Monday, January 20, 2014

Day 176 of 365

I have been moving fences.

Figuratively, of course, though I also have experience in the literal sense, transferring big, heavy corral panels from point A to point B. Both events leave you sweaty, dirty, and tired, yet ultimately satisfied with your efforts once the dust has settled.

Moving fences, aka “change”, is grueling. It pulls at your soul, messes with your heart, and leaves your head in a fog. Yet it is also the catalyst for creativity and growth. If nothing ever changed except the advancement of years, then I suppose we would all essentially be who we were when we first entered adulthood. Hmmm, ponder that thought for a moment.

I think of Alex at 18, a cocky, resolute young soul, moving 1200 miles from home on a whim, ready to take on the world. I am proud of the person she was, even back then.

I look in the mirror today and I see that same spark, the same confident grin, though the eyes now reflect a deep knowing. An understanding that this complicated, determined, layered person inside has been shaped in equal parts by the stability in her life and the gut wrenching trials she has endured and conquered. The good, the bad, the ugly – it all defines us.

Why we crave both certainty and uncertainty at the same time is one of life’s great mysteries, but it’s a mystery I am eternally grateful for. That gut level, soul stretching craving for more has brought into my life most of the things that bring me the greatest joy. The journey to write this novel, for example, began in the area of my being that was never quite satisfied by the status quo.

Rachel was very familiar with this feeling. She understood the need to live up to the expectations of her family and society, yet there was always an unsettled feeling in her soul, a deep need to find her own voice, her own adventure. Allow me to share with you some additional depth to her character.

Rachel Kirkbright had been born into a family of means. Not Rockefeller, Carnegie type money, but good money all the same. She was the only girl in a family dominated by male heirs, so the pressure was off to be the only Kirkbright to carry on the family’s place in society. Still, there were steep expectations, and by the time she was 12 her parents had her future completely mapped out. She was to attend Bryn Mawr College at 17, marry by 19, and become a “well-rounded” lady of Philadelphia by the tender age of 21.

But Rachel had a rebellious, independent edge to her. When her Mother braided her long, curly brown hair she was quick to unravel it at the first free moment. When a well-meaning friend of her father’s complemented her on her cooking, saying she would make a fine wife someday, she acknowledged the complement but inwardly glared at the observer through defiant blue eyes.

Rachel did as she was told though. She loved her parents and did not want to openly disappoint them. So she took art classes, learned to play the piano, and crossed her ankles when seated in public. But in her heart she always knew there was more to life than Philadelphia society and becoming “a fine wife.” She wanted more. She craved adventure.

She felt most at home when she was in the barn with her father’s Palomino Sahara. She loved brushing the long white mane and washing her golden coat in the warm summer sun, something Sahara never objected to. She especially adored the afternoons when they would break away from lessons and expectations and ride the back trails together. Sahara never judged how her hair looked and could care less about her cooking prowess.

Rachel didn’t know it yet, but that unsettled feeling in her gut was about to lead her to the biggest, and best, changes of her life. For you see, deep down inside, Rachel did, and always would…

Believe in forever.



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