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 Post subject: The PRE Essay
PostPosted: Mon Dec 22, 2008 11:23 pm 
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Joined: Sun Feb 17, 2008 10:25 pm
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Okay, so here it is... Enjoy! And as you'll see, it was definitely inspired by AND. Thank you so much for all of your inspiration!






Jeweled Hope and Dancing Fire
By Hannah Rivard




“I love her so much. I’ll never leave my little filly…” The teenage girl sank deeper into the straw next to a mousy gray foal, her promise flying out from her soul on the wings of unconditional love.

I subdued the fleeting memories and returned abruptly to the present, greeted by the shouted good-byes and laughing eyes of the dozens of children, instructors, and horses who hurried about me. The ranch resembled more of a teeming anthill than a place of solitude for the soul, yet there was room for them both. My parents had bought this Colorado property seventeen years ago to provide troubled children one-on-one time with an instructor and an angel – an angel with two big ears and a long, swishing tail. It was a place where, on the back of a horse, a troubled child could outdistance the haunting call of the past, the hooves of her steed allowing her to regain the lost miles of life and giving her wings.

Minutes passed, workers departed, and the ranch had fallen into a solemn hush, when an unusual sound broke irreverently into the stillness. Gasping and shuddering, an ancient station wagon creaked around the tree-swallowed bend and halted. In a herculean effort, the creaking door swayed open, allowing through its passage a tall girl.

Yet not just a girl, but a prisoner: the girl’s troubled life seemed nearly to scream from her. Her manacles were not only of the soul, but of the body as well – cold metal chains swung limply from her waist and neck, as if wearied by the effort of being “tough” – and it was impossible to tell what color her unnatural stark black hair had once been. Even with her eyes locked upon the ground, the girl’s presence confronted me with a blazing intensity that I could nearly feel, seeming to dare me to stare, mocking my disbelief. Yet despite this, I was struck by her regal air, as if she knew, deep down, that she was someone. Behind the black and the chains was a soul waiting to be freed.

She had hung on the fence, arms wrapped around it, as if to intertwine herself with the filly it contained. It was her eyes – in their azure intensity – that had made her stand out; they had an icy-blue depth that drove straight into my heart.

My mind still trying to sort out the girl’s identity, I welcomed her. Although her original impassiveness seemed to struggle against the bracing air and the ranch’s restful spirit, she nevertheless settled into a determined reticence as we conversed. Her request was simple. She wanted to see the ranch. As my mouth automatically kept a conversation flowing, my mind worked rapidly. It was simple to show her the ranch – we often had impromptu visitors – but there was more to it than that, for this girl needed a transformation, not a “tour.” But which part of the ranch? What was I to say? I breathed a silent prayer for guidance and a small wisp of breeze floated it up to heaven on the messenger wings of the wind.

Then I knew. At the ranch we seek to match each child with a horse who, in her own way, seems to mirror the child’s life, and we had a mare who also had an air of something deeper within her. In fact, that same manner of regal grace was exemplified in her breed – the Pura Raza Española – with the very world around her seeming to shimmer with her majestic presence.

Or, rather, it used to.

The mare had been born and raised on this exact ranch ten years ago. Originally named Joya, Spanish for “jewel,” she was to be a jewel in our family for years to come. However, in a disastrous tremor of life she had to be sold, her soulful life leaving us forever… or so we thought. After seven long years of absence, she had been recently donated back to us, labeled “unusable” by a person we did not know. Who knew in how many unforgiving homes Joya had tried to make her life, how many times she had been forced to try to offer anew the loyalty that her nature demanded of her. At some point she must have given up, shattered by the abuse she had undergone. And the world had deemed her unusable.

I had cried out in anguish, “You know what will happen if you leave! Your filly has given her life for you, and yet you would throw it all away and let her fall from everything she has ever known into everything she will ever want to escape! Why?”

