Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Empathy: The Food of All Literature.

Where Books Come From:
Yes, empathy. And an empathetic mind evolves from adversity, from disappointment...from deceit.  Broken trusts held in the hearts of small children. Children who become adults, mentors to those who follow them...custodians of the planet we share.
They become our legacy, the next chapter in our dreams and quite sadly, and too often, the cold granite marker of our failure.  A desert, where a garden was destined to grow.

I wrote this piece in 1989.  In the middle of a personal and physical crisis of my own making.  I was watching my career end.  Or so I believed at the time.  But during this thankful intermission, my days were spent in introspection, retrospection, negative self-analysis...all while a rather unattractive and brutish nurse was going through her initial catheter training...on me.
Some people know my early history.  Most don't give a shit and that is perfectly fine. Sympathy merely feeds self-loathing and this planet has enough practitioners of hate's various manifestations to go around...twice.  It is the spiritual pandemic of our times.  And while many people doubt that it is possible...I was a child once, born to the garden that traveled from watershed to Wasteland at the very moment of cognizance.
"A young adult retells a story of depression at its miserable height.  Endless driving, back and forth across the same bridge, trying to find the right spot, just the right moment to pierce the railing.  Tears streaming down her face, she finally stops the car on the shoulder of the road.  "Who," she thought, "would take care of my horse?" 
And that is where I live.  These children are my mentors.  My knights in tarnished armor.  For these are the soldiers of my army, the cherished one's who failed to "pierce that railing."  We know each other by our eyes...we feel each other in the rare moments of calm.  And we never stop questioning the value of this thing called life -- deep down in our souls, where the secrets live.
That is the great metaphor stalking the pages of this book.  The horse as friend, confidant...healer. And the role of the many custodians of our sport...the teachers, trainers...the sacred camp of other students...grooms, barn owners, vets, organizers...those who create a place in the sun, never realizing that the last line on their ledger is really a child's second chance at life.  And off to the side, beyond the comprehension of accolades and applause...a horse.
After decades spent tromping about the show grounds of the world, I still find these kids.  We own a mutual awareness -- a road traveled -- words unspoken, but heard.  It used to sadden me to think that love had a power of ability to hide behind the mask of sanctuary.  But then I had to consider that these children were still here, still standing...they had hold of the reins. And I would smile, for in the end, I knew they would be okay.  Because the horse, this dumb and often frustrating creature had usurped the pain...traded the worthlessness these kids felt for the responsibility, the accountability of putting an animal's needs above their own.  For showing that failure brings humility, not scorn -- that tomorrow is really a new unspoiled opportunity; the clean slate these kids never experienced, never knew.  So today, I celebrate the horse world...from all the Knights in tarnished armor:                

They Might Be Alive

Of distant fields and triumphs,
An aging eye believes.
That fading accolades upon,
Such things we might deceive.

As ghosts go rushing by the gate;
And pastures fade to brown.
This horse upon the edge does fall--
Go round and round and round.

Spirits leave to live in wood;
Electric lights they dance.
Carousels by night do haunt,
These horses of romance.

In children’s hearts where horses dwell,
Forever to survive.
Touch such wood with gentle hands--
They just might be alive.

                                                       A. Allan Juell  1987
For: John Turner and those like him. You know who you are!

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