Learning to Fly Without Wings

For Morgan

Two days ago, one of my daughter’s best friends from childhood lost her beloved horse Rumba.  This young woman is now a yoga instructor and for the past year she has been traveling and working in Australia.  The strange thing about this story is best said in her own words:

“I never sign up to go on trail rides when I travel because I know I will be disappointed when all we do is walk. But something drew me to this ride, it was for “advanced riders” with promises of cantering. I wanted to go a few days ago but it wasn’t available so I had to settle for yesterday morning. They gave me a horse named Big, I felt that was appropriate since I am used to riding my big mare. We rode for 3 hours through the streams, by the blue lake water and galloped across a field. Towards the end of the ride the horse started prancing back towards home exactly as Rumba would have done on a trail. In that moment I thought I was riding her and maybe I was. Maybe that was the moment she passed away. She was with me and I was with her.

I may not have wanted to buy her but we did anyways. I may not have liked her in the beginning but I rode her anyways. She taught me how to be strong and courageous. It seemed at times we had the same bitchy personality and in the end we knew each other better than anyone else.
I spent this last day with myself. Sometimes crying, meditating and just existing. I treated myself to some spa time, cupcakes and most importantly yoga. I’ve read all the loving comments and messages from near and far. And I am finally starting to feel better. Thank you all for the love and support. It literally means the world to me.”

With these words on Facebook she published several photos of herself riding her old horse.  In one of the photographs, they are mid-jump over a high double oxer– a difficult jump—together as one.  I can only imagine how she must have felt, airborne, in the split second it took the large bay mare to clear that jump.  It must have felt like she was flying.

I think that we all imagine ourselves flying as children. We dream about it and we try to live it.  From the first viewing of Peter Pan, to the teenage pursuits of riding racing bicycles, or motorcycles, or horses, or learning to sail or ski, we all grow our imaginary wings, and for the times that we are doing what we do, we feel pure joy:  we are limitless, unbound by gravity or sadness or sorrow.  We have wings.

For most of us, growing up is learning to fly without wings—to find satisfaction in our friends, our families, our pets, our careers, and our hobbies.  If we are lucky, we find solace in the daily small pleasures that surround us—the scent of a blooming rose, the wag of a tail, the taste of good food or fine wine.  My daughter’s friend is learning this now, traveling alone in a strange land far from the familiar neighborhood she grew up in.  The day after her horse died, she put another picture on Facebook, of a beautiful rainbow arching over the New Zealand road she was driving on.  I’ll never know for sure, but I think it was Rumba, telling her everything is going to be okay.

Six Pounds of Hamburger

Six pounds of lean hamburger, two roasted chickens stripped to the bone, two pounds of green beans, a large steamed pot of brown rice, a couple of pounds of hard grated cheddar cheese and I am ready to go.  You might think that I am laying in provisions for a trip to the wilds of Alaska, but no, I am going to Boston for a meeting. They have restaurants there.  The food that I have carefully prepared is for my dogs and cat.   I will be gone for six days, and even though my husband assures me that he can take care of the four dogs, one cat and two horses still at home, it is important to me that it be done right. You may translate that to “it must be done MY way.”

I don’t know when it happened that I stopped feeding cheap store bought kibble and started to actually cook for the dogs. It may have been gradual—a sprinkling of cheese and a bit of hamburger here or there for a dog gone off its feed due to illness or injury.  I suspect that this little guilty pleasure surfaced at about the same time that my kids grew up and left the house and we all know that a mother needs to feed her children.  I measure out tablespoons of flax seed (keeps ‘em regular!) like I am doling out cod liver oil and vitamin E as my mother used to do when I was a competitive swimmer.  My husband gets into the act too—he tops off their dinners with Nilla vanilla wafers for dessert—a treat that the “laird” administers. Guests who are not dog people stare in wonder at the evening ritual, and no one more so than my houseguest from Kenya, a physician who absolutely REFUSED to believe that the creature I was carving up was a chicken—apparently they do not grow chickens that big in Africa.  Nor do they feed their dogs better than they feed their children.  I had the decency to be slightly ashamed, but not enough to go back to the cheap kibble.

Tomorrow I head out on JetBlue for ASTRO, the American Society of Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology annual meeting.  Apparently I am heading right into the “Perfect Storm”, although I thought they already made that movie.  Hurricane Sandy is due to make landfall soon, and I may be floating down Newbury Street and the Boston Common on my way to the convention center.  I don’t mind as long as I can get reservations at No.9 Park for dinner.  I will see old friends, do a little shopping, and maybe attend just a few of the educational sessions. If there is anything really new in the world of cancer treatment, I promise to write all about it.

In the meantime, my animals will be well fed, and my husband will survive—he always does.  But my writing may be a bit sparse for the next week.  Here is an open invitation to you all:  Please send your guest blogs to mfielding@crabdiaries.com   I know that my readers are nurses, doctors, front and back office staff,  psychologists,  veterinarians, dog people, horse people and of course my best friends and family.  Please write your own stories and share them with the rest of us.  I want to hear your voices, NOW!