Friday, October 31, 2014

conversations with major: pirate

What are you doing Mom?
I am the Dread Pirate Roberts!
You whistled like Mom, and gave me carrots.
Ha, do not assume, beast. Let’s go out.
Uh, ok. Why are you a pirate?
To steal from the rich, and go on endurance rides. I’ve also traded my ship for an F250.

No, I mean why are you dressed like that?
It’s silly Major.
Oh, I know silly, can I be silly?
No, let’s just go for a walk.
Dressed like that?!
This is so embarrassing.
I’ll remind you of that when you’re prancing like an idiot...

Where are we going?
The cliffs of insanity! I mean just down the road…
Oh, ok! Let’s go!
We first must navigate the fire swamp. We avoid the lightning sand, and listen for and avoid the flame spurt…
Woah, flame spurt? I don’t think so. I’ve already been in the sand by the lake, you said we have to be careful there.
We are careful there Major, we’re not going by the lake.

Oh good. down the road. Eat some moss, eat some grass, hey what’s that? Big rat!
Rodents of Unusual Size? I don’t think they exist.
Oh, that’s not scary. mmm, acorns.
Major, you need to play along!
We saw a big squirrel last week.
Gee, thanks.

I hear the dinner truck!
No one else will eat your dinner.
But it’s coming, let’s go!
No, just be good. My loyal crew is here to take some pictures. Luckily they’ve made the transition from hoisting the sails to putting on hoof boots and making mash.
Oh mash, when can I have my mash?
Dinner will wait a few minutes. Just be patient.
I am not good at that.
Yes, I know.

Where are we going next?
The Dread Pirate Roberts never tells, but I imagine many miles down the trail, there is a perfect story waiting to be told.
We’re gong to trailer out somewhere fun Major, it’ll be a good time.
Oh yeah! I love new places! Can I get dinner now?
As you wish.

related conversation: conversations with major: inconceivable

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

other words

Sometimes other people just say it better. Somehow say the exact thing you're thinking at the time. And who better to say it than Batman?

OK, let me backtrack. I flew down the trail on Sunday, letting Major pick the pace, just going with it. Which always makes for a fun ride, with a bit of stress and insanity thrown in to boot. Being right on the edge isn't my usual choice in life, but with a horse like this, I compromise. What do I want? I perfectly controlled 8mph trot, an absolute halt with the tiniest pressure on the reins, the same horse going away from home as coming back.

Well I don't have that. And while I work towards it, through the fights and trail arguments, through the compromise and solutions, my mind keeps thinking. And I come to this idea over and over, and never find very good words. But it's still there, simmering, in the back of my mind.

So I drive to work the next day, listening to some podcasts, good old random NPR interviews. And Batman says just what I'm thinking. My favorite movie Batman, Michael Keaton, being interviewed about his new movie and life. And he rode horses! (See I knew I liked him). And gave a great description:

INSKEEP: Oh, so it sounds like living in love for you is letting go of things, not holding things against people?

KEATON: Oh, man, it's a lot of things. Courage, I guess you could say, you know, not constantly putting yourself in a position where you're kind of screwed, you know. You're out of flow as soon as you start tightening up, right? And you usually tighten up if you're fearful. That's why, you know, acting's such an interesting kind of way to make a living. It's such an interesting art form or trade or craft - whatever it is - because when it's being done - well, I think at least for me - is you're 100 percent present, and at the same time, you just totally let go. I used to compete riding cutting horses, and this is a trained horse, trained to do a certain thing.


KEATON: And you have to hope that at that point, your horse is so well-trained and his or her instincts are so strong, that you have to trust the animal. You know, I'm just going to let go, man. I can't tighten up my legs. I can't get too locked up in my body. And at the same time, I've got to stay 100 percent present. That's essentially for me what I'm doing. You know, I'm locked in solid. And at the same time, I'm just not in control of it at all. You just kind of let it occur.

This was an NPR interview, Morning Edition, Michael Keaton interviewed by Steve Inskeep. Check out the whole short interview, it's great.

I love that. "you're 100 percent present, and at the same time, you just totally let go." Excellent words from Batman.

Major being 100% present,  playing with Bandit

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

nature cruel and kind

The calendar says it's fall, the north wind is blowing, leaves are falling. We don't have the lovely fall color: most things are just more brown, an adaptation to long dry summers and late rains.

The weather didn't quite cooperate: this weekend was 90 degrees again. But I'd been gone for a week on a great vacation (more on that later) and wanted to ride my horse! He was more than happy to head out. I wanted to ride the lake trail, but the wind was blowing, my horse was way too fresh, and I opted for an easier option.

