Aug 22, 2020
Life Love's Me
“the outside of a horse is good for the inside of a woman. “ Lori McGourty
Y’all, this is so very true! I grew up in the country spending most weekdays and when in school, most weekends and summers at my grandma’s house far off the main paved road and down a very long dirt road.For me, to this day it was paradise and I realize now that I have longed for and earnestly worked at recreating the feeling of being there in the life I now have.
When I wasn’t playing in the creeks all day long, wandering around in the woods with no sense of time or urgency I would spend a lot of my days following my grandpa around the farm. I learned a lot from being there with carefree days. I would wake up to my grandma having some kind of wonderful homemade breakfast that could change depending on the time of year and the current harvest from the garden or whether the chickens were laying then or not. Our breakfast would range from fresh grapefruits that she bought at the store or possibly homemade biscuits with eggs and breakfast meat. At that time in my life, our meats came from their farm. All of the beef, pork or chickens were raised by them and they were all happy stress-free non-chemical farm-raised animals. Our families would come together on the slaughter days and work together making hamburger meat with the grinder that hinged onto the end of my grandma’s red and white checkered table cloth and we would take turns winding the handle until we got tired and then our cousins or aunts would take over.We would also make homemade sausage, liver mush and package everything so everyone could share in the bounty.
Life is like a Rodeo
My grandpa and grandma lived in an old two-story whiteboard house probably built before the 1900s. The trusses were hand-hewn as well as the floor joist and it had two porches that wrapped around three sides of the house and another closed in porch that I used for my playhouse many times. There was running water in a sink but nowhere else, there was no bathroom but we were fancy because not only did we have an outhouse, ours had four holes so my cousins and I could go at the same time without having to wait. And of course, at night there was the pee pot so we didn’t have to make our way outside at night. No one else in my generation can imagine that I actually lived like that but I believe it has made me who I am today and I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything in the world.
The only heat we had in the wintertime was from a small fireplace in the kitchen and an oil-burning heater in the bedroom and quilts that would hold you down in place so hard that you would consciously have to take deep breaths to breathe.The quilts were so heavy I would have to wake up just to roll over. Those were the days and I believe because the memories are so wonderful that it made me want to live more like that, meaning simple and pure, as I get older.
My grandparents, mamaw and papaw to me,planted and grew almost everything that we ate and we honestly would sit on the porch and shuck corn and shell peas just like you hear folks talking about such a long time ago and I believe that there are not many people my age or younger that got to really experience this first hand to know what it was like to sit together on a porch on a summer’s night and tell and relive stories and laugh together and just simply be together for hours on end. This was our lives and we were happy, I was happy and I don’t know if it was simply because I was young and had no worries but all I know is that it was real and it felt good and right and those are the happiest memories of my lifetime. In this place I was always safe, I was protected, I was loved and I was allowed to be me!
From early spring when my grandpa would start plowing the fields till harvest time we had a horse named “Ol’ Bill” that did the job of plowing. Ol’ Bill was living when my mom was a little girl and he lived long after I was grown, I heard he was almost 40 years old when he finally passed. He was a stocky solid white horse that was strong, hardworking and a little bit ornery at times. I remember that he would love to nibble at the back of my mamaw’s arm when she was leading him back to the pasture with me grinning and riding on him proudly, bareback, barefoot and dirty. I always thought that he lived so long because he was loved so much and that he worked really hard plowing the fields with my papaw and that made him strong. One of my favorite memories was literally following in the footsteps of my papaw while he had Bill hitched up and would skillfully guide him up and down each row in the garden plowing a line to plant the next harvest. I would stretch out my legs as far as they would go in order to reach each step that he left in the dirt. No one told me to do this. It just happened naturally, just a kid being a kid and that felt great.
I also remember a young pony that came to live with Ol’ Bill one time and I was riding him around the yard and house and Bill started nickering and the pony started running away with me on his back. My dad said he ran as hard as he could to try and catch up with us but by the time he got to us the pony had made its way back to his friend and I was hanging on for dear life onto a phone pole about six feet up in the air like a spider monkey.haha I remember this like it was yesterday. All I could think was I better get off now when I want to than when the pony comes to a screeching halt at the edge of the fence. I think that was the beginning of learning to problem solve in advance.
As you can tell I believe this is where my love for horses began. So when I found myself in counseling, again at the age of 39, and my counselor asking me what I would do if I had and would allow myself to have twenty minutes just for me the next day what I would do? I literally sat there dumbfounded because as I said before that I had lost myself in my circumstances and I was using everything as a reason not to be happy. I sat there as tears welled up in my eyes and she allowed the awkward silence. I had to dig deep.
Catch that Horse
What would I do? What would make me feel happy just for twenty minutes? Was I willing to be happy? Would I rather just have a pity party? Was I willing to do something for twenty minutes that I could feel good about?
