"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

FINALLY an Update on the Mares!

 I love when they come to me when I go visit them after work.

Yes, that is Gracie's nostril in close-up.
"Can I eat that??"
No Gracie, it's my phone!
Lately she has been taking priority with me. Since Carlos has proven to be perfectly capable of riding Lily, I've been able to work on Gracie while in company AND moving at speed, a combination that I had never been able to do before. When I rode Gracie, I always rode alone because in company I was always the one on Lily!

The catalyst  for this was that, on a solo outing one day, G-Mare got into a HUGE argument with me over returning to the barn at the walk and I realized that it was time for me to dedicate a significant amount of one-on-one time to her so we could get her brain back in the right place. She has always been the horse I choose to ride when I don't want to have to think, and I wanted to keep her that way!

Ever since the dressage clinic with Stephen Birchall that I audited, I have been working with Gracie on general dressage concepts to get her back to using herself correctly. She is a pretty unique individual in that she is built downhill but naturally and effortlessly moves uphill at walk, gait and canter. The only gait at which she moves downhill is the trot, which is the gait that Carlos has been allowing her to get away with for the longest time. It is in the mare's best interest that she work at her special gaits so as to spare her right front with the ringbone.

So we took it to the arena for a couple of sessions, which she was initially quite pissed off and argumentative about. She did NOT want do as I said in terms of bend, engagement and collection, which resulted in a 10-minute hissy fit. Gracie hissy-fit = violent head tossing, bulging against my leg, moving sideways instead of straight (this part can be scary on trail because she does not pay attention to where she's going when she does this in an argument) and then coming to an abrupt halt. I'll usually let her stand there for a second so she can re-set her brain (if I try to push her to continue too soon it just prolongs the argument) and then verbally ask her to walk. And we start over. Sometimes she'll be willing to listen then, or we'll go through this cycle a couple more times before she realizes it's just easier to do as I say to begin with. It's her way of saying, "This is HARD! I don't wanna!" She gets heavy praise the second she does what I want. Usually once she gives in, she drops the argument entirely.

For our first dressagey ride, there were hissy fits every time I asked her to bend, every time I asked her to flex to loosen up, every time I asked her to sit back on her hocks and collect. She was incredibly stiff through the base of her neck and did not want to lift her withers. We had to go back to the walk and work on moving away from leg, bending and counter-bending, circles, baby leg yields and shoulder-in. We then worked a bit on all of these at the gait. (If anyone ever tries to tell you that gaited horses can't move laterally, they are lying. Just an fyi.) Lots of arguing throughout. But there came a moment when she was finally loose, when she was responsive to my requests, and she was doing gorgeous movements in every direction at her slow rack and I brought her to a halt, patted her profusely, and dismounted. We had worked for exactly 20 minutes.

Our next dressagey ride took place in the girls' field. Lily still had a bandage on her butt and I didn't want her freaking out over being alone in the field so I just rode Gracie in their field. (I personally think horses should be willing to work anywhere. I don't see why the field where they live in should be off limits as a work area. Sometimes you don't have anywhere else to ride or work your horse!) Gracie had two small fits initially over repeating the type of work but when she realized it was the same thing she had done before, she complied and we had a lovely ride. She held a correct, collected gait for a full 30 minutes and while she was covered head-to-toe in sweat, she did not feel tired at all.

After that we took it to the trail. I wasn't going to insist on her working in collection all the time on trail, but I wanted her to only gait (no trotting) and to put her through her spectrum of gait varieties: running walk, slow rack (aka singlefoot in KMS/RM horses), running walk, speed rack. And since a lot of people aren't familiar with those, go to this post I wrote two years ago explaining them all with both photos and video.

Jess then came out and I ultimately had her ride Lily while I rode Gracie and we put in a 10 mile ride where G-Mare only gaited...and I got her to do the speed rack on command for prolonged periods. Jess's jaw dropped. She had never seen Gracie perform this particular gait. The Blonde Beast was FLYING, her mane whipping back like flames. I literally just sat back in the saddle and laughed. Lily had to canter to keep up!

Things have been smoother with every ride, other than Gracie's persistent cross-cantering when on the left lead. My vet was due to come out for fall vaccines anyway so I asked to have G-Mare's hocks injected while we were at it.

Carlos and I had one more ride before the injections, where we hauled out to Little Bennett. It was my first time doing an extended trail ride on Gracie in company in over two years!

 Both mares rocked. There was a small incident with Lily that I'll go into below in her section of this post. Gracie was going through her variety of gaits on command.

"She's moving funny," Carlos said.

"Carlos, this is what it looks like when she GAITS!" I laughed. He'd never really seen her in action on trail because he was always on her.

We did 10 miles in an hour and a half. Gracie didn't even look tired afterwards, even though we maintained a consistent 7 mph pace, mostly gaiting!

Trimming her feet after the ride. She kept resting her nose on my shoulder.
Like so. And yeah: I was too lazy to be bothered to look for my farrier gloves and paid for it in the form of a sliced finger from the coarse side of the rasp. -_-
 The following Monday she had her hocks injected:

"I drool when I'm high." The wet spots on the floor near her lead rope are from her drool!
Starting to wake up a bit post-injections.
She had four days completely off, a day of mostly walking, and then Carlos came out with me to ride.

My ultimate reward? Carlos went to get the horses in the field. Lily let him catch her but G-Mare kept running away from him, staying just out of reach and he finally gave up. I took her rope halter from him as he walked out with Lily, and walked into the field by myself.

"Gray-cieeee!" I called.

She lifted her head, pricked her ears and broke into a GALLOP to come up to me! She came to a stop right in front of me and stood next to me so I could slip the rope halter over her head. I was thrilled that for once, I actually had treats to reward her with for the spectacular display of preference!

I turned around, gloating at Carlos who was over by the hitching post with Lily.

He had seen the whole thing. He gave me the middle finger. I roared with laughter.

Her cross-cantering is diminished since the hock injections, though she still does it occasionally. I plan to have her right front pastern (she has high ringbone in that leg) injected over the winter so I can give her a long break after...they require about 6 weeks of rest when you inject a high-motion joint.

She is gaiting spectacularly though. I've pretty much entirely eliminated her trot, which was my goal. Why no trot? Because gaited horses use themselves so much better when they GAIT. And Gracie is no exception.

This one and the collage below were from an evening bareback ride. GMare was a gaiting machine! She was doing her speed rack in this photo!
Her legs were literally a blur! And I had no trouble sitting her because gaited! :D
A good friend of mine, Shanna, used to ride in her 20s and had to step away from it because $$$, as you guys all know. Since she had some experience, I invited her out and put her on Gracie to re-learn the ropes. They are doing beautifully together so far, and I hope to take her out on the trails soon!

