Native American Spirits : Day 4

SUN 7.30.17

6:45am

I was at a restaurant with Seeds people and they were going to screen my trailer then someone ordered the wrong thing and we all had to run out. Prior to that the hostess took forever to seat us and I was very upset. Two Asian girls just walked in and sat at an open table and no one stopped them. Outside, my horse was walking up to the fenced area where they kept the animals. Then a tiger walked up and did the notion of testing to see if he could jump the fence. I panicked and quickly walked around the corner into a house.

Slept eight hours straight last night! Had incredibly vivid dreams. My body is very sore but this horse life suits me.

7:18am

Back at Yarnell Family Diner. To my surprise there is a table of old vets talking about their war injuries and how young people just ain’t tough anymore. I think about my extensive martial arts background and how I would knock the teeth through the back of their heads if given the chance and how their entire military bravado composition would be tossed into space when the whole lot of them was beaten to a pulp by someone who voted for Bernie Sanders.

Colleen wants me to work on thinking less and feeling more. I wake up in fear because my brain is already gone to the day before I’ve even taken a breath.

She also wants me to drop into emotions more. She says I am what you call love-avoidant. Which is pretty self-explanatory but in case you’re curious it means I have extreme resistance towards love and intimacy. I have built a tremendous wall around my emotions that even I can’t explore. I want to be closer to Alexis and be able to tell my friends I love and appreciate them without wanting to run home and punch myself in the head repeatedly.

To determine where these things start is a game of speculation that doesn’t really interest me but the most common theory is that I am an empath and at some point took on my parent’s energy during a very rough period of their marriage. As a result, I have a core belief that all love comes to an end and all people will eventually hurt each other.

Which explains why I never miss people and have little to no issue with losing friends or girlfriends because I know I can easily replace them with new people that fulfill a specific role. In a way, people and relationships have been expendable.

Some nights when we lay in bed I am afraid Alexis is going to touch me and want to have sex. It will challenge me in deep ways and make me feel too exposed. And other times I can’t wait to touch her. I wish I knew what made the difference.

If the brain is plastic – meaning it is always changing and learning – and composed of wires and memories then it is conceivable that at any point we are capable of feeling any thing.

So what we believe is true and what we feel must be a matter of preference. And most likely, preference is determined by our fears. Meaning, we build up an impenetrable line of defense against the things that will most deeply challenge us so we never have to face them. And in doing so we become experts at rationalizing all of our most closely held and sometimes denied shortcomings.

We’re all just out here eating our eggs, eating our toast.

9:15am

This morning is EMDR therapy.

I still feel the tightness in my chest spreading through my body. Especially on walks when my mind is most active. I think I would need a few months in this kind of life before it was ‘lifted’.

The thought of going back to work is difficult and stressful. I output at a pace that is not human and if I stop to think about all the work I do and the psychotic motor the revs inside my chest I can turn sideways and panic at the fear of missing a step.

On one hand I am excited to share all of this with Alexis and on the other I want to keep this experience to myself and never speak a word of it. It is mine and I don’t want to dilute it. Rather, just hold it very close to me and feel it as long as possible.

So many things are expected of us at all times that we never really get the chance to just stop and be ourselves.

I have the heart of a young boy. I am a joyful person. I love people. But all of that has been covered by the need to protect myself from all of the letdowns lurking around every corner.

I remember getting that call while living in Taiwan. I think it was my brother. He was very brief. Mom and Dad were splitting up. A single tear down my cheek. Love was not real. It did not last. Everyone eventually lets you down.

I have so much preference. Such a strong opinion. So much power to control my environment. Enviable by a lot of people. I have a remarkable sense for business. Incredibly disciplined. Successful. But hard as iron. Driving the softness right out of everything, including Alexis – the softest of them all.

I read that book Daily Rituals and felt so validated that I had so much in common with all the great minds of history. I felt at home when I heard others say that work was the most important thing to them and must be put above all else to know peace and satisfaction.

*pauses to smell second-hand smoke

But I’m on the edge of a difficult decision – would I rather be someone who puts work before all else or someone that finds the answers to the fears inside my heart? I do not find balance and moderation to be an option at this stage in my life. I cannot stand to ride in the middle and would rather smash my head repeatedly against opposing edges to carve out an ‘average’ than prevent myself from pushing the extreme.

