Standing Tall, Looking Forward

By Leslie Sann

There is nothing unbearable in who I am;
thus, I can handle whatever it is,
enduring until the end.​​​​​​​
 ~ John Morton

On January 22, 2023, I opened my email and read this message, “Hi – I am interested in buying your print. Here is the kicker – I’m in California. I was burned out in the California wildfires in 2017 and recently moved into my new home. I built the same house and am trying to find items I had previously owned and loved to put back in the house. This was one of the items that I so much want to get back.”

I read the words, and my heart sings, Yes, thank you, as I have been attempting to sell She Walks with Horses for a while. It had been hanging on the wall of my office for decades, traveling with me to each new space. After closing my last office, it was tucked away in a closet. The framed art measures just under 60”x40”. All the time it was listed for sale, I had imagined someone putting it in their vehicle and driving away. Shipping to California would be a project.

I was in the midst of polishing my doctoral paper, doing my end-of-year taxes, working and living my life. There was not much room on my calendar—and—well—of course—I said yes, glad it was going to someone who will experience joy in owning it.

JS and I emailed back and forth, exploring possibilities, including whether she wanted me to get the framed print boxed and shipped or if she would prefer me to send the print and have it framed when she receives it. The freight and the cost to frame it was close, so she decided on the framed print as she could hang it immediately.

She then wired me more than twice what I was asking to cover the freight and packing cost, trusting that I would return any difference. The next step was finding a way to box and ship. She had done some research and said FedEx would do it, yet when I called my local store, they said no. I then found that the UPS Store was willing to handle the job. They gave me both costs, and my new partner agreed to the quotes. By now, JS and I had begun to communicate via text.

My neighbor was kind enough to take me to the UPS Store in her SUV, as the piece was too big for my car. On the way, my neighbor began talking about the dangers of selling to strangers, repeating the stories she had heard about folks getting in trouble by selling, for example, through Craig’s list. It was amazing to me to watch myself get agitated and second guessing myself. Then I realized I had picked up a mind virus (thoughts transferred from one person to another), and the agitation wasn’t mine and did what I knew to do to let the disturbance go and return to peace.

JS and I had a phone conversation. We shared that we had been tentative about trusting the other, and after this phone connection, that was no longer an issue for either of us. During the call, she tells me stories about the amazing people who have been kind to her since her house burned. A man who had custom-made her a roll-top desk to replace one that had burned ended up driving it from Iowa to northern California to install it for her as freight prices had risen so high after Covid. He used the money to fund the trip as he had friends he could visit near her.

JS: Thanks for listening to my little story. I love telling it to people. I’ve always felt that most people are good, with a few who are not. Of course, the not-good people get all the press.

We kept taking the next step. There was lots of action leading to more action without a clear outcome. Once UPS boxed the print, they discovered it was too big for their facility to ship and asked me to come to pick it up.

My neighbor kindly drives me to get it. It is now too big for her SUV, and I leave it there. JS and I continue to partner. She apologizes for the changing circumstances. I tell her I see it as a treasure hunt and that we will eventually make it to the finish line. All we need to do is take the next step—just the next step.

She finally works it out for FedEx to pick up the boxed print at UPS (funny, yes?). It was a blessing that I couldn’t take it home as it would have cost twice the already high amount to pick it up from a residence.

JS: As I’m sure you are, I’m very frustrated. I think I would be in tears if it weren’t for you.

Moi: Not frustrated with this good news. How wonderful for them to go to UPS to get it. We can do this.

There were several back-and-forth messages with her expressing her grrr and me encouraging her onward.

Moi: Keep on keeping on. It will soon be in your home on the wall, and you will forget about this part.

JS: I won’t forget the part that includes your help and willingness to fight this through. I will not forget that part.

JS: Hi! Well, it arrived in good condition, is unpackaged and is on the wall! The packing they did at the UPS Store was great. Thank you so much for pushing this through!

Moi: I’m leaving the UPS store. I stopped by to tell them how pleased you were with how they packaged the print. They were delighted that I had taken the time to come to the store to tell them in person. 

JS sends me photos of the picture hanging on the wall and parts of her newly built home. It is lovely, and I experience her delight and her gratitude.

Moi: She (the lady and the horse) has now traveled from Chicago to Northern CA to take up a new residence. She seems very happy in her new abode.

And then I received the following (edited) email:

Hi Leslie – Here is the rest of the story of the person you just helped.

     My husband and I were together for 50 years. He was a veterinarian. We created two veterinary hospitals, and a restaurant, remodeled houses to rent and had our home where we boarded horses. When I look at this list today, I don’t know how we did it, but we were young then and excited and thought all this was fun! When we slowed down 20 years ago, life got even better. Something seemed to strike us as funny every day, and we would be rolling on the floor laughing.

     In 2017, while remodeling a rental, I told my husband I thought this was the last one for me—he agreed. So on a Sunday afternoon, having done the final touches on a rental and handing the keys to the new renters—I was retired! I went home, made dinner, and had friends over for our weekly movie night. At 2:00 AM, the sky was red, emergency evacuation (no time to take horses) and everything burned.

     We tried to get back to the house for three days after the fires settled. We finally made it. All the horses were OK, and emergency volunteer evacuation services helped us get them to a different location. 

     We went to Costco for some supplies and clothes. We saw old friends that we hadn’t seen for years. So many people lost everything, and they were devastated and depressed. In contrast, my husband and I were happy because we had just discovered the horses were OK.

     My husband immediately went into action. We were first to get clean-up, first to get fences back-up. A month after the fires, we had a trailer moved onto the property, and the horses returned home. 

     One problem with being first is that no one knows how to handle you. We were about three months out from the fires. We couldn’t seem to get an electrical hook-up even though we had everything we needed in place. This was making my husband nuts. 

     One evening, he couldn’t sleep. He was severely agitated. He wanted to call the company and offer them money to give us an electrical hook-up. I told him I was exhausted and needed to sleep. There was no one to talk to at the electric company at midnight, and I would beat a path to the office in the morning and work on it. That night he had a stroke. I lost him three days later.

     Losing him is something I will never get over. I’ve discovered that one doesn’t get over a loss like that. One does become better at handling it, though. Time does not heal all wounds. Time does give the opportunity to figure out how to make the path forward worthwhile.

     I am happy to say I have nothing but good people in my life. This is a gift (and a decision).

     So, again, I say thank you to you. Every time I walk into my house, a woman with a horse is there. She is standing tall and looking forward. ~JS

✭ Note to you, dear reader: We can do this. We can overcome adversity, and handle whatever it is, enduring until the end.​​​​​​​ Who we are at the core is that which is greater than any tribulation—the loving heart.

Yours from Planet Joy, Loving and Gratitude,