Walden on the Back of a Horse

Today, I watch the sun wink at me from a riding stable in Acton. It teases me with its appearance only to disappear again behind a rolling grey that clouds the warming blue backdrop. I think of Walden. Will this be a day I can venture into the cold choppy waters? Will I get there at all… or spend the shortened daylight at a Halloween Horse Show?

I watch my fifteen year old daughter ride in her very first show. Also having the chance to get on a horse myself for the first time in forty years. We drove past Walden on our way out, and would pass it on our way back. My wetsuit in the car. Waiting. I want to swim in the warmth of the day. That which there is, if there is to be.

The weather has turned in Boston in the last week. We have dipped into the 30’s overnight and the days have blustered and blown Fall away. Swimming becomes a near consuming desire…i am running out of days and each one the water cools just that degree or two more. The decision about footwear and gloves and with the wind waves battering my head… is it time for my neoprene cap? The last additions before I have no more options to keep the cold waters at bay…except to keep out of it.

My daughter’s face lights up when she says I laugh like a giddy child as I climb the mounting steps and swing my leg over the horse’s rump. The excitement of feeling my youth in the saddle and my legs, heels down in stirrups. Her leading me round the ring. I want to try a trot but it means she will have to jog with me, and I carry concern for the dust in her not yet healed lungs, and her ability to jog on this sandy uneven surface.

My daughter has come to horseback riding from childhood leukemia and a severe neuropathy from the treatments that left her in a wheel chair for nine months. And it is from this that she also carries chronic lung problems. That was three years ago. History now. She said she felt that same excitement i feel when she rode a horse for the first time. Accepting she cannot do the sports she used to love.

What I took to Walden today, when the sun finally coaxed the clouds away, was the picture of my daughter’s shining face. Before we left the stable she wanted to find the owner to say good bye. She thanked her for holding the show and for all the fun she had. I standing beside her, her soft young voice light and gay yet grounded in sincerity. Then she turned to me and said the best part was seeing me happy and giddy as a kid again on the back of a horse.

My daughter won two blue ribbons today.

Yesterday she sat with me in the forty something degrees wind chill clouded day, and watched her twin sister play soccer. She loved soccer and was a great player, until cancer robed of then strength and balance she needed. Never fully returned.

So she turned to horses and the animals she loves.

The water is cold chill today. A swimmer told me she measured it. 59 degrees. But once immersed, the rhythm takes over. The cold is present yet I do not feel it.

I focus on the breath and blow, and the battering of the spray in my face. I watch how it turns green and spits golden sunlight splinters at me. I feel strong and think of my fortune to have lungs that stretch to take in the air I need (the cold water effects the lungs and it takes more to get what oxygen you need). To push the breath into bubbles so rhythmic and forceful I can keep pace with the arm turnover and sliding grace my wet suit gives me across water.

I think of the Buddha. Of Buddha and the shining face of my daughter who lost so much but laughs at what she’s gained.

And I know how much I am blessed… and what I have to be grateful for.

My daughter and I after a wonderful day at the horse show...on our way to Walden

My daughter and I after a wonderful day at the horse show…on our way to Walden


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