Posted tagged ‘growing up’


April 18, 2020

Horses saved my life twice, once when I was a rebellious teen and again in middle age. I don’t speak much about the recurring depression that rises out of my insecurities, of my anxiety. The presence of my horse lifts this shadow. My eyes dilate when I gaze on him and I see the world as a more perfect place.  My breath slows to match his. My heart beats with his. Together, we remain in a moment where the past is gone and the future, immaterial.



The human/equine symbiotic relationship is hard for non-horse lovers to understand. Some humans are born to bond with these magnificent beings. Our souls long for their presence. On their backs, we fly. We walk more confident beside them.

I am grateful for the grace my horse shares with me in these strange times. Perhaps, I am saved again.

Helen Marina Paul July 4, 1933 – April 3, 2019

April 13, 2019

helen paul at cape seal tour

The past two weeks have been incredibly difficult. My mother passed away on April 3. The death certificate lists the time at 1:34 AM, but it was earlier because it took the nurse 45 minutes to come.  It’s funny how details like that stick in your mind.

My mother’s congestive heart failure had worsened; she refused treatment. At 85, she was tired. Her world had shrunken. She missed my father and all who passed before.  She wanted to stay home and was terrified she would end up in a nursing home. I could not allow that.

Hospice was invoked on Monday; she was gone barely into Wednesday. She was not alone. We were all there.

Since then I have been consumed by the things that have to happen when someone dies- Wake, funeral, finances, taxes. There is still more to do.

My girls and Jigs have kept me sane. Everyone has been so kind.

My eldest did the remembrance at the funeral. I just couldn’t do it. It was beautiful and she captured our best memories.

The house feels empty.  I have been staying here almost 15 years- since my father got sick.

Taking care of my mother was the core focus the past few years. I’m not sure what will happen next. It is all changed now. I guess my life will settle into a new pattern. I will adjust, but I will always miss her.

August Again

August 22, 2015

“When August burning low / Arise this spectral Canticle..”  – Emily Dickinson

It is the end of what I suspect is my last vacation of the year, maybe the last vacation for a long time…. Who knows what the future holds?

I took the week thinking it would be cooler Mid-August, but it is New England, after all, and it has been as hot, if not hotter, than the week I took in July.  Heat limited ride time- I admit, I’m a wimp.  Heat bothers me. When we did work, it was to master obstacles hung with shiny, metallic fringe in prep for a versatility in two weeks.

We did sneak in a 10 miler in Ware. It was cool in the woods and we returned before the full force of sun hit.

Ware, MA August 2015

I was exhausted and slept for hours.  I rarely nap and suspect root cause was a bit of heat exhaustion.

We also lost a $70 boot in the mud- another sign of strange August weather. Usually by now the mud is long forgotten. Not that Jigs needs boots. His feet are so hard that abscesses pop out his coronary.

This morning I am sitting at the car dealer getting an oil change and two new tires.  It’s a luxury to be able to sit and not stress about having to “be somewhere.”  Isn’t it odd I’m enjoying a trip to the car dealer?

It feels like most of my life has been lived in a constant state of stressing about where I have to be, what I have to do. It’s exhausting. And yet, I have no right to complain. I know others have not had the opportunities I have and I am grateful for my life.

So, if there is a little too much heat on my week off, I won’t complain; I’m just happy for any time with the red pony.  And I suspect he is grateful the chance to grab a bit of grass when he thinks I am not paying attention.

Grass Diver

Joseph Oliver Paul Nov. 2, 1935 – Aug. 25, 2013

September 1, 2013

“An aged man is but a paltry thing, A tattered coat upon a stick, unless Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing For every tatter in its mortal dress,” – William Butler Yeats

For the last 21 years, my father couldn’t sing. But in a way, his life was his song, a gift he gave to us.


Joseph Oliver Paul

Joseph O Paul

Joe Paul

Joe…  loathed his middle name.  The mischievous daughter in me particularly enjoyed writing out checks to Joseph O Paul because I knew he hated it when the bank teller asked, “What does the O stand for?”

He was my father but like ever one else, I just called him Joe.

My father was not a rich man. He didn’t leave behind a big bank account or a successful dynasty, but, he did leave behind many people who love him.

Joe worked hard most of his life, he had to, his own father died when he was 13. They were building a stone wall together when his father collapsed and died. As the oldest, he became the man of the family, taking on part time jobs to help support his mother, younger brother, and baby sister.  Summers picking strawberries and tending chickens on his cousin’s farm were not easy but it was for his family.

A few years ago my mother was clearing out some papers and found an acceptance letter from Brown University. He never told my mother he had been accepted at Brown. When she asked him why he said, “couldn’t afford it- didn’t matter.” He had to move on.

Joe’s life was touched by tragedy more than once.

On Thanksgiving night, 1957, his 17 year old brother was killed in a car accident. He happened upon the scene with his uncle. What he saw was devastating, but he pulled himself together, went home, and helped his mother through the nightmare. The shirt Johnny gave him for his birthday that year remains unopened to this day resting in his dresser draw.

