Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Ode to Mancamp

I have been back a month. Days after returning more info started to click. I kept reviewing the muscle points and their corresponding number, the routine, and wondering if I could really do this. The only thing standing in my way is my 1974 baby blue Ford F-100 I lovingly call Mancamp. I had purchased this beast of a vehicle a few years back. I had always wanted an old Ford. I had such intense memories of my families old trucks. They were wheat farmers in central Washington. My mother and father had grown up there, my grandmother was raised there and I was born there too. This would be the only place that remained constant in my growing up. Each summer I would return to play with my cousins, to sit in the back of the wheat trucks and run around the fields of gold while my uncle and grandfather were in the distance driving the combines across the hillside. I loved this little town. It was my sanctuary. So for years I had thought that if I only had an old truck I would be connected to this time in my life as long as it ran.

After months spent searching Craigslist for my dream Ford, I found one I could afford, and it was baby blue. At the time I purchased it it had a canopy with a carpeted couch kit inside. The floorboards were removable and when slid in between the two benches made a bed. There were also 6 cup holders. My friend Alice looked inside at this amazing scene and quickly declared that men camp in this thing, this is Mancamp.

Unfortunately, I had to rip out this majesty as it had been taken over by mildew. Next went the canopy, it was finally transformed into the truck of my childhood. Aside from its gas guzzling ways it drove perfect...for a few months. After the engine went out I saved my summer money I earned at the Brewery. I had wanted to begin riding lessons, I finally had a vehicle, another setback. At the end of the summer I took my $2000 to Tony who installed a new engine. I had to keep it running. Everyone thought I was nuts but it represented something more to me than impractical. We took many trips in it. Mancamp saw the ocean, the mountains, the dump, moved couches into friends houses, hauled manure into gardens, and could fit 4 people on its bench seat. It felt like you were riding a couch. It did take me to many riding lessons, and always turned heads. Yet now, as I embark on my new adventure in equine massage, reliability and practicality are tugging at my sleeve. This year alone I have spent $1300 on the radiator and various coolant issues, not to mention the outrageous gas bill. Oh they do love to see mancamp pull into the 76 station.

On Monday I drove Mancamp to Sauvie Island. My boyfriend's boss has a 1991 Subaru wagon for sale. Subarus are reliable, right? I left Mancamp and took the Subaru for a week trial. Today will be the deciding factor as I let the Suby specialists do a comprehensive check-up. All I need is a year or two out of this little car. I am not quite ready for the dreaded car loan and everything that is involved with making a car purchase. All of my focus is on my externship, I have 5 months to finish the requirements needed to obtain my certification. The only thing standing in my path is a reliable vehicle. Yet no matter what, as winter approaches I can not take Mancamp with me. Thank you old blue! The adventures will not be forgotten.

Following Horse Dreams

The intensity of this experience gave the feeling that we had been here for a month. On our final day we performed the entire massage routine. I couldn't believe that we had taken in so much information, with such fabulous instruction and here we were locating 80 muscle points on our equine friend.

Taking this course had changed the way I look at horses and myself. After college I had thought about continuing to grad school, yet I couldn't choose anything that really called to me. I remember the day I knew I must work with horses. I was in college, sitting at the local happy hour in the small town of Olympia, Washington. I was with a few random students, a couple of friends, and my boyfriend, my true love. I thought he was the one, I would ruin my credit for him, I would ignore my friends and drive across the country for him. That night as we all sat telling stories over our cheap drinks, he began his routine of jealousy. Whispering mean nothings at me, like I had brought on this harmless attention to spite him. Ignoring it as I had accustomed myself to, Natalie the Spanish girl began a poetic sermon on horses. I was transfixed as she spoke with such fervor about the desire to be on horseback, riding fast, in any terrain, just as long as it was on horseback. My only experience with horses had been the summers I spent in central Washington. My cousins involved with 4-H lived among all sorts of animals. We would always prefer to go horseback anywhere. I would usually get the older fat horse, like Dapple Dan. We would ride in the open fields, I fell off a few times, rode bareback and laughed for hours as we rode around daydreaming. Yet the horse crazy bug hadn't gotten to me, not then. I was too consumed with boys.

One of my favorite pictures of myself is me at the age of 4 or 5, sitting on a pony bareback up at the Lilies place on Dyer Hill. I look so relaxed and happy, so natural to be there. I am glad I came to my senses. To focus my attention on these brilliant creatures, and to lessen my grip on the idea of the perfect relationship. This newly discovered communication between human and horse was so much more engaging and meaningful to me. I would jump in blindly to follow this dream. Stumbling through lessons, and various disciplines. Saving what money I could for another lesson, for car repairs to take me out to the barn, and maxing out my library account with horse books.

Now 5 years later I am standing near the Shenandoah Valley surrounded by beauty, by horses.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Our daily commute

After dinner was no time for lounging. Bellies full of fried this and that we would pull out flash cards of muscles, and the stack of equine technical books that adorned the kitchen living area and consume information until our brains grew heavy and tired. I would usually stay up until midnight, still adjusting to the three hour time difference from the pacific coast. Each morning we arose at 6:20 or so, showered and went downstairs to have breakfast with John. I had brought 2 pounds of coffee with me. If anyone can understand the love a Northwesterner has for coffee then that won't sound so strange. I couldn't have survived without it.
We took turns driving, Charly and I. We would come from one end outside of Buchanan and pass through to the other end arriving at Ameythst Acres Equestrian Center where Mark and Debbie ran an Arabian Breeding Farm. The drive each morning was stunning. With coffee in hand we would pass beautiful green hills with pastures of horses, and cows. A little stream running through one would often have herons and egrets standing in the morning light. The air was cool, although a bit moist with leftover humidity. The day would promise to reach into the hundreds for sure.

