“[A]t thirty-seven,” writes Courtney Maum in her new memoir, The Year of the Horses, “I didn’t know how to act, because somehow my ability to be comfortable in joy had left my heart and my body.” Maum (the author of the novels Costalegre and Touch, among other books) felt unseen by her husband, and her two-year-old’s needs “became vast and existential… Nina wanted a form of love that went far beyond the planned care that I had shown so far”. Her debilitating insomnia could not be resolved by a host of remedies: “I tried alcohol, acted out, and kissed other men,” she wrote. “I tried acupuncture and exercise, no exercise, essential oils, lab-made drugs. I tried denial. Through the fog, there was a lingering attraction to horseback riding. , a childhood passion that turned into teenage distractions, and she started riding again.
As a child, Maum’s love of horses centered on the loyal and doomed Artax in eternal storythe titular winged horse in a children’s book titled Flutterby, the rented pony presented to him, at the age of six, on Christmas morning. At thirty-seven and over, with love comes healing: learning to ride again with gentle hands and eyes following the pain of a missed pregnancy; the lessons learned at the barn – patience, courage, relaxation – carry over 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’t look that scene of eternal story) teary-eyed for a full evening, but the arc of the book is undeniably upward. By some strange cosmic twist, I received a critical copy of Maum’s book on the day I was to take my first riding lesson in thirteen years; Obviously, this had certain particular resonances for me. But over the past two years, as lives and priorities have changed in the wake and in the midst of a dozen types of large-scale tragedies, it’s not uncommon to hear that a friend or knowledge rekindles a relationship with a childhood hobby or passion. . Drawing, playing an instrument, spending time in nature, working with clay. For those who haven’t yet, but hope to, this book may be the velvety boost needed to get started.