Embrace the Change!
Lucy Leaf represents “the lost generation” of Long Riders, i.e. those whose access to equestrian travel knowledge was hampered by the demise of the cavalry and prior to the dawning of the internet age. In 1973 Lucy rode her horse, Igor, on a 7,000 mile journey that took them from Maine to Oregon and then returned from California to Virginia via a southern route. Afterwards Lucy put her knowledge of the country to excellent use in 2013 when she mentored many Long Riders. Her historic report, Ticks and Travel – A Deadly Peril, was the first equine travel study to document how ticks carrying Lyme Disease represent one of the most frightening threats faced by Long Riders today. Lucy made contributions to all three-volumes of The Encyclopaedia of Equestrian Exploration, and then spent a year carefully copy-editing every line of text in the 1800 page magnum opus. Because of her many contributions and achievements, in 2019 Lucy was designated a Living Treasure by the Long Riders’ Guild. A trained nurse by profession, who worked overseas in challenging countries, Lucy shared her thoughts about how today’s Long Riders should view the corona virus epidemic.
In my last email I mentioned the memory of elation I felt when a Long Rider finally sets off on the journey.
There is some relevance about these moments of elation that relate to today's situation. It's about "cutting the ties". It's likely something that we Long Riders might take for granted. We can do this. We savor the moment, for it's the moment we realize we really are following our path, though it could well be a lone one. To others, it feels like a disaster. To us, it's part of the journey.
One of my strongest memories took place in the Sierra Nevada, embarking on my third of the four trips riding across the country and back again. I had been dropped off at a trail head in the early afternoon. The horse was tied to a tree, all the gear stacked in a pile. Immediately, I had to consider bears and getting to a designated campsite before dark.
There were so many little details in shutting down one life and beginning another that I had never even gone to bed the night before. I had finished up a job, said goodbye to friends, and given away or sold most everything I owned, not to mention all the planning for traveling for a month in high country and a couple more in the desert, all of it foreign to me, including the fact that I would be packing, not riding this segment of my journey. Packing was also new to me.
That moment of departure might have been one of anxiety for most. Fortunately, the friend who delivered me could not linger for any kind of "send-off". So, what did I do? I lay down on my gear and went into the deepest, most satisfying sleep I can remember. The fresh mountain air, the sigh of the wind in the tall Ponderosa pines, and the munching of hay left for my horse was all the soothing I needed. When life gets this simple, it feels like pure bliss. I did wake in time to reach my campsite OK.
What lay ahead for me was completely unknown. I wouldn't be talking to anyone for a month. But the world was in front of me. A different existence for sure.
I think this is akin to what we are facing now. Cutting the ties, to almost all we know. That may or may not include people. It refers to the world we know. No matter the toll of this pandemic, if we survive, we are already looking at a changed world. It had to happen. The current global atrocities have become harder and harder to bear. The earth will survive in the end, in one form or another. Its inhabitants might be secondary.
We can get lost in dismay, or we can embrace the change. It's happening, with or without us. Most of those around me are eager for the return of "life as usual, business as usual". At the same time, most of us already know this is unlikely. Living in limbo, i.e. not knowing what's ahead, was a tolerable respite for awhile. Now there is unrest. This is the time we must think about re-charting our course. It's the time for creativity. We Long Riders embrace change. We seek a different landscape in front of us every day. Even after a stay of lavish hospitality, think how nice it is to back on the trail again, even if we are riding in the rain. Or the hot sun. Or the cold.
Still in the saddle at 94, Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, is seen riding Balmoral Fern, her fourteen-year-old Fell pony during her isolation at Windsor Castle. In a pre-recorded video the British monarch said, "Together we are tackling this disease, and I want to reassure you that if we remain united and resolute, then we will overcome it. I hope in the years to come everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge."
"Back on the trail again". Even though my horse is long gone, I feel there are plenty of ways to be back on the trail again.
As I begin to think this way, not resisting but allowing, it seems that things are beginning to fall into place. The energy of spring behind me seems like a blessing.
Let's hope that the Long Riders whose activities have been stalled can find their way through these challenges. And that those of us parted from our horses can also create a new path. I have no doubt it's out there.
Please tell these Long Riders that dealing with this pandemic is part of their story. Suddenly, the world has changed. They've already had to change course, possibly caught far from home. Maybe the concept of "home" had already shifted.
Think of all the EEE chapters you wrote, including much about staying healthy and dealing with sickness. In 1800 plus pages, did the word "pandemic" ever come up? This is like a giant meteor finally hitting us. We know it could happen, we might even see its trajectory. And then it actually happens. Immediately, it is profound history and there we are in the middle of it.
You start out on a horse journey, or you are poised to go, everything else in your life put on hold for this great adventure, and suddenly all that forward momentum is stopped. What do you do now? Even, if it's just waiting, that time is important. The whole world is in that place and the Long Riders’ Guild is part of it. This is part of "the ride". I hope they can see it that way.
Regarding this moment in time, I'm actually embracing the change now, and seeing what I can do with it. It's actually feeling re-vitalizing for me to step away from the old patterns and see what else is out there. Even within all the confines, we’ll see what goes.
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