Author Page Lambert, Leader of the
Literature & Landscape of the Horse Retreat,
Pays homage to the Great Racehorse Secretariat
This year’s Kentucky Derby marks the 40th anniversary of the great racehorse Secretariat’s Triple Crown win. Secretariat’s bloodline and the story of his greatness lives on in the hearts of those who loved him, and literally in the equine hearts of all his descendants. Our favorite stories endure because at their core, beneath the word-smithing, lies heart. But how can we ensure that the heart of the stories we write will tick on and on?
If you could weigh the heart of your story - feel its pulse in the palm of your hand - could you trace its genetic greatness back to the works of the authors whom you most admire? Would there be a "felt" line of descent between the story you're writing now and the first childhood story that made your heart race? Maybe it was Wind in the Willows, or Tom Sawyer or My Friend Flicka? What is meant by "felt line of descent?"
If we explore the literal and figurative "heart" of the race horse Secretariat, we'll find that his story starts like all fairy tales...
Once upon a time (actually, it was Apri1 1, 1764), in a country whose coasts stretched between the wave-capped waters of the Irish, Celtic and North Seas, a chestnut Thoroughbred colt was born. His owner the Duke of Cumberland christened him Eclipse and sold the stud colt to a sheep dealer. The sheep dealer sold half-interest in the horse to Captain O'Kelly, who was married to a brothel owner.
Eclipse went on to be one of the world's great racehorses. He died in 1789 and, as was the tradition in England, just his head, heart, and hooves were buried (a gruesome, gripping detail). When the London surgeon performing the autopsy cut him open, he found that the racehorse had a massive heart weighing 14 pounds - 6 pounds heavier than the heart of an average horse.
Pocahontas Greater even than Eclipse's fame as a racehorse was his fame as a sire. In 1837, a progeny filly with a rather small frame named Pocahontas was born. She carried an X chromosome passed onto her by Eclipse's daughter Everlasting. 150 years later this "large heart" gene would be passed down to one of the greatest horses the world has ever known.
Secretariat won the Triple Crown, setting track records and world records at the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont. He died at the age of 19 after siring more than 600 colts. His heart wasn't put on a scale and weighed as Eclipse's had been, but the surgeon who held the champion's still-warm heart in his hands estimated it at more than 22 lbs.
How, then, does a heart fuel not only our legs, but also carry our dreams? How can a heart urge us to go the distance, to keep writing, in the face of overwhelming odds?
In Mary O'Hara's classic novel My Fiend Flicka, you can almost feel your own heart racing as young Ken McLaughlin rides down the mountain after seeing Rocket's filly for the first time:
No dream he had ever had, no imagination of adventure or triumph could touch this moment. He felt as if he had burst out of his old self and was something entirely new - and that the world had burst into something new too. So this was it - this was what being alive meant - Oh, my filly, my filly, my beautiful...
Heart-filled prose. But Mary O'Hara didn't finish Ken's sentence. She left it to the reader’s imagination, perhaps even to our pens, hoping that we will one day write our own everlasting stories - stories that will pulse in the palms of the reader's hands even as we race toward the finish line.
Look toward that finish line. See who has gone before. Imagine their words and stories leading the way. Visualize that line of descent. Thank those who have already run the race, clearing the way, then look behind you and visualize those whose stories will follow yours, and cheer them on as well.
Travel to Louisville, Kentucky for the KENTUCKY DERBY on May 4, 2013. Tickets on sale now. Go to the official Derby site for travel packages, lodging, horses, and more. http://www.kentuckyderby.com/
Travel to the Vee Bar Guest Ranch in Laramie, Wyoming, June 1-6, 2013, for Page Lambert’s 6th annual LITERATURE & LANDSCAPE OF THE HORSE. For anyone who yearns for nature, longs to reconnect with horses, and hungers for creative inspiration in an authentic western ranch setting. One special horse will be yours for the entire 5 days. All levels of riding experience. http://www.pagelambert.com/retreat_index.html.
Travel to Moab, Utah, September 10-13, 2013, for Page Lambert’s 17th annual RIVER WRITING JOURNEY FOR WOMEN with special guest internationally renowned Native American writer and musician, JOY HARJO. A 4-day adventure through Westwater Canyon on the Colorado River. Outfitted by Sheri Griffith Expeditions. SGE provides all equipment, including tent, sleeping bag, all food. Fabulous SGE women guides do all the cooking and rowing. Page's river trips with SGE featured in O magazine as “One of the top six, all-girl getaways of 2006!” http://www.pagelambert.com/retreat_index.html
About Page Lambert: Founder of Connecting People with Nature-Connecting Writers with Words, U.S. author Page Lambert has been helping writers connect more creatively with the natural world for 17 years. She facilitates outdoor writing adventures, often working in partnership with other professional organizations such as the Grand Canyon Field Institute, True Nature Journeys, and the Aspen Writers' Foundation. A member of the International League of Conservation Writers, she writes the blog All Things Literary. All Things Natural. www.pagelambert.com.