"A book is the best of friends, the same today and forever." ~ Martin Tupper

Sunday, May 29, 2016

One Magical Ride

Morning came as a surprise because I accidentally fell asleep.  I must have dreamed of good things for I was in a pretty good mood when I heard Mamo calling.  Then I remembered. I was going to the stables that morning, and all the anxiety came flooding back. 

Worse, I didn’t get the chance to try the suddenly-ill story I’d concocted to tell at breakfast because they woke me up too late to have any!  But Mamo had packed a generous lunch and sent me out to the porch where grandma impatiently waited.

I didn’t say a word on the short drive to the stables, though grandma tried to cheer me up with chatter. She left me in a huff and a puff of tired engine smoke, standing in front of another Indian; this one dressed like a cowboy.  He said his name was Chance, and would I like to take one?  Not really, no. I thought, miserably.  Not even the fact that my horse’s name was Midnight Star could cheer me.

I had to climb atop a bale of hay to reach the saddle. I was prepared to have a nosebleed. Or at the very least, one of Mamo’s dizzy spells. 

“What if I get lost?” I whimpered, hating my misty eyes

“It’s okay,” Chance replied “The horse won’t.”

He handed me my lunch bag, tightened a couple of straps, slapped the horse on the rump and we were off at such a bouncy gait I bit my tongue. Twice.  I hunkered down and turtled my head when Star began to run at full speed through an open meadow dotted with blue and yellow flowers. 

When I opened my eyes again I was nearly knocked out of the saddle by a tree branch as we entered a dense wooded area where the trail was barely visible. I could have been decapitated and suspected that Star was trying to kill me. If panic didn’t do it first. 

In the eerily quiet woods I was sure I’d hear a ladybug sigh as Star slowed to a walk and came to a stop beside a shimmering stream that gurgled like chipmunk laughter as butterflies waltzed in the air. Star seemed content to stand around awhile so I seized the opportunity to greedily gobble my first sandwich. I couldn’t have told you what was in it. I didn’t care.

As if by a wall-switch the treetops swayed and thunder rumbled in the distance. Star became antsy as fat drops plopped into the stream, slow, at first. We were moving again, right before the rain came down in thick sheets you couldn’t see through. For half a second, I thought we might head back to the stables, given the weather. But that would have been too easy.

Instead, Star proceeded to run like the wind itself as I hung on for dear life, through stands of gnarly trees with moss and squirrels who looked surprised and across broken fences, slicing between fragrant vines that stuck in my hair, and passed a small cabin from where I hoped someone had seen me streak by on a runaway horse.  And at a resounding boom overhead that shook the very ground, he stopped. Just like that. The sun gleamed through a space in the clouds as we stood there, dripping. The birds resumed their chatter and I could still smell the vines in my hair. I don’t know when I lost my other sandwich, but I hadn’t died. 

Star meandered the rest of the way to the stables, which was good because I suddenly wasn’t ready to return. Strange. I thought if I saw my own reflection where the sun was setting on the lake, I would look like a different person. 

Chance somehow knew when we’d return and was there, waiting for us. He helped me dismount and asked with a wry smile “See you tomorrow?”

“You bet!” I beamed.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Star Magic

One summer my grandma wanted to go fishing and decided we all should go. While my great-grandma—Mamo, we called her, because someone else did long ago--looked forward to the opportunity to escape the desert heat, my younger sister wondered if cabins in the woods came with television.  At thirteen, I wanted no part of any of it. I also had no choice in the matter.

Late afternoon sun set hundreds of crystals ablaze on the lake and men in safari hats waved from their boats as we motored around to cabin #3. We all waved back as if we knew them.  We had no more than put our meager belongings inside when the sound of tires crunching gravel drew us out to see who had come to visit so soon.

The Indian man in a Ranger uniform stepped out of a jeep the color of Aspen leaves and welcomed us warmly. As he went on to tell grandma all about the Tackle, Bait and Boat Rental shop around the bend, Mamo lost interest and returned inside, sister ran off to collect pine cones and I sat on the porch step and tried not to sigh too loudly. I was wondering how the headlines would read about a girl who died of boredom, when I realized the Ranger was speaking directly to me.

“I’m sorry?” I stammered

“Here,” he handed me a colorful pamphlet “Be there at 7 o’clock tomorrow morning, you won’t regret it.”

I stared at the pamphlet, dubious. Horseback riding? By myself? Oh, I didn’t think so. But the Ranger had already returned to his jeep, and grandma was waving him off.

“Sound good?” grandma asked, and I shrugged noncommittally. “It’s settled.” she said.

I didn’t want to think about it, but that night I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I gazed through the window at a million brilliant stars, twinkling just above the treeline, and wished I could climb a tree and get one. I thought I might well need the magic of a star for the task ahead of me.

Are you adventurous?  Have you ever done something you weren’t sure you’d enjoy?

In the interest of time and space, I’ll finish this summer memory next time – stay tuned!