Tag Archives: SSI

Sunset With the God of Horses

Poseidon was the god of the sea, earthquakes, and horses. All the things that thunder. The things that shake the ground beneath us and remind us that we can be moved.

Wild horses on Cumberland Island, Georgia.

Wild horses on Cumberland Island, Georgia.

Tonight, when I went walking along the sand bar at sunset, I remembered that title “Sunset With the God of Horses.” I started this post last summer, on the night my sister sounded the alarm about how sick Daddy really was. How he wasn’t going to magically get better with some rest and the right care. How Big Gay had been holding on with all she had but she needed help. Last summer, on that sad and confusing day, I took a walk by myself onto the sand bar at Saint Simons Island at sunset to think.

The waves of the rising tide raced each other to the sand. A long time ago, Richard and I took a small boat from Mykonos to the holy island of Delos. I looked out over the dark blue swells of the Aegean Sea and understood for the first time why the god of the sea would also be the god of horses–the movement of the water looked just like the stretching necks of a herd of running horses. Raw power, thundering out ahead of itself.

And here I sat, missing Richard because he was the only other person in the world who remembered that boat ride on that day. How was I going to live in a world without my dad too? The curve of the sand bar and the beach created a narrower inlet that penned in the waves. They clambered over each other, but by the time they reached the shore, they had sorted themselves into regular shapes, like the scalloped lace on a little girl’s collar.

These were the things I tried to think about so that I wouldn’t think about my father dying.

When I was little, I wanted a pony just as desperately as most little girls do. And it seemed like it shouldn’t be all that hard. My dad was a veterinarian. We lived in the corner of a pasture. There was grass EVERYWHERE for a pony to eat. What was the holdup?

One day, we showed up at my dad’s clinic, and lo and behold, there stood a little spotted grey and white pony in the paddock. Daddy called it a “Pony of the Americas” but all I heard was “blah blah PONY.” One of his clients had turned it over to him as payment on a bill.

Can you imagine what my heart did at the sight of that little horse? Daddy said it was a good cow horse. He got up on it and roped a couple of the calves in the pen. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. My boring old Daddy, who came home every night and collapsed in a chair to read spy novels and fart–riding and roping! Who was this person who could do stuff that we never heard a peep about at home?

Well. We didn’t get to keep the pony. Daddy took it to the sale barn the next week and sold it off for cash money, which we needed way more than we needed a pony.

That night on the sandbar at sunset, I couldn’t get that little pony out of my mind. That little pony allowed me to see a part of my dad I never knew. I saw him rope calves and flip steers in the air like it was nothing. He had this whole other life, of powerful things, that I knew nothing about. That’s what I was thinking about on the sand bar. What else would I never know about my father? Now that we found ourselves at sunset. Sunset and the god of horses.

I sat there by myself and I cried a few tears for the confusion of it all. The end of his life, coming like the relentless waves. The things he had given me, like my love of stories. The things he hadn’t been able to give me, like that pony. All flying away in the wind. All heading to the silent lands in the west, like the setting sun.

Endings and leavings. Here I am a year later, standing beside the ocean with the same questions in my heart.

The Narrowest Strip of Land

I’d have worn a nicer baseball cap if I’d known we were going to be in someone’s engagement pictures. G played in the surf with the kids, right under the tower of pink and coral clouds that held the last light of sunset. Waves crashed all around us and the wind blew so high that puffs of froth flew off the tips of the waves and skittered down the beach.

Bunch of nuts.

Bunch of nuts.

I waved to G with my cup full of rum drink and pointed down the beach about thirty yards to a young couple locked in a tight hug. They were enclosed by a semicircle of beaming family. Every woman held a cell phone pointed straight at the happy couple…and us.

The young man must have planned it with all of their help. Each person wore beachy dress clothes, like they had just come from dinner and wanted to get some sunset photos on the sand.¬†Only problem was…there wasn’t much sand. Certainly not enough for their family and our family and the magic moment that was supposed to happen in a picture perfect way. The sunset that the young groom-to-be had imagined coincided with a new moon high tide that thundered right up to the trash cans and the boardwalk steps. As we’ve all heard for a thousand years, “Time and tide wait for no man.”

So while their family tried to act casual, the young man led the young woman down onto the narrow strip of sand that hadn’t yet been eaten by the incoming waves. He handed her a letter and she stood there in the whipping wind trying to read it, keep her hair out of her mouth, and focus on this important moment…all with twelve people standing in a grinning circle and two strange children (mine, ahem) who decided to act out a scene from Paw Patrol nearby.

All was joy a few moments later, when she said yes and everyone jumped up and down and then they took photos in the last light of Their Engagement Day.

The narrowest strip of land

The happy couple, their happy family, some trash cans and my son.

I got engaged under a pink sky just like that one once upon a time. And the ground was being eaten beneath our feet on that day, too, but we pressed on towards what would be.

G clapped loudly for the young couple and gave them two thumbs up. He walked over to me and we held hands for a moment before he went back to herding the kids. I had to laugh, even though the sound of it disappeared into the wind and waves. Ten hours earlier, we had stood in the driveway and had a screaming match so loud that Carlos had walked out into the garage and said, “Enough with the arguing!”

For three days, I had been packing and prepping and then G had the gall that morning to roll his eyes and say, “Why are we taking all this shit?” Within 10 minutes, I was moving stuff from his car to my car and he had decided he wasn’t even GOING on vacation….yadda yadda yadda. We apologized to each other, explained to the kids that we were using our words to express our feelings, and that it’s totally normal to have disagreements. We all had a big group hug right there in the driveway then got back to the business of living as a family.

Who could resist that face?

Who could resist that face?

Watching that young couple starting out, with their fancy plans for how this Important Moment was supposed to go–sunset proposal on a pristine beach–I had to laugh at the reality of it. Sunset proposal next to the trash can at high tide with a wind so fierce she can barely hang on to the letter you wrote so carefully, the letter with all your hopes and dreams and love for each other.

What I would tell them is that they had all they needed, even if the details weren’t going as planned. Marriage is the narrowest strip of land. Just enough to stand beside each other while the vast ocean nips at your toes and the wind drowns out all that you would say to each other. Stay strong on the narrowest strip of land. The tide will turn. The moon with ease up. The sun will rise on another day.

Marriage Proposal, St Simon's Island