Sunday, January 07, 2007

Power Struggles

Whoever controls the power wins. When there's power available and no one steps up to control it, you get people fighting over power, and then there's chaos. In the School District, this has been going on for months, nay, years. Personally, a dance of power, domination, usurption, defiance, and rejection of authority is the most intriguing plotline in Romances. I don't like stupid misunderstandings, but watching power shift from one character to another is very satisfying to me.

It's also why I like masked heroes. I'm a weak and foppish dunce, I am. But I'm also the most powerful person in the room. Ha Ha! (God, I LOVE that.)

It's also why I like classical horse training. There's a curve to a horse's neck and back, a spring in his hind legs, a gorgeous sway of the tail, that comes from athletic grace willingly confined by the strength of a respectful rider. I'm not kidding: it makes me sweat when I see it.

Oh, and to ride it. When the horse lifts himself, he lightens his ribcage between your legs and the sound of his feet striking the ground is no longer a thunk, thunk, thunk, but now they whisper over the ground. An athletic horse "on the bit" barely makes any noise at all. So as the back and withers lift, his neck arches like a sea horse and his nose dips low. You can feel the bit vibrating in your hands. You can feel the horse's breath pressing against your thighs. You can feel his spine swaying under your hips; the slightest roll of your hips, or even the thought of a shift of weight, and each of his legs swing to follow your guidance as if they were each hinged to your pelvis. It's a meditation on power--the horse has the power to canter over the countryside at anytime, but the rider's respectful power holds the horse to an athletic frame.

I once rode a 30 year old stallion in a dressage exhibition. By the end of our pattern, the front of my dress shirt was wet with tears. I wasn't sobbing, but for the full ten minutes I had ridden, I had been silently weeping. I didn't even know that I had been crying until I came out of the arena. It had simply been such a beautiful experience, that the tears flowed.

But see, for all that to work, each side has to willingly agree to give over some of their power. I had another horse who responded to these requests by turning himself inside out and whacking me on the face with the back of his head. OK, no thanks. He wasn't willing to give over his little bit of personal decision-making, so I wasn't willing to train him how to be graceful.

Without getting all BDSM about it, there's something very moving about willingly ceding power, or maybe the better word is control. Yes, control.

I have a "thing" for Laura Kinsale's Flowers from the Storm, I think because of this personal quirk. Jervaulx, the mathematical Duke, suffers a stroke, so he loses all control. He gets shipped to a mental institution, his wealth is threatened, and he can no longer speak nor string thoughts together coherently. But he's still powerful in that caged leaopard in the zoo sense of power.

Along comes Maddy, the Quaker nursemaid, who decides to take care of Jervaulx.

Dammit. This was going so well! I was going somewhere really neat with this, something about how much I like to watch physical power and emotional power shift from hero to heroine and then back again in a book. How it's a dance. And it's sexy. And it's like riding a horse. You have to respect the other individual enough to let him go forward with impulsion, but then he has to respect you enough to pull back when you vibrate the reins.

But I started this post in October--it's been sitting in my draft pile forever. I keep trying to come back to it. I've written about six endings to it, but I can't get back to the same voice that it has in the beginning. So I finally decided just to put the beginning up and let it be what it is. An excerpt of a thought.

Damn, Damn, Damn and double damn.

We'll just call it the post that was. Sigh.


CindyS said...

And yet, I get it.

I love that you have moments in your life that are so heart warming.

Me? I have a cat that peed on me and became mine. The end ;)


Bev (BB) said...

I call those romance plots mating challenges. Also, mating dances.

Side question, have you ever worked with wild horses? As in gentling them? Now that's real forced seduction. ;p

Suisan said...

Cindy, so many animals have peed or vomited on me that I've lost count.

Bev--good name for it.

No, I've never worked with a "mustang" or a "brumby", but I've started plenty of horses who, up to that point, had no other handling than going from one pasture to another. Kind of sort of the same but not really.

There's a lot of crap these days about how impossible it is to "gentle" wild horses, expecially since Monty Roberts got famous as The Horse Whisperer (gag me). I need to write a post on that one too. (Oh, dear. I am bucking to get a lawsuit slapped on me, aren't I?) Nothing he does is any different from anything anyone else does. He just crams five months of training into one day to prove a point to corporate guests. You do know that's why his pens have viewing balconies at the *top* like a surgical viewing area. The horse training part is day one of a two day retreat. On the second day you learn how to apply his "techniques" to your corporation for team-building exercises. Load of crap at thousands of bucks a day.

Funny how you never see him exhibit a trained horse. Getting a saddle on an unbroken horse is no big deal. Really. It isn't. Trust me.

But training one so that it's athletic, responsive and balanced? There's the trick.

Mailyn said...

LMAO Cindy! It was all so profound and then your comment cracked me up. LOL.