Five of my barn buddies entered a horse show at a venue about an hour from my house. In horse show terms, that’s right next door, so I buzzed on down to the showgrounds and prepared to be a rail bird, rooting for the home team.
A dressage competition consists of riding a set pattern of movements (a test), and you compete with everybody else riding the same test. The tests get harder as you go up the levels, demanding more strength, agility, and complex communication between horse and rider. You can see the kind of stuff the cool (and well funded) kids do on this compilation video.
It’s harder than it looks, for both horse and rider. Getting to the point where you and your equine partner can do the fancy lengthenings, pirouettes, and sideways movements takes years. Sometimes, you think you’ve found the horse who can take you all the way to the top, but the poor beast goes lame or has an accident or, or, or.
I wandered around the show grounds–a venue where I’ve competed, show mom’d, volunteered, and managed shows myself–and felt a sense of nostalgia. I watched people of all ages, from early teens to significantly older than I am, all focused on laying down the best test they were capable of, from beginner to international hopeful levels. The horses were braided and buffed, the riders were in regulation attire, the facility was beautiful.
What came over me was a sense of awe, to be in the presence of that much dedication, that much talent, that much determination and love for horses. The spirit of goodwill among the competitors was palpable as was the support from show management and the judging staff.
I like Wordsworth’s Composed on Westminster Bridge because it conveys some of the sense of what I felt. Old William, an avowed pastoralist, was hustling through London during the brief Peace of Amiens, on his way to France to meet a half-grown daughter he’d never seen. Crossing the Thames at dawn, his poetic soul got a gut-punch of meaning and beauty from a very unexpected urban quarter.
To ride well, especially in competition, is physically, emotionally, and mentally challenging, and all around me were athletes who had made significant sacrifices for the chance to trot their stuff around those arenas. I never felt as an equestrian that, “I coulda been a contenda,” but watching those horse and rider teams, I did feel part of a legacy that is in the main good and beautiful. (I can’t say that about all equestrian sports.)
I find value in being at once humbled by something vast and touching, and also exalted to be in its presence. I’m reminded of how amazing life can be and how lucky I’ve been, in so many ways. Those hours at the horse show were good for me, and my riding has been more focused and–I dunno?– reverent for what I experienced there.
Have you encountered any moments of awe lately? Are there any that shine in memory like a gorgeous beacon? I’ll add three commenters to the ARC list for Lady Violet Pays a Call.
On holiday with our adult son, we saw two older teens dressed in a style I’d call “Kewpie doll.” He had a name for it, and while, he said he didn’t care for it, he had to admire their total dedication to it. Focus on a goal is a little foreign to me, personally. I, like my son, am a little random.
To some it may be a minor thing, but my husband and I frequently sit outside in our back yard and revel in the beauty and nature around us. We both came from humble city beginnings, the fully attached houses with the postage stamp lawn in front, the party driveway, the neighbors pretty much looking in your windows at all hours, simply because the houses were just that close together. Where we live now, a chorus of birds sings loudly and continuously all day long, they build nests in the wreaths that hang from our doors, frogs swim in our pool, deer babies follow their moms through our yard and feed on our shrubbery. Sightings of bears, raccoons, foxes, fisher cats, bobcats and other wildlife are commonplace in our community. It’s just so different from where we two inner city kids were raised that we are frequently awed and thankful that we landed here in paradise!
I love your post. I was never athletic and was only on a horse once. The saddle started slipping. I don’t do well with heights so that was it for me.
Most of my moments of awe are when I watch the sky – clouds, storms, sunsets, stars, the moon – and I love the sound of wind. I’m not up early enough for sunrises. I do a little genealogy and am in awe of how brave my ancestors were in setting out for a new world. Knowing that the earth is constantly changing, and having an appreciation of geologic time, awes me. There is nothing like realizing that you are standing on what was once a sea. The first fossil I ever found was a trilobite near my very inland college, and it opened my eyes.
One moment of awe that I had was seeing a painting at The Metropolitan Museum of Art called “Morning, Interior” by Maximilien Luce. It took my breath away! It is a Neo-Impressionist painting. I don’t know how to describe it so that you feel the awe I felt. I just know that I will always remember that moment of “Holy Cow!” The Impressionists do this to me in general. Van Gogh is one of my all-time favs.
From my past, memories of my daughter dancing on stage were and still remain truly awe inspiring. She quite literally worked the skin from her flesh to attain an extraordinary skill level and danced some magnificent roles that required every drop of passion in her body.
More recently, I was awestruck by a novel by a brand new author: Shelby Van Pelt’s Remarkably Bright Creatures. I listened to the audiobook while I did mundane tasks, and all the while I kept thinking: how is she weaving such a magical spell?
Thanks for a lovely post, Grace. It so makes me want to go for a ride!
I was recently doing a lot of hiking in the Pacific Northwest, in lush green forests with gargantuan trees. Knowing how old those venerable giant trees were gave me such a feeling of awe and connectedness. My life is such a drop in the bucket compared to nature’s timeline. Nature truly is a balm to almost all wounds!
The first time I was at Crater Lake in Oregon. The water was so blue and the terrain was so undeveloped it felt ancient. I expected a dinosaur to come around the corner any minute. It’s my favorite place, ever.
I have had some amazing moments of awe none truly recently though. You are going to think this is really cynical, but this is true… I will spare you the medical details but I found myself in the emergency room with a half dozen people working to get me squared away. I was amazed because I didn’t feel all that bad. I remember thinking – “these people care that I stay alive” I am telling you that it has been a very long time since I have felt medical personnel truly invested in my wellbeing.
If you want to hear about my awe moments of memory which are much more traditional, just let me know. If you want to know about the near future, I am anticipating the birth of my first grandchild in the next 2 weeks and when I meet her and hold her in my arms I expect to be totally …. Totally
The most beautiful sunset I have ever seen so far was when I was strolling along the harbour arm at Margate which is in Kent England. Not far from the small town where I live I had decided to take a coastal walk around the cliffs and beach.The sea was calm and the gulls were still busy diving for fish,people were walking their dogs before the light faded.I sat on the harbours seats and watched the sun twinkle,throwing down on the sea sparkles of diamonds against the backdrop of the orange and red sky.Behind me stands The Turner Centre built to promote art and display.Dedicated to the famous British artist Turner.He painted many a sunset here ( two hundred years ago).The light here is so perfect for artists.I am in AWE of this amazing spectacle.I have seen What Turner saw many years ago.Lucky me.
The bioluminescent mushrooms! https://www.theguardian.com/environment/gallery/2022/jun/11/the-bioluminescent-world-of-glowing-lifeforms-in-pictures