Rack! First ride!
More rack. Second ride.
Speed rack! ZOOM!!
Running walk.
I have been tremendously pleased with Shanna's lessons because they have been proof that Gracie now ONLY gaits. She'll canter, but there is no trot whatsoever, not even for a less experienced rider! Now we'll need to train Carlos to keep this consistent with her...

Lilybird is doing fabulously but I have not ridden her in...a while. Not because I don't want to, but because I've been taking full advantage of the opportunity to work Gracie while someone else rides Lily. I know Lily misses me, as she keeps walking up to me in the field, "Are we riding today?" but my riding schedule has been so weird. Gracie needed the one-on-one time with me, though.

"So...if we're not riding, will you scratch my forehead then?"
Yes, Lily. Anything for you. <3
Jess and Carlos have been riding her and she has done spectacularly for them.

The day Carlos and I hauled to Little Bennet was only his second time riding her off-property. Lily had a weird freak-out when he got on and I'm still not sure why: he didn't touch her rump with his foot as he was swinging his leg over and there was nothing amiss about her tack. But right when she reacted, the clip on her left rein slipped off the bit and Carlos was left with only one rein. Lily was all, "I'm scared! I'm scared!" and doing her absolute best to try to contain herself so as to not unseat Carlos but still sort of going up-and-down. The flapping unclipped rein was not helping matters.

"Lily, ven aca," I said to her calmly. "Ven aca" = "Come here" in Spanish, which she is very responsive to.

I was still surprised when she immediately came over to me, still up-and-down, "Help! Help!" and stood still long enough to let me clip the rein back on and calm her down. Carlos sat all of that beautifully without issue, remaining calm himself. I checked her all over to make sure everything was okay and could not find anything wrong with her tack or Carlos's position, which gave her enough time to calm down.

I was very pleased with the fact that, despite being upset, she still tried to take care of Carlos and despite having another rider on her back, she still responded to me first. This mare has come SO FAR guys!! SO FAR!!!

There were no more problems throughout the rest of the ride. We had a great time, both horses and people!

Lily's happy ears!
Note also: her butt wound is completely healed! Barely a scar left. My vet was very, very impressed.

I think this was one of the rides I was most impressed with, though...it was our first real ride after G-Mare's hock injections so I was taking it easy with her, but I let Carlos do gallop sets with Lily so she at least could get her cardio in.

I mean, holy cow.
And here they are in motion:

Here they are doing hill sprints. 
He said that Lily feels like she has 4-wheel drive when compared to Gracie: he's not used to having to check a horse when galloping uphill! Gracie is a push ride uphill, Lily is a pull ride. She makes it seem effortless. His grin after galloping her was worth a million bucks!

It is SO HARD to believe that he has only been riding for two years and a half! I know experienced riders that would kill for that quiet of a seat and hands! Less than a handful of people have been entrusted with riding Lilybird during the five years I've owned her. It is a huge testament to his skill that he can ride her at all!

Jess and Lily just click. I know I'm Lily's #1, but she is happy with Jess as her plan B.

Hill sprints!
We finally had our first frost this morning, but it rapidly warmed up to the upper 60's by mid-morning. The trees are just starting to change color in Maryland, which I'm thankful for because the later those leaves change color, the longer they will be on the trees! I don't mind winter but I do mind the months and months of naked trees.

And that is kind of it on the equine front at the moment. Lots of other stuff happening too, and I hope at some point to have a new post for y'all about the new surgery adventures, but that might not happen until we're snowed in! ;) 

Monday, September 26, 2016

Things You Probably Don't Know About Me

There will be an update on the girls coming up this week (they are both doing fabulously) but I have had so much more going on in my life this year that at the moment, I am simply not limiting the blog to only horses. 


Lauren inspired this one. And like her, I'm going rogue, because this year has been about me going rogue in every way possible.

Three characters I identify with: 

Katniss is the anti-hero: in the books she is socially awkward and doesn't really like people, but when put in a situation where she has to survive and save others in the process, she is unstoppable. She is fierce, sensitive, determined and honest, to herself and to others.
Neytiri is one of my favorite characters ever, and she shares the same traits I loved of Pocahontas, one of my favorite Disney characters as a child: empathy, her connection with Nature and animals, and her love of teaching what she knows.
Andrea Sachs was my idol when I decided to become a vet tech. I went through the same struggles she goes through while working for Miranda Priestly. She was a nerdy, shy, timid type that was afraid to speak her mind, that turned into a gorgeous, outspoken, intelligent woman that was unafraid of going for her dreams. I like to think that I am like that. Actually, there is proof that I am like that.

Things you (probably) don't know about me

I was seriously into fencing in college. My instructor was coach for the Puerto Rican team in the Panamerican Games, a world-class champion fencer himself. Basically the George Morris of fencing. During a scrimmage, I touched him with my weapon. As in, a points-earning touch.

NONE of his students had EVER been able to do that. This happened in front of the entire class. I gasped when it happened. Don Goyo paused, gave me a very subtle smile, and defeated me in one blow. Hahaha No surprise there! It was an event that was never repeated: he upped the ante from there on out when in practice combat with me. But I was not bad at this sport.

My weapon of choice: the saber. Why? Because it is the only weapon with which you can also strike sideways as well as touch with the tip of the weapon. Permissible contact areas were anything above the waist including the hands and face. And so it is the preferred weapon of men. I was the only girl in the class that chose it. And I kicked all the guys' butts. It shocked everyone because I was the quiet, shy, shapely girl in class with the glasses. I was a completely different person with that saber in hand. I was smaller and faster and had better balance than the guys and didn't give a hoot about getting struck with their weapons, which meant I went in for the kill. I would win before they knew what had hit them. For whatever reason the guys loved this. -_-  My professor started talking about forming an intercollegiate fencing team, for which I was first in line as potential member, but it never happened. I looked into fencing as a sport outside of school but it was even more expensive than horses, so that's when my fencing career came to an end.

Neither of these is me, but you can see that the lunging fencer is getting ready to strike with the length of his weapon's blade.

Like so.

