Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Worth Their Weight in Gold

Hopefully each and everyone of you in the horse world has met and partnered with a horse worth its weight in gold. If you haven’t it’s sad because having a special horse is a great gift. I’ve had two horses that were worth their weight in gold. Both were older when they got to be like that. They don’t get to be like that if they’re mistreated so I take a bit of pride in that. I also give credit to the people before me in the case of one. They didn’t screw him up and for that I thank them.
Both the horses were appaloosas. Yes, everybody jokes about appaloosas. You may have heard the term “appa-loser” or some such thing. I think people say stuff like this because they’re jealous or trying to be cute. Appaloosas aren’t any more this way or that than any other horse. In my humble opinion.
The one horse started out a handful and you had to bring your brains to class. In his younger days he was kind of like a mule only more so. If he didn’t want to do something he let you know. You had to be the leader, be determined and take charge of the situation. You couldn’t wimp out. But you above all you had to be fair. Not arbitary. Not thoughtless. Getting rough wasn’t going to cut it.
That horse was a good teacher and in the process of him teaching me his inner gold began to shine through. As he got older he became the “go-to” guy of the bunch. Maybe he didn’t walk out so fast but you were sure of him with a beginner. He still had things to teach but they weren’t at freeway speed. When the hill got too steep we found a place for him at a therapeutic riding school. They gave him a nickname but he’s still the same old guy as before and worth his weight in gold.
Here’s to the good-un’s!

 Dusty Giving a 92 year old woman a ride at Project Ride in Elk Grove, California

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Lined Paper

Miss Struble is rolling over in her grave. The depths to which the legibility of handwriting has sunk would disturb her greatly. Miss Struble was my 3rd grade teacher. She proffered the lined paper like it was fine parchment, handed out the pencils and intoned that we were to “Stay within the lines!”
Oddly enough this did not put me off handwriting entirely but started me on a life long journey of a love affair with the pen and calligraphy which, to me, is just the high falutin’ way of saying “cursive writing”. When I was learning to write I practiced so much I got a knob on my middle finger from gripping the pencil but now people comment about how they like my handwriting when I do the simplest things like write a check. Miss Struble would be pleased.
I once saw a movie and in it the main character, a Jesuit priest, was demonstrating the written word to a bunch of Algonquin Indians. He asked one of the braves to tell him something no one knew. Then he wrote that secret on a piece of paper. When he was finished he gave the paper to his companion to read aloud. Can you imagine the surprise and shock of the Indians upon hearing the secret? How did he do that? But what if the writing was so illegible that the companion couldn’t read it? How embarrassing would that have been? “Uh, what’s this word? Its looks like ‘pigslop’.”
Imagine if one of our most famous founding fathers, John Hancock, had not been taught proper cursive writing. We’d never be using that phrase “put your ‘John Hancock” here.” We’d also be having a difficult time deciphering our constitution and the English might have laughed so hard we’d have given up trying to get our independence.
Nowadays we don’t need legible handwriting. Cursive writing seems to be dying a slow death. We have the modern word processor. Even now I’m using it to write this piece. The knob on my middle finger has disappeared. But I still enjoy writing and reading a beautifully hand written letter. If instruction in the art of cursive writing was brought back the world would be a more beautiful place.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Mind is Like a Monkey

