Ok, maybe it’s not so cold today but we are definitely into a southern winter. I knew when summer was so hot that winter would be its bookend companion. And Baby, it can get cold outside! REALLY COLD.
So, what’s an AWOC-er to do?
I was caught off-guard when our first real cold hit. I was getting ready to go to day 2 of the TEDx at the HUB, (an amazing event BTW) when I opened the weather app on my smart phone and YIKES – ‘31 degrees, feels like 16 degrees’. I knew right then I was not ready for the cold. I sat down and ordered more smart wool long johns! I began to wonder if I could AWOC in winter. Oh no!
Real doubts hit me really hard. I wasn’t so sure of this adventure. I began to doubt that I could get through the next few windy, wet, cold, southern winter months. How can this be? I have come so far-I am eight months into this and now it feels like I might give up? It is too cold. I know this is not New York or Minnesota cold but it is all relative, right? To me, 31 degrees, wind chill 16 – is cold.
Many years ago, before my brother and his wife adopted their three girls, he and I use to ride horses a lot. And I mean a lot! It started when he gave me a 16-hand, rescued thoroughbred for Christmas. If you don’t know horses, 16 hands is get-on-a picnic-table-to-reach-the-stirrups tall. He was a gorgeous, magnificent animal.
My brother, Butch, lives on a 100-acre farm about 65 miles south of here, raises cattle for beef, hens for eggs, pigs for July 4th BBQ celebrations and, sometimes has had goats for milk and to love. He raises different grasses for bio-fuel experiments with Auburn University and he and his wife, Allie, have quite a large vegetable garden. He also sells farmland and is probably one of the most knowledgeable resources in middle GA regarding land. Whether it’s tree farming, or wooded acres to build and live on, securing lots in the Flint River basin area – he’s your go to guy. He has such an appreciation for land and just loves being out on it.
Well, when we started riding, it became a regular part of my life. My week felt empty if I did not spend three to four hours each Saturday marveling at the beauty of the woods, talking with my brother from high atop Mr T. (short for Mr T of Shekinah Farms) Every Sat. morning, and many Sunday afternoons, I would drive down from Atlanta in my red Mercedes convertible. By the time I got to the barn, thanks to Butch, my horse would be saddled, ready to go. I called him my valet cowboy! When I look back, it was the best times of my life. Gratefully, I knew it then, too.
I remember once when we were riding, we stopped for lunch, snow on the ground, sky cloudless and bright blue. We used our saddle blankets to sit on and ate the picnic I had prepared. Sandwiches and hot soup for us, apples for the horses. Then, we re-saddle and off we went. Of course we talked but it was the quiet that was most poignant. I never felt closer to him than during those precious, personal and private hours.
In the summer, it would get so hot, we would ride to the lake, unsaddle the horses (and ourselves down to skivvies) and I’d swim bareback, holding onto Mr. T’s mane. Yes, horses can swim and Mr. T loved it and so did I. I even did back flips off Mr. T’s hind-quarters (UGA diver) and he would actually swim back to get me when I called him. Does life get any better than that?
Mr T. loved the water so much that often we would walk in the shallow streams on the 1000-acre farm we had privileged permission to enter. But watch out – when T started pawing the ground, splashing water up to his underbelly, I knew what was next. Down he would go, slowly and gently to his knees like a camel, hindquarters down, then rolling, soaking and cooling himself – and me and the leather. Not so good for the leather, but oh so much fun.
Mr. T’s birthday was in Feb and one year my Mom baked him a cake. Apple, of course. She brought it to the barn, spread out her hand made quilt on the hood of her New Yorker (LOL at that vision, right?) and sliced cake for us, apples for the horses. We even had birthday hats – T and Apache too, and we rode that day in our party hats, horses too.
The point of all this is, we rode in the hottest of hot summers, sweat pouring off us and the horses, and during the coldest of times, even with snow on the ground. I keep reminding myself, if we were still riding, the cold weather would not stop us. I would simply be dressed, saddle bags loaded, and prepared. We rode, together, knowing it was more than just hours of riding. That there was more to what we were doing. Something bigger was happening.
Drawing on these past experiences, I realize I can do AWOC in the winter. I will be dressed, backpack loaded, and prepared for walking through the coldest of days, keeping warm with outerwear of hats, gloves, scarves, layered with smart wool and warmed from within with the warm memories of times past.
So, yes, I will continue Going AWOC…Atlanta WithOut a Car!