On March 1st, 2010, my friend Walter and I set off on an adventure with my Arabian horse, Sojourner. I rode Soj across America and Walter drove our little truck (with no trailer). The trip began in Los Angeles, California and successfully ended in Bath, New Hampshire 8 months and 14 days later. It was a 3,700 mile ride.
We rode in celebration of family and as an outreach to those dealing with divorce-related depression.
This ride tells a tale of love in many forms - through the people we meet along the way, our connection with the horse, with the land, and with each other.
As this blog goes on it gets more and more in depth with tons of photos and experiences. Snuggle in with a cup of tea and read this like a book. I have switched the blog around so it reads start to finish so you don't have to read backward (except the first entry).
Here is our story...
At the Alpine Alley Coffee House in Mountainair, New Mexico.
Somewhere between this field and that field in Lemitar, NM is a man who sounds like he's from Maine, but is actually from Nebraska and now lives in the little town of Lemitar with his wife of 47 years.
Dave put Sojourner up for 2 nights as we were passing through a few days back in a big barn that also housed these birds that make little tunnel nests out of adobe. I asked him if he built the barn and he answered "single handedly".
A horse rides day back from there lives a man called Bill who also dreams of getting on his horse and taking a long ride. He has an 11 year old daughter and is also curious about people and love and divorce and what comes out of it all. He had smiled when I told him I was getting love stories and divorce stories and said "Oh, I've got those."
I met Bill in a little cafe on that ridiculously windy day back in Magdalena. I had an ice pack on my head and looked like I had just fallen out of the dump truck and he came over to our table because he had heard we were looking for a better place for the horse.
We talked about the ride and he ended up dropping by later to find out more. He brought me a beautiful gift that I am going to attach to Sojourner's saddle tomorrow morning. It's made of horse hair and some sort of tie and it is supposed to hang from under the girth to keep the flies away.
I left the next morning and after riding about 3 or 4 miles he pulled up in his truck with some hand warmers and well wishes to see us off.
These little connections mean the world to me. They're everywhere to made. It's really the horse that does it. I have walked by so many people in my life before now, but because of Sojourner, people come to us and we talk and all of these little moments are made possible.
I think it is a great honor to have someone open their photo album or show me their workshop or show me emotions that are close to them. It's the magic of the horse that opens it up and it's the magic of people to share and express it.
We have spent the past two mornings in a wonderful little coffee shop called Alpine Alley.
The woman who owns it is called Mary and she said this cafe was the answer to her "mid-life crisis".
She is a pretty spectacular woman full of light and energy. She convinced her husband of 30 years to quit working in construction and come cook for her in this little cafe she wanted to open in this little town in the hills of New Mexico (they were in Portland, Oregon).
After I finished breakfast Mary told me the breakfast was on Brianna. It was so funny to hear someone I had just met say Bri's name!
I said "Brianna? My best friend, Brianna?"
She said "Yes! I was talking to her this morning and..."
"Wait, you spoke with her!?" I asked.
She then told me a little about their conversation and it made me so happy to think about Bri talking with her. Mary told me she had talked with Stephen for about half an hour last night as well. And yesterday morning she had talked to my mom trying to work out something to bake for me.
So there's Bri in Vermont and Stephen and my mom in California and me here in this little town in New Mexico and this beautiful woman who I have only just met has talked to all these people I love unbeknownst to me and something about it made me so happy.
I guess it's just the fact of how easy it is for a bunch of people to connect to each other. You can be so far from home and they're all still right there with you.
I can't even put into words exactly what it was that made me so happy to hear about Mary's conversations with them, but I just loved it.
Mary and I talked a little bit about the shop and why she started it.
She said the town needed some sort of sense of community and the coffee shop helps with that. She said once there were two men sitting at the end of the bar who lived in that little town but had never met until then. They started talking and one said he fought in Nam and the other said he did, too.
Then the other guy said what ship he was on and the other guy said he was on that ship, too.
As it turned out they were a floor apart from each other on the same ship in the war and now both ended up in the same little town in the same little coffee shop sitting next to one another at the end of the same little bar and were meeting for the first time.
