Now I wish I’d bought one of the posters. The artwork and layout didn’t jump at me, but the pictures and the very existence of the posters perfectly embodied the improbable event they commemorated.
The Colonial Carriage and Driving Society’s Pleasure Driving Show was not a spectator sport. Rather, it begged participation, and its participants defy easy classification. At first glance, its members were mostly female, often mature, or even older, but they came to this historic sport from countless directions.
Set against a carefully-crafted backdrop of bucolic splendor on a private farm in Stockbridge, MA, the competition consisted of well-dressed, drivers in phaetons and buggies driving their equally well-groomed horses or ponies through a series of obstacles. Drivers were judged only on speed and accuracy. The early 20th century clothing and bonnets are a tribute to the sport’s inspiration.
The first easy impression would be be that only the well-inherited could afford to participate in a competition like this and, to be sure, there are quite a few well-heeled entrants. However, there were plenty of spunky enthusiasts who had found their way in through horse rescue organizations, or through different types of crisis survival groups. There were salty grandma’s barking at their chargers, there were young girls fresh off their first introduction to “My Friend Flicka.” There was a horse therapist with a pony name Ohio. And all of them were as colorful than their ribbon- and flower-festooned bonnets.
At first I kept reminding myself that this quaint tableau was just an illusion, but the day’s organizers and competitors pulled our whole family into their world, sharing its history and introducing us to our own. And when we started on our way home, we took with us a renewed conviction that substance can still beget beauty.
Today the UN suspended its mission in Syria and the killing continued as an indifferent human community said, “These things happen”.
Today the President and the loyal opposition engaged in another pointless pissing contest that will only leave the people they serve all wet.
Today Chicago’s murder rate eclipsed Kabul’s.
And today, the mountains were impossibly green. The sky was crystal blue etched with feathery clouds. The air was crisp and, as the wind thundered through the permanently-open windows of the beat-up SUV that was one of millions of contributors to some of today’s events, the news of the world was mercifully drowned.
Wearing a double XL running tank that should have been marked L and with an iPod strapped to my arm, I slowly shift shapes as a bland but firm male voice interrupts my music with alternating commands to run and walk. Racing and then creeping through the forest, I am now a deer – slender and swift. I begin to eagerly anticipate the cues for each sprint as jealousies and regrets evaporate with my sweat.
And then the forest becomes field, and my shadow joins the race. I set the pace and manage to stay in front until we round the tree at the bottom of our drive. Suddenly my shadow is beside me – a thin curving line – more of a cantaloupe shape than the hourglass I was just imagining, but still slender.
We make the turn back up the dirt road, racing toward the cover of the trees with the rising sun behind us. I glance at the ground just before the trees swallow my shadow whole, but I have ample time to see that it the slender cantaloupe has morphed into a walrus. On stumps. It is a blob that is a tutu shy of a starring role in Fantasia number. My sprint slows to a walk well before the next command. The trees have fully consumed my shadow when the next sprint begins, and I am no longer fleet, but now I know enough to never look down.
O to be a nearly comatose cat lying on one’s back on a rug in front of a red-hot woodstove, arms and legs outstretched to the world, the only movement made by a tail twitching just often enough to be reminded of how nice it is to be warm and lazy and nearly comatose in front of a red-hot woodstove.
I never make resolutions in January. My annual proclamations tend to emerge closer to swimsuit season, but they don’t all revolve around weight. Juxtaposing a new spring fashion season with my other resolutions, however, is convenient when evaluating unfulfilled and sometimes misplaced goals.
And while old failures have never prevented a refrain of, “Wait till next year,” last night’s “Coming Out” party gave me hope that this year may actually be different. Last night I had the privilege of joining other aspiring writers at Hubbard Hall in Cambridge for the kick off of The Writer’s Project, a workshop taught by author Jon Katz.
I expected to feel intimidated sitting at the metaphorical feet of a best selling author, but instead, as he and we talked about ideas and story telling in all it’s forms – old and new – I began to feel liberated. Liberated to revisit old ideas from new perspectives and to tell those stories, even if I do so poorly at first. And, even as Jon pushed us to find avenues for sharing our stories, his encouragement to write without fear of failure helped all of us begin our (as Mr. Katz put it) “Coming Out as creators”.
So now, new promises are already being made – morning pages or a post every day, stay on the diet wagon, exercise. Normally, I’d only have to wait for swimsuit season to see my first failure, but liberation is empowering. I hope it’s contagious in the other parts of my life.