Thursday, July 10, 2008

If you've read my book Fruitflesh or taken any of my classes, you're probably well aware of the fact that a strawberry changed my life. You probably not know, however, that there is a wild horse connection to that life-changing strawberry. I myself had forgotten about it until just recently.

The subject of wild horses has been rising up all around me lately. In the LA Times last Sunday, I read the front page book review piece about Deanne Stillman's latest book, Mustang with great interest. A couple of days ago, I received an email from Deanne, a fellow teacher at UCR Palm Desert, although we haven't yet crossed paths (I loved her first book, Twentynine Palms). She asked me to pass along info about her upcoming reading in Norco for local readers (sidenote: I was once the movie and restaurant reviewer for the now defunct rag, the Norco Pony Express--I have many stories to share about that experience). Norco is a fitting place for a reading about wild horses; it is a real horse town--my niece trains for horse shows there, and there are places where people can tie up their horses in front of every fast food establishment (not sure if people can ride them through the drive-throughs, too!) Here's the info about Deanne's reading:
it's at the Norco library in Riverside County on July 26 at 11 am. Address is 3954 Old Hamner Rd, Norco 92860.

"Mustang" tells the story of the wild horse on this continent, from prehistory through its plight today, with chapters on its return to the Americas with conquistadors, its partnership with Native Americans, its role on the frontier, and its plight today (round-ups, massacres). The big question my book asks is why are we, a cowboy nation, betraying the horse we rode in on?

It was while finishing up my previous book, "Twentynine Palms: A True Story of Murder, Marines, and the Mojave," that I began my journey down the wild horse trail, after learning of the massacre of 34 wild horses outside Reno. Two of the accused were Marines and one was stationed at Twentynine Palms. Having grown up around horses, I was drawn to the story.
I find myself drawn to the story now, too. Just today, I received an email petition from Care2 asking us to urge the BLM to not kill wild horses, as they have planned. I hope we can find a way to protect these majestic creatures.

As for the strawberry/wild horse connection...After Ms. Sweers gave everyone in my high school philosophy class a strawberry and had us explore it with all our senses but taste for five minutes, then take five more minutes to eat the strawberry, slowly, mindfully, she showed us a short, wordless film of wild horses, set to soaring music. Wild horses stampeding across fields, wild horses crossing rivers, wild horses--strangely, disturbingly--running through fire. It was only after the film was over that she asked us to write haiku about our experience. I had forgotten about the film part of the exercise until now. I was so thoroughly mindblown, woken up, by the strawberry, it makes sense that's what has burned most brightly in my memory over the years, but now I remember feeling some wild part of me stir as I watched those horses gallop across the screen, strawberry still zinging on my tongue. The horses didn't enter my poem, but they set something racing inside my heart at the time. It makes me very happy to think of them still running free; may that ever continue, despite all the challenges they face today...

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