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.

Summer Living

Can it really only be the beginning of July?

It is remarkable when I consider an entire month remains plus two weeks for our summer vacation.

Our summer break began early in May. As a homeschooling family, we can end as soon as the syllabi are completed. Their education is not confined to set hours of the day or a set building but I utilize the experiences of life to augment what they learn at their desks. As summer begins extracurriculars fill the calendar.

Baking class

That they may all have a level of comfort in the kitchen. Teaching them a recipe at this stage will not mean they know that recipe five years from now, or a year from now, but they will know they can look at a recipe card, follow it, and see something turn out.

Sewing class

That they may all feel it is possible to sew, create, and mend. Many of these home arts are lost on my generation because we feel we lack the competence. It is the work of professionals. We will screw it up. And it hurts us when our daily duties call on us to master these arts.

Soccer class

For those not in organized sports, that they may learn how to pick up a game with friends whenever the opportunity arises. I’m thinking of adding a class, aka playdate, of old-time games: kick-the-can, red light-green light, red rover, and so on. It’s amazing what a generation can take for granted when they grow up in a neighborhood of kids and then when those kids take those games into their careers as teachers.

Horseback riding

For physical education that involves navigating the personality of an animal and teaching multiple skills in one lesson.

Art class

Like the home arts, that they may know these are skills that are within their reach. Beyond the organized craft project, we bring in an artist to walk them through. My favorite approach is to have the students bring an object or pick a flower and paint from life, learning the skills of observation. Science and art in one.

Then, there are the outings.

The Hughson Arboretum, extended visits to the library, the local historical museums, and blueberry picking.

Less locally, finally, a trip to the coast. We spent two hours on the beach, then two hours in the redwoods then two hours with family, who also live in the redwoods. To see the children’s pure joy among the waves, all bickering and squabbles left behind, nothing but excitement remained. In the redwoods, the marvel of their height, the joy at seeing a deer, approaching a squirrel, identifying birds. A half-day trail ride in the Sierra Nevada came next at Kennedy Meadows.

Next, we go to Southern California to reconnect with a family of friends, stay with a cousin and wonder how different are the worlds between southern and northern California.

I took a writer’s retreat and came back with a contract for a third book. My husband will attend a conference on sacred liturgy next week. And that’s only June.

Now comes July with more classes, more outings, and more adventures.

We’ll switch from Westerns to Adventure films like “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” “Up,” and “Jason and the Argonauts,” only more and more it seems we have little time to watch them. There’s a camp for the girls, our wedding anniversary, birthdays, and the Stanislaus County Fair.

We’re making memories with events capsulated in a season.

Summer Vacation

The school year was hard, but vacation is sweet, like life. My work punctuates all these events with set hours Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday for the newspaper but publicity and bookwork pour into the cracks of a brimming-over day-to-day. It’s wonderful. It’s joyful and free and, surprisingly, still structured with chores and the things we must do to maintain a home and little farm.

We have all we need in the beauty and joy and tiredness of summer.

Sacrifices are made to make this possible. We cannot live a high life. We cannot travel abroad. We cannot buy prepackaged snacks. We gratefully glean from neighbors’ crops with permission to supply our children with produce. But those sacrifices which make life simpler so that we are essentially a single-income household, enable us to make life fuller, according to our preferences, values, and our family’s needs.

It is a good life and I am grateful to live it.

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