11:44am

EMDR is a TRIP.

Yosemite was my safe place. With Alexis sitting in the meadows by the river.

Every time I thought of her I started crying, because of the goodness I could feel in her.

As time passes I can feel myself hardening back up.

What I don’t understand – I genuinely love getting emotional but spend all of my time blocking it. Probably when it involves other people and removes me from a place of control.

I thought of my sister and how badly I wanted her to know her true worth. I cried for her.

I thought of a time in 9th grade when I made a heart-felt comment and one of the girls said, “God, why do you always have to be so deep and talk about faith?”

I was embarrassed and sat on the steps away from the party. Turns out, yes I do always have to talk about it. And as the saying goes, look at me now, bitch.

The people in my life who make me feel silly for being who I am are just afraid of their own depth. I saw that. I’ve heard people say it before but I actually felt the fear in their hearts. It takes courage to be who you are and those that don’t have that type of courage will constantly make comments about your and your life.

I had no idea what EMDR was. I’ve been in talk therapy for the last 7 years. In 1 hour I made more progress on emotional clarity than those 7 years combined. And I have an amazing talk therapist.

I sat in a chair in my dingy hotel room with a light bar in front of my eyes, vibrating paddles in my hands, and headphones over my ears. Back and forth the sound went as I thought of critical moments in my life. Random things hit me out of no where. And the whole time Colleen is sitting next to me taking notes so that I can work on redirecting my thought patterns.

This was a sequence of sentences that came out of my mouth. At the time I felt like I was on a truth serum. Everything was flowing out without consequence. I felt free.

I’m emotional and I have a lot of fear
I am sorry for me that I am so afraid
I feel like I need to contain it
I often feel like I have to contain everything
I’m a little wild and out of control and need space for me to be
It is fear itself that is living in there
If I continue to be afraid of it then it will grow
I’m letting the emotions come through
It’s okay to be afraid. It will always pass
I’m pretty incredible
Many people can go their whole lives with this inside of them
I can use this moment to grow beyond
When I’m fluid I’m not afraid
I do need time away
I need to do what I want to do
I am different and interesting
I’m so happy for me
There’s a fear of loving someone
I’m lucky to be feeling
I should feel every bit of it and not be scared
Whatever happens I will always grow

At the end of it I was left with the sense that my words were sacred and should be spoken gently and thoughtfully.

12:00pm

YFD. Chicken wrap, sweet potato fries, and ranch dressing. A perfect meal for mind and soul.

I texted Alexis about my EMDR before I lost the emotion. Told her how incredibly special she was to me and how much I appreciated her ability to love me so freely.

12:28pm

A major takeaway from this trip is that I definitely need suspenders. They are a classic man accessory.

My bills at YFD have always been $9 and I have left a $20 every time. The first one I was feeling generous. New guy in town rolling around with a fat stack of cash. And the second one I was still feeling kind of generous. But now it’s like the 7th time and I’m starting to do the math and have second thoughts but since I’ve set a precedent I have to stay consistent. I’m plagued with thoughts of them thinking I’m a rich writer from CA or just an idiot. At the end of the day, it feels good to give something to this place that is giving me life.

7:01pm

Lance and I finally clicked. I rode him up and down the wash. Learned that he was cantering because I was hitting him with my heels inadvertently in the trot. Colleen had to watch. I got my bounce to match his lead and it felt like soft butter being rubbed on a warm piece of bread.

8:57pm

I know this seems more like a poorly written coming of age tale but it’s just the last few hours have been nuts.

Colleen was in here with her medicine box teaching me a ceremony to pray to her late husband’s bald eagle feather. She asked me not to write about the specifics of the ceremony out of respect for her husbands Lakota heritage as they only passed down traditions orally and they are not recorded in writing anywhere in history. The temptation of the white man is real here but I’m going to respect her because that shit was crazy and I can only imagine what happens if you upset Native American spirits.

Her voice was beautiful. She loved her husband so much. I didn’t know it at the time but she hadn’t opened his medicine box since he passed. Hadn’t sang his songs in 4 years. Her tears or mine, I can’t remember.

