Leather and the smell of straw on a cloudy, dark day. Horses whinny in the background as barn doors get unlocked and opened, undoing thick metal bolts and chains. These horses are all special and they all have names. Different colors and personalities. I only gone horseback riding a handful of times. It’s a painful recovery usually, but so much fun. Horses are majestic creatures and have this quiet knowledge and understanding and intuition about them. The last time I rode was in Massanutten, Virginia in…2016 I think it was. I had a horse named Billings. He was whitish grey with dark spots, and I had to continuously pull up his reins to focus on the path, as he would sometimes get distracted by smells and the desire to eat grass whenever he saw fit. My chinese horoscope sign is the Horse, and I always felt it suited me; It’s always felt accurate when it comes to my behavior. Always watching, sometimes shy and timid, late bloomer-esque. But smart, kind, compassionate, welcoming.
Saddles are heavy and hold stirrups. They become uncomfortable after long rides. I don’t know how John Wayne did it. Do you eventually get used to it after awhile? No wonder why whiskey was so popular; I’d also want to drink my ass off at the next town over, just to forget about the constant discomfort from sitting.
Underwater keepsakes. Hunting, diving, fishing, looking for shells, for stones, for sand. The water is murky and not clear. Influx of sodium abound and packs a punch to my already stimulated senses. It generates saliva. It makes me spit. Ocean water, salty and sure of itself for what it is. “Whale piss”. But salt is good for you – as long as you don’t overdo it long term.
At first the waves feel cool and cold against overheated, SPF’d skin. There is a tenseness, a trepidation at first. Hair follicles contract. Feet tell the brain: “Icy!” But after a toe comes a foot, and after a foot comes an ankle, and after an ankle comes a calf, which leads to a knee, which leads to the mid-thigh. But then it’s, “Okay, stop!” And now you’re feeling good, but what became bearable to your legs seems a little more unbearable to your upper self. Shuffling forward, your feet sink into course sand. The waves are at your belly now. The seagulls are calling. The lifeguard is watching. There is a din of kids about, splashing and playing and crying and calling out to one another. Goggles protect their eyes from sunscreen, from the irritating salty water of the deep. So that they can see for themselves how murky it is.
I remember once going to Point Pleasant with my dad when I was six. A wave knocked me down so hard and I could not get up. Seconds felt like agonizing eternities as I spun about, unable to resurface. My dad pulled me, my mouth full of seawater and tears, the taste of which I could not tell the difference. I cried and cried. We packed up our stuff. I recall a boardwalk ride that was like a school bus, 2D but going round and round. I think that was Point Pleasant and not Rehoboth in Delaware, where we did spend a few family vacations. These little pinpricks of trauma dot my existence and for better or worse shaped me into the adult I am today. I can still see the murky water, eyes open in fear taking in all around me. “Respect the ocean”, a past high school principal said on the eve of Prom. Chuckling abound in the auditorium as we were all immortal then, and knew no fear. Invincible teenage emotion is a pretty potent drug, it’s a pretty potent state of mind. I’m reminded of those of our graduating class who are no longer with us…Waterfronts and unwelcome sunrises that beam lights onto truth.
Sphere found in the tongue of a clam singing taps because it doesn’t know how to play trumpet. Un-reined talent bubbling to the surface. It is Disney’s The Little Mermaid and Ariel’s hair is so, so red; so outrageous and outstanding that I want hair like that. I want it to billow fully in the ocean underwater. A necklace and earrings and bracelet that makes a statement about class, about worth, about being worth your salt. These captured rarities sent for sale and made for purchase, on display in windows and on hand mannequins and busts with no head or remaining torso. It is neutral and functional. A shopkeeper comes to the front of his store as the bell rings, signaling entry. Footsteps clack and click in both light and heavy percussive tones. Dirt trails. Camera follows up vertically to the face of a man with a five o’clock shadow smoking a cigar. He is a cartoon. He has no lines; His only direction is to look menacing, which he does, chewing the stogie so roughly that it’s mildly amazing how he does not actually eat it. Next to him stands a terrified Barbizon past-model with black hair. She is also a cartoon. Somewhere between Futurama and Arthur her skin is a pale yellow, her lipstick, fuchsia.
Launching upwards at the opal sky, aliens watch and wait, indecisive and twiddling their many opposable thumbs. The androgyny of the astronaut suit or costume; Genderless. Bulky and broad in shape. So much risk involved to launch oneself quite literally out of this world. There is no sound or smell or breeze in space. It is nothingness where stars go to die. And it is in this graveyard where the stars know and have forgotten everybody’s name. Because it doesn’t matter. Because all there is is this upward void, beautiful as it is.
I think of Tang juice pouches and their powdered predecessors. I think of the dehydrated ice cream at the Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. I think of the future, the sour/sweet of it all. The unexpected textures love and loss will bring. Experiencing hues throughout Life’s journey.
If I were an astronaut, my heart would beat out of my chest. How could you ever sleep before, during, or after launch? The future forever changed. Time-release LSD. No sunlight, too many buttons, pristine metal fixtures. Are there bunks and cots? Do you sleep standing up connected to some wire? All the science must swim strong in your brain; You gotta think up there; It’s not just about living the day-to-day. There are no creature comforts in orbit. Mind melts at the thought.
Ah, but to see Earth from a circular window, perfectly ensconced in the sun’s glow; Perhaps that would all be worth it. To live with that rise and set, that constant companionship. I think of blue whales, friendly and comforting. I think of partnership and thanks. Regulars don’t get or understand just how special this amazing thing is. Marvelous design. I hope I don’t put it to shame.
Creaks on the hull. Ship in danger. Parachuting falls millions of miles. A terrifying colorful scheme. Too high, too high, too high. Stomach does somersaults on the descent. You do your own confession, make your peace with God, willingly watch the Kodak slides of your life, praying you’re not skipping over the good parts, and tell the little voice wondering quietly aloud, “What might it be like to die?”, to please be quiet.