Saturday, September 27, 2014

Though the Moon Be Still As Bright

A year ago today I said goodbye to one of the finest equines I've had the privilege to know, one of the horses closest to my heart, a pony named Rindle. She was twenty-nine and I wasn't sure she'd survive another snowy NY winter, at least not without being cold and miserable. Her hoofs weren't even growing. I owed her the best, easiest transition I could give her. 

It was hard to call the vet, hard to call the backhoe guy. I've put down more than a few horses, helped others with the euthanasia and burials. But this was Rindle. 

Rindle was the daughter of the red road appaloosa mare I brought to upstate NY with me from Massachusetts in 1982 when I was twenty, the mare I rode bareback, sometimes with only a piece of twine around her neck.

Her sire was the cute-as-a-button pony colt I got for forty bucks at an auction, a hellion disguised as a rocking horse. This was Rindle's breeding: by Clever Opportunist out of Sanity.

Rindle was foaled in 1984 when I was an impossibly young twenty-two, about to begin work as an exercise rider, about to marry a dairy farmer, and years away from the birth of my human fillies.

She never grew past thirteen hands. It made her big enough for me to ride but too small for me to compete and possibly overwhelm with my overeager competitive nature that lasted into my thirties (riding her taller full brother.) Instead I rode Rindle on trails, in hunter paces, and led daughters or lessons from her. She taught dozens of kids to ride, sailed over Pony Club jumps, loped around 4H rings and marched down Main Street in the Spencer Picnic parade. 

She was a master of the center-of-the-ring shoulder drop, a classic staple of lesson ponies. (She pulled this on me when I was demonstrating a canter transition and I hit the ground so hard I sprained my ankle. That was only ten years ago.) In a wild and wonderful hunter pace, Rindle and I, with my nine-year-old daughter and her pony, Cupcake, rode a blistering round over the jumps to catch up with our friends on horses. Our friends cam in first; we were penalized to second place for going too fast.

Rindle's last day was mild and sunny. She spent it grazing with her best horse friend, my mare Laredo. All week, snippets of a poem had run through my head: Lord Byron, quoted by Ray Bradbury in a short story I read back in my pony girl days:

So, we'll  go no more a roving, 
   So late into the night,
Though the heart be still as loving,
   And the moon be still as bright.

For the sword outwears its sheath,
   And the soul wears out the breast,
And the heart must pause to breathe,
   And love itself have rest.

Though the night was made for loving,
   And the day returns too soon,
Yet we'll go no more a roving
   By the light of the moon.

I was raised in Christian Science, where death and mortality are "unreal." I floundered through the deaths of pets, but I never had to contend with losing a relative until I was an adult, and by then well-trained to freeze my emotions. It's fair to say that Rindle's loss was the first death I faced head on as a human being. I raised her and knew her for twenty-nine years. She was a family member.

I stayed with her as she breathed the last time. I bawled like a baby. I clipped hair from her mane and tail. My friends saw to her burial while I loaded Laredo for the ride to a farm six miles away where I board her now. Where I'm riding again after a five year hiatus. I owe this to Rindle. 

I kept Rindle's photos as my desktop computer wallpaper for the whole year. I think about her every single day. I miss her, and I let myself feel this hurt. She's taught me to grieve. I'm glad her transition out of life was as smooth as the one into it, both in a meadow in clear, warm weather. I'll always remember riding her at night, July or January, with crickets or the crunch of hoofs on snow, by the full moon.

Miss you, Rindle-kid.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Voting myself off the island

OK campers, my six-month blogging sabbatical is over. Last spring was tough. My writing  was going well, but my mental health, not so much. Usually my depression is worst in the dark months, but last March I had a Funk that wouldn't quit.

Around that same time, a documentary maker who'd seen me speak in New York last year contacted me. He wanted to make a film about me & the fallout, physical & emotional, from my surviving untreated osteomyelitis as a kid in a Christian Science family.

This filmmaker has excellent credentials: director, producer & director of photography for many projects including a documentary examining prayer in school. He was enthusiastic about the benefits publicizing my story could have on public awareness of the state laws that allow parents to pray for seriously ill children. He was straight about my time commitment and the hassle of having him follow me with a camera for weeks.

I told him I had to think about it. Part of me was thrilled. Cue the music: SURVIVOR! Outwit! Outplay! Outlast!

See, I started watching the show a year ago on DVD. (I don't have a TV signal, and for this I am truly thankful.) I confess: I've been a secret fan of Hell's Kitchen for its sheer operatic, overblown qualities, so when I ran out of Netflix discs, I gave Survivor a try. Hey! what fun! People left on islands, hungry, sleep-deprived, exhausted, eating bugs & running obstacle courses, no-phone-no-lights-no-motor-car, in a race to make friends and control enemies, with the goal of voting off everyone ELSE without alienating them to the point they'll vote against you when the million bucks is at stake.

I really like the rawness of this show. People behave badly or nobly, rising to or falling short of individual potential. They come through and Do the Right Thing, or they get scared and selfish, and betray.

Self-awareness plays a big part. After my many years of therapy (especially groups) I'm very big on self-awareness. It's never safe to be sure you're in control, or assume you know exactly what's going on. I know from experience that the failure to imagine disaster does not immunize you against terrible events. (This is a real problem in politicians & talk-radio hosts but I won't go there right now.)

Survivor's entertainment is created in the editing. It needs heroes and villains. I'm sure some (many?) contestants watched the show appalled at how they seemed on camera, and probably some families and friends would agree they aren't really like that.

However, they surrendered all control to the game, the editors, and the camera.

Did I want to do that? Yeah, no. Maybe I'm a vain, selfish control freak, but one thing is certain: I'm a control freak with an emotional balance more precarious than on my bottom-of-the-line prosthetic knee. 

I told the documentary fellow thanks but no thanks. I did the right thing for myself: I took as much pressure off my limping brain as possible, hoping the funk wouldn't hang on too long. I cancelled speaking events and started riding my horse again. Over the summer I painted my parents' house and worked in my garden. I swam across Cayuga Lake as part of Women Swimmin For Hospicare. And I feel better now.

I want to do more speaking about child religious medical neglect, and I don't mind being videotaped. I want to improve my speaking as I close in on being a published author. But I know my limits. I'm a lower-case survivor, more castaway than outlast-er. I do my best work without an audience. I'm my own tribe, and I have spoken. 

Too bad that filmmaker isn't named Wilson.Wilson