And then she was gone. And I had this feather and a bundle of sage and a bag filled with cedar.

Funny thing is, I don’t even feel like meditating tonight. I’d rather just pass out. But then David would look down on me from Native American heaven and say no wonder you’re depressed you lazy piece of shit.

Hold it to your heart and speak the truth he said.

Gas Station Chicken : Day 3

SAT 7.29.17

Self-esteem always improves when you share your reality with someone.
– Colleen DeRango

5:06pm

I’m eating frozen chicken, mashed potatoes, and corn from a gas station for dinner. The diner is closed and I’ve already exhausted The Dollar General’s grocery aisle.

We just got back from a two hour ride where Lance almost bucked me. I ran him up and down the wash getting him to break his quick canter habit. He spooked and jumped to his right without notice and everything got blurry and I leaned back and yelled “Woah!” and assumed I was going to be splattered into a tree. But I was able to pull myself off his right hip and get back centered on the saddle.

Earlier today I had two full-grown adults rocking me back and forth in their hands while I held a horse. As you can imagine, it was a unique situation. Colleen on my left telling me to let go of my thoughts and Buddy on the right not saying anything. Hard to get out of my head and not think about what all my friends from high school were doing at that exact moment. And what they would think if they happened to walk by.

I did not believe they were holding me right. I didn’t think Colleen was strong enough to hold me if I fell into her. Buddy’s hand was a little forward on my shoulder. Ultimately no trust that they were able to do the thing that they probably do every single week. They caught me though. Which showed me that knew what they were doing. It built some trust and allowed me to turn over control. I just swayed back and forth and tried to focus on a quiet line of stillness between my ears.

Buddy was not what I expected. He wasn’t warm. He was hardened and had the pursed lips and hollow cheeks of a former drug addict. He was quiet and always looking around taking stock of everything. But his cowboy hat was on fleek.

It was 95 degrees while we were working. We did a guided meditation – well first we ate our breakfast burritos together at the plastic round table under a tree – then we meditated. Cowboys are more practical even in their spirituality. You walk through enough shit (literally) every day and you stop worrying about perfecting and controlling every fine detail and just take care of the things that need taking care of. So it didn’t matter that we had a sausage and cheese burrito before doing deep healing work because we were hungry and hungry people eat.

After the visualization they made me ‘Walk the Line.’ Essentially, walk down the property until I made a connection with a horse.

I was thinking, WTF does that mean, make a connection? I mean, I already knew which horse I wanted because she was fucking gorgeous and looked like she had won awards for being such a perfectly sculpted beast. But I thought they were probably looking for something deeper than that. And then I thought maybe I’m not that deep.

I walked around a little more and stopped in front of a little tan horse that had a nice way about him. I decided he was my guy, Ranchero.

DSC_0119

Buddy had me take him into the round pen and work some drills – walk, trot, canter in a circle. I failed miserably because I had no idea what the fuck I was supposed to be doing. And when two grown cowboy healers are staring at you from the periphery it makes you think that if you don’t do it right the first time then you’re not treatable.

Colleen kept asking me what I was feeling and where I was feeling it in my body – the somatic work. The mere asking of those questions was giving me tremendous anxiety but I tried my best. Eventually the tense ball in my chest started to dissipate and got replaced by a more fluid sensation down my neck.

After multiple failures Colleen could see frustration on my face.

“What are you feeling?”

“Like I don’t know what I’m going.”

“What would help with that?”

“If I could see an example of how it’s done.”

“Very good,” she said. Like Mr. Miyagi.

Buddy walked over on cue and showed me a few techniques that made perfect sense. I applied them and got results immediately.

“How does that feel?!” Colleen asked enthusiastically.

“I don’t know, good I guess,” with a little kid grin.

“Okay great. Now give the reigns to Buddy and walk away.”

As soon as I felt calm in my body she wanted me to leave the horse and stand by myself and let it spread through me. Eventually the tight ball of anxiety would come back and then I would re-approach the horse. The somatic work. We went back and forth like this for maybe twenty minutes until the anxiety would not come back even if I tried to summon the worst thoughts on Earth like dog hair on my black pants or not eating for over two hours.

