“[A]t 37, “Courtney Maum writes in her new memoir, The year of the horses, “I did not know how to play, for somehow my ability to be comfortable in joy had left my heart and body.” Maum (the author of the novels Costalegre and Touchamong other books) felt unseen by her husband, and her two-year-olds’ needs “became great and existential … Nina wanted a kind of love that was far beyond the planned care I had shown up to that point.” Her debilitating insomnia could not be solved by a host of means: “I have tried alcohol and acted out and kissed other men,” she writes. “I have tried acupuncture and exercise, no exercise, essential oils, medicines made in a laboratory. I have tried denial.” Through the fog was a sustained attraction to riding horses, a childhood passion that flowed with teenage distractions. So she started riding again.
As a child, Maum’s love for horses was centered around the faithful and judgmental Artax Eternal historythe titular winged horse in a children’s book called Flutterby, the rented pony presented to her, as a six-year-old, on Christmas morning. At thirty-seven onwards, with love comes healing: re-learning to ride with soft hands and eyes after the pain of a lost pregnancy; the experiences from the stable – patience, courage, relaxation – are transferred to Maum’s relationship with her husband and daughter. There are setbacks and frustrations and a devastating tragedy that left this animal lover (who still can not see to scene of Eternal history) crying an entire evening, but the book’s arch is undeniably upward. By a strange cosmic twist, I received a review copy of Maum’s book the day I was to take my own first riding lesson in thirteen years; apparently it held certain particular resonances for me. But over the last few years, as lives and priorities have changed in the wake of and in the midst of a dozen kinds of grandiose tragedies, it has not been uncommon to learn that a friend or acquaintance is reviving a relationship with a childhood hobby or passion. Draw, play an instrument, spend time in nature, work with clay. For those who have not but hope for it, this book may be the velvety soft nus of a push needed to get started.