By Karis Walsh
This has been a year of new experiences for me. Some
positive, some not so much. Some I actively sought out and some were forced on
me. One venture I chose willingly was a series of polo lessons at a local club.
Since I teach horseback riding, I’ve found it helps me better communicate with
and understand my students if I constantly remind myself what it’s like to be a
beginner. To be excited and confused and sometimes overwhelmed with
information. And to struggle with the body’s often clumsy attempts to obey the
mind’s orders. So at least once a year I’ll sign up for something out of my
ordinary routine and give it a try.
My forays into uncharted territories have yielded mixed
results over the years. I’ve begun hobbies that will last a lifetime, like my
return to music lessons after an absence of almost thirty years. Others turned
out to be strictly one-time flings, like skydiving. Glad I did it once. Never
want to do it again, thank you very much. (Unless the plane’s on fire, and even
then…) Oddly enough, after thirty-five years of riding and over twenty years
of teaching in the hunter-jumper field, my attempts to learn new equestrian
disciplines have led to the most growth and challenge – and often frustration.
Whether riding gaited horses or competing in trail classes, I’ve had to ignore
my ego-driven voice (but I already know
how to ride a horse) and be open to a different way of doing things. My
skills and past experiences are always helpful, of course, but if I’m
constantly talking about how much I already know, I’ll never learn anything
Polo was definitely a humbling experience. I have to pause
briefly here and say a couple of things about D. Jackson Leigh’s book Call Me Softly. First, although I rarely
read equestrian-themed books because I too easily slip into teacher mode and
find myself scanning for errors and inaccurate equine information, I really
enjoy her writing. She’s obviously well-informed about horses and riding, and
she’s a talented storyteller as well. I trust her to know what she’s talking
about, and trust her to lead me and entertain me with a story. Second, I’m glad
I read this book after I started polo
lessons or I might have been a bit discouraged by the discrepancy between her
character Swain’s and my own experiences on the polo field. There was nothing
“warrior-like” about my playing. And while women might have wet themselves
watching me, it was only because they were laughing so hard. I’m quite capable
of cantering around on a horse, and I can swing my polo mallet and hit (usually)
the ball. But doing both at the same time? Not happening.
In my August, 2011 release Harmony, my character Brooke has a new experience as well. Sex.
With a woman. Right before her wedding. This is a life-changing event for her
and one that leads to a struggle to break free from her own doubts, and from
the conventions and expectations imposed on her by family and society. I
enjoyed taking this journey with Brooke as she faced the vulnerability that
comes when we bare ourselves to the unknown, the thrill that accompanies the
uncovering of a truth hiding deep within us. I hope you’ll also want to share
her story of passion and identity and self-discovery.
So what about you? What new experiences have you had
recently, and were they one-off things or here to stay? What have you always
wanted to try but haven’t yet done? I say take the step. It’s worth it.