Today is my birthday. I’m 44. As a gift, I asked for a trip to Wyoming to attend a week-long retreat that centers around wilderness, horses and discovering one’s essence. I have traveled by myself exactly twice in my life. The first time was in 1992. I was in college, and completing my student teaching in The Netherlands. The second time was three years ago when Andrea made me go to Ohio alone, but that is a story for a different day. At the time, both trips felt big and scary. Both were life-changing at a core level. This time, I will be gone for nine (9!) days, traveling by myself from one tiny town in the Appalachian mountains to another tiny town in the Rocky Mountains. I’ve honestly wanted to back out several times already, telling myself that staying home and reading about horses would be about as good.
My decision to make the leap and register for the retreat happened the same day I received the invitation. Tom and the boys were camping, and I had the whole house to myself. Needless to say, this doesn’t happen very often, and when it does I almost always fill the kitchen table with some kind of collage project. That night, I knew exactly what I wanted to make: an art horse. I pulled out an old atlas I keep for collage and found a map of Wyoming. I tried to find Jackson Hole (which is the airport I fly into) to see where in this big square state I was potentially headed. I couldn’t find Jackson Hole, never mind Dubois (pronounced DEW-boyz; 2.6 square miles; current population 1,002) my ultimate destination. Excited to just make something, I laid the horse pattern on the map and began tracing. As I was putting the pieces together, I had one of those experiences that defies explanation, logic and the rules of chance. The tiny, tiny, tiny town of Dubois sat squarely on the front leg of my horse. I double and triple checked. There is only one Dubois, Wyoming. It sits on the Wind River. And here it was, on my horse’s leg. I sat with this revelation for all of about 10 seconds, and then did what I always do when big profound messages seem to come to me from beyond: I went to bed.
Andrea is always telling me, “Go big or go home.” I always tell her, “Think small and stay home.” This year, however, I’m taking her advice: for my trip in September and for a few other projects that have been waiting for me to muster up the cojones to act on them. What I am learning here in my mid-forties is that courage begets courage. Exploring the outer edges of who I think I am and pushing the limits that currently define my experience and my understanding is an act of bravery. Somehow, my trip to Wyoming encapsulates all this and more.
Am I scared? Hell yes. A list of my fears would fill pages and expose more than a few neuroses. However, that is exactly what I want to step into this year. I want to see what is on the other side of the quivering trepidation that feels thicker than a brick wall. My guess is there is a lightness and a freedom and a lot of other things I don’t even expect. There is comfort on this side of the wall. I trust there will be comfort on the other side as well. However, the journey from one side to the other . . . ? Not much feels comfortable here in the transition. Taking a deep breath, I am booking the flight. Sitting quietly, I am creating more art horses. Slowly but surely the days will pass until I am putting one foot in front of the other and making that journey from one tiny town to another tiny town. It’s a gift I’m giving myself.
* PS. Did you know 2014 was the Year of the Horse?? And that it is an auspicious time for travel, especially to destinations off the beaten trail?? I don’t usually look to the Chinese zodiac calendar for counsel, but this year, I’m taking all the help I can get.
**PPS. I will be posting my art horses here. Right now I have bunch of them cut out and assembled. I plan to add layers and details
the more and more nervous I get as time goes on.