Seen from a Galloping Horse

The Perfect Length

The Perfect Length

We all have challenges—from minor to mammoth. My mother taught me to sew when I was young, maybe six or seven.  I had to learn to even out my stitches by hemming dish towels.  By the time I was eight, I was learning to make clothes for my dolls, and by the time I was ten, I was learning to make clothes for myself.  To me, the hardest part of sewing was making the hem of a dress come out evenly.  Machine work was simple, but evening out a hem seemed impossible to me.

My Mother had a saying that helped not only with this dilemma but with later problems in my life as well.  The saying was simply that if it can’t be seen from a galloping horse, it didn’t matter.  The saying always struck me as both funny and true.  The phrase goes back a century to the days when it was commonplace for people to travel on horseback.  I always pictured a young girl in a newly-made dress standing on the sidewalk as a young man she likes rides by on the road.  To the young girl, the young man’s perception of her matters greatly, and if he doesn’t notice that her hem is crooked, then the evenness of the hem doesn’t matter.  And, clearly, no one riding by on a galloping horse is likely to be able to distinguish an uneven hem.

The underlying message is that we are too anxious about nonessentials. The newer version of this truism—don’t sweat the small stuff—was also true more than a century ago.  Perfect stitching doesn’t matter unless it’s going to be examined close at hand.   Seen from a distance, the hem need only appear generally even.  I have to believe that is true about much in life.  Do we really need to spend hours making our houses perfect, our cars spotless, and our abs rock hard?  If viewed from a galloping horse, would any of those perfections really matter?

I’m not suggesting that we live, drive, or eat like slobs.  I am suggesting that we give ourselves a break and remember that perfection may never exist in the relative world.  Les Brown, a wonderful motivational speaker, tells listeners to forget the word “perfection.”   He says that practice creates not perfection but improvement, and that is what we need to aim for in our lives.  We all want to be better, but when we try for perfection, we fail and then we blame ourselves. That guilt lowers our self-esteem even further.

Instead of condemning ourselves for our failures or comparing ourselves to the plastic perfection shown in glossy magazines, perhaps we could stop for a moment and imagine ourselves as viewed from a galloping horse.  How would we appear?  Would our hems or our flaws really be so terribly noticeable?  I believe that seen from such a perspective, we would all appear more appealing, even more perfect, and we could be more at ease with ourselves.


Vintage dress model and sewing equipment: ID 1152116 © Natalia Guseva |


Writing about Place

Anthracite Coal

Anthracite Coal

Place: We can write about place as a way of exploring and tracing our inner landscape. Feelings and memories resound like chords of music as we envision a particular place we have lived or visited. The memory unfolds and we are there with our senses enlivening the lyrical experience.

My Grandfather’s Mine: I often recall the mountain hollow in Kentucky where my grandfather farmed his small piece of bottom land, and I am—in that moment of memory—transported to the sense of wonder I felt following my grandfather into a coal mine he had dug in the back of a cave. I remember seeing facets of coal sparkle as water dripped down the walls and reflected back the light from the small kerosene lamp on my grandfather’s billed cap.

My Memories: My senses build that experience again some fifty years later—the sight of lights sparkling from the coal, the sound of trickling water finding its way down the sloping walls of the cave, the damp flow of air in the mine, and the secure touch of my father’s hand on my shoulder, guiding me along behind his father. I am once again in that place, feeling everything I felt then. My storehouse of memories opens up for me and I am caught in a moment of time evoked from the sights and sounds and touch of the past.

The Present: Today, the mine is no longer there, the mountain bulldozed down during strip mining a couple of decades after my visits. My grandfather is also long gone, dying in the 1950s from cancer of the stomach, blamed on his having been kicked in the stomach by his mule while plowing a field. Now, I am here in the 2010s, living on the prairie, far west of those Kentucky mountains, yet that land, that cave, those moments remain compelling feelings and images in my mind—a manifestation of my memories woven from the fabric of my experience.

The Prompt: What landscape do you remember? Share the images and feelings in a short piece of writing.