I am an empath. Some of you may or may not have realized this from reading my veterinary posts, but I myself didn't recognize what exactly this meant until this past year, when I started working with the same group of people for 40 hours a week, vs a few hours per shift like I used to in ER and ICU-type work. This article changed my life: it explained everything. My social awkwardness (I prefer to listen before talking...and part of that is because I'm also getting a reading on new people. This used to take time when I was younger; it's more instant now, which makes conversations with strangers so much easier, though it depends on the person I'm interacting with), my discomfort around certain people and not others (I trust first impressions a LOT more now), the unique way in which music affects me (I intensely love or hate songs based on the way they make me feel. Black or white, no shades of gray), my need to go home to recharge because it is my "safe zone" (I'm often at home in silence. TV off unless Carlos is home. If I listen to something at home, it's music, but this most often happens while cooking or cleaning: while I'm active. I don't even like talking on the phone when I'm home), the fact that I could never engage in casual sex because it still involved an exchange of emotion that profoundly affected me, and my ability for feeling the "vibes" of places. People have always said I am too sensitive: I feel your emotions as if they were mine, but because I don't have telepathy to accompany it, I can't always tell if you're mad because of something I did or something else happening in your life. But because of this, I am incredibly sensitive to negative feelings: anger, sadness, bitterness, depression, envy, hatred, ill will. They affect me profoundly because at my base level, I'm normally a pretty cheerful person. But when a negative person stands next to me, it's as if they'd tossed a box of black ink into a pool of clear water. It literally taints whatever it is that I myself am feeling. I can shove it out if I can identify it appropriately, but it still contaminates what I feel. It's called being clairsentient and it is a BITCH, let me tell you. If I have to have a real, honest-to-God superpower, I'd rather it be telepathy or none at all. With telepathy you at least know the "why." When you can only feel emotion, it's like only being able to taste but not smell. Alone it is an incomplete sense because it relies so heavily on another for it to make sense.

I would accidentally freak the hell out of my coworkers when I would ask them, "What's going on?" when I felt that they were off without them giving any outward signs. It took a while before I realized that this is actually not normal. That my ability to read people's most subtle expressions and body language, the fact that I would react to attitudes communicated with gestures alone because I felt the emotion behind them that said gestures confirmed, was highly unusual. It works beautifully with animals because that's how they communicate 24/7, but most people rely so heavily on the spoken word for communicating that when you get someone that can see beyond the facade, it is downright unnerving to others.

Combine that with the eerie premonitions I periodically get, usually in the form of dreams in the third person where I am observing instead of participating, and you can understand why...well, why my Surgery coworkers didn't know exactly what to make of me. One day I scared the living daylights out of my doctor back then: we had this one dog whose surgery was going to be a complicated one and I had asked to run it because I really liked both the patient and the owner; we had clicked. I dreamed that he would not be having his surgery on the scheduled day because of something going on with his lungs. I was watching Dr. G looking at x-rays of his chest in the dream. It bothered me enough that the next morning I walked into the doctors' office to check in with Dr. G, "How is Night this morning?" He had been admitted the previous night so he could go to surgery first thing. "I dreamed his surgery was postponed because there's something going on with his lungs." I said it jokingly: the dog had a whole slew of health problems, which is why his surgery was such a big deal.

Dr. G had been typing away and he stopped to look at me, wide-eyed. "That's funny," he said, "because it might be cancelled. He's been coughing. I need you and Alexei to take x-rays of his chest this morning."

Night had pneumonia; the surgery was, indeed, postponed. Dr. G joked from thereon out that he would check in with me about patient status premonitions before scheduling their surgeries.

All of these things were so useful in ER and ICU-type work that they either didn't get noticed or simply didn't surprise anyone. Sixth senses are common in the medical field, especially in critical care scenarios: you either have a sixth sense or you develop it on the job if you care and do it for long enough. But in the veterinary ER, it often turned into knowing when an animal was going to die no matter what we did. And it was devastating. While having the sixth sense of an empath is still very useful in Surgery, my heightened awareness stood out like a beacon in the new setting. I have since gone back to being reserved and quiet, to simply observing but not sharing everything I perceive. I can dial it down to a degree, but this is sometimes easier said than done, especially with people that you unavoidably sync in with. A few weeks ago, I texted Jess at my old job, "What the HELL is going on over there???" I kept getting images of my ex-coworkers and this feeling of distress. It was making me crazy and interfering with my work and I said as much to Jess. She wasn't even working in Surgery that day, so I wasn't getting it from her. But she still knew what was up: they had euthanized each and every one of Dr. G's appointments that day. It had been one of the WORST days EVER in my old Surgery department...and I felt it from 50 MILES AWAY. I freaked the hell out of Jess. But you can imagine how powerful it is when in close quarters with people, that I can still feel emotion from that type of distance. It's not me being overly sensitive: I just can't help it, because when dialed in, emotions are a solid, tangible thing for me, just like colors are a tangible, measurable thing for the person that has vision. You can't unsee colors when you have vision. And just like you can't explain colors to a person that was born blind, I can't explain what an onslaught of emotion feels like. I can control its...volume, if you will, but just like you can't select for what you want to hear on TV, I can't always control what I feel and what I don't, or what source I want to dial into. Some people just force themselves on you unknowingly. It's fascinating the way people emit emotion...some people contain it so well that you only know what they are feeling by tuning into their body language and expressions as well, while others reek emotion like a smell and color the entire room around them with it. I work with a doctor that is this way...and I get a huge kick out of playing with music in the OR and feeling how it affects him. When I hit the nail on the head in terms of what music he clicks with in the moment, it is incredibly rewarding because the entire environment changes as he relaxes. A lot of people emit emotion in tiny, rapid bursts that change before you can identify what they're feeling, which is similar to how a lot of animals feel...you find yourself imperceptibly reacting to what they're emitting before you can translate it in your head. Others emit emotion in sonic booms of tangled, garbled feeling and then hide behind a solid wall when you try to reach out to them to decipher/unravel what you're feeling. Others have incredibly strong feelings that they try to contain, and I can feel them bubbling under the surface. Like water in a covered pot, with the steam building up just ready to explode. This is terrifying by the way. My Russian ex-coworker did this all the time, and it was the main cause of arguments. "WHAT is WRONG with you???" I'd ask him when I couldn't take it anymore...because I couldn't just leave the workspace. He was incredibly sensitive to energy from others himself, which is what facilitated being able to work with him without need of talking about 75% of the time, but he was also terrible to work with because he thought he had a wall around himself...yet I could feel everything he felt: pain, frustration, anger, if he was sick, even as he tried futilely to contain it all...I felt it all because he had absolutely no control of his feelings, he projected it all outwards yet he refused to acknowledge any of it because Russian men are taught that emotion/feelings = weakness. It was the strangest relationship I've ever had with anyone, coworker or otherwise, because the fact that I could read him with transparency meant that, while he infuriated me more than anyone I have ever met because of the way he presented himself vs the way he really was, I also automatically trusted him implicitly, even when the circumstances that evolved around him were the reason for my leaving that job. The core of himself that he tried so hard to hide was solid, and that's what I saw. But he wrecked chaos in that department with his vortex of energy and emotion, with the colliding forces within himself that he could not deal with, creating a cascade of discord that I simply could not handle, precisely because I am an empath. I cannot, cannot, CANNOT stand drama in the workplace because I feel it so strongly, and I will do almost anything to keep the peace. When there was no chance of salvaging that, I left. The thing is, I finally figured out what was "wrong" with me because of him.

