“Life is either a daring adventure or it is nothing.” Helen Keller
There were a lot of serious conversations between us for months about Santa Fe. Most of them went on long into the night. The pros and cons. We took turns being the trailblazer and playing the devil’s advocate. Friends tell us how brave we were to do this, how adventurous. Little did they know. We lost track of the times we thought of what that old cowboy had written on a napkin in the diner in Dillon, Montana.
Selling everything, moving 900 miles away. If you looked under “risk” in the dictionary we were sure there would be a picture of the two of us headed for New Mexico.
What we were contemplating was the very essence of the concept of risking.
Risking is like jumping a crevasse. You don’t jump the depth of the crevasse, you leap the width, you don’t jump the depth of the risk, you jump the width. It stands to reason that anything you do to bring the sides closer helps minimize the risk. Easy, right? Just don’t look down.
We knew we had to try to bring the walls of the metaphorical crevasse closer together. We knew there would be a price to pay. We knew what Charles Portis had written in TRUE GRIT. “You must pay for everything in this world one way and another. There is nothing free except the Grace of God. You cannot earn that or deserve it.”
Not exactly encouraging. So we began to make lists…endless lists.
The list started with getting a medical license in New Mexico. Getting a medical license in another state is an arduous process in which everything has to be documented. Medical school transcripts, birth certificates, licenses, continuing education courses, shoe size. During my career I held licenses in Pennsylvania (medical school), New Jersey (where I lived) and Maryland (where I worked in the emergency department for a while). Each document takes weeks to secure. Sometimes months. There are companies that collect all the data for you and submit them to the state in which you are seeking a license. For a fee. Even though the first company I contracted with was recommended they didn’t really know what they were doing. It took four months to realize that. Four months lost.
I cut them loose and hired another company. The second company was more buttoned up but it still took four more months to secure my New Mexico license. By this time we were into the last months of 2019. Time to find a moving company.
In the last thirty years we had moved from Corona del Mar to Indio to La Quinta and then to Valley Center in North County San Diego. We knew moving was a gigantic pain but it wasn’t anything we hadn’t handled before. We were about to find out that moving out of state, 900 miles away, is an entirely different animal. An expensive animal.
We began the process of picking a moving company. Picking a moving company involves 1) interviewing movers, 2) realizing that not all movers are alike, 3) realizing that reviews are virtually useless, and 4) accepting that movers are expensive (I wrote that already). Particularly when moving out of state.
Time was going by. It was already the early part of 2020. And by February, the medical community was already beginning to talk about a new virus on the horizon. It was said to have started in China, was wildly contagious and already being talked about as if it was the reincarnation of the 1918 flu pandemic. The world was starting to shut down. Conventional wisdom was that it would take six weeks or so, a few months at the most perhaps, to “flatten the curve” whereupon life would return to normal. We hunkered down but continued to make plans. Plans that had to include Macarena.
If you have ever been in my office you no doubt remember the large sepia-toned picture of a horse examining the outstretched legs of a cowboy in a pasture. The picture hung on the wall at my medical spa at the Hyatt Grand Champions in Indian Wells for 13 years and then in my office in Escondido for four years where any patient in my examining chair couldn’t miss it. The picture is of Macarena. My Spirit Horse. The cowboy is me.
Macarena found us about thirty years ago when she was almost three years old and as green as grass. She had been foaled in North County San Diego on a ranch owned by Willis Allen, a highly-regarded polo player, horse breeder and a dear friend. Willis sent her to his trainer at the polo club in Indio, California, where we were playing. Needing a made horse for his string, the trainer offered to trade Macarena for an older mare I was playing named Barbara. He hadn’t even been on Macarena but for us it was love at first sight.
We always said Macarena was chestnut colored but her coat really was the color of a newly-minted copper penny. She seemed wrapped in a cocoon of light. Copper flashes chased each other across her back as she moved. She had immense dark brown eyes, pools of wisdom, a white blaze on her face like an arrow pointing heavenward and a little girly, flirty coquettish way about her when she tossed her strawberry blond mane.
She was athletic and moved like a ballerina. No one had named her yet and for the first week or so we referred to her as “the new mare.” Sometimes we called her cabeza roja, “red head.”
And then, one night, JoAnn and I were having Margaritas on the patio at La Quinta Resort, listening to a Bolivian pan pipe band weave its hypnotic rhythms.
The Bolivian panpipe group - Viento de los Andes
A perfect desert night, the stars crackling in the black sky. The air was balmy, the kind of night when you could hear the wind move the tops of the palms and feel it as it floated down and kissed you on your cheeks. Two young girls got up and began to dance slowly, sensuously, sinuously, to the music of a song I had never heard before. I walked over to the girls when the music stopped. “What were you doing?” I asked, softly, not wanting to break the mood. “The dance, I mean.”
“It’s called the Macarena,” one answered.
When I told JoAnn her words were: “That’s it. We’re going to call the new mare “Macarena.”
She became the best pony we ever rode. I taught her all the polo moves, the quick stops, the rollbacks, the lead changes. It was almost as if she knew and I was just reminding her. It was like we were telepathic. Tommy Wayman, the top American polo player at the time, was playing at Eldorado where JoAnn and I were playing. We became friends after I had written an article about him for one of the polo magazines and I told him about her one morning over coffee, how easy she was to make. His words are as clear now as if he said them a minute ago. “We don’t make the good horses, you know…God makes ‘em, we just find ‘em.”
That was her. Our lives intertwined for the next thirty or so years.
More about the move to come.