Joy in Your Pockets

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Thomas Wolfe wrote "You Can't Go Home Again." Nuts. You can, but accept that the bones may be the same; yet the flesh will be different - new. Sort of like us, right? The reward for "home" not feeling like yours anymore will be the little joy diamonds of new memories tossed in with the old ones. You can carry these to sparkle up your "todays."

I have just returned from a work/fun trip back home to Los Angeles. My work assignment was to explore the horse riding facilities in Hollywood/Los Angeles. My self-imposed mission after writing the book "Horse Sluts - The Saga of Two Women on the Trail of Their Yeehaw" was to find places to rent horses (horse sluts don't own, they rent), write about them and have fun. Part of my adventure was to find the stable in Griffith Park where I used to ride as a teenager (40+ years past) and to meander the trails once more. I co-opted Kimmy, my friend since diapers, to come with me.

Kimmy doesn't ride. She signed on anyway. Now, that's a rooted-in-childhood friend. Kimmy drove me all over the equestrian areas of Glendale and Griffith Park. Change? Wow! The small, tatty little rental stables were still there, but they were dwarfed by the L.A. Equestrian Center. Indoor event arenas, multi outdoor arenas, shops, lines of stalls with farm names in swirly script, all under the gaze of Forest Lawn Memorial Park where the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Spencer Tracy, Jean Harlow and Clark Gable rest.

We cruised past a street labeled Mariposa. "That's it!" Kimmy hung a "u-ey." There was the stable where my sister and I rented horses and where I rode alone when I could drive on my own. There was the bridge over the LA River we rode to get to the trail into Griffith Park. "OMG, there's the tunnel under the freeway!" The memories shivered through my body.

Mounted up, Kimmy and I followed the guide over the bridge, through the tunnel onto the loamy trail. I remembered the feel and look of that trail. I remembered the thrill of being out on horseback, of trotting on and on, of not tumbling off because I really didn't have a clue how to ride. Travel Town was still there. The hill we rode was still there. The green smell was still there. My memories were still there - even though progress had replaced much of the flesh with new buildings and roads.

Kimmy had enough fun that she agreed to take me to ride the next day in the Santa Monica Mountains where many movies and TV shows are filmed. I had not ever ridden there, but the road to the park was one I used to get to the beach. I practically lived on that road. Wow! (again). Lux houses, shops, restaurants swathed the rural landscape of my twenties. Dizzy with the change, I felt a stranger. But, once on the trail, the smell - the smell of sage in the sun - came flooding back. I remembered the warmth of the sun in the cool air of March in L.A. I smiled at the wildflowers we used to pick and the poppies that are now protected so you can't pick them. The live oak trees that brought back the Encino oak that grew in my town of Encino (Encino is Spanish for place where oak trees grow) felt like gnarled, old friends.

Kimmy and I collected new memories to mingle with the old. We can now recall our horse ride together. We will recount how we rode through the town where "Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman" was filmed. The creek where Kurt Russell (Wyatt Earp) gunned down Curly Bill. The gelato we ate instead of lunch after our ride.

One of the keys to successful "diamond mining" back home is a fellow prospector who grew up with you so you have some shared memories. Kimmy drove me through our neighborhood. We drove our bus route. We created a verbal map of the homes of our fellow Brownies. "So and so lived here" and "Who's-y-what's-it lived there" and "What's-her-name's parents still live over there." Tucked into the new flesh of sprawling, "rich-and-famous" houses were the "bones," the houses from our walks home from school, trick-or-treating and troop meetings. My long, steep driveway didn't look so steep now, but the ivy in front of Kimmy's house where I dumped my bike is still thick and green. I could still smell the sweet spring of first love in my mom's pittosporum.

In order to collect joy-diamonds I had to be content with the way the bones shown through the new flesh. I had to thrill at what remained of what was mine and marvel at the exciting changes. The individual gems of new memories created with Kimmy helped smooth the spiky realization of times gone. Savoring the last spoon of vanilla-fig gelato (a radical departure from my usual jamoca fudge) reminded me to take stock of the individual joys I had sparkling in my pockets from this journey. I had gone home again. It was still there, but different. So was I. Joy.

Candace Wade wrote the book "Horse Sluts - The Saga of Two Women on the Trail of Their Yeehaw." She has contributed to Horse Nation, Mature Lifestyles, Riding and Writing, The Tennessean and is a member of American Horse Publications. Candace writes political diatribe, wrote "Hillary's View" pet column and four unpublished film scripts. She learned to ride at age 46 and still rides at 59+.

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