This is actually the post I wrote yesterday. I got up early to post it from an Internet café. Nothing of consequence has happened today. Stay tuned. Updates will be spotty until the Internet returns radiance and glory to my home.
And so, it begins. This morning I woke up to a phone call from my parents, who had helped with the final move the night before and now were staying in a nearby hotel. They wanted to have breakfast before they left. That was hours ago, so I imagine they are almost home by now and I am beginning to face the looming realization that there was no one in a radius of hundreds of miles who felt, even legally, responsible for me. No one who cares at all. This feeling was heightened by the fact that I discovered my new roommate had failed to keep up on the TV and the internet. It is remarkably upsetting. I feel horribly cut off from the world. I cannot stop imagining all the terrible things that could happen in my absence from information and how I would never know. I imagine finally turning on the TV and finding endless pictures of charred and smoking craters. I can’t even check the weather.
The weather, by the way, is hot. Hot. Hot. Hot. Hot. It is so hot Ryan Reynolds melted. What? I’m a girl. Shut up.
I find, however, despite the foreboding distance I have placed between myself and everything I have ever known, I like this place. I like the small, adorable town. I like that people smile back at me. I like that there are just as many small foreign cars as gargantuan trucks. I like that my cat seems to approve of her new home, playing on the stairs, running into the room to slide across the wood floor; giving me a heart attack by climbing in and out of the stair case railings, disappearing completely behind the whitewashed wood and reappearing with an unapologetic purr. I like that last night I feel asleep to the strange susurrus of Athens, a maddening combination of hundreds of cicadas and endless car tires over brick streets. Time and time again I woke as this noise reached a faint crescendo, convinced that someone was talking to me. It would fade and I would drift back through the uncomfortable midnight warmth, to sleep.
I spent the day unpacking, the details of which I will spare you. Suffice to say that my sense of hopeless banishment was only heightened by the heat of the day and the endless, endless pile of boxes.
I knew, eventually, when the temperature dropped to an acceptable level, I had to see my horse. I dragged him all the way down here, and I do not want him to feel abandoned.
I feel the need to defend the decision to bring a horse to grad school, as most people, especially those who do not own horses, will find it remarkably self centered and proof that I am completely spoiled rotten. Let me be clear, first of all, that I am ruling neither of these possibilities out. However, the facts of the matter are that my family has always accepted a lifetime responsibility for any pet we adopt. That means if we bring a cat, dog, mouse, snake, hamster, (and we have had all of these), or a horse into our fold, we have made a bond that the animal will have a home forever. So, we couldn’t very well abandon my best furry friend of 6 years.
I pushed for the decision to move him down with me because I was concerned that he would not be ridden enough. While I was an undergraduate, despite my urging everyone with paddock boots to jump on him any time, no one did. It may, and this is pure speculation, have to do with the fact that he is uncomfortable, slightly uncoordinated, bull headed, and overall difficult to ride, but I digress. Finally, I felt very certain that if I, myself, went two years without riding, I would die. I have ridden horses longer than I have done any other activity, save go to school. It’s as much a part of me as writing, as blue eyes, as an inclination to eat and breathe. Without it, that’s it. Me. Dead.
Of course, the super secret reason was that I was afraid of losing him. He is a 19 years old, Thoroughbred, designed to run and run and run, and then fall apart. I find myself sympathizing with Etain, from Karen Traviss’ Triple Zero, knowing that, inevitably, it will be me who loses him, and this loss is simply the design of the universe. Yes, that was a Star Wars reference. What? I am also a nerd. Shut up.
In any case, my mother reasoned that she could be paying board either way, and this way was probably best for both of us. So, here I am, in graduate school, with a horse. Not spoiled rotten. I swear.
Are you still there, dear readers? I am almost to the end of my day. Bear with me a little longer. Because, you see, this is the important part. Around 7 I pulled on a pair of boots and dripped to my car. It was still about 90, but it felt very cool. This should tell you just how hot it was. I pulled up to Pinnacle Farms, a lovely stable in Albany, about 10 minutes away from my house. My horse seemed agitated, but neither frightened or angry. He simply seemed upset that he could not be outside with the other horses on the farm. I’m afraid I insisted on this, since he is not used to being on grass all day. The last thing I needed was a sick horse. I brought him out and, in jumps and starts, managed to get him groomed and tacked. I found myself clumsy and lost in the new surroundings. I lost things, dropped them, knocked them over. I tried to stay calm, but I had about had it with feeling out of place. Finally, I climbed on and walked him outside.
A quick word is required on the geography of Southern Ohio. It is nothing like the north of the state. Here I am in the foothills of the mountains to the west. The land is dramatic; high and deep. Pinnacle Farms has an arena built on a high plateau and from here I watched the sun set behind the knotted forests. My horse moved as he had always moved, and I found myself adjusting to the familiar mobile of riding. Heels down. Shoulders back. His neck and ears up. His tail back and forth in the easy motion of flies. The sun sank and pulled the light off our shoulders. I felt the amazing calm of a human who knows what she is doing. This. I thought, is easy. I can do this. I can always do this. And just like that, I was invincible again.