THE JOURNEY: Don’t Look Back
- January 20, 2018
- Jan Swan Wood
Nearly exactly a year ago I finally embarked on a journey I knew I had needed to take for many years. So, I saddled up my most trustworthy Horse and started the journey. The country I was riding out of had become a wasteland and I knew I would die there if I didn’t leave. As Horse and I rode across it one last time, I didn’t look back. Facing forward is the only way to leave something behind.
At the edge of that wasteland was a canyon. It was wide and deep with a terrible trail off the rim. Storms and wind would buffet me all the way down and up the other side, that I knew. But, far away, on the other side, I could see the horizon faintly. The sun was shining on that far ridge line. It appeared green and hopeful there. I set that as my destination and giving a prayerful nudge to Horse, we slid over the rim and into that dark and ominous canyon.
The journey down was fraught with uncertainty. So many trails going so many directions, but which one would be the one that would finally lead to the bottom and up the other side? I took a couple that ran into dead ends. Rock slides, impassable brush, sudden drop offs, darkness, predators and storms deterred me. We had to turn around and retrace our steps several times. But finally, I was at the bottom. The noise of the wild river there had been pounding in my ears for quite a while so I knew that wasn’t going to be an easy crossing.
With my heart in my throat, I urged Horse off into that surging, frothing water. Unable to swim, I had to trust Horse completely. It was so cold when it came up onto my legs and splashed on my body. Horse picked his way across so carefully, carrying me safely in my terror to the other side after much effort. He struggled out onto the far bank dripping with the icy water.
After studying the routes up the side of the canyon, I chose several that didn’t pan out and we had to return to the bottom of the canyon and start over. One particular route had looked so impossible that I hadn’t even considered it, but Horse started of his own volition and knowing I didn’t have the answers myself, I gave him his head.
We climbed, slid back, climbed some more, rested on a switchback many times, and finally were within view of the rim above. Clouds and storm obscured the view however, and I was still unsure. Once again, Horse took the initiative and started the last scramble to the top through the fog. Finally, his ears cleared the rim and then my eyes.
There before us was a wide open country with beautiful buttes, creeks shaded with trees, springs pouring abundant water out to drink. Horse and I took it all in and rode toward the bright, clear sunshine that I had seen from so far away at the beginning of the journey. I knew, in my heart, that I had never been strong enough to make the journey alone and was only there because of Horse and his determination to get me there.
Now I reside in a new land. Challenges are still a part of the every day living, but the sun always comes out and shines on me once again. Horse is here with me and I know I can trust him no matter what comes along. My health and peace of mind are back. We have arrived where the future is bright and full of promise. Thanks to a good and faithful Horse who has carried me this far and will be there, throughout the end of my journey.
About Jan Swan Wood
Jan was raised on a ranch in far western South Dakota. She grew up horseback working all descriptions of cattle, plus sheep and horses. After leaving home she pursued a post-graduate study of cowboying and dayworking in Nebraska, New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota....