We ride at dawn…

I’d resisted asking someone to take a photo of me riding Jack the Horse until today: I was, I think, afraid of what I might look like, afraid of being seen in a position of vulnerability, afraid I’d look like a dork.

But as my confidence has increased, I’m feeling less vulnerable (or simply more comfortable being vulnerable), and I don’t really care if I look like a dork or not.

So I asked Ashley to take a photo of me, and this is the result. Dorky? Possibly. But I’m smiling, deeply and genuinely, and that’s all that matters.

A Casual Referral Run Amuck

Last year my friend Martin mentioned that he had a friend whose wife had died; as I’d recently started listening to the Widow We Do Now? podcast, and was finding it helpful, I suggested Martin share it with his widower friend.

A week later the word came back, via Martin, from the friend: he’d listened, and found it clearly wasn’t for him.

A few weeks later I saw the putatively-disinterested friend’s name show up in the private “Widow Wives Club” Facebook group, and sometime after that he was mentioned as a new sponsor of the podcast.

Clearly something had changed.

Martin’s friend is Ivan Misner, and he relates this story, and talks about illness, grief, and moving forward, in this week’s episode of the podcast.

This is second only to my casually introducing my friends B. and P., and having them end up getting married, in the annals of my successful unexpected matchmaking.

There Will Be Brighter Days

I returned to the print shop this afternoon to produce my first work for 2022, There Will Be Brighter Days. It’s one in a series of prints that I’ve been making through COVID: Remember Other Places?, Unprecedented, Proof of LifeYou Are On Mute came earlier.

As with the earlier prints, is as much a reminder to myself as anything else: with 200+ COVID cases being announced daily, and a neo-lockdown in effect, and the streets as deserted as they were in March 2020, remembering that the snow will melt, the flowers will bloom, and COVID will recess, is helpful.

The paper is 140 pound 25% cotton Fabriano cold press watercolour paper I purchased from The Bookmark today; it’s lovely to print on, and the type bit nicely into it in a most pleasing way. I used Victory Pantone Orange ink, which I call “red” when I’m talking to myself. The cards are 5 by 4 inches.

If you’d like one for yourself, I’ve put them on sale in the Queen Square Press shop tonight.

"There Will Be Brighter Days" letterpress print, sitting in a bush.

Closeup of There Will Be Brighter Days print

Type in form for There Will Be Brighter Days print

Many copes of There Will Be Brighter Days waiting to print.

Storm Bagels

The gift of a “make your own smoked salmon bagels” kit from Tyler and his crew at Gallant’s, knowing that Olivia would miss our long-established routine over the holidays when they were closed, was an act of great insight and generosity.

Cold Ride

On Tuesday morning it was -26°C with the wind chill, and I was in Freetown on horseback.

This was not what I imagined when I tentatively sent an email in June of last year:

I’m a 55 year old widower who’s never ever been on a horse. If not now, when!?

My friend Josh says “Venture Stables is the place for you!”

I thought I might dip my toe in the water with one of your one hour trail rides, but, what being a widower and all, don’t meet your two person threshold.

Any other way I could get on a horse?

The reply from Jasmine came quickly:

It is never too late to try something new and getting out of your comfort zone gives us the ability to grow :)

Would you like to join us on our next trail ride that we have going out?

We can also schedule a 1 hour riding lesson.

I opted for the lesson. And thought that would be it: I’d walk out of my comfort zone for an afternoon, call it a win, and move on.

But at the end of the first lesson Jasmine asked when I wanted to schedule my second lesson. And so I did.

And I’ve been at it ever since. At first it was every two weeks, then every week. I believe I’m hooked.

Riding is nothing at all like I thought it would be: I imagined it would be a mostly technical exercise, like learning to rock climb, or weld.

And there certainly is a technical component to it: I am only now just getting comfortable with the straps and hooks and loops, the “7-4-1” of the belt that tightens the girth, which part of the halter the cross-ties clip to, how to comfortably hold the reins.

It’s in the emotional realm that the surprises come: there is no room for thinking about anything else when on the back of a horse. It demands a mixture of intense concentration and intense relaxation; an openness to communicating, to feeling how the horse is moving underneath, using subtle movements of legs and reins to communicate back. The effects can be profound, and, more often than not, I leave the stable with a clearer head than any other time during the week.

There is simply nothing else like it.

And it is not at all an exaggeration to say that the degree to which riding has opened me up contributed significantly to being able to open my heart up to another.

And so I return, every week. In the rain, in the snow, and when it’s -26° with the wind chill.