When Walking is Writing

A month of Thursdays later, and I’m finally sharing a recent creation from my poet-soul. If it surprises you that it’s about walking, I have to wonder how long you’ve been reading after me.

In February, my husband and I took a jaunt over Mount Hood to Central Oregon. In Redmond, we visited our “home” resort – Eagle Crest.

If three golf courses aren’t enough, there’s a river beside a trail. A huge looping paved bike/walking path circles the newer portion of the resort. A rustic fence surrounds a pasture where horses graze.

And mule deer descend on a daily basis to mow the greens with their persistent snacking.

It was winter. And it snowed. In fact, we woke up to white on several mornings and watched peace blanket the world on two snowy afternoons.

But that didn’t keep us from our “daily constitutional.” (Does anyone know why this phrase usually refers to a walk?)

On the first day, a line of poetry came to me as we rounded the bend toward our condo. The next morning, I opened a blank Word document and typed those words. (Yes, I was amazed I still remembered them. No, it isn’t the first line of the finished poem.)

A few other lines followed.

Over the rest of the vacation, I jotted reflections after every walk.

This is the resulting poem.

The Walk

Dry pungent air slaps across senses
Snippy
Like ammonia-cleansed halls

Chill wind slices through jackets
Angry
Like shards of broken windows

Purple berries clutter the trail
Wrinkly
Like a carpet of winter raisins

Mule-eared deer freeze among grass
Stony
Like Medusa’s unlucky prey

Sunlight glints through greenery
Puny
Like Dr. Banner in Hulk’s wake

Voices hum in stops and starts
Tinny
Like an untuned radio station

Rain slashes across cheekbones
Icy
Like a fire hose on duty

Footfalls tramp in tandem
Wimpy
Like a pair of ticking clocks

Sleet whispers across damp shoulders
Iffy
Like an insecure first date

Branches wave unsynchronized
Cheery
Like princesses on parade

Autos rumble on distant asphalt
Noisy
Like a Sunday morning mower

Snowflakes tumble in torrents
Eerie
Like a waterfall of white

Silence presses against eardrums
Weighty
Like water on a diver’s back

Snow whirls from nowhere
Gently
Like a cherry blossom Spring

Have you ever felt poetic after a nature walk? I confess that walking is one of the ways I stimulate my creativity. If I’m stuck on a scene, and the weather isn’t down-pouring, I’ll slip on my walking shoes and take a lap around the block.

Do any of the lines activate your senses? Did you have an emotional response to the poem?

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Shots of Summer

Sadly, September arrives with discolored leaves and shorter days. My sun-loving self clings to those brief days of Indian Summer (which probably isn’t PC terminology) and mourns the thought of morning runs in the dark.

In the hopes of holding on to my beloved summer a little longer, here are some photographic recollections:

Going for a Ringer at the Labor Day Farewell
Going for a Ringer at the Labor Day Farewell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rafting the Deschutes - not this summer
Rafting the Deschutes – not this summer
Walking to honor our Mom at the Relay for Life
Walking to honor our Mom at the Relay for Life

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Selling my car for a stack of cash
Selling my car for a stack of cash

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paying cash for a brand new vehicle. I love having NO car payment.
Paying cash for a brand new vehicle. I love having NO car payment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spending time with the lovely Lily
Spending time with the lovely Lily

What’s your favorite memory of summer? Don’t forget to take the poll about your favorite season.

Three reasons why I avoid Guilt trips

guilttrip

Come along on a recent guilt trip I took! No, really. It will be delightful. I promise!

“Did you know Lily’s foot was hurt?”

My stomach plummeted lower than the soles of my manure-encrusted boots. This friendship detonated in front of me. I’d done the unthinkable – injured her horse.

“No. When did this happen?”

Explanations ensue. Part of my brain is processing the input, determining guilt or innocence with the finesse of an experienced judge. Sounded like it happened in the field. I worked her in the arena. Whew!

“She was wondering why you trotted a horse with an injured foot.”

The guilt swells again, almost exploding my chest. What sort of imbecile would lunge a horse that was limping? But she wasn’t limping. Apparently, all that head tossing she did – low rather than high – was supposed to clue me in.

