Dear Laura Wade,
As an 9 year old, I loved sitting in the pasture across the creek or next to the farm and waiting for the young, newly born fillies and colts to come to me. I loved the smell of summer; dry heat filtering through grass, the smell of earth, and the sound of cicadas thick and palpable. I loved feeling I was a part of the earth, safe in that space. You’d think a herd of horses meandering around me would be frightening, but I felt at home. I knew my purpose in sitting still, so it wasn’t hard to wait. The reward of soft nuzzles from a filly, the warm breath of curiosity on my face, hair and neck, the smell of fresh horse. Sometimes I would slowly pick and twirl a piece of grass or look at the clouds, but mostly I was looking for interest from the babies. It was an active waiting…a continual observing, watching, I would do this for several days and when I felt like I had the trust of one or two little ones, I would stand up…and wait some more. They needed to get used to my height. I didn’t realize at the time that I was becoming part of the herd and doing it well. In retrospect, it just felt natural and something I desired…a sense of belonging and purpose. I loved running my hands along their necks, feeling the power, putting my nose close to their muskiness and breathing deep. This felt like home…like a place I knew deeply…
There was always one that I created a special bond with each summer. One particular summer it was Goldenwing: A name I gave her because of her rich chestnut/caramel coat and her golden flax-colored wings that lay across her rump. She wasn’t exceptional in any way. In fact she was knock kneed and more gangly than the rest of the colts and fillies. We just bonded. She chose me and I chose her. I worked with her consistently, spending hours just petting her, getting her to follow me, gaining her trust. Slowly I introduced the lead rope and halter. She accepted them and we continued the training. For my 11th birthday, I received a card from Gramps that told me I could choose one pony to call my own. It was a no brainer: Goldenwing.
As I write this I realize Gramps was actually not capable of gift giving. I was even a little surprised at the time. It just wasn’t in his nature. In fact, it was the only gift I ever received from him. But I took ownership, let my feelings go deep into the gift and received it, treasured it, deepened my bond with Goldenwing because of the safety in ownership. It felt special. As being a kid goes, and as the summer went by, I drifted away from her, moving on to other things, but she was still mine!
The next summer we returned to the farm. One day my brother and I watched as a giant truck backed into our driveway. It was normally our job to round up the horses for potential buyers, but I don’t remember if we had done it that day. I don’t even remember how I figured out the horses were all being sold to a dog food factory. Had I asked what was going on? Had Gramps just blurted it out? I just remember the sight of the horses scrambling over each other, clamoring out of the barn into that long truck and knowing something was wrong, feeling it in my deep places. I remember standing between the back porch and the truck, with all that space of dusty gravel driveway between us. I remember all of us out there - Gram with arms crossed standing behind me, Gramps ahead of me waving his cane and coughing, my brother Keith, scrappy and shaved head, and me, cropped hair and striped tee - standing apart from one another in the open, brown space. Isolated, silent observers. I don’t remember at what point I realized that Goldenwing would be in that herd, but I remember asking the questions.
”Where is my Goldenwing?”
I remember Gramps, bent over with his cane, telling me I didn’t know what I was talking about.
“But you GAVE her to me for my birthday. You wrote it down in a card.”
“I did no such thing. Who the hell is Goldenwing?”
My insides began to panic, scrambling for a way to change this situation. I wanted to find that card, quickly before Goldenwing was taken away. Where did I put that card? Why didn’t I take better care of my stuff? How can I prove ownership…prove that she was mine? Sounds of horses screaming, clomping of hooves, thudding of bodies against walls, frightened whinnies from the inside of the truck, tumbled together in the darkness…Goldenwing was in there somewhere. MY horse. My horses, my home, my safety. I couldn’t move - was paralyzed with fear, panic, and confusion. I was speaking but my voice fell into the black hole of cruelty and silence… My voice drowned out by the clamoring and violence.
I was powerless. Even if I could have proved she was mine with the card, it would have made no difference. Keith had tried saving her and been threatened with the raised cane. There are no boundaries, no sacred spaces when you live with a narcissist. There were also no adults to put their arm around me for comfort. No adults to explain why we needed to sell horses. No adults with the forethought to keep us away from that scene of trauma. No adults who kept their promises: Goldenwing is yours. No adults reminding Gramps of the promise. Only silence surrounded by screaming, pounding horses.
That day, my little girl’s heart began to understand that desire and belonging were dangerous. I didn’t give up deeply wanting to belong, but I became more cautious and covert about when and where and how much I invested in desire and what my heart loved. I disappeared into more of my fantasy world of imagination, writing, and books. I pulled the tarp over my passion… And Jesus has been whispering, “Come out and play…you belong…you are mine.” The horses whispered this to me in Ireland. They annointed me with an understanding of the power and freedom in how little and how much I matter in the world!
This year (2019), I have decided to value and consider that little horse-girl’s desires and passions and to be more intentional about living the way God created me. Being purposeful has already begun to stir up fear and shame, but I am determined and very much enjoying this courageous 9 year old’s tenderness and power! She has a lot of growing up to do, yet, but I feel a kindness toward her and I can wait. I’m good at that! So, my words to consider for this year are INTENTIONAL and VALUED. Have you had any space to ponder your own words?
Let’s talk, soon!,