I can tell when a person is lying because of the emotion I feel coming off of them, and it is disturbing and distressing for both the person that is trying to hide something from me unsuccessfully and for me that knows they are hiding something but doesn't know WHAT: because no telepathy, remember? (Carlos gave up on lying to me our first year together. He knows it is impossible. I'd catch him in the act outright or get a premonition. He is a highly sensitive person himself and he knows he married someone who is fairly...unusual. The wonderful thing about him is that he has never been surprised about the strangeness that is my everyday life, that affects him too because he is a part of it.) Emotion is like a stain whereas telepathy is a clear picture. It's like comparing a Rorschach blot to an illustration.

How do I function in daily life? It's easier when I'm not directly interacting with people around me. I often avoid eye contact in public situations: the grocery store, the gym, crowds at the mall. In these situations, I function only off of my awareness. I get frustrated when I have to make eye contact because there is an instant connection when I do. I used to be the kind of person that crazy people would cross the street to come interact with because they sensed that connection if I made the mistake of looking them in the eye. If I have company, it's easier because I just dial into the person next to me and it dulls out what I'm getting from my surroundings. It's still there, though: all I have to do is re-focus for a second on my surroundings to sense danger, happiness, sadness, etc.

And this is why I love working with animals and why my entire life I have found peace around them: because animals don't try to hide what they're feeling. They feel, they communicate, and they just...ARE. They don't lie. They will hide pain from the people they love or if they feel endangered, but you can still see it if you know how to look.

If you've never heard of empaths, go read the article. It is very, very much a play-by-play of my personality, my weirdness, why I tick the way I do, the things that set me off and the things that give me peace, my love for underdogs in both the human and animal form (I own a tripod cat! I own a horse that would have died if I hadn't paid the $1 for her. I often sought out those that were rejected by the crowds as my personal friends, from preschool all the way through high school) and just about everything else. I am most of the things the article discusses.

I cannot stand watching the news. This also has to do with the above. I know there is cruelty in the world. I feel it. I cannot abide seeing it. I get very overwhelmed by people on Facebook that constantly post all of the negative things that happen in the world, and have actually cleared my feed of this type of person/post. The only times I more or less keep an eye on current events are when I'm doing cardio machines at the gym because there are two TVs with CNN in the line-up of televisions in front of this section. My hatred for the news is so strong, that I actually prefer to focus on strength training when I'm working out precisely because I can avoid the TVs. This is why running OUTSIDE this past summer was so important for me: the news of a certain male presidential candidate and the incredible cruelty, evil and violence he inspires; everything that is currently wrong with the US right now and with my home island (which none of you know about, and it will get a billion times worse if said presidential candidate wins. I don't give a single flying fuck about the other candidate's e-mail fiasco. That is nothing compared to the evil the one candidate represents); current events around the world, all of that, could be avoided by me being OUTSIDE. Hence why my injury was so devastating. It makes me absolutely freaking insane that so many white people that I originally respected and thought were intelligent, are so immensely self-centered that they can't see how that one person's success will affect the 40+% of this country's population that are non-white, the 25% that are gay, the 21% for whom English isn't their first language...I could go on and on and on. Let's just say that we have reached the point where Carlos and I will walk into some places speaking in English to one another (we speak Spanish at home), because we feel that threatened. Whoa did I run off-topic there and straight into politics, but I AM NOT SORRY.

I have loved cats even longer than horses. I first decided I wanted a cat when I was 6 years old. I went horse crazy at age 10. But I grew up around dogs. We always had dogs. My parents' Dobies and Keeshond argued over who would get to guard my crib at night and I would romp around with them on four legs as a kid. I loved The Jungle Book because I wanted to be Mowgli with our dogs. Did you know that cats and horses have more in common at the cellular level than cats and dogs, and dogs and horses? Dogs are actually more similar to us humans at the cellular level. Their blood is very similar to ours. And maybe that is why (in general) cats and horses mirror us, vs dogs (in general) try to fix us. We'll never know.

This was me with our dogs!!

I am a coffee snob. Not to the level that some people out there are with their French presses and cold brews, but I am picky about what I like. Latin coffee is nuclear in potency and is most often brewed as something very close to espresso, but with a smoother taste. If you don't know what I'm talking about, go to Miami, walk into any of the bakeries with a Spanish sign outside, and order espresso. You'll understand then. I drink coffee that can wake up the dead that needs to be lightened with milk because creamer won't do it. That is what I make at home. I have a moka pot, aka 'greca" in Spanish: this is how most Cubans and Puerto Ricans brew their coffee. American coffee actually upsets my stomach. It will clear the early morning fog in my head, but I pay a price for it, which is sad because it is so much cheaper than asking for lattes all the time. :) Maryland has been nice because we can find places that make decent coffee. I keep a running list of these places for when the Cuban in-laws come to visit, because Carlos's dad is even more of a coffee snob than I am and he insists the average American restaurant is incapable of brewing good coffee. So far, he has been impressed with my choices, and thus Maryland! ;) So when I tell you guys that a place has amazing coffee, it's because the coffee really is out of this world...

I'm naturally a morning person and am most productive before 11:00 am. When I need to get stuff done, I will wake up between 4:30 and 5:00 am. Those are my "witching hours." ;)

I chose to do homeschooling for my senior year in high school because I wanted to focus on my riding career. I had access to a trainer that genuinely believed I had Olympic potential in showjumping and he was willing to see me through it. I'd wake up at 5:00 am, be done with schoolwork by 10:00 am (see above!) and then go to the barn to spend the afternoon working my butt off riding multiple horses in exchange for lessons. And then that trainer moved to the US and there went that dream. But it was really cool to be homeschooled because that is how I ended up having enough time to participate in the Sea Explorers...which is how everything with Carlos started. But the point is: that is how important horses were to me.

My mom is Puerto Rican and my dad is Cuban. My family on my father's side have been US citizens since the 1960's. My family on my mother's side have been US citizens since 1898 when Puerto Rico became a US territory.  My first ancestor in the Americas arrived on the island from Spain in the 1500s: he was a Spanish engineer commissioned by Sir Francis Drake to build a bridge in Catano, the main industrial city on the island. The bridge still stands close to 500 years later, though it has long been in disuse. My family owned most of what is the San Juan metropolitan area at one point; there are streets and neighborhoods named after my ancestors. I would be Puerto Rican even if I had been born on the moon.