Still talking softly, telling the girl Joya’s story and through it, perhaps her own, I led her down the winding path to the back paddock. Our footsteps muted by the ruby autumn leaves, we turned the corner… and she saw Joya. The first impression one had of Joya was that of tremendous despair. The joyous, blazing light that a Pura Raza Española possesses had been choked down to a struggling flicker, and where should have stood a proud body bursting with the joy of an Iberian legacy stood instead a shattered being who seemed to sag under her own weight. Joya’s coat was dull, a tired slate gray with scarcely a hint of the dapples suffocating under its patchy surface. Her neck was thin, held lifelessly a full three inches below her withers, as a tree branch sags after being lashed by a tremendous storm. Her legs were swollen, battered by years of hard riding and yet in that showing her very nature – willing to break her body for her master. But most awful of all: her eyes were dead. The dancing fire and almost human emotions natural to her Iberian character were so lost in her distant eyes as to be almost reversed; to look into her eyes was to have an acute, disturbing sense of being drawn in and lost in a vortex of hope destroyed.

“She’s so beautiful – just look at her eyes.” Perched next to me on the plank-board fence, the girl had watched the capering of her filly. “They tell a story, her eyes do,” she had continued absently. “Almost as if you could look into them, and know… know what her life had been.”

A surge of emotions seemed to crash through the girl – first disbelief, then anger, and then. . . what was that? Guilt and remorse seemed to flash across her face, but before they could make an imprint, all was gone. Without seeming to remember me, and my unneeded words long since faded off, she made her way to the fence, growing increasingly surer of her steps, as if remembering a long-forgotten skill or emerging from a blurring dream.

Indeed, the girl’s presence revealed what was swirling through her mind, like a breeze cleansing a musty attic after the window has been flung open. Thoughts cascaded across her face. The past doesn’t matter anymore, she seemed to say. We can be free like we once were. Please, God, we need to feel the sun again – take down the cold bars, unfurl the captive wings…

The girl was crying.

The filly had watched the girl slip through the fence and leave for the last time. The filly’s eyes were serene, as if beneath her confusion she still trusted, still hoped. Someday, the girl would return. She would wait.

The amber light of evening seemed a visual expression of the golden hope swirling between this girl and this horse, as if to lift them beyond their pain. The girl stooped through the fence with a quiet grace, then stopped, unsure, as if she were trying to remember. Joya had backed away desolately, neck stiff, tail clamped, looking at the girl only out of the corners of her hard, frozen eyes. There was neither a whinny nor a run to the girl, as seems so common in storybooks. Only interminable silence.

Then my unspoken prayer of before was answered once again and I knew what I had to do. One of the hallmarks of our ranch is that the interaction between a child and her horse begins completely at liberty. The horse is free to leave or stay, and the child is free to interact or not – with neither horse nor child compelled in any way – and that was I was going to do for Joya and the girl. As I explained this, the girl gave a near-imperceptible, almost impatient nod, as if, yes, yes, she knew that. I sat wordlessly outside the paddock.

Pain. So much pain. “My filly and I – we’re inseparable.” Was that so? Then why did you leave us? Why did you run away? We loved you… she loved you… I needed you.

The girl stood quietly, looking softly away from the mare, yet also inviting her in. A conflict brewed in Joya’s eyes: the girl seemed safe, but what was safety to one so trampled by pain? Joya was poised rigidly, ready to flee, and yet she was – somehow – impossibly – ready to surrender. Gradually her neck softened and she tipped her mottled nose in the girl’s direction. She pulled back, as if afraid she had presumed too much, and then, with an extraordinary effort of hope conquering fear, Joya took her first step. Another followed, and step by cautious step, Joya crept towards the girl. Please don’t reject me, Joya seemed to say, for I just want to be free. The girl, with eyes averted and tears dropping like jewels, reached out her hand. The mare, with eyes softened and fear melting like dew, reached out her nose. They touched.

From there, hope itself seemed to raise its voice in one joyous shout, one cry of pure laughing victory, as God’s child and God’s horse became one. The girl, smiling now through her tears, stroked Joya all over and then suddenly bounded away, as if playing with an old friend. Startled, Joya shuddered. Then, beyond all comprehension, and with a toss of her elegant head and a triumph of her unending innocence, she took off after the girl… and in the most ethereal expression of unity, the two played.

With an impish grin, the girl dashed behind a tree, hiding. Joya watched her almost quizzically – what was this new sensation? Could it be… fun? With a burst of delighted recognition, Joya leaped into a trot and flew to the other side of the tree where the girl was laughing in unbridled mirth. Noticing a chunk of wood on the ground, the girl kicked it. Joya contemplated this peculiar movement and then deliberately pawed at the log herself, rapping hard hoof on soft wood. Within moments, the two were kicking the wood around the paddock – the girl content in the game, the mare content in being the chaser, no longer the chased.

