Patient hearts and horse dreams

By Christina Capecchi

There’s something about girls and horses.

Call it a sweeping generalization, sure, but it often holds true. While boys dream of faster forms of transit – racecars, rocket ships – girls prefer to amble along on a four-legged friend. While boys fantasize about making the major leagues, girls harbor another ambition: to one day own a horse.

By Christina Capecchi

Every summer, horse camps fill up with girls. They are drawn to the massive, mystical mammals, somehow sensing that a form of therapy is available on their backs. Preteen troubles can be smoothed out with a curry comb.

This June I observed a horse camp in rural Minnesota, where suburban girls donned boots and jeans, not a cellphone in sight. Each girl was assigned to a horse for the week, and no sooner were the pairings announced did that horse become hers.

All was well with the world. After 51 weeks of longing – of remembering and dreaming and waiting – this was the week where dreams and reality aligned.

The Caldecott-winning illustrator Susan Jeffers turned that longing into art with her 2003 book “My Pony.” It chronicles a girl’s wish a horse, which her parents cannot afford or lodge. Instead, she draws pictures of a dappled mare named Silver, then fantasizes about riding it through the woods in the moonlight.

“My earliest memories are about wanting a horse,” Jeffers writes in the author’s note at the end of the book. “But what to do with all that longing?”

Her answer is unflinching.

“I think if I had gotten my wish for a horse, I may not have found my love for drawing,” she writes. “My pencil and paints became the vehicle to my life of fantasy horses. My pencil seemed fueled by the desire to be with those exquisite animals.”

The absence of horses made space for the art that became a fulfilling career. The horses would come. As an adult, Jeffers rode horses daily – just as surely as she drew.

I’ve been thinking about dreams deferred. The end of summer calls them to mind, that bittersweet time when a new year school encroaches on the vast freedom of summer. Did we do all the things? Did we make all the memories?

August brings a reckoning, revealing the gaps between our hopes and realities.

I believe God places dreams on our hearts with purpose. They are not wrong or selfish. They come from the Creator, and their intensity emboldens us, just as they propelled the great artists, explorers and saints.

But some dreams are not meant to be realized today or this year or ever, even – at least not in the way we envision. We cannot know the reasons, but we can trust that God will do something special with the unfulfilled spots in our heart. Something new.

Maybe we’re not ready yet. Perhaps God is quietly preparing us – equipping us through unwelcome trials, leading us to other loves first, introducing us to helpers, teaching us through the waiting.

Father Ron Rolheiser gave a name to the stirrings of the heart: “the holy longing.” They are a sign of a fruitful spiritual life, placing us on the path intended by God. A beginning.

“Long before we do anything explicitly religious at all, we have to do something about the fire that burns within us,” Father Rolheiser writes in his bestselling book “The Holy Longing.”

“What we do with that fire, how we channel it,” he added, “is our spirituality.”

The holy longings are leading us somewhere. And the dreams we cannot realize today may be sweeter later.

“There is a time for everything,” Scripture promises.

As summer gives way to fall, the lush greens fading into ambers and rusts, may we too find peace in the waiting, being patient with the parts that are unresolved, trusting that something beautiful is at work.


Christina Capecchi is a freelance writer from Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota.



Author: The Central Minnesota Catholic

The Central Minnesota Catholic is the magazine for the Diocese of St. Cloud.

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