"Are we to paint what's on the face, what's inside the face, or what's behind it?"--Pablo Picasso (No one seems to grasp this concept more intuitively than elementary school kids assigned to draw self portraits.)
"This man did not know cold. Possibly, all the generations of his ancestry had been ignorant of cold, of real cold, of cold 107 degrees below freezing point. But the dog knew; all its ancestry knew, and it had inherited the knowledge."
--Jack London, To Build a Fire
During our morning ride up the coast, Scarzo is a sublime horse--alert and responsive. We trot, then gallop for a stretch on the soft, flat sand. The only moment he shows any nerves is when a troop of crabs scuttles out of the surf, but a tight tug on the reins and he's calm again. "Pete, you good cowboy," Qaboos teases me.
It's only in the late afternoon when Qaboos attempts to hand me a bottle of water and I turn my head and loosen my grip for an instant does Scarzo reveal his true self--i.e. a schizophrenic demon horse. He shrieks and leaps and is on a derby gallop in about an eighth of a second, with me barely hanging on. It's sort of a blur what happened next. There may have been a falsetto scream that came from me. There may have been a family picnic on the beach that was disrupted. Sadly there are no video or photos to deconstruct what exactly happened. But when Qaboos found me covered in wet sand, the horse racing toward Yemen, my cowboy pride in shambles, his only comment was "That horse always hate water bottles."
Before I rode the white stallion, I asked his trainer, Qaboos, the horse's name. "Scarzo," he said. I asked him what it meant. "It is a name," he shrugged. "I think American name." But he's an Arabian? I asked. "Pure Arabiya," said Qaboos. So why an American name? He explained Scarzo was a former racehorse that the stable had bought a few years back. "He come with this name." As we talked, the horse nervously twitched and shifted in his caravan and whinnied to be let out. "You want to ride?" Qaboos asked, then added, "This horse a little bit crazy." He said this last part with a slight grin that I couldn't quite interpret. Was it a grin that said 'it will be the best ride of your life'? Or was it a grin that said 'I can't wait to see the look on this American's face when he gets on this horse'?
After the evening training, riders cool their horses in the Sea of Oman, near the town of Barka. Flat racers and endurance mounts--their Arabian blood mixed with horses from Spain and England, France and Argentina--they glide around the sand track in the late desert sun. Fathers bring their wide-eyed children to watch. The riders laugh and shout, "Alhamdulillah"
Badr and I decided to climb to the foot of a fortified tower built by the Persians, who occupied this part of Oman in the 5th century AD. It's crumbling parapets overlook the oasis town of Misfah, built on the craggy foothills around Jebel Shems. We got about halfway when, out of breath, he told me to go on. "There is nothing there. The Persians are gone. I do not like Persians."
"Yes I am a pirate, two hundred years too late
The cannons don't thunder, there's nothing to plunder; I'm an over-forty victim of fate; arriving too late, arriving too late...But I got stop wishing, got to go fishing, down to rock bottom again. Just a few friends, just a few friends."
--Jimmy Buffet, A Pirate Looks at 40
As a parent, I've probably seen the Lion King two dozen times (many of them sober). But when your daughter plays Simba and your other daughter is a hyena, somehow the song Circle of Life has more meaning.
"That night I had a dream. I dreamt I was as light as the ether--a floating spirit visiting things to come. The shades and shadows of the people in my life rassled their way their way into my slumber....And it seemed real. It seemed like our home. If not Arizona, then a land not too far away. Where all parents are strong and wise and capable and all children are happy and beloved. Maybe it was Utah."
--H.I. McDunnough, Raising Arizona
Peace out Maricopa County
"People have criticized me for seeming to step out of my professional role as a doctor to become undignifiedly political. I'd say it was belated realization that daycare, good schools, health insurance, and nuclear disarmament are even more important aspects of pediatrics than measles vaccine or vitamin D."
—Dr. Benjamin Spock
"You forget everything. The hours slip by. You travel in your chair through centuries you seem to see before you, your thoughts are caught up in the story, dallying with the details or following the course of the plot, you enter into characters, so that it seems as if it were your own heart beating beneath their costumes."
--Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary
"As long as I live, I'll hear waterfalls, birds, and winds sing. I'll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche. I'll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens and get as near the heart of the world as I can. --John Muir
"I am losing precious days. I am degenerating into a machine for making money. I am learning nothing in this trivial world of men. I must break away and get out into the mountains to learn the news."