That is a direct quote from the song, "Boricua en la Luna" by the Puerto Rican band Fiel a la Vega

I tried starving myself to death in high school because I had such a horrible body image. And almost succeeded. I had a true, obsessive love-hate relationship with food: what I could eat, what I couldn't eat, how much I could eat. I would dream about chocolate, cake, donuts, bread, because I wouldn't allow myself to eat any of those while awake. I could only eat 500 calories a day and I freaked if I consumed more than 3 grams of fat a day. Currently, I wear size 8 jeans. I weigh 140 lbs, have a 36" chest, 28" waist and 39" hips (#latinaproblems). At my thinnest when I was 17, I wore size 16 children's pants and had whittled myself down from a pudgy 160 lbs to just under 100 lbs...over a 6 month period. You could count every rib, every vertebra. There are no photos of that time. Horses saved my life. And my mom, because she was the one that signed me up for lessons again. When threats to hospitalize me didn't work, she took me to the barn with the trainer that changed my life and told me she would pay for my lessons on one condition: that I eat. If I didn't eat, I couldn't ride. I started eating again when I realized that I really had no strength with which to control a horse over fences if I didn't shove food in my face. And that's how I learned about sports nutrition, which is something that still fascinates me. And how I eventually started working out regularly, not in an effort to vanish into thin air, but in an effort to make myself harder, better, faster, stronger... I used to MAJORLY suck at gym class. The first time I ran a mile I couldn't believe it. The sad thing was that that didn't happen until I was in my 20s! And so running has always been the back-up sport when I didn't have the time for riding or surfing. Strength training is my other big thing. I love the way working out makes me feel. I love that residual muscle soreness you get after a solid workout because it reminds me that I worked my body hard, that said body took me to greater lengths than the day before. I love food and I have spells of eating not-so-healthy, but for the most part, we only keep a variety of healthy food in the house (lean meat, chicken, tons of fruits and veggies facilitated by my obsession with Wegmans, Ezekiel bread, yogurt, beans, root veggies like potatoes and yams, interesting grains like quinoa and farro, etc). If we want ice cream or chocolate, we have to drive out to get it. Sometimes we decide it's too much trouble, and others it ends up turning into an ice cream outing followed by dancing under a bridge. ;) But the point is: if I'm working out, I love my body more. And it has taken a lifetime to learn to focus on what I like when I look in the mirror (the ridge of ab muscle above my hip bones, the definition in my shoulders, the veins in my arms that show more as my body fat percentage drops), instead of all the things that could be improved (my belly pooch that has never, ever gone away, no matter how thin I am; the parts that will always jiggle: butt, thighs.)

I love most of the animals everyone else finds gross: reptiles, including lizards and snakes, and pretty much every imaginable insect. I have owned green iguanas and garter snakes and always wanted a ball python. I love the sleek smoothness of their scales. I used to catch lizards on the island, keep them for a few days, and then set them free again.  There is a photo somewhere of me when I was like 4 years old, wearing this adorable frilly dress with this look of utmost joy and fascination on my face as I look down at what I'm holding in my hands: a lizard! :D I had spotted mice and at one point got into breeding exotic-colored gerbils. I had a dead butterfly collection when I was little. I love spiders and refuse to kill them. My favorite part of tubing on the Potomac in the summer is that if you hold still, hordes of dragonflies will land on you and hang out. My one phobia: cockroaches. I cannot abide roaches.

I adored this little guy. His name was Aldebaran and he was a yellow fox color (golden guard hairs with white undercoat and red eyes.) He was an absolute sweetheart. I could put him on my shoulder and he would just hang out there while I walked around the house. He also enjoyed road trips: we would take him with us to the Arroyo beach house, where I'd let him run around the living room in his exercise ball.

My favorite art material to work with is colored pencil. Always has been. And I keep them in a cigar box. Actually...I keep most of my art materials in cigar boxes of varying sizes. Fun fact: no one in my family smokes cigars, not even myself! But we keep cigar boxes inherited from friends for storing; my mom and aunts do the same thing. Cigar boxes are beautiful, functional, made of real wood, and thus will last forever!

I was a diehard tomboy as a kid. I was seriously upset when I grew boobs and couldn't walk around the house anymore in pants and no shirt. And then I discovered sports bras! It is not uncommon to find me in shorts and a sport bra hanging out at home, and when we lived in South FL a favorite outfit was jeans and a bikini top.

One stormy night back when we lived in Tampa, Carlos and I stripped and ran naked down the beach at 2:00 am.

I once spent a hurricane in an outdoor hot tub. At least it had a roof over it...

I love lightning. I've spent thunderstorms trying to nail a photo of the lightning. Still haven't succeeded.

My pinky toes barely have nails. I got that from my dad. He got surgery to correct his. I was livid when he told me.

I used to be terrified of galloping in wide open spaces. 

I like round mirrors because they resemble scrying glasses. But there is only one round mirror in our house. It is above my desk.

I hate driving in rain.

The only thing I've ever collected were Cheval Ponies. I have 8 of them. You can have 20 of them in the same pose and same color, and each one is going to be 100% unique: they were each hand-made in South Africa. I stopped collecting them when I stopped working at the tack shop. Precisely because each one is so unique, I liked to choose them in person. They're very difficult to find nowadays; I don't think they are made anymore. When we've moved, they have always been very carefully wrapped and packaged, set aside from all the other boxes; only I am allowed to touch the boxes that contain them, and they travel with me. They are one of my most cherished non-living possessions because there are no others like them in the world.

These two are my absolute faves. 

Our apartment is full of Puerto Rican art. Every wall. What doesn't have art, has photos taken by me of some of my favorite places on the island.

A sampler here. The one on the left is a view of La Capilla del Cristo in Old San Juan. (And you should go to that link and read the story behind that little church. There's a whole legend behind it.) The one on the bottom right is a screenprint of the mausoleum in the Old San Juan cemetery. And the little screenprint on the top right is by my Aunt Mary, of the ridgeline on the east side of our house on the island. The sun rose behind those trees every morning.

The only things I brought with me from Puerto Rico were my cat, my books, my clothes, my car (it was cheaper to ship my paid-off Toyota Tercel than it was to buy a used car in the US!), and my art. No more.

My favorite TV show is Anthony Bourdain's Parts Unknown. I love that man, the way he sees the world, and the way he presents it.

The only thing I miss about not having cable is HGTV. I used to be able to watch that channel all day, every day.

When I was 6 years old, I seriously wanted to be a unicorn when I grew up.

The Last Unicorn was a favorite movie for a while there, too.
I can still thing the song "I'm Alive" from the movie.

And now you can too! The song is by America and is hauntingly beautiful. It still gives me goosebumps.
I am secretly aggressively competitive. I know this about myself and so I keep a very harsh bit and a very tight rein on this part of me! ;)

And if I have to grow old, I want to be like this lady. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Story of the Puerto Ricans that Danced Under a Bridge...

If you're my friend on Facebook or Instagram, you're probably wondering at this point what is up with Carlos and me dancing under this one bridge in downtown Frederick all the time.

