Shrek

We were waiting by the stables for a rental horse ride in rural Brazil. When we arrived a competent looking man was leaving, and said our guide was running just a bit late. “Late like ten more minutes or half an hour?” I asked. “Oh, not half an hour. Maybe ten minutes!” I assumed he had a terrible sense of time and was also being optimistic and tripled the estimate.

About 20 minutes later a man stomped through the gate. He was broad-shouldered and neckless. As he climbed the short driveway he swung his clenched arms in the air and gave a couple of howling roars. I assumed he might be a non-verbal disabled man, perhaps a relative of someone who lived nearby. Once he reached us he stammered some not terribly coherent conversation. It took a few minutes to understand that this was our guide. We frowned at each other in great doubt, but sat patiently near the stables while he stomped around swearing (gently) and howling at the horses, who were not interested in being in a hurry.

By day two we had become accustomed to his alternating grunts, howls, roars and conversation. He appeared to be, after all, someone of fairly normal mental function and good intentions, and the odd noises were simply his enthusiastic expressions of frustration when any minor difficulty was met. He was also, perhaps, socially awkward and shy, and so he seemed much more normal by the end of the second day when we drew him out with friendly conversation about horses, the weather, the route, and so on: “What is this plant good for? Does it have fruit?” I asked. “It’s good for giving thorns,” he grumbled.

In any case, we soon decided he reminded us totally of Shrek. And once that image was in our minds we couldn’t shake it, so Shrek he will remain.

Great Geeky Girls

Here are some of my favorite geeky girls who have fun YouTube channels:

Sam van Fleet: This girl picks out wild mustangs, trains them from zero, and shows and sells them. When I was that age I don’t think I was doing anything useful. I love watching her attentive, careful training and listening to her thoughtful analysis of what’s going on with her horses. I used to have horses and did some training, so it’s a rabbit hole I’m thrilled to re-experience vicariously. Also impressive: Camille’s Mustangs. Really lovely to watch these young women working.

Karolina Żebrowska: Karolina has quirky interests mostly involving the history of clothing. She’s a funny story teller and I love watching her walk through her careful research on oddball subjects like “What would Snow White really have worn?” Since I do some sewing and embroidery (at a very basic level!) it’s inspiring to watch Karolina work with sewing projects, too.

Bernadette Banner: Another expert in historical costume, and also a great story-teller. My favorite so far is when she bought a Chinese knock-off of one of her own dresses to compare to the original. Her projects are always exotic and entertaining.

Nicola White: Apparently people in England go hunting for lost treasures in the tidal mud of the river Thames. This is somewhat gross, but also adventurous and rewarding. They find dead people, lost jewelry, strange artifacts…after all, the area has been inhabited for centuries, and the inhabitants have spent those centuries chucking stuff in the river… In any case, Nicola has a particular knack for story telling and her videos are intriguing and fun.

Musical Notation is Beautiful: The lovely woman who does this video series (Elba, if I caught her name correctly in the video?) gives fascinating accounts of different kinds of musical notation. If you like early music, calligraphy, medieval arts, or any related subject, check this out!

Caitlin Doughty: Widely known for her video series about death. Caitlin is a mortician and has all kinds of interesting stories to tell about modern and historic deaths, the biology of death, weird and interesting facts about dying and funerals. She’s also a good story teller and her videos are very engaging.

Speaking of death, I must add a fun watch, Sister Theresa Aletheia Noble, FSP, who has written a book of religious meditations on death and appeared on several television programs and podcasts to talk about it. Sister Aletheia doesn’t have her own channel, but you can see several of the interviews here.

Left front foot

I took lots of riding lessons. Lesson number one was that riding is a very specific and regulated activity. One approaches the horse so, touches him so, grooms him so. One cleans the left front foot first, standing exactly so, moving ones hand so, scraping the dirt so. Only by the good fortune of it being the 1970s I was not required to wear what are now considered required items for riding a horse: tall boots, stretchy pants, helmet, gloves. Sneakers and jeans were enough. And there lies the giveaway that all the enormously expensive gear, and all the elaborate rules of riding, are just upper-class stylish expenditures and military exercises to train cavalry trickling down to the peasant class.

When I finally encountered working horses, something easily encountered when riding in Brazil, I discovered that one can actually ride in shorts and flipflops, with a saddle made of a folded blanket or a girth made of leftover twine, on a horse whose loose shoe can be hammered back in place with a rock found alongside the road.

I then discovered that actually nearly all the thousands of dollars I spent on specialized sports gear over the years was ridiculously wasted. One doesn’t need a different pair of shoes for each activity, nor a special pair of pants for hiking, different from the ones used for bicycling or swimming or fixing the roof. The vast majority of people in the world* don’t have the money for that, and those of us who do are spending it like water in order to show people how cool we are. Outside of a very tiny percentage who are participating in competitions that oblige the use of matching outfits, there is simply no need.

*And not just in foreign countries. I was once at the bus station going back to college, with my sneakers tied to the outside of my duffle bag and my sandals on my feet, when a five year old girl behind me in line said softly, “Mama! She has TWO shoes!!”

After-dinner video rabbit hole of the week

I love watching these Criollo horses. I like the unexpected details, like the way the saddles are constructed, or the way the narrator says “this horse is accustomed to being kept in a box, and knows how to eat commercial feed. In Brazil, rural people sometimes say, with some disdain, that such and such horse is “a box horse” – meaning one who has little experience outside a show-ring or riding stable, and is fussy, hard to handle, easily startled, and not much use for real work. It’s an amazing thing to ride a horse that’s been raised on the open range. Their sure-footedness is amazing. They are extremely smart about footing, routes, and obstacles.