Sunday, January 22, 2012

Pony Rides

For years I didn't dream at all, not even a fragment during that brief moment between sleep and waking. For some reason, not all that many years ago, I began dreaming again.  I couldn't remember the whole dream but bits and pieces stuck with me.  Sharing them with Mouse, she declared they were rather exotic, like the one of her on the Eiffel Tower, or me walking through gardens with Her Majesty (I think I had been watching a news clip of her at a flower show on TV). I've been driving around on roads very much like the Coast Highway in Oregon or dirt roads that look like something out of a  commercial for the Tuscan wine country. I've gone back in time to places I loved as a child while as an adult enjoying the company of friends and loved ones who have passed on years before. Some are upsetting but not terrifying, some are puzzling and the fragment I remember is a piece that I have to keep replaying in my mind, searching for the key to its relevance. On the whole, dreaming is a lot more interesting than not dreaming.

The other morning I woke up from a dream to the memory of being a child, perhaps four or five, the time before Mama had her first bout with cancer. I know it was a memory, dredged from the dusty corners of the file cabinet of my mind. We were driving home from shopping in the medium-sized city some miles from our house when, in a small clearing on the side of the road, there was a fence, a sign, a pole and a group of small equines with saddles. Being the child I was, I wanted to ride the ponies and Mama obligingly pulled over and paid for my entrance. I chose a brown and white spotted pony from among the five or six there and I was the only rider. In an instant I was Dale Evans riding Buttermilk across the country or Tonto riding with the Lone Ranger. I can still smell the scent of horse and the smell, feel and sound of the leather saddle beneath me. For a small child it was heaven.

In my recent dream/memory, though, I noticed something different. I was still enjoying the sight and sound and smell, but I noticed the ponies themselves, each one saddled and tied to a pole, only allowed to move when the man clicked his tongue at them, otherwise doomed to stand in one spot until another car stopped, another child climbed in the saddle and the click came again. In a flash I saw what those ponies saw -- a bare patch of dirt, a pole and a rope keeping me in place, and when I moved, I could only follow a prescribed circle rather than being able to choose when and where I wanted to go. I could look down at the ground and see the slight indentation in the ground where I as pony and my companions had walked many times over that ground and I could smell the dust kicked up by the pony in the next enclosed space just ahead of me.

Maybe my thoughts were human thoughts rather than pony thoughts, but it made me think about how much of my life is like that pony ride. Like most ponies who work at pony rides (and people who work at people jobs), I'm not totally in charge of my own life. I have responsibilities to my employer, my creditors, even my cats. I have a routine where I seemingly walk around in circles for a prescribed amount of time, then I am released to eat, sleep and be my own pony -- within limits.  Tomorrow will be the same, and the day after that, and the day after that until I am either retired to pasture or I die in harness. 

But I have an advantage over the pony, I believe (although this is pure speculation since I don't know what goes on in equine minds). I have options, even though I am figuratively tied to a pole and walk in circles all day, whether at work, at home or anywhere else. I can think; I don't have to concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other but can think about the latest book I'm reading, a post I'd like to write, an anticipation of a lunch or dinner with a friend. I can dream, going places in my mind that my physical body can't follow. I can plan, working out what to have for dinner or where to spend the rest of my life. I can remember, revisiting people and places long past. And I can pray, not just asking for quitting time to get here sooner or to get the bills paid with some funds left that I can use just for fun, but for people, situations they find themselves in, and areas of worry and concern in the world.

I can pray for all the ponies on pony rides wherever they are, whether or not they are real or figurative ponies. Somehow, that makes my own plodding seem of more value and the circles in which I plod more bearable.

Am I hearing the click that means to get started?  Or is it God saying "Giddyup"? 

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