And if you're not familiar with the bridge yet, you will be in a minute. :) Or fifteen, since I have to again tell the full story so you can comprehend what's happening in the present!

I grew up surrounded by music. My mom and dad were huge on music. My dad could play the acoustic guitar, my mother's brother played the drums and percussion, and my dad's brother was one of those gifted souls that could pick up any instrument you put in front of him and instantly be able to play it without ever having touched said instrument before in his life. My mom herself didn't play but it didn't keep her from appreciating the talents of those who could. Later while living on the island, her and my aunts would always play music on the weekends. All sorts of stuff: oldies from the 60s and 70s like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Carpenters (among so many others); popular Spanish rock like that of Puerto Rican artists such as Chayanne and Ricky Martin; Juan Luis Guerra's awesome Dominican merengue music; US Top 40 (I listened to the Casey Kasem show every Sunday), instrumental music like Yanni's...my taste in music is so hugely varied because of this upbringing! It fed into every other aspect of my life: I couldn't work out without music, I couldn't drive without music, and ever since the island, I have ridden horses to music as well. In fact, I bought my first Discman with its pouch for running, not for working out, but for riding! I love Spinning because it is set to music and the beat of the music determines your speed, gear and exercises on the bike. Carlos and I always play music while cooking at home. At work, both the old job and the new one, I've become the unofficial OR DJ when running anesthesia because everyone loves the stuff I play, and I play it with a purpose: to positively influence the mood in the room.

I have far more childhood memories tied into music than into almost any other of the senses. To this day, when I hear Bertie Higgins's Key Largo song, I am transported back to a beach side hotel room shared with my parents. It is early morning and the sun is shining through the curtains so that everything glows gold and white, and I can hear the roar and thump of the waves on the beach outside. The song is playing on the radio. Mom and Dad are awake and just getting started with the day. And I remember the love they had for each other. It was tangible in the air. It was their song.

I was three years old and I already understood all of these things. Because of music.

When you love music enough you want to BE the music. To have it pour into you and around you and be wrapped up in it until you cease to be a physical being and you are made up of wavelengths of sound and vibration. Playing music if you know how to play an instrument can satisfy this in a way, but for me, it's long been about dancing. Dancing until I forget I have feet.

Photo from here, and too incredible not to share! Apparently water dancing is a thing. 
I took ballet when I was very little but didn't stick with it. I think that might have been because we were always moving when my parents were married: my dad was in the Army. 

Music is a vital part of my culture and in school we were taught traditional dances like bomba y plena, which come from our African ancestors. One of my favorite school events was when my second grade class put together a bomba y plena dance we practiced long and hard for, and then performed in front of the entire school. I got to wear the big skirt that swung out when I twirled. Loved it. And that is when my love for clothing and objects that moved with me while dancing started. Remember that.

Bomba y plena dance. Look at the skirt!! This is why to this day I love twirly skirts and dresses!
Photo from here.
Going into my teens, I gained a lot of weight and became very, very shy. Everyone in school knew who I was because of my drawings and, while I knew when a boy liked me, they always happened to be shy types that wouldn't ask me out. Since I was shy too, I didn't think to ask them out myself for fear of rejection. School dances were hard during this time because I just wanted to dance, dance, dance but felt majorly self-conscious because of my weight. Which made it almost impossible for me to enjoy the music the way I wanted to. In 8th grade I begged my mom for dance classes in preparation for our junior prom, and I got my wish.

Ballroom dancing.

I freaking LOVED IT. And I realized that I really did have rhythm. I'd been born with that after all; I just needed to learn the steps with my feet. I also learned how to properly dance with a partner and follow cues. Ballroom dancing at the competitive level is a LOT like riding, except the girl is the horse: there are all sorts of little cues the guy will give you via touch on your back or shoulder blade to let you know what flamboyant move comes next.

I had so much fun. I wasn't able to stick with it because we couldn't afford both that and riding lessons long-term, but it gave me the confidence to go out on the dance floor at our 8th grade junior prom with a group of my friends and rock out. And the guy I liked at the time asked me to dance...and I was able to keep up. 

I lost the extra weight in high school and stopped being so self-conscious. I started dancing more on my own, often at home: I'd lock myself up in my bedroom, blast the radio, and dance for an hour or more. It was my cardio! 

In my junior year in high school I finally asked a guy out myself and we started dating. Which meant I had a partner for school dances! Gus wasn't a huge fan of dancing but he loved me (aka he enjoyed spending time with me and was up for pretty much any crazy thing I suggested), had natural rhythm (most Puerto Rican guys do, even the ones that will tell you they don't dance. It's in our blood) and had enough of a sense of humor to not take himself too seriously, which made him an excellent student: I taught him all the ballroom moves I'd learned and we went to all the school dances together and, while we were shy about it, we still had a blast.

However, I always had this secret dream of being like Sandy in Grease and busting out of the goody-two-shoes shell with some amazing dance moves in front of a group of people that would be astounded by it. Even when I had a partner at school dances, we were always off dancing in a corner where we wouldn't attract too much attention.

I got into metal, hard rock and industrial music in college when I started playing the electric guitar. I got into ska when I started dating the bass player of a local ska band, and it was him that taught me to pay attention to the different instruments and layers in music.

Jamming with my brother in the living room of my family's house in PR. We had a band but we never did play in public.
And then, much later, I started the long distance relationship with Carlos, flying out to Tampa, FL once a month to visit him.

Carlos introduced me to electronic music. He was a former hard-core raver, a scene whose existence I was aware of but unfamiliar with. All of his Tampa friends were ex-ravers, actually. And they all still partied occasionally: electronic music in general is HUGE in most of the major Florida cities. 

I used to hate electronic music with a vengeance. Of course, I had only been exposed to what Carlos refers to as "wimpy techno."

I can still pinpoint the song that made me fall in love with the electronic music genre, and I remember the moment that I heard the song for the first time:  Dido's "Sand in My Shoes", Above and Beyond's UV remix.

I was already living with Carlos in our first home, the 2-story, 3-bedroom apartment that we shared with two of his friends. We were both up early for work and the bedroom was still dark, lit only by the light of our attached bathroom. Carlos flipped on his radio and "Sand in My Shoes" started to play.

This version of the song is really hard to find: it was on a MixMag CD from the early 2000's that came with the magazine. I was very, very surprised to find it on Youtube for you guys!

