It’s that time of the year to listen to my special Christmas playlist when running, which consists mostly of Enya winter songs, Sarah MacLachlan, Beyonce (Ave Maria), Handel, James Taylor, and some old Irish harp music (as mentioned in a recent post). “On Horseback,” by Michael Oldfield, is another song that is reminiscent of winter, and it is also one that I subtly referenced in my novel Back to the Garden. One of the main characters is Buddha, who is overweight and dreams of his mother’s ancestral potlatches, along with his father’s church potlucks. In a new world that humans must adapt to after climate change has devastated so much of the old world, Buddha is a happy type who befriends the other main characters on the road after his biker friends are all killed by a band of marauders. He brings back the cultural importance of the potlatch. Along the way, he dreams of losing weight and riding a horse across a meadow in the snow. Part of the lyrics of Mike Oldfield’s song “On Horseback” are:
Hey, and away we go
Through the grass, across the snow
Big brown beasties, big brown face
I’d rather be with you than flying through space
Some find it strange to be here
On this small planet, and who knows where
But when it’s strange and full of fear
It’s nice to be on horseback
Some are short and others tall
Some hit their heads against the wall
But it doesn’t really matter at all
When you happen to be on horseback
Buddha knows that no matter who you are (big or small or “short or tall”) that a connection with nature, be it crossing a snowy meadow on horseback, is a worthy dream to have. I won’t spoil it for you, but despite a futuristic warmer world, there are still places that have snow, of course, and his dream has potential.
Another inspiration for Buddha’s dream was Tolkien’s “Lament for the Rohirrim”:
Where now the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing?
Where is the helm and the hauberk, and the bright hair flowing?
Where is the hand on the harpstring, and the red fire glowing?
Where is the spring and the harvest and the tall corn growing?
They have passed like rain on the mountain, like a wind in the meadow;
The days have gone down in the West behind the hills into shadow.
Who shall gather the smoke of the dead wood burning,
Or behold the flowing years from the Sea returning?
It can be argued that Tolkien’s world lamented the loss of nature in the rising industrial age. Here we are, close to a century later, doing the same in fiction–lamenting but also developing mysteries and romances and dystopian universes to imagine our humanity’s losses and gains resulting from environmental destruction.
I should briefly mention my worst horseback riding experience. I was 17, and we had visited Arizona for Christmas to visit my aunt, uncle, and cousin. We rented some horses in the desert (I’ll never forget my dad telling them that we were “city folk from Chicago” and to give us their calmest horses). Well! I got their most rambunctious horse. In fact, after about half an hour of trying to ride this horse, it just ran off with me on its back. It galloped across the desert, far away from the others. I couldn’t get the thing to stop. We even crossed a rather isolated highway at one point. I envisioned myself getting bucked off and dragged to death. On the other hand, it was quite beautiful and even fun, in a dangerous, scary way. I was out in the desert, by myself, on a horse that was completely wild. All around me blurred the dusty brown and red rock of the winter desert, with the dark shadows of cacti and endless blue sky meddling with the silent song of nowhere, which haunts you with imagined echoes and ancient eras. It took me a couple years to ever get back on a house after that experience.
Anyway, I had fun writing Back to the Garden, and even though it was my first novel, I had many “Easter eggs” in it. I have tried working on other novels since, but they are at standstills. In the new year I am taking on fewer projects and books so that I can return to writing!
Meanwhile, today is my running day, and, thankfully, my work hours are shortened for the holiday. However, we are leaving tomorrow for California to spend time with family. I am so looking forward to it. My mother and I had such a long conversation over the weekend (we are also dreaming of Ireland like little girls dream of big things!). I’m so looking forward to running along the beach with my daughter and will hopefully have some good photos upon my return.