I keep hoping for a big cry, a release. When they asked me to look into Ranchero’s eyes I came close. I started to well up for no reason. “Look at him and let him see you.” And I was searching for the reason when Colleen said to just let it happen. Tears started to roll down and the most beautiful sadness took over my entire body. This particular sadness is the most familiar feeling in my body.

“Get out of your head!” They kept yelling. Wouldn’t that be fucking nice.

I took Ranchero for a walk down this long path and at the end there was an opening and we stopped to look. Soon, three other horses and a funny looking mini horse came running over to say hello.

Then I took Buddy’s photo next to some giant rocks on his horse and he did not smile. I was lingering around waiting for him to tell me something nice but no.

The desert was green. The sky was pink. We heard the coyotes yelling in the distance. Hawks flying through the brush. So much space for things to take their time.

DSC_0273

Tomorrow we are doing EMDR therapy in the morning. Hopefully it’s like the first time I did shrooms where the foundation of my perspective shifted forever.

Oh, did I mention that I bought a cowboy hat and plaid shirt and said, “Howdy,” to someone? Because I did.

The Roof Is Leaking : Day 2

Friday 7.28.17

7:47am

People here have their dogs to bark at people who walk by. They are mostly outside, just animals. Not inside cuddling, eating organic dog food. Showing showing up on stories in their strange belly-up positions. They have a big bag of Kibble poured into a large trash bin and they get a scoop every day and that’s it. Maybe sometimes they get a pat on the head and a ‘good boy’.

There is still a bell to ring in orders at this restaurant. The ceiling is leaking into a bucket that takes up a seat at the bar and no one seems to mind.

Going to bed at 9pm makes it easier to get up at 6 when the light is first coming in.

I went on a hike with Jesus this morning. A random trail took me to an outdoor church and another trail took me to the top of a hill where Jesus was carved into a cross looking out over the town. Places that have the least believe in god the most. Then had breakfast with some retired cowboys and listened to them tease the female waitress about being too slow and not caring about them while she replied with something snappy and witty so they could then say, “Oh that Brenda is a tough old gal,” and all have a laugh about it.

I wonder what factors contribute to the evolution of thought and consciousness. In the cities you are filled with so many different forms of information that stimulate thought and debate and allow conversations to move at rapid rates. In the country the information sources are limited and it seems as though people will sit around the table and have the same conversation day after day. Someone’s health is bad – the weatherman said sun but there are clouds in the sky – the coffee is strong this morning – The Lancaster’s lost their pup last night to a coyote (pronounced Kigh-Yote) – and so on.

Perhaps I am stereotyping. But I’m taking fairly rigorous notes and I haven’t found any of this to be at all exaggerated.

Sorry, a tractor just drove by on the freeway.

There are signs on the door that say, “EAT BEEF – the west wasn’t won on salad”. And people will look at that and have a good chuckle and think of all the flimsies eating vegetables and look down on them even though the last seven generations of their own family have died from cancer or heart attack. I suppose it’s better to be a man than to change.

All that said, I really like it here. It is quiet. There’s nothing to do. So everything becomes a big production. Walking to breakfast was the highlight of my morning. It was next door. Later, I’m going to walk to The Dollar General to peruse the aisles and see if there is anything I can eat later as a snack. That’s another hour down.

I don’t even feel much like writing. I don’t want anything to do with screens. I would rather stare at the mountains and the sky and listen to the hiss of the window a/c unit next to me. Up until now I have been doing my normal writing in my journal and also taking trip-specific notes on my laptop. I’m going to go full journal and type out later, when I’m back in the city and not concerned with my eyeballs or well-being.

There is only one place I can get wifi here and that is at a picnic table outside of the motel office.

I have a lot to learn when it comes to riding horses. The walk and the trot are no problem but when we get into cantering there are moments when I feel like I am not in control. My right stirrup was lower than my left yesterday and I didn’t realize it until we were flying down the trail. I had to compensate by leaning left while also trying to maintain the reigns and not fall on my face. Oh, and breathe. The horses like it when you breathe. That way they know you’re stable and not going to run them into a tree.

There was a moment, though, when Lance and I were in a good run and it felt like I was gliding through a zero-gravity chamber. I weighed nothing and we were flying. The rhythm was so clean I was forced into presence. And then I almost fell off because he took a side step while I was being a zen master cowboy.

