In This Life

In this life there will seldom be the perfect time for anything to happen. It is best to make the most of the cards you're dealt, seek out the silver linings, and seize every beautiful gift in your path. Sometimes you’ll see it coming a mile away, but more likely it's hidden around the bend, waiting to spring at your most unsuspecting moments.

Grit is invaluable, and positivity is a currency we harvest from some kind of soul tree growing deep within our person. So water it daily and don't forget to fertilize, preferably with something rich and organic, but it could be vegan, gluten free, or even bacon and cupcakes (every once in a while).

There will never be enough money, time, security, or guarantee, but do it anyways. The pursuit is never ending and perhaps at some point were all bound to settle, but I'm realizing the facade of being "settled" is a thin shield masking a more familiar and comfortable chaos.

The key to peace is found somewhere within forgiveness lent to others, circumstances, accidents, ourselves, and the dog, who just rendered another sandal useless. Wisdom, however, is a byproduct lest we forget why we forgave in the first place.

It is becoming certain that the feeling of home is ever evolving, and steadily becoming a precious collection of beings over any geographical bounds. Similarly, items hold gravity and anchor us in one way or another to either growth or perhaps something that is holding us back. We need less than we think, and at the end of the day, they're just things.

I have learned that there is a fine line between guarding your heart and living recklessly, however that boundary is only going to be set in learning to love yourself.

And sometimes, the best way to find yourself is to get absolutely terribly lost.

Which is exactly where I found myself yesterday, aboard my trusty mount, Tilai, marching through the overgrown forest alongside the Váh River in Slovakia. The horse, who has ridden these trails for years, knew where he was going. So, I slipped the reins and let him lope on as he jumped logs, splashed through puddles left by the weekend’s rain, and wound his way through the dense growth. And yes, mother, I was wearing my helmet.

About three kilometers in (because I’m practicing the metric system here), we hit a massive fallen tree, which seemed to mark the distinction between found and lost. Tilai stopped in his tracks and I swear I could hear him say, “Hey, is it cool if I let you drive now?” Though he was polite enough to mention which general direction home happened to be with a few tugs on my hands; “That way. Its thaaaat way, over there, that direction, there.”

I gathered my reins and reminded Tilai that that way had been conveniently bisected by a roadblock, and proceeded to pick our way through the brush. For the greater part of 40 minutes we bush-wacked our way out of the forest, and as much as I would like to say it was linear and coherent due to my brilliant navigational skills, I think we waded through the same pond three times… Maybe four. But who is counting, we eventually hit light and found a clearing leading us home.

It’s been three weeks since I packed up my life, extremely forgiving dog, and as much riding and art equipment as I possibly could into weight and size restricted luggage, boarded a plane, and landed on the opposite side of the globe. Conveniently, the dude picking me up on the other end, who just so happens to be the object of my hearts desire, didn’t have the pleasure of bringing his belongings home from California on our last excursion. So there I was, landed in Budapest, with no less than six pieces of maxed out checked luggage and a dog, trying to explain to the customs and agriculture officer in broken Hungarian, basic English, and Oscar worthy charades, why my belongings contained items varying from saddles to traditional ancient European weaponry, and 25 tubes of paint. Love knows no limits… I think.

One and a half hours out of Budapest lies the Vermes families’ quant little farm, which is currently my new home. Sheep and chickens roam the yard, which boasts a sprawling garden, arena, traditionally adorned Yurt, barn, hayloft, and shaded patio perfect for painting. Nine horses graze five acres along the river in a pasture surrounded by more arenas and a mounted archery training course and competition track.

The Vermes family is known across Eastern Europe for their mounted archery, and the summertime schedule is jam packed with demonstrations and performances. Within two days of my arrival we loaded up the horse trailers and crammed the family, including cousins, aunts, and uncles, into the van and made our way a few hours out of town to a music, arts, and cultural festival in Alsószeli called Jurtanapok, which means “Yurt Days.” And yes, we stayed in a Yurt.

Unlike anything I’ve experienced in the States, this festival was a brilliant combination of great concerts and equestrian shows, arts, dancing, cuisine, and beverages. The group that organizes and hosts this event are one giant extended family. Everyone volunteers in the kitchen and surrounding attractions, and the place hums like a beehive with energy and productivity, not to mention the traveling mini-band which plays upbeat traditional Hungarian music all over the premises approximately twenty three of twenty four hours a day.

Unbeknownst to me, Balázs (reference object of my hearts desire) had pre-informed everyone attending that this was my welcome weekend. I took three steps onto the property and before I could take step number four I was introduced to two hundred incredible new friends and Pálinka, a traditional fruit brandy that will knock you off your feet faster than you can realize you’ve been thrown into Hungarian garb, onto a horse, and are leading the flag raising ceremony and kick-off parade through town.

Needless to say it was a wild welcome weekend. Second to Pálinka is Fröcs, pronounced Froich. It is a beautiful combination of wine and mineral water and goes down like Gatorade on a hot day. If you have never tried this, do it now, because it doesn’t matter what time of day you drink Fröcs, Fröcs is great all of the time.

Another great thing worth mentioning is the performance put on by the Vermes family; an aesthetic combination of horses, archery and assorted weaponry, dancing women, human and horse choreography, live and recorded music, shirtless gladiator-like fighting men, and roman riding. Ill take three, please, hold the shirts.

After listening to the last concert encore on Sunday night, we loaded the horses and humans back into the van and made our way home. It was a lazy Monday all around, but we kicked our tails into gear for the week. With upwards of 20 pieces of art to complete in the next three months, I desperately searched for an art supply store. Google gets a little confused when you ask it to find fine art suppliers in a foreign country in a foreign language, but through some connections and phone calls we found a tiny little store an hour out of town which, thanks to the art gods on that particular day, had everything that I needed.

The weeks here are filled with painting, riding, and helping around the farm as much as I can. I’m learning to cook at a pace which might allow me to feel comfortable in the kitchen by the time I’m sixty-five, much thanks to the family who is patient and ever persistent with me every baby-step of the way. Thus far I almost burnt the apricot jam, and sent my boyfriend to work with sandwiches which had uncooked cold cuts inside. As it turns out, the packaging and presentation might look the same as what we have at home, but the contents can be entirely different. This I am learning… slowly. Fortunately for me these people have a great sense of humor.

As the days roll on I am learning so much about the world, this language, this wonderful family, and myself. I’m head over heels in love with a guy who comes home every day with a smile on his face and a warm hug even when I’ve completely and utterly botched lunch. With every incredible new moment and every trying challenge be it language obstacles, missing the familiarities of home, or simply trying to find groceries in a foreign land, he’s encouraging, understanding, and there for me at a moments notice.

Had you told the woman that I was one year ago that I would be here, knee deep in a stew of pure adventure, I would have held tight to my life, my things, my familiar, and told you that you were out of your mind for such accusations. But if I could write her a letter now it would be as simple as this:

“Don’t you dare change a thing, girl. I know it hurts now, but you’re doing it right, and it’s going to be greater than your wildest dreams. I promise.”

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