I headed out along the road, and was sadly reminded again of how rural and urban life clash. I ride along a long, tall fence, completely encircling a fancy neighborhood, where they have to protect their rural property from any semblance of nature. Recently the fence has even been reinforced, to keep out the deadly bunnies, skunks, coyotes and bobcats. I have seen deer pacing this fence, and a bobcat slipping beneath, the special things I see here. But not for those people.

lovely trail, unlovely fence

must keep out even the tiny critters

Sadly there is a deer that didn't make it through the fence. Probably hit by a car, it is now mummified, as the useful creatures that could feed on it are scared of the nearby road and unwelcoming fence. When it was "less dead" it made Major a little nervous, now it just smells like earth and bones.

poor mummified thing

I was a bit depressed as we turned on the main trail. I already don't like fall: darker days, colder nights, everything dying. And now just more proof of the bad activities humans do that hurt nature. But I was on my horse, the best tonic. The trails are dusty, but the views are great, when I can slow him down enough to look. The poison oak is mostly dormant, the buckeye seeds hang overhead, and I didn't see a single soul on the trail.

the trail disappears between rocks, one of my favorite places

low lake, but still not tired of this view
California buckeye tree, also know as: testicle tree

And coming home we wandered through the forest, walking quietly, So quietly we were able to stop for a reclusive bobcat. He nonchalantly walked along, saw us, took notice that we seemed to be no threat, and continued up the trail. He was carrying some dinner: a large gray squirrel. Major and I just watched him go, then continued on, a little quieter.

And I was reminded how nature heals, if we leave it alone. And all the necessary things that happen in each season. And how just being quiet can show us more than too many words can.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

detour: coastal camping

A few weeks ago, to escape the heat and smoke, the coast was calling. Last minute, no reservations, finding camping can be tough here. (Except when you know the hidden walk-in sites that other people think are too much work.)

tucked away in a canyon

ethereal tree in the slow river
treasures left behind

look where you step, creative home for a trapdoor spider

This campground is on a river, so close to the ocean that the should-be-fresh-water is salty. We settled in the camping gear, then off on a ridgetop hike. There used to be a great campground where this hike starts, but it has been closed for awhile, the forest seems to be slowly winning the battle to reclaim it. This is a lovely small redwood grove, all second growth. Imagine the person, coming up the coast exploring, finding this lovely place and thinking what it needed to be was cut down.

shady campground bridge

perfect fern path

massive trees towering
gnarled cypress guards the hilltop
fog on both sides, but clear trails

when clear, a glorious view
You can go up and over the ridge, and down to the ocean. But then you have to come back up again after relaxing on the sand. I've done this hike enough times to know that it is just as fun to stop at the view and turn around and head back (and go to the beach later), while the sun stays with us.
lovely queen anne's lace

dry grass with abundant seed heads

finding food in a spiky thistle

camouflaged forest denizen
I see the ridge of fog as we descend back into the canyon. This is a world of in-between: sun and fog, forest and meadow, river and sea. I think the beach is worth it in any weather.

an old barn languishing in the last of the sun

"the fog comes on little cat feet..."

an ocean bridge

empty, gray beach
The beach is a bit cold, damp, and almost deserted. Just the way I like it. We do carefully share the beach with harbor seals, the babies playing the water, the adults hauled out in the warmer sand. They like this place since it is where the river flows to the sea, good hunting grounds, and a safe family place.

harbor seals frolicking

humans always seem to need to build

but I think nature does it better
The fog has crept inland, and the campsite fire is welcome. In the morning it is foggy again as we pack. But as we drive home, the sun comes out again. You never know on this part of the coast, and that is part of the adventure.

perfect beach and sunny skies

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

just a little bit...

The weather cooled, the smoke (mostly) cleared and after two weeks off I took my trusty steed for a ride.
Except I somehow grabbed the crazy Spring version of my horse, forgetting that this variety of horse also appears during cool Fall months, cooped up winter weather and endurance rides.

Major: I can't possibly leave, I need to stay behind the closed gate, didn't you read the sign?!

dry trails even after a good rain

So this ride was just a little bit crazy. Actually heading out he was a slug, like other bloggers have noted recently, he gets bored on the same trails, and these we've done a few hundred times. Until we got to the lake, and saw some tiny distant horses, headed in the opposite direction, and Major thought he had been missing the race.

tiny distant horses

He was just exuberant, but wanting to go way too fast. The trails are nice and sandy, until there is a big patch of rocks, a blind corner or steep rock-strewn drop-off. So listening is key, and he certainly was not listening! Open sandy trails, cool air and too much time off equals many half-halts, full halts, and one-rein stops. A ride full of little and big arguments, though I was still happy to be riding.

where are all the other horses? I'm all alone in this crazy landscape...

But I wanted a different ride. So a few days later I took him out again, and it too was just a little bit crazy...but I just went with (most of) it. I didn't let him be a slug on the way out, much encouragement got a good trot all the way to the lake. Then I chose a trail that required a bit more thinking, let him fly away from home and in safe zones, and we both had a much better time.

I might have wanted a different ride, but I had the same horse. Who wants to go fast, and I have to compromise. I re-learn this a few times a year (I am obviously a very slow, non-retentive learner!). And he has to compromise too, which is why after about five fast miles he asked to slow in a couple spots, stopped the serious arguing about rating over rocks, and we trotted down the trail together. Just a little bit better.

sunset ears