Colleen says she usually only lets horseman ride Lance. But she thought I could handle him. I like when people say that kinda thing about me because it means I am special and potentially one day will wake up and realize I can move spoons across the table with my mind.

The reality is that I am often scared when it matters most. I am scared when Alexis thinks there’s a bear outside our tent in Yosemite. I am scared when the racist in the old white pickup yells at the Muslim girl crossing the street. And I am scared when my horse takes off to run and I don’t know how I’m supposed to ride him. I have all of these brave thoughts in my head about the way I will act in moments that require courage but very often the reality has me standing their holding my tongue.

There’s a certain barrier around freedom. Stepping out and doing something unexpected is like being blind for a moment. And once you step out on that ledge there is no way to know what is going to happen.

I want to scream and I want to cry. Those are the two most pervasive actions I have building up inside of me. But what I will most likely do is keep my composure and stay within the lines of expectation.

Because I am a city boy in the country I am going to watch YouTube videos on how to properly canter on a horse so I am more prepared for my lessons today.

Tomorrow I meet Buddy, and I am most excited about that.

2:34pm

I am back at the family diner. It feels different this time. More familiar. The old people in overalls are interchangeable but necessary at this point. My eggs and bacon were great with the buttered sourdough toast. The table behind me is filled with farmers and cowboys talking about their hayday.

The buildings here are all boarded up. People are waiting for jobs to “come back”. This is Trump country. They don’t realize that life doesn’t come back, it just keeps changing and doesn’t care if you come along or not. And if you don’t evolve with it then you will end up an old man in a town where there is only one restaurant and the second best option for food is The Dollar General.

I am just back from a four hour session with the therapy horses, Colleen, and a very odd horselady named Kim.

I’m not sure exactly how to describe it.

I am walking a fine line between fantasy and reality and I don’t want to come off as someone who has lost their gd mind.

Kim was walking on all fours and rubbing her head against the horses bodies. I couldn’t stop wondering if she knew we could actually see her. I would never do something like that around other people. Only a kid would. And Kim.

Three separate horses walked up to me and put their foreheads on my heart and rubbed their heads up and down. Not in the aggressive way they do when they are itching after removing their fly masks. This was gentle. Thoughtful. One of them walked away and rolled in the dirt and began running around in the grass. If you read the initial setup piece for this series then you know the significance of the horses putting their heads where they did.

I learned how to halter them, walk them, run them, and get them to walk circles in different directions just by holding out my arms.

I look over and Kim is suddenly freaking out. Closing her eyes, rubbing her head, and pacing back and forth.

“You just locked in with him and he did with you too. I just saw a swirl magenta – I don’t know, it looked like electricity – come out of your chest and into his eyes. I’ve never seen colors before. They are all around you right now. This is totally crazy.”

And if she’s calling something crazy then I’m inclined to believe it.

I told them I don’t want to hear too much more about the energy world. I wasn’t denying its merits but wanted to stick to the observations that could help shed light as to why I was suffering inside.

The real reason I avoid social situations isn’t because I’m a super introvert. I love people. It’s because I cannot control myself from feeling what everyone in a room is feeling and the pressure to modify all of their experiences so they aren’t suffering is overwhelming.

The horse I was drawn to was named Hawk. He was a bit of a loner. Rebellious. Quiet. But sweet-hearted. We stared at each other for a few minutes. Just standing there looking back and forth while Kim apparently watched a scene from X-Men.

It seems as though things are only worth the value you associate them with and truth is designed to fit within our agenda. Their heads on my heart could mean they were trying to break up the black rock in my chest or it could just mean that they were itchy from the fly mask. The same duality can be applied to every situation we encounter. I know which story I’d like to believe.

I feel tender towards these animals, just like Woody.

Colleen said she wanted to give me her late husband’s eagle feather to hold onto while I was here. She has never done that before. She said he called to her and asked how he could help this young man standing in front of her.

I tried to halter Hawk for 30 minutes. Colleen told me to be honest and vulnerable with him. I tried. I would get close, pet his head, and he would walk away 10 feet and then turn around and look at me like, are you gonna be real or what?

