Saddle Sore: Tony Vagneur
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Some months ago, in a distant city, a delicious-looking younger woman and I strolled into a dining establishment of impeccable Eastern tradition. She was seated very near, within inches ” precisely where I like her. The background hum and clink of the bustling restaurant coaxed us even closer together, giving an intimacy to our space that otherwise couldn’t exist.
“Do you think you live more in the past rather than the now?” she asked.
“To tell the truth, sweetheart,” I answered her, “you just zipped me out of the now and into the realm of nebulous philosophical thought, which could be anywhere. Of course I live in the present.”
“Oh, I’m not so sure,” she continued. “Most of your columns are about things that happened a long time ago. Don’t you ever want to write about recent happenings? Even the stories you tell me are mostly about the past.”
“I appreciate your observation, my dear, but think about this: I write and tell them all in the present,” was my response. “And besides, I’m enjoying every minute of being with you. We’re on to something good here, and if we continue the mood after we leave, living in the now with you tonight may become an unforgettable night of special memories, perhaps to be told in some future column a long time down the road. It can’t be any other way, not if I don’t want to embarrass you, or me.”
On another day, my friend Detweiler and I were talking about heading north to Montana or the Dakotas, buying humongous-sized cattle ranches and living out our days as focused, crazy ol’ cattle barons.
“I’ve thought about it a lot,” he said, “but we’d never fit in. They’d never accept us because we don’t have the stories.”
He’s right. We have a lot of good stories between us, but if people don’t feel part of the tale, it’s mostly meaningless. Up north, by the time we built up some good, repeatable yarns about ourselves, we’d be dead, and after the funeral, nobody’d give a damn anyway. Exceptin’ maybe a few coyotes. No history, no stories, no credibility.
Just as an aside, let me say that horses might be close to living in the now, compared to dogs or humans. When you catch your horse, he doesn’t know whether you’re gonna go for a 20-mile ride or you’re gonna give him some oats. Either way, he’ll live with it, without objection and, probably, with enthusiasm. And he won’t talk about it when he gets back to the pasture. That’s truly living in the now, and I don’t think I could put up with a schedule like that.
The thing about stories, in my estimation, is that a good narrative isn’t much, no matter what it depicts, without the details. To collect the details, you have to pay attention to events as they happen, which definitely requires that you live in the now. That’s the easy part ” it’s more difficult to have a capable memory, one you can draw upon at will. At least that’s what I hear.
We’re the sum of our experiences, I reckon. Truth has little meaning without lies. Tears can only make joy ring stronger in our hearts. Say what you want, but we can’t escape the past, not by twisting a crystal ball nor by a long shot. That’s not to say we should pack our past around with us like a debilitating showboat deformity, reminiscent of the hunchback of Notre Dame, but we should be aware of where we came from and what we’ve learned.
My philosophy has always been that life is a journey, not a destination. Savor what comes your way. If you’re reading these words right now, you’re close to living in the now, but because I wrote them last Tuesday, they’re history to me. Still, they say the same thing. Whatever that is.
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