Darting here and there, the girl leapt, swerved, and ran, never telling but merely demonstrating. Joya had the freedom to follow, and she said yes. Mimicking the girl’s every movement with the agility of her bullfighting ancestors, Joya wheeled and jumped with her in perfect harmony, her feet dancing to a soundless rhythm, effortless, flying, free. Smiling, the girl then reversed the tide and began mimicking Joya instead, giving her the power of choice: What do you want to do, the girl asked wordlessly. Joya stood, quiet, and then pawed the ground. The girl did the same. Tossing her wavy mane, Joya shook her head. So did the girl. As the two became one, the girl found it easier to follow Joya, and Joya the girl. Who was leading? Who was following? Perhaps even they did not know. Yet, it did not matter. How could it?

To finally run! To be free! No longer able to restrain the power released within her, Joya took off bucking, slinging her mane in pure, unabashed delight. The girl took off with her, and around and around, shoulder to shoulder, they flew, intoxicated with the wine of the movement of the free. Even in a body so wasted, Joya would not disown the power to which her heritage destined her.

As the wild games faded into quiet harmony, a peace enveloped Joya and the girl. There were no whips, no ropes, no shouting, no fear – simply fluidity, simply hope. Circling around and around her in a flowing trot, Joya responded to the girl’s every cue, for to Joya’s perceptive spirit, subtlety was like a shout. Effortlessly she glided from trot to canter and back again, now spiraling in and now yielding out. In a burst of exquisite pride, her haunches coiled in collection, her neck arching and forehand skimming: a Pegasus without wings. A dance developed and all was done in the easy balanced rhythm of two minds, which, for a few brief moments, have come together.

The girl finally stopped and stood in the soft grass, rubbing Joya’s withers. Joya’s lip quivered, then she bent her neck and began delicately scratching the girl’s head. Contentment flowed from horse to girl and back again; two friends at peace. After a few blissful minutes – and with her hair thoroughly mussed – the girl relaxed onto the ground. Joya’s coat glimmered unearthly silver fire in the late sunset glow, as if her beautiful Spanish character, hidden for so long, was becoming visible, if only for a moment.

However, Joya stood too still, and she was almost pensive, as if something were still not right. Gradually her head began to rise, her eyes took on a focused decisiveness…and Joya left. The girl watched, wonder slowly turning to bewilderment, and bewilderment to pain. As Joya continued to move away with measured steps, I could see the cold hardness returning to the girl’s face. So this is how it is to end, she cried wordlessly. Like the vanishing evening sun, what burned so intensely between us just minutes ago is now dying into emptiness. Nothing has changed; past wrongs have not been righted.

The girl bit her lip and blinked hard, her pained eyes watching Joya’s deliberate procession away. Joya was not looking back. A sob wrenched free from the girl’s body before she had time to slap it back. She clenched her hands, fingernails biting into flesh, and then jerked her care-worn body to its knees, preparing to leave, perhaps forever.

But that was not the end, as perhaps the girl should have known, for Joya was not of the disloyal breed. As Joya deliberately circled around with nose stretched down to soft dirt, she ended up behind the girl. Carefully, half-concealed in the evening mist, her slender legs came together and began to buckle. And with the grace of a dancer and the precision of an artist, Joya lay down next to the girl.

In that moment, two captives were set free; in that moment, two hopeless beings gave hope to one another. The glory of the setting sun swirled among the autumn leaves in a dancing firestorm of color and light, a cleansing blaze mirrored in the twin hearts of horse and human. Joya – freed from her pain, and the girl – freed from her chains.

The blue-eyed girl had brushed the mare and smiled jubilantly at me. “See what she does when I scratch her here!” The girl rubbed a special spot under the mare’s jaw. What an odd, comical face the mare made! With eyes shut and upper lip pulled back, she swung her muzzle in fast little circles of pure, unhindered bliss.

