I think it’s high time for an update from the herd!
I know you are wondering where I have disappeared to……
First day- on the Eleven Point River
Camping on the river
Freedom and bravery reduced to panic when I rode into Powder Mill campground almost 4 weeks ago in a rain storm and noticed the saddle sore on Finehorn’s shoulder. We had been riding in 3 days of rain, soaked and tired of trying to stay dry only to be defeated by permeating wetness over and over again….
The river rose and flooded the campground and the road. I wasn’t supposed to be there anyways, knowing that horses weren’t allowed on that particular section of the trail, and I felt totally screwed.
Well, the herd has moved 4 times since then and managed to stay together through this particularly rocky and jagged road.
As long as I am passing merrily through someone’s life, I am seen as a heroine, brave and magical and giving. I am seen a someone doing something awesome and amazing, someone that a person can vicariously live their dreams through. As soon as I stay too long, in real need, it seems that I become the thing to which one can target their endless blame and resentment and judgment and jealousy.
I know, I know, Michelle Shocked: “The secret to a long life is knowin’ when it’s time to go”
Well its been time to go for awhile now. It is important to note that much of my misery over the past weeks has come from my own insecurity and helplessness: I can’t leave. I can’t just pack up and go, no matter how insane things get or how threatening or uncomfortable. As it happens, I am much more afraid of people now that I have experienced what I have in this time of waiting for a recovery, a window, a chance to prove to myself and others that this journey is still real.
There are so many things that scare me more than the average criminal. I scarcely think of the escaped rapist or murderer in the woods ready to get me- I will admit that those thoughts have crept into my mind in the worst of times (cause people keep putting them in there!). I have been called naïve countless times on this journey (to which I point to my nose, think about the comment, and say, “well, no, but I am a clown!” (secretly thinking that at 26 I have way more life experience than you could even imagine up at 65 buck-O). Why should I chose to tell myself the same story that most women are told to believe in, a story full of fear that makes human beings weak and vulnerable and uninteresting? A story devoid of real life whatsoever- Yes, Humanity is insane- but as we destroy this planet as a species and poison ourselves and endlessly consume a plague of plastic and blindly support war and a government system based on lies, can’t we see that we have far more to fear than an escaped convict? There are killers on the road (talking on their cellphones), there are killers wearing uniforms, there are killers that run America, that spatter the news with stories of murder (is this a weapon of distraction, so that people don’t think about what is really going on?). I don’t doubt that there are psychos on the loose, but that’s small change, and they certainly aren’t after me, I say with a wink at chaos. I wonder if they could even see me? A lot of people don’t. I call the fear that comes out of almost everyone I meet (that comes out to judge me and criticize my “innocence”) brainwashing. What does scare me? The minds of the average civilian is pretty damn scary. I try to laugh it off, but it gets in. Person after person after person, all brainwashed by the same channel on the TV (literally and metaphorically). It makes me angry and sad, it makes me feel weak and terrified that I am not actually strong enough to hold my own- my own story, my own creation, my own belief in love and magic and determination to embrace mystery.
I just choose to live differently! I want the ecstacy I feel when I am inhabiting my dreams and what I believe in to be contagious…..I am too curious to just sit and scoff with contempt at the things I believe are ruining humanity, this country, the earth- the things that mostly sit ignorant in their own self obsessed bubbles, having a hay day in their gluttony. I really do believe love can change the world, and though a complete critic, I am a critic healing myself from the inside out. I want to analyze things, and then laugh at them, and then have them inspire me. Blame will never save you from yourself. Art matters to me, creating something positive in our culture and connecting.