This morning Walter was on the phone with Stephen for awhile so I was sitting at the counter just watching people and Mary bustle around for about 25 minutes or so. A woman named Michelle came up to me and she really struck me because she was so comfortable being close and talked so casually as if we knew one another.
When she laughed she would put her hand on my arm or shoulder to brace herself or she would gently slap my leg if she was about to say something funny. It was wonderful. So many people are scared of other people and so they keep a bit of a distance and sometimes an almost uncomfortable formality, but not this woman.
She told me about a young man about 20 years ago who would ride through with his 2 mules pulling a wagon. He never rode, he walked along with them. In his wagon he had goats and chickens. He would trade his labor or goats milk in exchange for grain for his animals and a place to stay.
They used to put him up for a bit and he would give them goats milk. Michell's kids didn't like goat's milk, so she would trick them by putting the goats milk into the cow milk cartons and then she would get it really cold. The kids didn't know the difference and didn't find out until they were grown that they had actually been drinking goats milk.
Eventually she wandered off and then I heard beautiful piano playing from the other room. I asked who it was and the guy in the chair next to me said "that was the woman you were just talking to".
I said "really!!?"
Walter finally came back in and soon after that the piano playing stopped and Michelle came back to talk to us again.
I had been on the phone with Stephen and didn't hear the beginning of her story. As I was getting off the phone I heard Walter say "that's so sad" and noticed that she had pulled her wallet out that had tons of pictures of a young woman in it.
I thought "No, please don't let this be about what I think it's about."
As I was setting down the cell phone she said "...the mural in that cafe down the road. I painted that. That's her. She had beautiful blue eyes and for some reason someone painted them over brown. It's so strange because we have Indian blood so I don't know why anyone would do that, but it really upset me."
Walter said to me, "did you see that mural in that cafe? That's her daughter."
It was a painting of a girl in a field.
Her daughter was 34 when she was accidentally run over by her boyfriend. She had always worn boots with a little heel and she had slipped in the ditch when she went out to get the gate. Her boyfriend didn't know she slipped and backed over her puncturing her liver.
I can't even really write about this without feeling my stomach tighten. I instantly had to hold back tears as she told me more. The thing that was so amazing is that she said this...
"You know, we're prayin' people. Her boyfriend was a mess after the accident and he went to my husband and asked him to pray for him. He was epileptic and I used to think about how many times this poor young boy probably screamed out wondering why this had to happen to him. I mean, can you imagine being a child with epilepsy? After this happened he never had an attack again. It's been 2 years. So you see, my point is, even when things that seem so hard happen, something good can still come out of it."
Her eyes started to water more and a tear fell. She wiped it from under her glasses.
"So many people are so quick to turn away when horrible things happen, but if you don't turn you'll see other things that come. Good things."
I thanked her for her story and she said , "Thank you for your story" and put her arm around me.
People like that inspire me so much. I mean, to lose a child and still say something good can come out of it and to not turn away from life is so amazing to me. Michelle wasn't just beautiful words either. Her ways and personality hit me from the minute we spoke, just total warmth.
She had said before she told me about her daughter that she would love to do something like what Soj and Walter and I are doing because of the people.
"I just love people", she said.
"I know!" I answered. "That's been the most amazing part!"
She nodded her head knowingly and smiled at me.
Her daughter was beautiful. She was a model and an actress and died at only 34 years old.
There's just so much to learn from people. It's amazing the power we have on one another. One woman can come in and give you a tear and a story and tell you everything is still okay and a little piece of you is made just a little bit better, just a little bit stronger.
Go get on that horse, Bill. Get your daughter a horse and take her on a ride she'll never forget.
I was just about to post this and then I heard "knock knock" and Shannon walked in to the open door of our hotel room. She brought me two books for my birthday! One of them is called "Windows of Hope" and the other is called "The Spirit of Courage". I opened the book up to the middle and this is the quote that was there...kind of ironic...
"Behind the cloud the starlight lurks,
Through showers the sunbeams fall;
For God, who loveth all his works,
Has left Hope with all."
-John Greenleaf Whittier
Then I turned to another page and this is what I read...
"Hold fast to dreams,
for if dreams die,
life is a broken-winged bird
that cannot fly."