Beginnings of things are not often what you imagine they will be like, and I did not imagine that one of my first markers on the map would be a site of grief and loss. A friend and long-time riding student passed recently. She had been sick and the loss was not out of the realm of the expected. Despite the signs and worry our circle of friends shared over the past weeks, the final news came as a great shock, and I've spent a fair amount of time since marveling at the velocity of my surprise.
I've been working with her and her horses for seven years. Last year, we started her colt, Jazz, together, who she bred and raised from birth. I worked with him today, as I have hundreds of times now, but it was the first time I did so without envisioning my friend in my footsteps. Or, more accurately, the first time I was conscious that would no longer come to pass.
She met her challenges with kindness and tenacity. At the barn she made us laugh and kept us on our toes and made sure we revised our equi-philosophical platitudes into sensible language -- a rare insistence on honesty in the face of enthusiasm. She kicked cancer's ass so hard that she wrung every drop of fun out of a fabulous vacation a mere six weeks before she died. She may have been my student, but I have her to thank for teaching me countless lessons. Perhaps my sense of surprise is a function of the intrusion of the quantitative into the qualitative: our ongoing collaboration now has an end date, a last page, a final notation -- a concept incongruous with its character.
Ride on in the afterlife, my dazzling friend, ride on, and leave directions so we can find you.