I talked about enthusiasm a while back, and I used my granddaughters as they opened gifts as an example. I recognize that my time here in Spain, on my annual visit, is limited, as is my time on this earth. Therefore, I choose to be enthusiastic, and to try to make the most of my time. And it’s really not so difficult to do. But I have been thinking about the feeling of exhilaration, and what that means to me.
There are three experiences here in Spain from when I lived here that come to mind as the three examples of the most exhilaration I have experienced in my life. But first, let me say a little about what exhilaration means to me. The main idea is that there is a thrill, a pure joy, something that surpasses happiness. Saint Google tells me that the Spanish word for exhilaration is regocijo, but that is a new word for me. It is interesting that if you ask Saint Google to tanslate regocijo back to English, you get “joy.” Enthusiasm is something I decide to integrate into my activities, especially when those activities appeal to me. But exhilaration is something that happens TO me, that I experience as a result of activities and that I really have no control over other than to place myself within those activities.
The first exhilarating experience involves horses, and there are actually two parts. Many years ago I went to the Semana Santa (Easter) fiestas of Lorca with Jean Paul. In the main part of the city, by the city hall, both sides of the street had grandstands for the people to sit and watch the festivities. We went under the stands, through the cloth covering the empty space below, and took our pictures in the street between the stands. Most of the festivities consisted in people dressed in period costume, Romans, Egyptians, etc, on horseback and in chariots galloping up and down the street between the stands on both sides. There was a competition, or maybe better said a rivalry between the White group and the Blue group. Jean Paul and I were careful to not get trampled or run over.
But there was one big, powerful yet graceful white horse, ridden by a young boy, maybe 12 years old. The two of them were one, and the boy had perfect control of the horse through all his maneuvers, including raring up on his hind legs. There was a connection between the two of them that only added to the beauty and magnificence. In dozens of fiestas and thousands of photos taken, this was the only time I was moved to tears at a fiesta.
Well, later I was horseback riding with a coworker, Elena, and we all took a break. Everyone had dismounted except me, and Elena’s horse got away from her and ran away. Without thinking, I just took off after the horse, one hand on the reins and the other reaching for Elena’s horse, and through several zigs and zags, my horse always sensing what I wanted and complying, we caught up to and took hold of the reins of Elena’s horse. It was exhilarating. Although I was much bigger and older than the boy in Lorca, I felt on my horse the same power, freedom yet control, and maneuverability that I had felt while watching the boy in Lorca.
My disclaimer is that I just described the only John Wayne moment of my life, and I still don’t pronounce ‘dressage” correctly. In fact, one year while riding at Salvador’s Molino de la Umbria, in Pedraza (photo above), at one point he accused me of trying to imitate a sack of potatoes on the back of the horse.
The second exhilarating experience I had in Spain was also a one-time occurrence. You see, I was able to go for a ride with “Stork” in an F16. What’s more, after a full afterburner, completely vertical 4.5 G take off, and a few maneuvers with another F16, we went off on our own and Stork turned the controls over to me. Now I am not a pilot and have never had any lessons, but I can say from personal experience that flying an F16 is easier, much easier, than flying a Piper Cub, a Bell 103 helicopter, or a 727. But more importantly, it is much much more exhilarating as well. I had talked with a professional photographer whose pictures from fighter jets are widely published, to get advice on how to get the best photos. He summed up his advice with the statement that this was going to be the most fun I could have with my clothes on. And it was. I was even able to do some barrel rolls.
I felt not only the power and maneuverability of the F16, but I felt a unity, a connection between me and the jet. Despite the lack on my part of years of study and preparation, and hours upon hours of practice of a normal F16 pilot, I was able to feel in control and that the jet did exactly what I wanted, with ease. It was amazing and beyond joyful, it was pure joy.
The third exhilarating experience(s) in Spain come from having a powerful and fast motorcycle here. Again, to feel one with the motorcycle and in complete control, with much more maneuverability that a car, brings joy. Leaning into the turns, so low that a part of the motorcycle scrapes the pavement, weaving effortlessly through the traffic, able to accelerate and brake much quicker than a car is exciting.
I have exceeded my length, so let me share some conclusions. In Spanish, the word used for these activities is “montar” – to mount. I would normally translate that in these circumstances to “ride.” But I can’t help but notice that “montar” in both languages is sometimes used in a sexual connotation. And with that, the idea returns of two becoming one. I felt that I had become one with the horse, with the F16, and with the motorcycle. Maybe only for brief moments, but the feeling was complete. The other Spanish word that comes to mind is “gozar,” or to enjoy, to delight, to take pleasure, which also has dual uses.
Finally, I have to observe that there is also an exhilaration of God’s Love, the Best Love. I am fortunate to have had exhilarating moments of this type as well. What about you? When have you felt a true exhilaration? When have you felt one with someone or something? Maybe you don’t ride horses or a motorcycle, or have the opportunity to fly an F16, and can’t just choose to feel exhilarated. But you can choose where and with whom you spend your time. You can make yourself available, allow the opportunities. Decide to do so – now.