I spent all day yesterday using no words. I got this suggestion from Gwynn Turnbull Weaver while I was attending a riding clinic given by her and her husband Dave. She noticed I’m a big lover of words. I like to use them and plenty of them. The odd thing is I have times when I just don’t want to talk. But when I do, watch out! You can hardly get a word in edge-wise. Part and parcel to this is my chosen avocation which is writing. Yes, I love words. To be specific – and specificity is a symptom – I love language. For example, one of my favorite books of all time is “The Story of English”.
But I digress. Gywnn had suggested trying to get in touch with “feel” by living without words for 24 hours. I thought this was an intriguing idea. To be honest, during my Transcendental Meditation days I had gone without speaking for a whole week. So I had a bit of experience. I vaguely remember that the first couple days were the hardest but that when the week finally came to a close I found that I had little to communicate that was of any importance. During that time I was allowed to write notes to people. So it wasn’t a week completely without words. I was in retreat so my meals were made for me and I had a whole pine forest to hike in and commune with the wind in the trees. This time it was going to be different. I had animals to take care of and I had to make my own meals. I was not going to write anybody any notes. My partner Marty was gone camping with his daughter and her family. I was going to avoid any human contact. I was not going to go on email, watch TV,  listen to music or anything like that. I was just going to spend the day in silence and see what happened.
Almost immediately I came upon a challenge that I was not expecting. My cat doesn’t work off “feel”. Looking back I’m not sure why I was so surprised at this. My cat doesn’t understand pretty much anything but his own version of “my way or the highway”. What made this worse was that he escaped the fence right away and went bounding off into the coyote-infested brush. So there I was trying to figure out how to call him back without calling. I must confess I gave up. So there it is. I called only long enough to get him back and then I resolved not to get caught that way again.
The rest of the day was pretty uneventful. I found my dogs work off feel for the most part. Instead of calling “get in the truck” I simply looked toward the truck and made a big sweeping motion with my arm. Satisfying! My horses totally work off feel. When I was giving my gelding his meds and the sassy little Don-keh (a miniature mule) came sidling in to see if he could horn in I gave a big kick-out with my foot. He gets that! I’m sure he was kind of laughing inwardly so awkward my kick-out actually was but he got the idea. I’m glad no people were around. It must have looked really stupid! The other geldings and the mare get the kick-out, too. Horses don’t really communicate much vocally. I haven’t been able to imitate it anyway. So fortunately feel is already working there.
I didn’t have any trouble with talking to myself out loud as I thought I might. I satisfied this need by talking sublingually to myself. The mind is like a monkey! It was chattering away to itself a mile a minute the whole day. This is fair warning to you. If you ever go 24 hours without words you’ll be frustrated trying to keep your mind quiet so don’t even try. As a matter of fact, not trying, Yoda-like, might be the best way to handle it. There is no try, only do!
When I got bored with being in the house I decided to go to the reservoir and bob around in the water on my inner tube. There were people there. I observed how much we talk! There were a couple little girls playing and they kept up a constant chatter. A man and a woman swam nearby and they, too, did the same. Language sets the human race apart. We have the ability to communicate with a look but we need to explain and expand. We often misinterpret a look and don’t trust it. I don’t advocate getting rid of language but it’s a revelation to go without it for a day. Try it sometime and see what happens.

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Learning Belt

My daughter recently called to ask my advice about a little predicament she had gotten herself into. I immediately thought of a similar situation that I had experienced when I was only a little bit older.
It was in Berkeley probably in 1982 or 3. I had just gotten divorced and was trying to find my new way. I had decided to try freelance graphic design so I could have more personal freedom. I was already experienced in the field but not at going it alone. I had always worked for a company. I don’t know how I met the nice married couple. They had a little boutique on Telegraph Avenue. They sold marvelous hand made clothing and accessories. They wanted an identity package and we decided that since I wasn’t as well dressed as I would have liked that we would barter. I would do the identity package and trade it for clothes.
All went well. They loved my work and then it came time for me to go over to the store and get my clothes. At the store they introduced me to the woman who was going to help me. They said “Watch out, she’s our best sales person. We call her The Shark!” I thought nothing of this. After all I was not paying money. No worries, right?
So gleefully we went about the store with her pulling out this and that and saying won’t these look nice together. I went into the fitting room and came out with my new ensemble feeling pretty snazzy and cute. One of the pieces she put me in was an amazing lizard belt with sterling silver fittings. It was handmade and had no holes. But this was not a problem. She went ahead and punched holes in it and put it around my waist. Voila! We were complete. I was on cloud nine.
Then we started adding everything up at the cash register. Within a few minutes I could see I was in trouble. The items were adding up way over my credit amount. I was starting to feel crushed. There was no way I could make up the difference. So I told her and we started taking away items. We got all the way down to a couple pieces and the belt. It still wasn’t enough. So we took away everything but one sweater and the belt. I would have rather declined the belt. It was by far the most expensive piece. I could have gotten many items of clothing just for the price of the belt alone. But the holes that were punched in it, she carefully explained, were now customized to my size and no one would be able to buy it the way it was.
Walking out of the store I felt cheated. I was no longer on cloud nine. I was down in the dumps and then some! I walked home more depressed and bummed than I had ever felt. When I got home I looked at the beautiful belt that wouldn’t go with anything I owned. It would be a silk purse sticking out like a sore thumb on all the sow’s ears I had in my closet. The only thing I could do was learn my lesson. From there on after I called it the “Learning Belt” and I never forgot my lesson. It was to not get carried away emotionally and consider my actions carefully.