"Two weeks away feels like the whole world should have changed
But I'm home now and things still look the same
I think I'll leave it till tomorrow to unpack
Try to forget for one more night that I'm back in my flat
On the road where the cars never stop
Going through the night
To a life where I can't watch the sunset
I don't have time, I don't have time

I've still got sand in my shoes and I can't shake the thought of you
I should get on forget you but why would I want to
I know we said goodbye, anything else would've been confused
But I wanna see you again

Tomorrow's back to work and down to sanity
Should run a bath and then clear up the mess I made before I left here
Try to remind myself that I was happy here before
I knew that I could get on a plane and fly away
From the road where the cars never stop
Going through the night
To a life where I can watch the sunset
And take my time, take all our time

I've still got sand in my shoes and I can't shake the thought of you
I should get on forget you but why would I want to
I know we said goodbye, anything else would've been confused
But I wanna see you again, I wanna see you again
I wanna see you again
Two weeks away, all it takes
To change and turn me around I've fallen
I walked away and never said
That I wanted to see you again

I've still got sand in my shoes and I can't shake the thought of you
I should get on forget you but why would I want to
I know we said goodbye, anything else would've been confused
But I wanna see you again

I've still got sand in my shoes and I can't shake the thought of you
I should get on forget you but why would I want to
I know we said goodbye, anything else would've been confused
But I wanna see you again, I wanna see you again
I wanna see you again"

- Lyrics from Metro Lyrics

I was in the bathroom with the door open brushing my teeth. And there was something about the song that just went right through me, wrapped itself around me from the inside out and made every hair in my body stand on end. I had to stop what I was doing, turn around and walk over to the radio, as if by doing this I could see the music.

"What is this???" I asked Carlos.
"Trance. The group is called Above and Beyond."
"I love this!!!"

I was transfixed. The music...the combination of the music and voice were as if someone had extracted a piece of my soul and turned it into sound waves. The lyrics reminded me of the island and the life I had left behind for a life where I could watch the sun set. And take our time. Take all our time.

We did this often back then: drove 45 minutes to Clearwater Beach so we could watch the sun set over the Gulf. 
It's been 12 years since I heard that song for the first time. It's on almost every playlist I have, though I don't listen to it often because I don't want it to lose that which makes it so special: even after all this time, it still strikes me to the core and gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. No music prior had ever made me feel like that. And that's when I understood all of this hype with electronic music.

It was the start of a relationship. :)

Many years later I would get to see Above and Beyond live, at an outdoor music concert in Miami. They are still my favorite trance DJs. 

It was trance music that started it all. And then I fell in love with house music and dubstep. And so I went with Carlos and his friends to electronic music parties and was formally introduced to the rave scene, which was already dying at this point.

My favorite part of these events was the dancing with lights. Glowsticks in particular. Carlos and his friend Will (who is also Puerto Rican; ironically they met in Orlando, not PR) are two of the most insanely gifted glowstick dancers I have ever seen. Even after all these years, after seeing other people both online and in person, glow dancing, I can still say: Carlos and Will are the best. THE. BEST. They had learned to dance together when they both lived in Orlando and taught one another some crazy fancy moves. And of course, there is no video because back then phones still didn't have video.

Carlos and Will dancing without lights...to drum n' bass.
If you've ever heard drum n' bass, you will understand my never-ending astonishment that anyone can dance to that music!
I could have watched them dance for hours, not unlike a cat with a laser pointer. It was beautiful.

This girl is absolutely incredible. She has several videos on YouTube. Charles can do most of these moves.

So it was no surprise that anytime Carlos picked up the glow sticks and started dancing, the crowd of people around us would step back to give him room and stand transfixed to watch him. "MINE," I'd think, "He's mine. That's MY guy moving like that!"

It wasn't long then before I decided to give glow dancing a whirl myself (pun intended). As it turns out, once I figured out the correct string length I needed so I wouldn't give myself a black eye with the glow sticks, I was able to teach myself a couple of the fancier glowstringing moves. I had the coordination for it, but I still found it awkward.

This one is me.
One of our friends, Ali, had this awesome pair of glow maracas. They are battery operated and when turned on have an inner circle that lights up and spins. They are awesome. One day at a party Ali passed them to me. I turned them on and started dancing, letting the music dictate how I moved, without thinking about how I looked or planning the next move. I was simply one with the music, the maracas highlighting my movements. I was lost in the current of the music.

The crowd around us stepped back and gave me room, turning to watch.

I had just found my "thing."

Ali told me to keep the maracas and they have come with me to every outdoor electronic music festival ever since. I've also played around with regular glowsticking (sans strings: you just hold the glow sticks in your hands) and with other things like these gloves with fingertips that light up:

Dancing with the gloves.
We went to music festivals maybe two or three times a year. The rest of the time, Carlos, myself and his friends would take a radio and a ton of CDs out to the beach and dance with lights under the moonlight by the water. It was magical and there are no photos of that, because none of us could afford cell phones with cameras yet. We all split ways the same year: Carlos and I moved to Tampa, Ali headed to Massachusetts, and Melissa went to New York. Once a year we would all meet up in Miami for the Ultra Music Festival, and we would take music and lights out onto the beach and dance together again. It was truly special.

At the beginning of 2016, I hadn't touched a glow stick or my maracas since our New Year's Eve party in New York when we first moved to Maryland the winter of  2012-2013. Carlos and I returned from the South Florida trip this past January with the electronic music bug: it's huge down there but not so much up here.

I also came back with a raging desire to dance with lights again, for the first time in almost 4 years.

I woke up one morning with this idea of going down to Baker Park the following weekend and dancing by the creek with the maracas at dusk, and setting up the camera to film it. Because lights and their reflection in water! Carlos has gotten me spoiled with the idea of filming/photographing all the cool stuff we do in our daily lives that I otherwise would have only been able to record by way of drawings/illustrations.

So many of our Arroyo trips are remembered via sketches I did at the time. My brother and I were always up to all sorts of mischief that never was photographed.
Carlos is always up for anything and he thoroughly enjoys me being the one to come up with the crazy ideas since at the beginning of our relationship he was always the one with the crackpot schemes, so he was all for it.

It was winter. And cold but not freezing: around 40ish degrees. We arrived at the park at dusk but there were quite a few people around, playing in the park, jogging, walking their dogs by the creek...and I had a total shyness attack.

The baseball field was flooded so I stood by the giant puddle of the field, away from the crowds, and experimented with how the light of the maracas would look in the reflection in the water.

That little orange thing on the ground next to me is our little bluetooth speaker that basically goes with us everywhere...
Conclusion: it was too light out.

So we walked to Bushwaller's, our favorite Irish pub, and had a couple of pints while waiting for the sun to go down. We returned to Baker Park once it was dark.

The temperature had dropped at least 10 degrees now that the light was gone so the park had completely cleared out despite it only being like 6:00 pm.

We tried getting the view from the creek but now it was too dark. I was thoroughly aggravated and bummed out and still really, really wanted to dance.

Carlos looked around and I saw when the lightbulb went on.

"What?" I asked him.

"Let's try over there," he said, indicating the bridge.

