Choosing to Trust

Learning to trust at Kennedy Meadows

After asking for directions twice, we found the pack station where horses were lined up, saddled and ready. Beyond it in the corral were many more horses, altogether 200, we learned, lived at Kennedy Meadows during the open season. After the guides paired riders with their horses, beginning with the littlest rider and the biggest horse, we started our walk. At the sign “Emigrant Wilderness” the guide, Sarah from Louisiana, greeted the group and gave minimal instruction. “Y’all, if we stay in a single file line, we’re gonna have a great time today!”

The road at first was dusty. We walked beside a pond and a meadow of all different greens and the wildflowers that have since died out at lower altitudes. The ground before us grew rockier and rockier until we began to ascend stone steps. From trees and meadows, the surroundings changed to granite builders. We neared the river rushing with snow melt rapids.

Across the bridge, we walked our horses, or rather our horses walked us, across as we gazed in amazement at the waterfall, the blue sky, the pine trees and bright pink flowers along the mountain. I gasped at the sight of it.

We continued on, marching up stone steps, with the granite face to our right and a steep drop into the river to our life.

Trust your horse

“Trust your horse,” was the message shared from rider to rider at this time. “Lean forward when your horse goes uphill, lean back when he goes downhill.” The other adult and I knew what goes up must come down and we anticipated the difficulty.

At the top, we stopped at a clearing, in sight of the lake, the dam, where Sarah took us on food after lunch to “see a real pretty sight,” of a little creek running across colorful stones. The children explored farther and found its only minimal, magical waterfall. The sort of place wood fairies are so found of.

Lake at Kennedy Meadows Resort and Pack Station

After the hour break of eating and geological musings, it was time to make our descent. The trail guides checked saddles, cinches, and such. We mounted and after some confusion over our line order, we began. The horses knew the way. They were ready to get back to their paddocks and picked up their pace.

“Trust your horse,” we said to ourselves. As we neared the stone steps, the guides reminded everyone, “loosen your rains, lean back, and let your horse decide where to step.”

I told myself, “the horse doesn’t want to die either,” and tried to trust but I wavered more than once. My left hand gripped the pommel of the saddle like a greenhorn, trying to take in the beauty around me rather than focus on the fear inside me as the other adult chatted away.

When we landed back in the dust, with the meadow stretching out to our left and fishermen casting out across the pond, and again at the depot where we hobbled away from the horses who worked so hard to go up and down the mountain, we asked the children, “did you feel scared at all?”

Eight out of the ten said, “no,” an emphatic, definite “no.”

How can this be?

Trust your horse. Trust.

Some of us fixate on the potential outcomes and forget to try to reassure ourselves. We tell ourselves, intellectually, why the potential outcomes are unlikely. But still, we are afraid.

But not the children. They were told to trust the horse and so they trusted the horse, open-heartedly. With loose reins and loose feet, they journeyed down the mountain.

And off the trail

Back at home, on flat land and in the wide valley of Central California, a friend told me of her attempt to reconcile with an old friend. She said the thing that had been bothering her, how the thing came across and asked if the friend could explain. “Instead of trusting me,” my friend said, the other reacted, “how can you think I’d think that?” Instead of trusting—past experiences colored the perspective, the filter through which words were interpreted.

Instead of trusting that she wanted to know the truth, that she believed in the friend enough to not simply interpret words the way they seemed, but to be open to an explanation. Because of her background, my friend said, her friend could not do it.

For adults who have fallen or been hurt by others, perhaps misshapen at an early age, the step to trust is complicated and sometimes painful.

We have to allow ourselves to quiet the assessment of potential outcomes inside us, and open our hearts and trust. Experiences tell us we should not, but if we never choose to trust, we will miss out on the lifelong friendships, the mountains, the trees and the woodland fairy waterfalls waiting for us when we do.

Horse being led by trail guide during trail ride at Kennedy Meadows
Previously published in the weekly column, “Here’s to the Good Life!” in the Hughson Chronicle & Denair Dispatch.

Horse Crazy and Other Passions

My daughter is horse crazy.

It came at about the right time developmentally. It is her first passion. There is something about 11-year-old girls that makes them lean towards such a state. Perhaps it is the precursor to the later romantic loves. I do not know. But I do know that it seems to usher in the period of adolescence in which one goes looking for who she will be, what she will love. It is the perfect, safe bridge between childhood and adolescence.

Photo by Mikayla Storms on Unsplash

For my daughter, it is the first thing she has been truly passionate about. We’ve had very few obsessions in this house until my two-year-old came along. We are all obsessed with her and she is all obsessed with horses.

I was horse crazy, too, at one time.

It came with weekly riding lessons in 5th grade and reading The Saddle Club books, which my daughter now reads, regularly through junior high.

By 7th  grade, my passions transitioned to friends, and of course, boys. I wrote poems and attended poetry readings.

By 8th grade, the focus was on the faith, which anchored all the other loves that were to come. I began writing stories, typing them out on a clunky old Macintosh in my room before we had the internet in our home. If I got to 100 pages, I considered it done because to my mind, a book that was 100 pages long in a Word doc. was a full-length book.

Those characters kept me company until I got my driver’s license when my gaze turned outward to the world. My next dream was to study photography. I stopped thinking of careers per se. I could focus only on the next step, not two or three steps beyond. After senior year and hauling my SLR camera and rolls of film around Europe while on pilgrimage, even the passion for photography began to fade.

I studied psychology at undergraduate and graduate levels. I loved the nonprofit I worked for after college. Throughout college, I was deeply and madly in love with the man I married at 24. Then came the babies.

But, if we continue to keep our eyes open, passions never cease.

Gardening, literature, San Francisco, championing the arts or community efforts, each passion seems to have its time. To feed my daughter’s passion, we watched National Velvet in honor of this miniature season of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. In it, Mrs. Brown says to her daughter,

“Things come suitable to the time, Velvet. Enjoy each thing, then forget it and go on to the next. There’s a time for everything. There’s a time for having a horse in the Grand National, being in love, having children; yes, even for dying. All in proper order at the proper time.”

There is a great deal is wisdom in this. In San Francisco, this week, I sat with Jane at the Infusion Center next to Benioff Children’s Hospital. Six years ago, Jane taught me how to perform a sterile dressing change and draw labs. The days of San Francisco feel far away to me when I felt scared and vulnerable and my son was very small and very vulnerable. There were people I trusted, relied on, who coached me and believed in me that I could learn to give him what he needed. People with whom a visit buoyed me up for the next round. Now some are retiring, some are moving into different roles at the hospital, and for some of those relationships, it is we who have changed or graduated or moved on.

Thus each time we go for his monthly appointment, those days move further and further into the past.

It is right for it to be so. The connection remains even if the season has changed. The treasure still holds. The goodness of all those relationships still exists even if the season for those relationships has passed.

All these passions, even if they pass, should be fed, indulged a little, not too extravagantly, but enough to allow our hearts to expand. Thus they become part of the tapestry of our personalities and the stories we’ll tell one day about how we came to be the person we are today.

Previously published in the weekly column, “Here’s to the Good Life!” in the Hughson Chronicle & Denair Dispatch.