My Friends…

Gus Gus

I’m so very grateful for my friends. I have friends who randomly boost my self-confidence for no good reason except they think I should have more and they love me. (Sissy, this is automatic for you, but it’s required of family so thanks for holding up your end of the contract…). And in thinking of friends, that gives me a few snapshot moments to share with you.

I was going to write about life balance and when do we sweep up tumbleweeds of pet hair when thinking of tumbleweeds reminded me of the road trip to Vegas, to attend a mutual friend’s wedding. On this voyage, we struggled to keep the Honda Pilot on the road in the mother-of-all high winds. Gretchen was laughing and steering with the wheel actually angled to the left when a tumbleweed whipped across the oncoming freeway lanes, then bounced over the median and wrapped itself like an alien life form into the grill of her car. The tendrils, writhing in the side wind and forward motion of the car made it nothing short of evil—absorbing the car into its hungry form. We knew we would be next. The beast had a lot of stickers, but we managed to pull most of it off at the next gas station. Except she still found traces of it, 6 years later when she sold the car. We were the kind of people who showed up in Vegas, found the nearest book store, and chose to drive through the night to both leave the city early and beat a snow storm on the way home. We were the perfect match to “do” Vegas our way, much as we still “do” life the same way now. Gretchen gave up more of her time than any person should to photograph Sterling and I at dressage shows—our best pictures came from her.

There are too many memories with these friends, and really too many friends, to mention here, but two more are important to note. One was one of those magical nights that took on a Disney quality, in all the right ways. I remember a New Year’s Eve when we found our way to four narrow seats in the Spanish Riding School in the heart of Vienna. Holly and I put the guys on the outside so we could lean close and exult in the performance before us. I couldn’t believe that the horses I had been reading about since Marguerite Henry’s White Stallion of Lipizza (of course illustrated by Wesley Dennis) would be performing before us that night. I know that I, for one, uttered whispered squeals to see them passage into the arena. Earlier, walking the streets, I had imagined Marguerite Henry’s character, Hans Haupt, who had taught his cart horse, Rosy, to piaffe, gaining him the right kind of attention to eventually become a Spanish Riding School student himself. In that New Year’s celebration where, later, a firecracker would bounce off my face in square that I remember being near Votivkirche, we watched unbelievable athleticism and grace in the willing, beautiful horses performing that night. We had already traveled all over in Austria in this whirlwind Christmas Holiday visit making that part of the world and the dancing white stallions forever belonging to our friendship. Gus, today, is the physical embodiment of this magic, the ultimate gift in the period of a year that began so badly. Leading me to…

This one memory stands apart in its perfection with Laura, even though there are uncountable more that deserve mention. It too centered on a New Year’s Eve, not too many years later. The day before, my then-husband said he was leaving. Laura dropped everything she had planned for that holiday evening to arrive at my house and provide me with a bottle of wine, which she usually didn’t drink but knew that I would, and solid company. She sat with me while we watched the surprisingly appropriate movie, “Failure to Launch,” and the person who “just didn’t want to be married anymore” moved his things out of our rented house (chosen for its proximity to his work in a failed attempt to keep us together). We didn’t lift a finger, ourselves, except to refill my glass. Laura brought the right-size bottle. The day and the evening are fuzzy, not from too much wine even though the wine was good, but from too much pain. As a superb equestrian and animal lover, Laura knew exactly what I needed, sitting by me, making me smile, and letting me know I wasn’t alone. We have so many other times full of laughter until we couldn’t breathe and adventure beyond our comfort zones, but that day stands apart as a prime hallmark of our friendship. And she also has a gift for naming, coming up with Gus for the handsome horse Holly gave to me

(And Kimberly who was in town and took my stunned self to dinner, showing me the love of a friendship, begun with horses at the county fair, and spanning 38 years…)

I guess it comes down to horses and friends who see me through the moments when life wrenches itself out of balance or just randomly decide that I am “awesome” and tell me so. As undeserving as it feels, it also feels great! Each is intertwined with each other, the horses and the friends. I’m so lucky to have them all

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