Tragic events like this might have broken a lesser man. But not Joe.

It taught him how to help others through their difficult times.  Whether it was a terminal illness or unexpected death, he was there. He knew what need to be done and did it.

Joe himself survived a cancer that left him unable to speak without a mechanical aid.  I don’t remember the sound of my father’s natural voice but I do remember how people stared at him in restaurants when he spoke with the speech aid. It never bothered him; in fact, many times he turned and patiently explained to them, “This is what happens if you smoke.”

He volunteered at schools, telling his story to youngsters, hoping to dissuade them from smoking. He believed if he stopped just one kid from smoking, it was worth it.

Joe’s granddaughters idolized him. And he spoiled them, driving the long way home from day care to give them enough time to finish the extra-treats he snuck them. My mother and I never knew.  He loved them unconditionally. He was their “Grandpa Joe.”

Joe made sure I had what I needed too. More than once he hurried to my house to repair a broken pipe late at night or bring me a second set of keys when I locked myself out of my car. (Twice in the same month, it’s a talent, what can I say?)

Christmas mornings at 5 Bowman Lane were magical. Joe loved that day. Friends dropped in and out to share greetings and a drink. We’ve missed that the past few years.

A good neighbor, he was quick to offer a hand with a project or a job that needed doing, whether it was pouring concrete or bringing in a field of hay. He was friendly too, making sure to wave every time you drove by.  Although he learned the hard way you should put the rock down before waving or suffer a broken foot.

Joe was generous with his time. For as long I can remember, he spent every Thanksgiving preparing dinner for local elderly at the Knights of Columbus hall.  As painful as Thanksgiving was for him personally, he spent it helping others.

That was just who Joe Paul was, for his heart was immense and he willingly shared it with us, never asking anything in return.

I am grateful to have known him and privileged to call him my father.

I love you Dad. You are missed.

Wah Wah More Human Emotion

September 17, 2012

Humans have an unwavering propensity toward anthropomorphizing. We have an innate need to see ourselves reflected in the world around us. Maybe it is hubris.

Or is it anti-empathy? We expect outside of us to be a reflection of the inside of us.

Saturday I lost my connection with Jigs.

He didn’t trust me enough to cross the sprinkler obstacle. Not only did he refuse; he gave me ATTITUDE

My feelings were hurt. I thought he TRUSTED me. But nope, he was having none of the water obstacle.

Jigs had no intention to hurt my feelings (just typing this makes me feel like a whinny six year old). He’s a horse. He was only reacting to something scary. Sprinklers aimed at ankles are not natural in the environment.

But, other horses did it willingly.

We  worked on it after the show was over. He did cross it, but not willingly. Not once willingly.

I left the barn edgy and uncomfortable.

I couldn’t shake the feeling. It was a game, supposed to be fun. I wasn’t having fun.

Early evening I went back to the barn to check on him.  The geldings were in the back field so I walked out to see them.

Jigs saw me, lifted his head, whinnied, and trotted to me. I had the halter with me but didn’t put it on. He walked beside me to the gate.

This is not typical Jigs behavior. Jigs does not whinny at me. He does not trot to me or follow me across the pasture without a lead rope. He is ABOVE these behaviors.

Yesterday I told the barn manager about it. She commented that he “seemed like he was sulking” at feeding time and “he just wasn’t himself.”

Sulking is a human emotion. He couldn’t have been sulking, could he? Only humans sulk.

To quote Jigs, “Big sigh.”

Remembering Who I Am

August 23, 2010

The least few years have been a mix of joy and wonder along with frustration, sorrow, and the continuing realization that I am mortal.

At 52, I know who I am. I know who I am not. I’ve given up the adolescent dream of being a poet, of writing a memoir, or leaving behind anything except the children I bore and their descendants. That is how it should be.

A few Saturdays ago I threw away years of journals kept during my years of being a single parent. They were stained with mold from water damage but could have been salvaged. They were full of solipsistic obsessions on myself and my ‘loneliness.’ And there were drafts of poems- I am sorry about loosing poems.

But I am not the woman on those pages. I wouldn’t recognize her if I met her on the street. She was a struggling single mom barely making enough money to raise two girls. She was selfish and cowardly, yet not afraid of doing what needed to be done. She indulged her children to the point of spoiling them.

We live our lives with what we are given and some of us make more than others of what we have. Some are never given enough of an opportunity to do much more than survive. I don’t think I believe that each human can be 100% actualized. I want to believe in equality but reality doesn’t match up. Equality is a nice dream.

Generosity and great heart does not always lead to happy endings. Life savings are lost. Those we love make mistakes. Our faces grow lined and etched with spots. We will all die one day.

I do believe in reincarnation and the idea that we keep returning until we learn what we need to know. I guess there is an equality in that but on the eternal scale.

The woman in the journal who was so enamored of her sorrow doesn’t exist any more. She grew out of it. She faces each day secure in the knowledge that what will be, will be. Some days we laugh; some days we cry; but everyday we learn and grow older.

She doesn’t keep a journal any more.