been marked by the pure wonder of it all and it didn't fade for days.

And that concludes with the definitive (and only) horseback riding story of my life. Check!

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