Published this week in my column at the Hughson Chronicle
I recently read a book called The Memoir Project by Marion Roach Smith. In it, she advises the reader-writer to carry a notebook at all time. “Use it or lose it,” she says. When some inspiration strikes, write it down because often, by the time we go home, we have forgotten it. Roach also tells the reader-writer that if you have lived through childhood, you have enough for a book. The things of our childhood will come back to us. The book should be mathematically done, every paragraph should mean something so that the seemingly random detail you share in chapter 3 comes back to have great meaning in chapter 6, just before the end. Like some ribbon floating in a puddle just before the heroine is killed off echoing the ribbon, she saw in her dead mother’s hair that reminded her of a dress on a doll she loved and lost in chapter 1.
For those who take a providential or fate-filled view of the world and our lives, everything is imbued with meaning. Some little thing happens, some event passes, some conversation that strikes us. Write it down, Roach says.
The problem, of course, comes when we walk through life looking for signs. We do this when we are excited or anxious about some event. Eager to read the tea leaves or see a rose in an answer to a prayer, we can easily walk through two steps ahead of the moment.
The catch is that we cannot see chapter 6 to understand the significance of the ribbon we noticed in chapter 3 until we live through chapters 4 and 5. It will not make any sense until we are the person we are in the later chapter, having learned and lived those experiences in the middle.
The artist is on the look out for signs and connections. When I was a child, I loved horses. I loved horses like a madwoman. I was the girl with posters, models, educational books on horses, coffee table books on horses, child chapter books on horses and weekly horse lessons. And then it all went away.
Still, I looked longingly at the sign on Service Rd for Peachwood Horse Boarding that read, “Lessons.” After each pregnancy, I talked about how I would take lessons again soon. Nothing changed.
In working to create a local group bringing together artists of faith, I encountered a woman who is an artist, who also runs a horse sanctuary saving abused horses and giving them space and peace to rehabilitate and live out the rest of their lives in security and good care. Some of these horses go on to be adopted by others who are capable of giving them the sort of care a horse needs.
Maybe it was the reading of Black Beauty. Maybe it was reading about race horses who fizzled out and were not valuable enough to breed lucratively. Maybe it was any number of horse movies, seeing horses injured, animals rights lessons in public school. Or maybe it is the love that I bore towards horses as a child that never quite leaves a girl who loves them that much. Whatever it is, this non-profit is on my mind.
Today, August 5th starting at 10 am, Hope’s Chance Horse Sanctuary on 1476 Church St in Modesto will have an open house to show the community what they do. It is not cheap to raise horses, let alone 45 horses who were abandoned or abused. There is good work being done here. It stirs my heart due to that early love and the moral lessons in treating these animals, animals who are both incredibly majestic and integral to Western history. It’s not called the horse-less carriage for nothing.
This is chapter 1 and chapter 3 for me. I do not know what the future holds for me and horses. The present is filled quite a bit with other little animals I call my children. Still, the first poem I wrote was about a horse. Today I learned my husband’s uncle has horses I can ride for free. I think there might be something to that. We shall see.