Except I’m a greenhorn. Yes, I noticed her stretch seemed shorter than usual. She moved sluggishly to a trot when she normally snapped into that gait.

Let me tell you, when an expensive animal is involved, the guilt trip can be bumpy.

My mother could put me on a guilt trip with less than a blink of the eye. One well-placed glare, saturated with condemnation, and I was gone.

vacationwatsthatIt made me appreciate the fact that this sort of trip was hardly a vacation. There wasn’t anything fun about it. Did it lasso me into conformity? Certainly. Until I decided I was done being controlled by someone else’s whims.

Mothers are expert “travel agents” for guilt trips. Older siblings learn the job well, too. Most of these must become teachers since, next to Mom, teachers have perfected the art of launching an unsuspecting soul into guilt orbit.

I decided to be atypical. As a mother and a teacher, I refuse to employ the guilt-inducing tactics that produce the desired compliance for sons and students. I have my reasons. Three of them.

Guilt trips damage self-esteem

You don’t normally hear me spouting to protect self-esteem at all costs. I think focusing on low self-esteem is a form of pride. Let’s focus on edification instead.

Guilt tears down. It makes a person second-guess their ability to make decisions. With one good swing of its hammer, guilt can make a decent person feel lower than pond scum.

“What was I thinking? How could I have done that? I’m stupider than dirt.” Doesn’t sound like healthy self-talk to me.

Guilt has a silent partner: shame

At the end of many forays motivated by guilt lies the ugly companion of guilt: shame.

While on the little trip, we fill our heads with the negative self-talk demonstrated above. By the time we reach our destination, we’re feeling about one centimeter tall.

You can be sure that the inevitable whammy life will throw at us as we disembark the Guilt Train will shove us under the wheels. Slicing through our soul with a hefty dose of shame.

“I’m going to stay in my room for a week. I’ll never go near another horse. I’m a danger to everyone.” Sounding more desperate all the time, right?

Guilt doesn’t teach responsibility

This is the biggest reason I despise guilt trips. My job as a mother and teacher is to help my sons and students grow into rational adults. They need to learn to be responsible for their own choices.

Too many guilt trips and those people start blaming us for their mistakes. After all, we’re the only one who seems to condemn them and send them down the dark path to shame.

I believe in natural consequences.

In the event of the stupidity revealed at the outset of this post, I suffered natural consequences. Lily needed shoes on her front feet to reinforce the walls of her hooves so her soles wouldn’t get bruised by the hard ground. The ferrier couldn’t come for almost ten days.

The natural consequences of exercising an injured horse: no working or riding her for at least two weeks.

Every choice has a consequence. You choose not to go to the family reunion regardless of mother’s attempt to guilt you. The rich uncle you’ve only met twice writes all attendees into his will. Guess what you aren’t getting?

What do you think about guilt trips? Do you employ them? Have you been on one recently?

How the real horse in my life affects my fictional creation

A Shire – my character only has two white socks in the front

The cat’s out of the bag. Or in this case, the horse. My new work in progress includes a character that is a horse.

Not too surprising since I’ve already admitted my fascination with the beasts. Hopefully, I’ve come up with a unique way to include a horse in my fantasy novel. You can be the judge when the book is finished, published and available from book sellers everywhere.

In my book, the horse is a magnificent Shire stallion. He is nine feet tall and broader than two barrels. Indeed, he is a beast. But a magnificent one.

In real life, I’m spending time with a lovely mare who is about five feet tall at her back (eye height or so for me. I can see over her). Her coloring is delightful, but she can be stubborn and headstrong.

Enter real life experience that I can use in my fiction. Some horses are docile, meek and cooperative. Others are haughty, high-strung and obtuse. Which one most resembles my experience?

Many people are intimidated by any horse. They’re big, weigh five times the average human and have you seen their teeth? Also, their hooves can crush your foot, or at the least give you an ugly bruise. We won’t even go to the kicking angle.

I’ve never really been scared of a horse. Neither has my protagonist. However, I want her and every reader, no matter how experienced with horses they are, to be intimidated by the horse in my novel. But I don’t want him to be mean, just majestic and worthy of respect.

