On Courage

Judith and Starry Night, 2008

Tomorrow I’ll drive my daughter and her good friend to riding camp in Vermont. Judith loves Vermont; she adores her friend. Of course, they will have a fantastic week. Judith would rather spend her days and nights at the barn than at a mall or a movie. At camp, they’ll do horse yoga (!), ride cross country and stadium jumping and flat and trail and, probably, the whole gaggle of them will sneak around looking for cell phone service on rocks and under bushes.

I’ll just miss her. And, plus, I leave for California for a week the day she returns.

She went to this same camp a few years ago and grew so much in her riding and in herself. Each girl cares for and rides one horse during camp. Last time, Judith paired up with Starry Night, a sweet bay mare. There were times during camp when Judith and Starry needed courage for one thing or another. I am surprised to find that tonight I need courage for the two weeks without my girl. Am I getting to be a big baby?

I just worry. She’s seventeen and that’s pretty near grown. Will she eat enough? Will she keep hydrated? Will she stay safe? Will she be all right?

Sometimes, I am scared to leave someone I love or let go for them to leave me. There’s always that possibility. I think that’s it. I have never said it before, but there is always that little fear of no returning. You know, if one of us doesn’t come back. That fear flares up in me now and again. Like when Bubba leaves for work or Judith for school and I’m already in the zone, some mornings I just nod and mumble, “love you, too.” Then, the door closes and my heart calls, “Wait! Come back! I mean, I REALLY love you. Like I love belonging with you.”

So. Courage is a practice, too, huh?

I remember when Judith was eight years old and Albert came to the barn where we were riding. He had a reputation, shall we say. A bad-boy, gelded late. A regular equine Fonzarelli. But, right from the start Albert and Judith made each other happy. They were so intent on each other that I didn’t even get a vet check until after he joined us, because it wouldn’t have mattered what the vet found. Albert had found Judith and that was the beginning. When the vet came out post-purchase and discovered the cancer in his eyes, well, that took courage all around. Albert’s courage practice goes way deep.

Judith and Albert on a hunter pace in Lexington.

Judith and I have these phrases we offer each other whenever one or the other of us needs to power up our courage:

  • Dig Deep!
  • We’re strong; all the women in our family are strong!
  • It takes guts and it takes determination. You can do it!
  • I’m here for you, darling.
  • and when courage feels especially out of reach, “Here. Take my angel. I don’t need her today.”

Tonight, Bubba and I went out to see Albert to shed him out a little. He really holds onto his coat these days. Okay. Really, we went to see him because he knows my girl about as good as I do, and I just needed to breathe him in and remember that she is who she is because of Albert. She’s a good little rider. She’s a gal who grew up with an Appy for God’s sake. Independent. Stubborn. Capable. Loyal. True as they come.

Gelding field in Vermont


2 thoughts on “On Courage

  1. You are such a sensitive soul! I have often had people remind me, that when one is so conscious of the present, and living in the moment, it is this heightened sense of awareness that sets one apart from most. It isn’t easy.

    Courage and faith are attributes we practice, not have, like confidence, let’s say. Like muscles, one might think that it becomes easier or a second nature, to practice courage or faith, but I say no. Experience of courage and faith helps us to apply courage or faith when it is needed again, because we have the experience of previous success. The nature of courage is that it is hard! Having faith is difficult when it is most needed.

    Being who you are, to the upmost, is what do you have some say in this world. All else we have to take on faith.

    Enough of my preaching! I identify so much with you Gigi, in this introspective manner of yours! I just want to offer you some spiritual support from a fellow soul on a journey.

    You know I read Chancey as a manuscript, and didn’t really notice until much later the autobiographical nature of the story. I had tears in my eyes, AGAIN, reading your post today. You have a wonderful daughter and you love her so much. What a treasure to share. Thank you, for opening your heart to us readers. We love you for it.


  2. Oh, this just touched me this morning. As my kids enter the teenage years, I feel the same way – wondering if they know how much I love them, trying to show it without smothering, wondering if I spent too much time on any given day doing things that didn’t include them. Courage. I hope your daughter has a wonderful time at her camp.

    Thank you for sharing.


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