Well, I was in counseling for a reason, I wanted help and I was willing to help myself. I realized at that moment that I was the one who had to make the decision to make different decisions about my life. Maybe somehow I could change little by little. Maybe it would be twenty minutes at a time. Yes… yes… I wanted to be happy even just a little happy. It was better than where I currently was. So I thought harder, a little dipper, dig Lori dig, search your heart Lori, what would you like to do to find a little relief?. It’s in there, I know it is. My mind was racing, my heart pounding in the deafening silence, in the waiting for my answer. I thought about when was the last time that I could breathe when was the last time I could hear my own thoughts, when and where could I feel freedom? What does that feel like? Then, I remembered, just like that, I could, I could, I could if I would allow myself to, I could walk right out of that house a quarter of a mile down our long gravel driveway and I could go back to the safety of being that little girl who loved being with and spending time with and smelling the hair on the horse and even the poop smell of the pasture, which by the way is right up there with my favorite smells of skunks and cow poop.I could go to the pasture and brush my horse for twenty minutes. Twenty minutes, I could do that, I could commit to that. I will do that! End of Session.
The next day was the big day. Now it may not sound scary to some of you but for me to do this thing, this thing that I had committed to was huge for me. As I prepared myself to leave the house to go brush my horse I was also talking myself into leaving my sick husband in the house alone. This was big, huge! I had built this case up so big in my mind that I truly believed that I was his savior and that I was responsible for his life and that if I left the house that he would surely die and it would be all my fault. He was in bed while I had this chat with myself, talking myself into walking out that door was one of the hardest decision I had to make, but it was only the beginning of me making many choices for ‘me’. A choice for my own well being, a choice for my life, my sanity, my happiness, my new life. I walked out.
Just the quarter-mile walk to the corral where I usually called up the horses was a pleasant one. I had horses on and off since 1993 and I ended up keeping my last horses for almost 20 years. Their names were Dancer, an appaloosa gelding that could gracefully dance in the sky and my dream horse and spirit guide Snow Bird, a large medicine hat paint mare that was as ever bit spunky as I used to be but she had never lost her spirit as I was feeling that I had. But little did I know that she would be an important part of me, searching and finding me again. Once I made it to the corral I was already breathing deeper than before, maybe it was due to the hill out of my drive but it felt better already. As I called up Snow and begin brushing her I could tell that she loved it and had missed me as much as I had missed her. I begin to push my nose into her hair in her neck, kiss the soft spot on her nose, hug her neck and feel her lean into me, feel the life and strength inside her huge big body and the gentleness that she was showing me. I crawled on top of her and lied my head on her mane and stretched out my legs so they were straight out her back and tucked my feet over the top of her tail as I used to do so many times and for hours at a time.
I had forgotten how great this felt. I forgot how I could breathe with her as though she was breathing for me. I could feel the warmth of her body under me, supporting me, just being with me and yeah, at this moment, this very moment It felt good. I felt good. I could breathe. I tried to use all of my senses to take it in. How she felt touching my skin. The warmth, comfort, closeness. And that smell! There is a distinct smell that a horse has that if you could bottle it you could sell it and be rich. I was rich at that moment. Not only could I smell her but I could smell the richness of the air. I lived in the foothills of the mountains with lots of trees and creeks and animals. Cows, horses, goats, pigs, chickens and of course the family dogs and cats that all my distant neighbors had. All of my neighbors are distant because we are in the country where a lot of times you can’t see your neighbors house from yours. but you can smell what they are up too. I listened to all the sounds around me that day. It was summer and I could hear the crickets and dry flies, the fairly large creek nearby and the whisper of the wind in the distant trees, a knicker of the other horses thinking they were missing out on the treats that Snow was getting, a distant bark of a dog and an occasional plane overhead. It was heaven to my ears. I begin to look around and I could see the small mountains nearby with the sun high in the sky working its way toward them to create a palette of beautiful colors in its setting. The rolling hills of the pasture where Snow and the other horses lived and loved so much. It was a large pasture with enough grass to feed the herd and fresh running water so there was hardly ever a need to feed extra except on an occasional winter day of snow or ice. The sky was so blue in contrast to the green grass of the fields and trees. It was paradise. It was just like I had wanted, just like it was when I was little at my papaw and mammaw’s. I was, at that moment, safe, happy, content and satisfied. I was no longer afraid at that moment and all was well. This, this is what I have wanted all along and here it was all along, waiting, waiting for me to notice, to slow down, to observe and to enjoy.
I wanted this in my life. I wanted this feeling to last forever, to never end, to never go away.
I eventually climbed down off Snow and gave her the biggest hug ever and promised that I would be back, she smiled and believed me.
However, after she so graciously heard all of my excuses as to why I was NOT addicted, she so sweetly said, “ what I mean is that the drug controls you. It controls your actions, reactions and your whole day at times, am I right?”
As I walked back towards the house I could feel my heart speeding up again. Would he be ok? Would he be alive? What would I do if he was dead? Would it be my fault if he was? I approached the house, took a moment to pause and look at the house and holding onto the wonderful feelings I had just experienced and taking a deep breath in and saying out loud to myself,” It is not my fault and I am not responsible for anyone but me, I will be ok no matter what and I am ok, NO MATTER WHAT!”
He was ok. I, on the other hand, was better than ok! I had just caught a glimpse of me, of my true self, of Lori and I wanted more of her. I think I like this Lori. I will search for her and damn it, I will find her!!
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