Study, Study, EAT, Study

There were 12 of us in the Eq 100 class. Our teacher Ruth Mitchell-Golladay and assistant Deanna Noble had wonderful accents and enthusiasm, I couldn't believe this was all happening. The classroom was situated off of the barn with a wonderful view to the outside pasture. This meant no AC. . . we drank a lot of water. Class took place from 8am-5pm. The mornings were spent studying the bony landmarks, muscle points and issues surrounding the profession of Equine Body Worker. After lunch we would watch Ruth as she worked on Cody the "Demo Dude" Quarter horse. She would locate specific points, demonstrate the massage technique and off we would go with our partner and horse of choice to try it on our own. Deanna, the asssistant had taken the EQ 100 course the previous year. I was so impressed with her knowledge, it gave me hope that I too could be as knowledgable. She would walk into the stall and help each one of us as we struggled to understand exactly how our hands and body were to be placed for each move. At the end of the day Ruth would assign a mountain of homework. As we passed through town we often grabbed a bite at one of the local restaurants. All eyes would fix upon us, definte strangers we were in this close knit community. Sometimes we chose the Northstar, where you could get chicken strips and sweet tea, and choose from a list of side vegetables where cottage cheese was an option. Another night it would be the pizza place, or the Buchanan Family restaurant where blackened catfish and fresh corn on the cob was oh so good. I was amazed at the option for smoking or non-smoking sections of the restaurant, and yet i wasn't. I felt like I was in another time.

Oh Humidity

Dehydrated and half-asleep I found my way out into the hot wind looking for Thrifty Rental Car. It finally clicked, this is what HUMIDITY feels like. It would be another 4 hours until I reached my destintion of Buchanan, Virginia in Botetourt County. The scenery was dreamy. Old barns and fields of tobacco, and country roads that wound through the Blue Ridge Mountains. I was staying at a Bed and Breakfast with two classmates, just outside of Buchanan. The proprietor, John Shotwell is a true southern gentleman. I felt as if I was staying with my grandfather. I was truly in love with the landscape. Yet this was not the time I would get to experience it. I was here for the horses, for the love of horses, and the hours of study it would take to memorize their latin.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Night Flight

The date of my departure to Virginia had seemed so far away. I had received the study guide and ordered the recommended books on Amazon. I spent the first warm days of summer outside surrounded by horse anatomy. Scouring the web I found an affordable yet non-direct flight to Raliegh-Durham North Carolina. From there I would have to rent a car.

All was seeming in order. I just couldn't believe that it was actually happening. I was going to Virginia to study massage for horses! The night of my departure I had a fabulous dinner created by Ryan. He, Branic, and I sat outside eating porkchops and wine. I hate flying, and this was a night flight. I thought I could at least sleep on the plane. So I had a few glasses of pinot noir and off I went to the PDX airport.

As Ryan pulled away in my old blue 1974 Ford I lovingly called Mancamp I couldn't stop crying. Both overwhelmed by the new experience that lay ahead and a slight fear of doing this all alone, I stepped up to attendant at US Airways wishing I hadn't broken my last pair of sunglasses.

I hadn't been on a plane since the girls and I took our February trip to Mexico in 2006. Walking through the security I received an invitation for a bag check. Standing there barefoot I watched as they pulled out my new Aubrey Naturals shampoo. It was over the allowed limit of 3 ounces for a carry on. One item down. I headed straight for my gate. Once I knew the location I could backtrack and enjoy a glass of wine, my liquid sleep aid.

I had chosen an aisle seat when I booked my ticket online. I was claustrophobic just a bit and needed an easy escape if need be. The woman ahead of me had ordered a bloody mary. That sounded great. One for me too. My plan would work, I thought. I will have a long sleep and awake on the east coast.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Hearing the Call

A few years back I had pondered the notion of becoming an equine bodyworker. I would spend hours researching schools and various programs of study. Yet always in the back of my mind I would find a way to talk myself out of following through with it. ...It's too much money...Do you really know enough about horses?...I need a better car first...
Then, in the winter months of early 2007 I made a decision to go for it.

I had first decided to begin taking riding lessons again. Here I was, 32, determined to surround myself with horses. After putting an ad on craigslist looking for a working student position I was contacted by Shelly Morfeld of Stormcrow Stables. Unsure of how I would be "interviewed" for this position I decided to simply be thankful for getting to spend an afternoon in the country surrounded by the intoxicating smells of the barn. Needless to say, my riding skills were nowhere up to par with what would be required of a working student. I decided to take lessons from Shelly. Twice a week I would drive 30 minutes south of Portland and spend time with the horses, learning horsemanship and humilty.

As I progressed with riding, I decided to take another look at the Equinology website. Reading over the various class descriptions, the instructor bios, and archived newsletters I knew that I had to begin my certification this year. A friend of Shelly's just happened to be an EBW, and was coming out to massage a few of her horses. As I sat and observed Miriah working I knew this is exactly what I wanted to be doing. I decided right then to begin saving. The foundation course was $1700. I knew spring and summer would be profitable at the Brewery I worked at, even more than the previous year. So I set out stashing my tips in an envelope in my closet. I struggled between wanting to take the course offered in northern California in June, and knowing that that also was during the birthday camping trip Ryan and I were planning. The only other date that looked available was in Virginia in August. I took it. I had never been to Virginia, and it sounded like an adventure that was calling to me.