In the Saddle

Today Ali took me riding. It’s been a few years since I’ve been in the saddle, but as soon as jeans hit leather it all came rushing back. Shoulders, hips, ankles in line. Heels down. Look where you want to go. My aunt’s voice saying, “Relax the (w)hole.”

I have such an immense respect for my sister. Like me, she has found and chosen a career path that she loves. Despite the long hours, lack of recognition and low income, she spends each day perfecting the elements of her world she can control. As I walk through the several barns on the property, I know when I enter hers; I can literally feel the sense of dedication and love she puts into her work. It shows in the cleanliness of the barn, the organized and labeled tack, the healthy look of the horses. I know she spends the extra time to make sure everything is done right.

I spent the morning doing paperwork, going to the post office, sorting through loose ends. Without complaint she is my chauffeur; we get lunch and complete my errands. By the time we are done it is nearly three o’clock, and we head to the barn. As soon as we turn off the highway, we are in her world. Any sense of ‘older sister’ immediately fades. I am in her capable hands. I lag behind, watching her assume a quiet confidence I know she finds here in this space. I can feel by extension my step get lighter, a wave of happiness. I find such joy in knowing she has this place, this small part of the world that gives her a sense of responsibility, courage, work ethic, motivation. Her horse, Dezi, seems to know the peculiar sound of her footsteps and cranes her head, searching. She takes a while to warm up to me, but we make friends. Maple oat cookies help.

We spend the day riding in the fields, up the road to look at neighboring goats and cows, the flocks of geese that have landed everywhere on their journey south. There is no one else around. It’s peaceful. We break the silence with peals of laughter at silly jokes, little things only sisters share. It’s so good to spend time with her.

In the arena she lets me urge Dezi into a trot, after scolding me for trying it in the pasture. “There are holes!” she yells from a few yards behind me. I make her laugh, passing her doing the Gagnam-style dance move with my arms, almost falling out of the saddle as I miss a post and crack up. She catches it all on video.

All in all, a great day. I’m filled with a sense of awe for my sister who has found this valuable place in the world. I’m also realizing our similarities, reveling in them, glad that we are so similar in the way we work. I think we both thrive in a leadership role, whether or not we seek it out. She has a quiet power to her that I respect, love, appreciate. I hope we have more time to explore our other similarities. It’s so easy to see the differences that sometimes the things we have in common get overlooked.

We spent the ride home belting the soundtrack to Wicked at the top of our lungs, me cracking up while she changed parts every other line, making it impossible to sing along. No matter. Now that I’ve seen the musical (right before I left Seattle Laura and I went to see it at the Paramount) I actually know some of the words. I’m happy to sing back-up.

Love you, sis.

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