Old Friends, New Faces, & the Expansion of Vision

Sitting out under a shade tree in the middle of a pasture where two very different horses roam, I watch them and consider their priorities and personalities.  A 16 year-old Thoroughbred mare, who is being given a chance to graze at her leisure, after coming off a dry lot, paces the fence-line, anxiously surveying another field where two horses call to her.  She had only known them over a four-board fence for a short time, and yet she is anxious about losing sight of them.  After their initial separation and calls back and forth, the other horses have sauntered back over the hill, out of sight, and begun grazing on their own again.    It has taken the presence of a one-eyed, white Arabian gelding named Dubai, nearly twice her age, to calm her to a walk.  He grazes peacefully on the grass he’s been missing too, while catfish jump and plunk in a nearby pond.  My sweaty mare glistens a beautiful copper tone after I douse her with a bucket of water to quell any itching and wash away the white froth from her anxiety-induced workout.  She loves to run, and watching her reminds me of her breeding with the intention of capitalizing on this trait.  Though she’s retired now, her energy and spirit are apparent, and I wonder what her best and highest good might still be; but it’s not so easy to responsibly place a Thoroughbred mare over the age of 10.  (It’s not common knowledge that Secretariat’s dam, Something Royal, was 18 years old when she foaled him.) I could watch my “Royal Pause” for hours, at the cost of neglecting a list that begs me to consider other tasks, but this is time off from work, and I find contentedness in observation and turning over thoughts too often shifted into full throttle with no place to settle.  I decide not to sacrifice the peace and restfulness of these moments “doing nothing in particular”, aside from letting ideas ebb and flow, pooling apart from tributaries of a faster pace beyond the trees.  My two dogs, Willey and Tilley, have followed me around all day, and now rest in the shade and cool grass next to me.  I wonder how it could be any more ideal.  Some say I’m a dreamer, but it’s my way of coping with another side of life that catapults me into another kind of spontaneity not easily sustained.  This is my “river bank of restoration” where catching up with a rapid pace provides an essential grounding.

Only a few days before, on another cherished Sunday off work, I think about how nice it was to sleep in, leisurely go about the morning, and then go to an “after Derby Day” fund-raiser at a well-known Thoroughbred Retirement Farm, Old Friends, in Georgetown, Kentucky.  Few things are closer to my heart these days than programs designed to give these beautiful horses either new careers or a place to go and live out the rest of their days in a caring environment.  A small donation to the cause provided entrance to good company, live music, a silent auction, a tent with the best of bar-b-que and sides, leisurely strolls to pet mud-caked horses no longer needing to be prim and proper, and stories about retired race horses on the farm, as well as those memorialized in a graveyard for former residents. There were familiar faces, but also new ones, who offered that rare combination of comfort and challenge, as every good social gathering does with grace and dignity.  No one walks away from such events without feeling elevated to a new level and encouraged about things eternal.

You may be wondering how these two different scenarios find common ground.  The answer:   When we’re moved to new pastures for our own benefit, there is initial anxiety, but there is also the exhilaration of learning to enjoy the company of old friends while making new ones.   We may pace our old fence-lines for assurance, but being open to spontaneous encounters and risking new alliances that catapult us beyond what was known, is far healthier than being content with a dry-lot existence.  It will take my mare a day or two to settle into a new arrangement, but I take comfort in knowing eventually she will tire and refocus on all the luscious green grass her older pasture mate is wasting no time sampling.  Maybe by the example of an aged Arabian gelding with a singular focus, my still-full-of-life-and-potential mare will come into her own.  Part of what growth requires is the assurance that old friends will be there as we make new friends, and fledgling visions test their wings in preparation for flight.

Increasingly, it seems, I’m asked to account for a very real hope residing within me.  I may not always understand it fully, but in trying to be honest about belief, articulating questions and reservations along a personal journey, listening to others’ stories, and trying to communicate a desire for adventure beyond the known……. I find old friends, new faces, and the expansion of vision to be in mysterious accord with a deeper appreciation for good company and a fuller engagement in life.  Lyrics to old spiritual songs resonated in my mind and I sang them out loud:

Wade in the water, wade in the water, children

 Wade in the water, God’s gonna trouble the water.

Who’s that young girl dressed in blue?

Wade in the water

Must be the children that’s pass’in through

God’s gonna trouble the water


And another song, penned by a distant relative, Al Brumley:


Some glad morning when this life is over

I’ll fly away

To that land on God’s celestial shore

I’ll fly away….

Just a few more  weary days and then

I’ll fly away

To that shore where joy will never end

I’ll fly away


I’m reminded of a dream in which I was kayaking at the center of a peacefully flowing river when the current suddenly picked up; I raised my paddle overhead with hands firmly around the bar, and laughed aloud as I sensed the surge of a new adventure ahead……because there is a greater flow into which we’re being launched.  And I understood why the allure of horse racing lingers:  to watch a skilled horse and jockey “fly” and find their way to a finish line is an experience hard to match.  Both the dream and the manifest reality are exhilarating and glorious.

And then there are the quiet waters and stillness of valleys where souls are restored.  A connectivity and continuity between old friends and new faces, as birth pangs of expanding vision find their place, to encourage and sustain what’s worth preserving.


“It does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know we will be like Him…….” (I John 3:2)


“When I was a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a [mature person], I set aside childish ways. Now we see a dim reflection, as in a mirror; but then we will see face to face.  Now I know in part; then, I will know fully, even as I am fully known.  And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love; but the greatest of these is love.

(I Corinthians 13:11-13 / Berean Study Bible)


“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)



A Psalm of David (Psalm 23)

The Lord is my shepherd,
            I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures;
            He leads me beside quiet waters.

He restores my soul;
            He guides me in the paths of righteousness
            For His name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death;
            I fear no evil, for You are with me;
            Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
            You have anointed my head with oil;
            My cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life;
            And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

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