At some point it felt forced and I told Colleen I didn’t want to feel like I had an objective with him because Hawk felt like he was me and I would hate what was happening if it were me. Another horse then walked up to me and I put the halter on him without argument.

I worked a few horses and eventually I had a different walk. Colleen and Kim asked what was going on. I said I felt like a cowboy. They both started laughing and said I was walking like one. They took video and when I watched it I started laughing because I could barely recognize myself with the wide gait.

I need to go buy a proper cowboy hat. And some sunscreen.

6:52pm

I’m back at Yarnell Family Diner for the third time today. Doing an extensive tour of their menu.

Things you text your wife while in Yarnell, ” Hey, our ride got rained out so I’m gonna walk down to the diner for all-you-can eat fish fry Fridays.”

It’s a riot here though. A guy playing the banjo. Tables of past generations drinking wine talking about wind and kayaks.

I was pretty disappointed that our ride was rained out. All of this treatment is nice but it’s the movement that I need. It’s not the words or the mindset, it’s moving and feeling free and connecting with an animal that was born to be free. But there was a lot of lightning. And Colleen didn’t feel safe. I would have gone in a heartbeat.

I am quite tired. I’m gonna try to take photos tomorrow AM while Colleen feeds her horses. I was able to get a discount on this trip by offering my photography services. Then we head down to Billy’s ranch.

I asked Kim how empaths are supposed to make a living. She said, “You just do. Money is it’s own energy and it’ll find you when you need it.”

It’s an energy that has power over the entire world and causes us to live in fear, far removed from what’s in our heart.

I am realizing on this trip that I need to offload more of my work to Todd and possibly hire another assistant so I can spend more time with horses.

I will come back here with Alexis at some point. Maybe the winter. Colleen says February is best. But that means it will be busy. She said we could do a week together.

Time apart is important. When I’m inspired I treat everyone better.

My Life As A Horseman : Day 1

Thursday 7.27.17

6:45pm

I can’t decide if I want to start with the drive or the motel. I guess the motel. I feel homesick. I am in a dark box with a TV from the 80s and a microwave from the 70s. I paid $5 extra/night for this microwave.

The desert drive through Arizona was blue. Blue cast on everything. The mountains, the sand, the shrubs. It was pretty. I listened to The War on Drugs, Pearl Jam, Jackson Browne, and some other greats. I ate a sausage and cheese sandwich from a gas station and then a chicken wrap with fries from Applebee’s in Yuma. Applebee’s doesn’t do many things right but this is one they do. It was 110 outside for most of the trip. I was relieved to see the coolant still full when I pulled over to check. I wonder how many people I drove by cooking meth deep in the desert in an RV. I saw border patrol apprehending two young men, Hispanic, covered in dirt just across the border. There were many trailer parks. A lot of old cars. I was perplexed by the fact that people actually seemed to chose to live there.

But Yarnell takes the cake. When I pulled up to the motel I was sure the actual, fully renovated Hotel with a spa was just behind it, tucked away from the main road. But nah. Just this leaning pile of boards and bugs with a blown out sign and the scent of murder-mystery. For $57.50 a night I get to assume everything I brought with me will have to be incinerated before heading home. I just can’t pass up a good deal on accommodations. And the only other option was a tent in the middle of the desert 2 miles removed from the nearest establishment. Which might sound cool to some but that’s just a liiiitle too outdoorsy for me.

There was just a loud knock on my back door. I didn’t even know I had a back door. But a loud door knock was something I had predicted in my head since arriving. Soon they would kick down the door and try to pistol whip me before stealing all of my electronics. But this time it was just Leslie, the motel manager, asking me to back my car up three feet so she could park her car – that was already parked. I’m not sure on this – will have more info in a couple of days – but what I think I just witnessed was her driving her car around the building for absolutely no reason just to repark it in the exact same spot.

“Thank you so much. I’m just terrible at parallel parking and didn’t want to hit your car!”

But your car was already parked…

She couldn’t have been nicer about it. But why the lap? Was that a tick? A superstition? If I don’t do that will I not wake up tomorrow? Why the Guy Fieri haircut and cargo shorts? I’ll keep an eye on it.

