Al’s Well

You gotta stop.
And eat the dried flowers.
You gotta count your manely breaths most everyday.
You’re gonna find your way to leading from behind
a rough and rocky road.
If you don’t stop and eat the flowers along the way.

My mad passionate love. This little red Arabian. I don’t know why. I wasn’t looking for another horse and I certainly wasn’t looking for an Arabian, but when you have a friend with a ranch full of Arabians who notices how you melt every time you encounter her plain little chestnut gelding, well, things happen.

Sweet Alsek. Line bred from royalty, an Al-Marah Arabian, a boy with an interesting history. My hometown boy, born here in Tucson. My friend bought him through an auction when Al-Marah liquated their Tucson herd after Bazy Tankersley died and her son decided to move operations to Florida. The story goes he was the last horse to be sold. No one wanted him, except my friend, who got him for a song. He was three. His front end was twisted. He still stands with his left leg under, right forward, partly due to his short neck. He went to a specialist. They found nothing wrong. Running through my friend’s desert ranch with his people, fellow Arabians, helped straighten and strengthen his front end. He has a funny cowlick behind his left elbow. He may become arthritic. He still toes in. But you know what? So do I.

He came to live with me a little over a year ago, as an eight year old. I rode him right away, even though he hadn’t been ridden for…. years? I had a trial period and practical me wanted to put him to the test, even though my heart was completely sold. The vet was concerned about his sesamoid bones when she came for his vet check. They didn’t move. She said they usually move a little. He was a bit off, maybe from the trailer ride, maybe from his rough feet. I don’t know. I bought him anyway.

His sesamoid bones seem to have some movement now. I honestly don’t even know if this matters, but he’s sound and happy. I haven’t ridden him much during his first year as mine. I kneed him hard in the hip accidentally while mounting because of my stiff hip and a saddle with a high cantle early on. He bolted and I rode him, hanging off the side in the hopes of steering him away from the electric fence. Once he was clear, I bailed. We were both okay, but a more experienced friend offered to lease him and ride him and I agreed.

That friend has moved on to another barn. A young woman who is quite an accomplished dressage rider has been riding him. I ride him occasionally. Partly because of my trepidation, partly my awe of the breed, partly my needy mare who insists on “Ladies First”.

Our new, expensive, fitted dressage saddle arrived yesterday. It’s been a dream for many years, since my sobbing soliloquies, TV tuned to the Olympics. Lippizanner stallions on tour. A trip to Vienna! Morning exercises and front row seats for an evening show. Practically bit my lip bloody to keep myself from sobbing out loud and overwhelming my indulgent husband. I felt less embarrassed when I noticed the woman sitting behind me seemed to be having the same problem.

So, this morning I had a friend stand at Al’s head while I mounted, just to bolster my confidence, and I sat myself upon his spine, cushioned by buttersoft leather. We rode flat figure eights on the property, a little trot, and damn, if only I could keep my feet in the irons! I was marginally better once upon a time when I was taking dressage lessons on a school horse, but my mare is gaited and trot is not something I’ve been doing a lot of lately. Canter? Not so much. Al was resistant to the left. Was I holding my right rein too tight? He seemed grumpy and didn’t want to move out. Maybe my excitement was in need of a counter. He softened as we progressed. Maybe we both softened.

He lives during the day with two mares, my Rocky Mountain mare, La Roca and a Spanish Barb mare, Julietta. The mares have been rambunctious lately. Maybe they are coming into their hard fall season. The squealing and posturing ebbs and flows, but Al’s a gelding. I kept him out with me for hours this morning. After our little ride I took him on a walk, a mostly lead from behind walk, though I admit I inserted direction since I wasn’t inclined to trek through vagrant rattlesnakes seeking their final satisfying meals before winter. Al steps forward with no hesitation when I ask him to now. It’s a beautiful thing to see. A team of shiny black draft horses in ornamented harness went by. The woman who was driving them was kind enough to ask if we were okay. I said, “I think so.” Al stood at attention, but he was, indeed, fine, and returned to his grazing once the team passed.

