I’m struggling to keep my eyes open on my train back to London, in some state of limbo, trying to reflect on the last two weeks. Even after enduring the sleep of the dead the previous night, my body had to fight the fervent, eager, desire for more.
Given the nature of our days, it was difficult to find time to sit and write. Once the trek began we had little access to internet, and by the time we got to our destinations, my body simply wanted a bed. From staying in a 400-year-old Welsh farmhouse with strangers whom I now consider family. Surrounded by green space and dozens of Welsh Cobbs: their musty smell, snorts, warm flesh, and fur a distinct familiarity and comfort as I adjusted (I often buried myself in their fluffy manes). Traveling nomadically over 100 miles on horseback over mountains and through hellish bogs in some of the most breathtaking and remote landscape I have encountered. The pain and stiffness giving way to relief as my body adjusted to the shape of the saddle and horse for long periods of time. The lifetime of trust I developed in a single day for my horse, George, to run alongside cliffs and carry me over the unforgiving terrain. Exhaustion and strange dreams and new places.
It’s amazing how quickly we can adjust to new things–a defense mechanism perhaps, to fight our predisposition to stay within the realm of things familiar. It is a dichotomy of survival instincts: safety and the desire to fulfill our curiosity to travel and experience the unknown–both leading to the success of us as a species. We form communities and remain within them for strength. We go against that nature for sustainability. Life is full of funny balances–strange and lovely to think about, but I digress… In terms of quickly adjusting, it only took two days on the trail to feel like this life was mine. Waking briskly at dawn, gathering the horses, tacking, riding. Galloping into limitless space, often towards the clouds into, quite literally, unknown horizons. Walking down mountains with knees buckling after a few hours. Rinsing and feeding the horses. Cleaning the tack. Sleeping. Repeating. The cities and traffic. London. Life at home. It was all so distant and not my own. By the end of it, I had spent more time in a saddle than walking. My existence was outside, in the fresh air, tied to this strong brave beast.
And now I got back to it, currently stuck between this life and my home. A mourning period that does not reflect my feelings towards reentering my day-to-day life, but the fact that this trip has changed me and will remain with me for my entire life. As a horseman, as a woman, as a writer, an educator, a friend, sister, daughter, lover. I have a new found sense of appreciation and pride in my independence. Many of my regrets of the past (like leaving D.C.) are now met with affirmation that they were the right decisions to make… nature and family and living simply and doing what I love versus cities and pollution and ladder climbing. The saddle feels more natural to me than it ever has. It is a place that I am meant to be, and a part of my life that will never leave me. Whatever brief doubts I had about myself keeping up working with horses in the past, they are gone. Whatever fear I have about the future and the challenges I will face in life and my career will be dealt with by reflection on my lessons from this journey and how relationships with both people and animals can help–as we are never truly alone. Overall it has been a catalyst for my appreciation and understanding of my life, my job, my friends, my family, house, garden, crazy horses, students, soccer team. And while I will deeply miss Wales and my new-found family here, I hold my head high (as high as one can when one is sleep-deprived) and look forward to the adventures ahead. And hopefully, I will look back to myself in gratitude in a few years for not going into debt by bringing a Welsh Cobb named George home with me. Love you, big goof. 🙂
(PS: Thank you, Robyn Miller, for reminding of the last part of this post with your beautiful letter that helped me get through the last leg of the trip)
(PSS: Right now, the day-to-day descriptions of Wales, feelings, the countryside, the horses (George and Bandit especially), and various stories are listed in exhausted bullet points that I plan to flesh out in this blog as I settle back home. Stay tuned for that and Go Pro footage of people falling off in bogs).