We rode past the horse ranches, the fields of corn, cabbage, orange and walnut trees. We crossed the one paved street and shagged in and out of the wash, eucalyptus trees and shrubs to the road that led up into the mountains. There were small rolling hills, green from the winter rains, trees that looked a million years old with black hands stretching upward into the cloudless sky. No rain today but the cool air was just enough to stir our passions as we began to trot up the hill. Then a cantor as he began breathing hard pulling at the reins, begging me to let him go. Finally, slowly I unleashed him onto the waiting road. Like a dragster he lurched from the starting line for his race to the finish. The trees whooshed past me, all the while I look at the blurry ground for holes and changes in the road as we hit the blazing speed of a full out run. This is where my horse Charm was in his penultimate glory, running for all he was worth in pure horse ecstasy. My heart was always in my throat, one false move and I was toast. He was wild and so was I. I trusted him and he had my life in his hooves.
The road zig zagged around corners, up the hills to the high drop off cliffs just above. We rode around them up up to the top. It was exhilaration, wind, sky, water, road and muscle all in a harmony of color and pitch. It was like riding a freight train in the sky barreling down a cloud to the end of time. Suddenly, like flying, hitting the ground and the exhilarating feeling of a landscape appearing in front of us as the cerulean green grass valley suddenly jumped out at us like a song, appearing in a shock of color and space. We were utterly alone inhabited only by the gigantic green languid silence between the drop offs and the mountains behind it. The moment we hit this golden valley we both jumped out of our skin with the full blown beauty of this untouched paradise. Far from home, from school, my family, the world, like a tremulous planet that existed long before civilization, the way nature intended it. It was all ours and we were in a holy bliss.
This moment became the standard by which I now measure my world. I have it in my heart, a sterling reminder of what life can be like when there is harmony and exhilaration as a part of it. If it were not for those rides I wonder what would have become of me. It formed the center of my soul along with every nerve and sinew for the rest of my life. As I sit here at 73 years it is as vivid and electrifying to me now as it ever was. A memory distilled in a way that keeps my spirit intact. It has guided my decisions and my character.
The outcome from experiences with my horse were transformational because I let it take me where it was going and from that I lit up like a torch. We can direct ourselves to a place, a thing we want to do, but to transform we have to let go and allow ourselves to exist in a completely different way. My ride was something that entirely belonged to me. Charm and I felt the exhilaration of utterly letting go at a full run, allowing nature to fill our bones and complete us. It is the quintessence of transformation that allows us to be completely covered up, immersed in the twinkling moment. We become who we are by surrendering to the fullness of the here and now.
I tell the story of my ride up into the mountains because it symbolizes my first real sense of independence. It is the first step in the process of transforming myself from the product of my experiences to the product of my own experiences. From the object of my parents problems to the subject of my own life. I made a break for it. It was the first step in the course of defining my own life. I could then ask myself, who do I want to be, what kind of life do I want, and who do I want in it? Am I going to make the same life I came from or do I strike out on my own?
Transformation is not about what happens to us but what make of it. Inevitably, we have to decide what we want our lives to be about apart from everything we have known. We need to consider that we have the right to create something with our own hands and our own thoughts. We might have to leave everything, we might need to invent our lives but in any event the first step is to lay claim to ourselves.