I certainly outstayed my welcome with the last people who hosted me. I am fairly certain there wasn’t a thing I could do better other than leave sooner, which was impossible, especially at the particular juncture that I was thrown out. The timing couldn’t have been worse: I had just gone into town for a huge resupply and made plans to ship this food off to the next 2 pickup points weeks ahead on the trail. Also, I had a trailer ride offered and planned 2 days hence to actually leave, once the supplies were shipped out (My plan being to take the rest of whatever recovery time Finehorn needed alone in the woods with the ponies, at a spot that would have everything we needed). Then a flip switches and the wraths of all hell are suddenly set upon me. And these are the people that treated me like a celebrity only 3 days before, all gathered around the pickup to talk about my newly arrived adjustable pack saddle, excited and interested about my life. I guess the new saddle arriving was supposed to my magical ticket out of there. It seems pointless to try to explain such a situation from so obviously one side of it, but these people seriously were insane. Suddenly I am a liar and a freeloader, a lazy bitch that has taken too much advantage of nice people. They think they know better than I do, they think that one can pack up a horse with a healing sore and just ride out into the unknown wilderness day after day after day (no pasture to go safely back to). They suddenly want to tell me exactly what I am doing, no questions asked, no room for an interjection as to my real situation or my knowledge of how things actually work on a long ride. I have learned that most peoples idea of a camping trip is loading down their saddle bags with cans of Bud Light, riding 20 miles into the woods, and returning their horse to the pasture the next day. That’s cool, but don’t tell me how I should be doing things.
The fact is, I am made constantly aware of what this lifestyle looks like to some people. I try to be compassionate to their judgments that I am lazy, a bum, knowing that behind these judgments are jealousy, resentment that they have been roped into doing some shitty job that robs their lives and dreams- a choice they have made because they were convinced that is what life is- until I come breezing through, supposedly living everyone’s dreams. That’s the way it can be seen anyways, despite the fact that this is Hard Work–so hard that sometimes all I want to do is quit and go back to a lifestyle where I can take a shower when I want, not live out of packs, and not talk to anyone at all if I don’t want to. The balance is so delicate, and I try to not upset people into banning me into an inaccessible category or label, to encourage people to think and be joyful and open themselves up to all the magic possibilies that a blink of a lifetime can offer.
unknown fay river
Anyways, when I wouldn’t leave right then and there -because I literally couldn’t- even if I were to pack Jesse and walk us into the evening, there was too much supplies to pack out- I pleaded my case to the most sane member of the family for a trailer ride out. I loaded up my messy unorganized giant heap of gear, loaded up the ponies, and sat in the back of the truck in the twilight wondering where they were taking me (the course and location where also not open for discussion). By dark, I am dropped off down a small dirt road where the creek crosses. “3 miles up this road and you’ll hit the Ozark Trail”. I’m alone.
Turns out it’s really 7 miles, but that’s the least of my worries.
I try not to freak out. It turns out I really don’t have things as together as I thought, but I still have the ponies and we are all sound and sticking together. What happened? Am I a freeloader? Am I too much of an awkward introvert to gracefully communicate with people? I know that I am not perfect in any sense, but to me imperfections are charming and I try to be honest with myself about issues I am working on, take note of what isn’t working, remind myself that no one owes me anything, and try not to blame others for everything that goes wrong. Some things about myself that seem to piss people off I have no control over and wouldn’t want to change, like my physical body, freedom, and resilient faith in myself and the universe. But- do I respect these people at all or give a rats ass what they think they think of me? NOPE.
Theres a few pastures, but it’s dark and I’m running into barbwire fences. I see a light up the road, and head for a house, keeping hope in the box, trying to keep it all together. The woman who answers the door is kind and hears me out, but keeps asking me if she is going to get jumped. She’s too old to get jumped, she says. At least she lets me camp in the yard for the night. I tie Jesse on the normal 40′ tether, but he keeps his nose right next to my head- Finehorn right behind him.
Spying on the ponies with zoom lens
I realize that my circumstances and recent experience aren’t in my favor, but what comes next is more begging whether I like it or not. At least until I can make it to the post office to get rid of all this extra food, but it’s Sunday. So a beggar I am, down and out, emotionally wrecked, terrified, begrudging and angry at myself and my own situation. I am trying to remember the uplifting energy of this journey before we got stuck due to injury.
This place has been redeemed by a trail angel who has paints and canvases, reads Ed Abbey and plays the piano. She sees my journey as amazing, sees me as competent, and has given me a minute to catch my breath and strength. It scares me how much the views of others can run ones life. I still feel restless beyond imagining. I took a short 3 mile trial run with the ponies, trying out Finehorn’s new Canadian adjustable pack saddle for the first time, unpacked. It went well and didn’t disturb her recovering, still delicate, shoulder. Good news! So we will actually be ready to go soon- I plan to take it slow- shooting for departure this week, lamenting that I have not been out in the woods to celebrate the full Blue Moon.
That’s my rant for now, ya’ll!