We are, indeed, well on the road to fine.Al eating dried grass

True Plastic

Red plastic horse

Connotations of fakery, man made manipulation, melted plesiosaurs and reformed goo. This is what came to my mind when Eddie Yucupicio dashed out of his office with urgency to share my Indian name with me. “I had a dream about you last night,” he said. Oh, geesh, here we go, I thought to myself as I simultaneously relaxed and braced, waiting for it. “You had a shoebox, and in that box was an egg. But it wasn’t an egg. It was a plastic doorknob and you had to take care of it. That’s your Indian name.”

“Plastic Doorknob?” I asked, bewildered, flattered and yes, disappointed. If a young Tohono O’odom Chief was going to give me a name, couldn’t it have been She Who Tames Fear or Lively Javelina? “Why Plastic Door Knob?”

“I don’t know,” Eddie replied, then stated matter-of-factly. “It’s your name.” The implication seemed to be that I should, of course, know.

“You did have a real egg at first, but some people took it away from you. Then they put the doorknob in the shoebox and gave it back to you.”

I had loved plastic things before this revelation. The horses from the sets of cowboys and Indians that my grandmother would buy for my sister and me contained the best horses; black, white and red. Chestnuts. They were my favorite. I’d toss the tomahawk and pistol toting guys to my sister, though I seem to remember her gravitating back to her coloring book. It took some searching, but the photo above is of the exact red plastic horse I loved so much. They were life-like, unencumbered with bridles and saddles and quite spirited. I can’t remember if I named them, but if I did I might have called them Ginger and Snow and Charcoal.

What the plastic represented, I loved. The red pony. Then came the doorknob. I thought about it.I didn’t love it. Was my door knob plastic because I’m a white woman? Was it something phony, transmutation from egg to door knob, from natural being in harmony with nature to object transplanted from European culture? My brain hurt. Somehow, I felt responsible. I forgot about it. I found another iteration of this story in a notebook one year, then forgot about it the next. Rewrote the story. Left it in some dark place, forgotten again.

Plastic came together today. Maybe these thoughts don’t really go together. I still don’t know. What I do know is that doorknobs can open doors and ponies can open hearts. My door knob is plastic and my pony is red. 


I-25 traffic
Denver to Fort Fun
Parents continue existence
It’s all still the same.

Maybe I’m 17.
Maybe I’m still caught in their expectation
Of what I’m not.

My father enjoyed my uncle and me
Sharing war stories
From the pit and the piano.

Surely we exist for his entertainment.

Calming signal.
My mother giggles
Rubs her pointed nails against
The throw she keeps on her recliner
For warmth
For protection.

I drew horses.Bay horse drawing

Night Mare: An Extemporaneous Reflection on a Windy Day

The night mare came to me, dark with flying mane and nostrils flared. A feeling of terror not my own, yet part of me. Confused and trapped, excited and joyous, fearful and implosive. She galloped around my dreamscape, flaxen tail and white of eye, “NOTICE ME NOTICE ME NOTICE ME!!” I thought I saw.

She knew I didn’t see. She knew my transitory existence as a being with opposable thumbs had erased my night awareness. Her fear was so deep that she insisted on pounding the long-forgotten pathways with her competent hooves, beating clear the obscured trails, vines of verbs, shards of convention, fallen leaves of dogma, gravelly bits of belief.

How odd this love that came from her fear. I wanted to ride the fear, to pat her neck, tense and corded like a cadence unwilling to resolve, and lead her to that resolution with logic, knowledge, my superior intellect. Singularly convinced was I that my upright duty was to lead her from this place into my own, where I knew things were settled and comprehensible. While I saw the horizon, my own feet had lost the path. Unearth the history, undo the past, erase the dissonance, bring her to my love.

She brought me to her fear. Tension demands resolution, but each trembling movement in its own time. The inevitability captured us and we gently fell together into our dream.



The Starship Enterprise slides into the internal vastness, the mindless tabla rasa, accompanied by iconic chords, pulling the words behind like stardust. Snow drifts high, up to the eves, blown in swirling surrender, an ascent of effortless sparkle. Possibilities fall like leaves from frozen trees on greening grass. Memories melt into transitive verbs. Saddle her gently when she is ready. The pronoun pony gallops on air, her inaudible hoofbeats, the cosmic pulse. Ride the next sentence.