Writing a letter to the public about my brother’s death used to be outside my realm of possibility. I can be very timid; once, my high school English teacher used me as an example for our vocabulary word, “diffident.” The last thing I would want is others’ pity or empty platitudes. Still, I decided to write, one Thursday evening, at the end of my work day. Despite the hurt, my beating heart of anxiety, and the inevitable concern with sharing important and sacred things through a cheapened medium like Facebook, I felt stronger for telling my story. I felt brave.
The amazing part in it all is seeing your isolating, silencing walls dissipate and seeing the recognition of the lost after eight years have passed; what a beautiful thing. And raising money for an organization dedicated to helping those in need, that is amazing to see. I am deeply grateful.
I found horses at Rose Ridge Farm. I was more or less 8 years old, exploring the backyards of my neighbors alongside my brother, when we happened upon a towering red barn hidden behind a wild nest of pines. We stepped over creeks, hopped over ditches, until we landed in a different world with our little big smiles, smelling sweet hay and honeysuckle in the buggy, Georgia air.
I kept horses with me through my awkward pre-teen years (the awkwardness continues to haunt me). I rode and I competed through elementary school, middle school, and high school. In college, I trekked to the barn on and off, balancing as I could on my path through early adulthood.
Horses continued in the year after college, until I moved to Chicago and began a fresh journey making sense of who I am as a social worker. Along the way, I’ve been volunteering with kids and horses, I’ve been writing about horses, I’ve been reading about horses; however, it’s been a bit over three years since I, myself, have been on the back of a horse–the longest hiatus I’ve known.
Next Saturday, I’ll be making my way to the northern state line, about an hour’s drive. I don’t yet know what color that barn will be. I don’t know who will be there, what horses I will ride. But I do know that I’ll be wearing my little big smile. I’ll close my eyes and think of that day we found Rose Ridge together. I’ll smell the sweet, sweet hay, wearing my heart on my sleeve, grateful.
All this to say, I can’t wait.
The neuroses are setting in,
Those mysterious transmissions of messages in the brain,
that say you’re not okay.
What does it mean to be okay anymore, at any rate?
Is this a writer’s chaos?
If so, does that warrant sensation, publication?
A slow dance of melancholy whirling,
like a dark shroud in the wind.
Writers name experience. They locate the human situation within a universal scope of language to bring us home or to a new and unfamiliar place. The writer takes you, hand in hand, palm to palm–a squeeze to let you know you’re not alone.
Your thoughts, your feelings—your experiences
have resonated with me
have plucked a string of memory
and resounded a simple twang
a familiar, wistful pitch.
I remember the furtive act
moving into the warm
embrace of man—a man who lets me in,
a man I let inside of me—to the dark places,
washing over me, unexpectedly.
I am not all-knowing, but I do know this:
You are good. And you will be good.
You will rest softly in banks of glittery snow,
like an angel,
and the steady wind will cover your misery.
When you rise up to greet the morning,
the air that you feel on your tongue
becomes our air, whispering.
Your air is the same air as mine.
Our words no longer inhabit the space
Of this stationary vehicle
In a liminal place
This illustrious campus
Where your hand met my hand
Where your fingertip touched mine
And they swirled together they glided like water
Through the creek bed where
The snow outside is quiet like us
A little world
of relationship with you
I feel, at my core, that one of the most egregious sins of the inner life is a lack of belief in oneself.
And I don’t use the word “sin” in a pejorative sense, but as a way to explain a separation, a dissonance. If that sounds judgmental or without compassion, it’s only because I have judged myself for past sins. And it appears that my Catholic upbringing is seeping into my present vernacular.