The Baker Park bridge has the road over the top of it and three parallel tunnels underneath it with a sidewalk running through one of the tunnels, connecting the two sides of the park. At night, the three tunnels are lit with bright overhead lights.

"Really?" I asked him. My mental picture of what I wanted was so different from what was in front of me.

"Yeah," he said. He didn't explain what he was thinking and I didn't argue. He is the one with the film degree, after all. (Carlos is a classic example of the boy that didn't want to grow up, and thus didn't know what he wanted to be when he realized not growing up wasn't an option: he has a Biology degree, a Film degree, and his Nursing degree, and that is why we are student loan poor...but also why he has such an astounding eye for both photos and video. It is thanks to him that all of my social media is so full of...well, media!)

I had a couple of specific songs I wanted to dance to that I had only been listening to all week long while visualizing myself dancing to them...but we were having technical difficulties with both phones: Carlos's didn't want to take video nor photos but I had my music saved on my phone. We ended up having to swap: Carlos took the videos with my phone and used his to play the music. He has good music, of course (he's the one who introduced me to all this after all!) but I had to deal for a moment with the fact that we had planned this whole thing, and first I couldn't dance next to the water and now I wouldn't be able to dance to my music. I was super frustrated as I walked into the center of the tunnel and turned to face him under the lights.

He synced his phone to our little bluetooth speaker and said, "Here. Dance to this."

I picked up the maracas and waited for the music, expecting him to have chosen something crazy fast like Diesel Boy.

I was very surprised when the song that started to play was "The Hanging Tree" from The Hunger Games' Mockingjay movie.

I read the books. I loved the song, as I had become familiar with the lyrics through the books prior to hearing it for the first time when we watched the movies, and had been thrilled with the way the song was played IRL. I had completely forgotten the song existed until this moment.

A slow smile spread across my face, like the kind you get when recognizing an old friend you haven't seen in awhile, as the song filled the entire tunnel like a tangible entity. The acoustics under that bridge were out of this world.

"Wait," I told Charles, who had picked up the phone and was ready to film.

The music built up and I let it flow through me.

"Now," I said. You can hear when I say it at the beginning of the video: "Ahora."

I closed my eyes and let go. 

When Charles showed me the video afterward I was a little stunned...I had never seen myself dancing!! I had to deal with a moment of, "I want to dance like her!" combined with, "Wait...I AM her!"

And I also saw what he had seen: the lighting under the bridge was absolutely incredible for filming. Like, if we had tried to deliberately illuminate the setting that way, it never would have come out that spectacular.

In one of my most ballsiest moves ever, the video went on Youtube, Facebook and Instagram. I was astounded by the feedback I received on Facebook, especially. My FB had always been somewhat boring: I didn't use to post a lot on there. But people went nuts over the dancing video.

This one was also posted. Glowsticking (instead of with the maracas) to a MUCH faster song!

I got my wish of wowing an audience...thanks to Carlos and social media! There was so much positive feedback at work when I walked in the following week. Alexei, my coworker at the time, was humming "The Hanging Tree" for the entire week afterwards...

And so the bridge became a sort of hangout for us. The lighting and acoustics under there were so AWESOME for filming that we got a huge kick out of going there, dancing to whatever the hell we wanted and filming it for later.

The song was Dash Berlin 4AM Remix by Hardwell, featuring Amba Shepherd.
The beautiful thing about this particular video is that for the first time, I could see the way Carlos sees me.

It started out with glowsticks and the maracas and later turned into us dancing without them...

Like the night we danced to reggaeton, until Carlos got shy about the camera and decided he preferred to be behind it...
...and so I rocked on alone.
Yup, I was barefoot. I had been wearing a pair of high heels and decided they had too much traction for the kind of dancing I was trying to do, so off they went. Baker Park is set in the middle of a REALLY NICE area of town with half-a-million dollar homes on each side of it. There is some graffiti under this bridge...in chalk. There is no gum, no trash, no nothing under this bridge. Cleanest, safest bridge you will ever find. Hence why we go there so often!

We have since discovered that two of the bars in downtown have dance floors that are open on Friday and Saturday, but if we want to move to Latin music, we have to go out on Wednesdays. The likelihood of that happening with our schedules is close to nil, so we continue to visit the Baker Park bridge whenever we want to move to something we can't find anywhere else.

This past weekend was the harvest moon. I have the good fortune of knowing a lot of amazing people and so my social media feeds were full of pictures of the full moon in all sorts of settings taken from friends across the country and Puerto Rico. I was getting a kick out of seeing so many folks I love out appreciating this type of beauty. And so on Saturday night, Carlos and I went out to get ice cream at Rita's in downtown...and then decided to go to Baker Park for a stroll under the moon.

I was in house clothes. In a tank top and pajama shorts and had literally thrown on a bra just for the purpose of leaving the apartment. I had managed to get some Oreo ice cream on the tank top, which I had licked off unsuccessfully.

Carlos was playing his music in the car, with his phone connected to the radio, and this incredible song came on. I couldn't really tell what the lyrics said, other than "capsize" and "tides" as part of the lyrics. The music and the voices were like water pouring over me and I said to Carlos, "Let's go dance under the bridge! I want to dance to this song!"

He obliged.

He parked the car above the bridge and we ran down into the light. There were a few people walking on the sidewalk over by the creek but we were otherwise alone.

The phones were set next to one another, one filming and the other playing the music, and we danced. This was, obviously, completely unrehearsed since it was only the second time we were hearing this song ever.

The song is Capsize by Frenship, which I included at the end of my previous post. It is just achingly beautiful and if you've never heard it before, you need to push play on the video above or go here.

I kind of like our version better than the original video of the song!...And that white orb behind us was the full moon!

There is a full-blown amphitheater in Baker Park that I had been entertaining the idea of dancing at for the last week. On Sunday I wanted to try dancing there but it was too dark by the time we made it out after dinner.

However, right next to the amphitheater is a gazebo...that is lit at night. Except there were people there when we parked. So we went for a walk. Carlos suggested dancing under the bridge again but I wanted something different. We walked all the way around the park as it was starting to sprinkle rain, and as we came back up to the gazebo, realized that it was empty. Of course we had left the tripod in my car at the other end of the park...so we decided to improvise.

I was wearing a swirly dress for the occasion, with workout short-shorts underneath so I could twirl without worrying about people seeing my underwear. The phones got set on the bottom rung of the gazebo railing and we set a few of my favorite Latin songs to play.

Here's a bunch of stills from the videos we filmed:

And that is the evolution of the story behind why we dance under a bridge...and in a gazebo...and one day in an empty amphitheater...and who knows where else. It started because of electronic music and has continued because of Latin music. If we can't dance to it anywhere else, we'll dance to it on our own because it's in our blood. Or, as Carlos said, "because we're that cool. Because we feel like it. Because we can."

Because we want to be the music. ;)