Spending time with Lily has given me some ideas about how to incorporate authentic horse actions and reactions into my writing. Laying the ears back and showing teeth might be an acceptable (and scary) reaction from my character horse. Kicking and biting (terrifying) are unacceptable.

Just as I would study habits of a person to give my characters quirky traits, I must pay attention to the horse. Do her nostrils flare? What about nodding and shaking her head? What do these outer motions indicate about her feelings?

I’m lucky to know people who willingly let me spend time with their horse. If you want to put a horse (or other animal) as a major character in your story, you’re going to need to spent time observing that animal.

Have you used real life experiences to add authenticity to your writing? Can you give an example? Maybe you have some horse wisdom to impart. I’m all ears, believe me.

Horse dreams crushed by my reality

I love horses. In fact, I was called horse-crazy by more than one person (and most often by my mother) when I was growing up. I talked about that in my Year of the Horse post.

You can imagine my delight, then, when a friend of mine who owns five horses offered me the opportunity to work with her older horse. After all, she can’t ride more than one at a time and has been spending her time molding the daughter of said horse into an exemplary mount.

My acquiescence was swift and sure.

After all, I spent years daydreaming about grooming, training and riding horses. The beautiful bay she offered me has the strawberry-blond mane I adore. It’s like dying and going to Heaven with horses.

Or perhaps it is living in that other place, surrounded by horses laughing and jeering at your ineptitude. No, that was only in my nightmare.

Reality? Almost as bad.

First off, I get confused which way the halter goes. I know. Lily is looking at me thinking, “How stupid is this person?” My actions inform her that my stupidity level is high. Hallelujah, I managed to put the thing on correctly in one try on my third outing with the horse.

Don’t celebrate too loudly. I also had to chase her down before she would let me put it on. She stood still while I took her fly mask off, but while I was tucking that in the safety of my back pocket, she decided she was done with our training session for the day.

Thankfully, there is no video footage of me holding onto her mane and telling her to stop and stand. She knows both of these commands, by the way, by voice and hand signal. Remember, she’s the smart one in this pairing.

Next hurdle: she knows nothing of neck reining. I know nothing of any other sort of rein control, so the first thing I had to learn: English reining.

It felt strange at first to have one hand on each side of the reins (a rookie mistake worthy of jibes in the Western world). By my second ride, it was coming more naturally but I still held them too stiffly and Lily let me know it by pulling her head forward.

“Don’t let her do that,” my friend says. “When she pulls, you pull right back. She’ll figure out who’s boss before long.”

I think she already knows she can trample over the greenhorn. That makes her the boss.

Enter lunge lining into the equation. When I can’t ride, I can still build a relationship with her by working with her in the arena.

Awkward. This is how I look holding the line and speaking commands to Lily, who would rather be grazing with the other horses. I don’t even know which direction to face.

Awkward. It feels awkward to hold the training whip in my left hand and the lunge line in my right. Thankfully, that’s only necessary half the time, depending on the direction she is moving.

Awkward. I’m chanting the commands in the sing-song voice my friend showed me. Lily happily complies with “walk on” and “trot.” Cantering is a different story altogether.

Now I have to use the whip. I don’t strike it out at her (thank goodness, I don’t think I could hit a horse with a whip on purpose). I send it snaking toward her back legs, while staring at her hindquarters. Apparently, this is supposed to awaken her natural instinct to flee from a predator.

I’m not very predatory looking. Eventually, though, the whip on the ground must seem sufficiently scary because she canters, for several revolutions of the line. Hallelujah! Don’t do a happy dance just yet.

She refused to canter in the other direction. No matter how snake-like the whip directed toward her hindquarters appeared. She forfeited her treat (which my friend assured me would convince Lily to do anything) and I wrapped up the “training” session early.

I failed at my imagined horse woman-ness. As usual, reality bites. It rains on our high hopes and drowns our dream worlds.

What is your experience with reality destroying dreams? Perhaps you are a true horsewoman (or horseman) and have advice for future training sessions. As you can see, I need all the help I can get.