14 October 2006

travelin' slow

Yesterday was a splendid October day, so I called up my long-time friend J, who taught me to ride when I was 9 years old, and then headed over to her rambling farmhouse/barn complex. She's got four horses, two of whom I've known since I started riding, and they're still as lively and grand as I remember when I was a kid eager to do anything to be around horses. We tacked up Robin and Ruby and mounted up for a ride on the dirt roads I spent so much time on as a child, since she lives right next to my grade school. The roads were much like where I'd been driving a few days ago- smoothly packed dirt surrounded by maple trees, occasional fields, and a few grand old farmhouses.

J and I reminisced about the horses I'd learned to ride with and where they ended up, the other little starry-eyed horse-loving girls that had learned with me, and the many changes since then. After rambling for a while, we shortened up the reins for a trot, the two horses matching pace perfectly for a few steps. They're driven in a carriage together and are half-sisters, so they're used to finding pace together. When we slowed to a walk again, the "good girl" pat on Robin's neck was fuzzy under my palm. Winter's coming, and her furry coat has started to come in already.

Horse speed through a landscape is a completely different experience from driving, walking, or biking. This living creature with their different way of seeing will spot things you didn't notice to shy at, and the rhythm of your journey is generated by the rolling motion of their hips transferred through to yours in the saddle. After trotting, the heat from their bodies seeps through the legs on your jeans, and the scent of horse, hay, and heat rises from their skin. The height is also an unusual perspective- tall, yet out in the open so things you can't notice with other transportation methods become clear- the texture of the water in streams, the view over the roadside stone wall, and of course, the occasional passing tourist grinned with glee at our added touch of rural picturesqueness. Don't get that when you're on a bike!

I rode Robin yesterday, and I thought of all the shared experiences and memories of her that have made this horse like one of my grade-school friends. I know about her fly allergy, and the time J took her and another half-sister to a driving competition, and the summer before was full of long uphill trotting sessions to condition her. I remember the way she always had the front stall in the barn, and when J sat in the chair near the door, Robin would remove her hat and toss it on the floor. She was also my mount on a multi-day riding trip in high school that now is a memory of bright May days, and fields bursting with dandelions. It's hard to believe she's almost 20, but fortunately, her safe and well-loved life has been kind to her, and neither she nor her half-sister Ruby show any signs of serious equine antiquity.

I've got to leave Vermont today, but I'm leaving with a great appreciation for the landscape, the people, and the experiences I grew up with. It wasn't always easy for my parents here, but they stuck to what they believed was important, and I can't say I disagree with their choice. Much like my life in Iceland often feels, I had moments of such disbelief over the past week, as I caught up with former teachers in the town's general store (and a general store it truly is- everything from video rentals to grapefruit spoons and freshly-ground coffee), drove the roads that were my daily commute to school, or harvested pumpkins in my parents' garden. This is an uncommon way to grow up but I wouldn't have wanted it any other way, so many thanks to my parents!


cK said...

Back to Iceland then? or off on further adventures?

Regardless, may they be happy days.

ECS said...

back in Iceland after a weekend in Boston. The flight's overnight and I'm at work now after sketchy airplane sleep and a dizzy nap, so I haven't entirely caught up with myself yet.