I stopped seeing Priuses (Priuii?) about 100 miles East of San Diego. Out here if you drive a Prius then you’re ‘some kinda queer.’ Even my horse whisperer therapist – 64 year old miniature sized person Colleen – picked me up in a Ram 2500. So imagine everyone’s surprise at the local hoot n’ nanny when I pulled up in my Toyota Prius with black rims and stepped out in my brown leather Frye boots that double as the foundation of my cowboy look.

I am going to sleep with all of my belongings on the bed in a big pile. And then maybe me on top of the pile. I don’t think scorpions can crawl that high.

Lance stopped in his tracks when she opened the trailer gate. Then I talked to him. What do you say to a horse? I wasn’t sure so I just leaned my face close to his and he headbutted me which was a reassuring sign that we were bonding because that’s what I do with Woody.

I rode him for two hours through the desert landscape. There were no people, no cars, no sounds, no distractions in any direction as far as I could see. We walked, trotted, and cantered for a while. I had a good rhythm with him and a few times I would think about him doing something and then he did it. The great horsemen in the world say that horses are telepathic. I’m uncertain on this but think they have such an incredible sensitivity for movement and expressions that their read is as good as anyone’s.

I wasn’t supposed to ride tonight but I got in early and Colleen wanted some company on her evening ride. I was given the advice coming into this trip to take it very slow. That it wasn’t about getting on a horse but being in relationship with one. People can get very hurt riding horses when they aren’t ready and that wasn’t the goal for me.

“Well, you’re here early. I’ve got a horse that doesn’t really like anyone to ride him but I think you could handle it. What do you say?”

And hour later we were side-stepping a steep rock cliff before cantering through a wash surrounded by deep grey clouds dropping lightning and thunder in the distance.

My interpretation of taking it slow.

My first big realization was that horses are very dirty and I don’t like seeing the hair from their backs accumulate on my palms after brushing. Perhaps I can have Colleen bring Lance to me already brushed in the future. It is a good thing I brought baby wipes and a Purell pump for after the saddling. I just wasn’t expecting to be the only one who did this.

I don’t know what is supposed to happen. I’m trying to keep my expectations low. My motel room is helping. Maybe a little too low actually. I am guessing the death count in here is in the high 30s. It’s 8:30pm and I’m hoping I can pass out soon. Because there is absolutely nothing to do.

No wifi, no cell signal, I didn’t bring any fucking books. What kind of vacation is this? But the stars should be nice. Although there is a barking dog out back and it doesn’t feel inviting as I can only imagine who is out there. Leslie just yelled for it to shut the hell up, goddamnit! I like Leslie a lot.

A man earlier spat on the ground in front of me and then said, “How’s it goin’ boss?” in a very nice and neighborly tone. I met Santa Claus at T-Birds and broke a cardinal rule of respect for mountain people by secretly taking his picture for Instagram. The long white bear, red long-sleeved shirt, and blue suspenders were too much to pass up. It’s easy when you do it an no one sees and there’s no consequence. But when he got up and walked out with his pizza box I noticed a big limp he probably sustained while working at the mill. He couldn’t get the door open and kept talking to himself. When he finally got it he said, “See, there you go old buddy.” That’s when I hated myself hard in my gut for the next 18 straight minutes for capitalizing on his look among my constituents. Even though it got a ton of comments.

I could be talking to all of these people and having an experience. Immersing. Instead I’m sitting outside and documenting. Something I always do. Perhaps I will be inclined to change that at some point. It’s hard to think I have anything in common with these people but that kind of thinking gets all of us in a lot of trouble. I can simply ask them where they are from and what brought them to Yarnell. Ask if they ride horses and if they have hobbies and shit like that.

So I tried it. Asking a wobbly man in his 40s where he was from and what kind of horse he road. He told me he rode a steel horse and I nodded my head like I knew what kind that was because I didn’t want him to know the Prius behind him was mine or that this morning I had avocado toast and apple cider vinegar tea. “Oh cool, is that like a quarter horse or a thoroughbred?” He laughed and stumbled away with his Bud Light can.

It later dawned on me that he was making a Bon Joni reference and there was no such thing as a steel horse and I fucking hate everyone and that’s why I don’t talk to people.

8:37pm

Everything is so quiet. Quiet is a sound here.

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