Time itself seemed to hold its breath as the two lay next to one another, the girl slowly stroking the mare. Then, her hand stopped and her contented smile turned to thoughtful resolution. It was time. With steadfast determination – and even faith – she reached out toward Joya’s head. Her fingers sought out that special place on Joya’s jaw and started scratching tenderly. In an ecstasy of pleasure, Joya pulled back her upper lip and began swinging her muzzle in small circles. A smile touched the girl’s face, a tear dropping unnoticed from her cheek. Then, she turned and gazed at me full in the face with that unforgettable, unmistakable look. A shudder went through my body, and I fell to my knees, all doubt gone. Her eyes were blazing icy-white blue, and once again they were driving straight into my heart.

“I’ll love her forever. I’ll never leave my little filly… I’ll always come back for my Joya,” my younger sister had told me. I am sorry. I never should have doubted you.

If angels had looked down just then, they would have seen an unforgettable sight: a kneeling girl, breathing a prayer of thanksgiving for a family reunited; a silver mare, lying in the dust of a sandy paddock; and a broken girl, crying on her neck. The evening sun slipped gently below the horizon, as if not wanting to disturb this delicate scene, while the long shadows of the fir trees dissolved in the coolness of night. Soft violet clouds traveled peacefully through the heavens, and far overhead, a single diamond star shone out bravely from within the darkness. The first star of night. A jewel of hope.

_________________
"Do you give the horse his strength?"
~Job 39:19a

www.cambriahorsemanship.com


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 Post subject: Re: The PRE Essay
PostPosted: Mon Dec 22, 2008 11:58 pm 
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Oh, that is BEAUTIFUL!!!!!

So nice! It made me cry!!!! :applause: :applause:

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"Ride reverently, as if each step is the axis on which the earth revolves"


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 Post subject: Re: The PRE Essay
PostPosted: Tue Dec 23, 2008 12:13 am 
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Hannah, I would have given all of the horses to you! :)

And I just love that you have not only captured the spirit of the Spanish horse (which I know they were looking for, as I checked out their website) but captured the spirit of AND, as well, even if they didn't know that.

And it gives me enormous hope to know that what you wrote captured their imaginations -- so, I think you have not only found a new home and heart for a young filly, but have quietly but beautifully spread the seeds of AND a little further.

I salute you!

:kiss:
Leigh

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"Ours is the portal of hope. Come as you are." -- Rumi
www.imaginalinstitute.com


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 Post subject: Re: The PRE Essay
PostPosted: Tue Dec 23, 2008 3:28 am 
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Hannah -- I've been thinking more about your piece --

And it celebrates the spirit of the Spanish horse, the spirit of AND,... and most importantly, the spirit of Hannah!

Just beautiful, most sweet of hearts.

:friends:
Leigh

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"Ours is the portal of hope. Come as you are." -- Rumi
www.imaginalinstitute.com


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 Post subject: Re: The PRE Essay
PostPosted: Tue Dec 23, 2008 8:00 pm 
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Hannah - this was just beautiful!! You have a real talent for this!!!

I will read this for my kids one day - maybe only Synnøve is old enough for this yet, but I will keep it for them until they are ready. Thank you for your beautiful story - and yes, you sure deserved that horse!!!


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 Post subject: Re: The PRE Essay
PostPosted: Tue Dec 23, 2008 9:49 pm 
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Location: Minnesota, USA
Thank you so much, Karen, Leigh, and Kirsti. Your words truly mean a lot to me. But I don't know that I really deserve a horse like her -- I just wrote a nice essay. A lot of people can write nice essays... it was just in some unimaginable way this one was chosen to be blessed.

I hadn't even really thought of spreading the "spirit of AND," Leigh, so that made me very happy. :) I hope they will be impacted by it. And they asked if I would continue updating them, so as I give them more AND pictures maybe they'll be interested! But as far as it showing my spirit, wow, thank you so much, your words are so beautiful, Leigh. :blush: :kiss: But I didn't -- am not -- always that way... I've struggled with temper and frustration and a bunch of nasty stuff... I cannot claim any responsibility for where I am now; as I've said before, only through Christ am I where I am right now.

And Kirsti, I hope your children like the story! I would love for people to read it and maybe be drawn into more AND type work through it...

_________________
"Do you give the horse his strength?"
~Job 39:19a

www.cambriahorsemanship.com


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