5.31.2012 Beyond Chuck E. Cheese, Part 1

“I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee…”
–W. B. Yeats, “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” (1893)

Batt Burns brought Yeats’s words alive when meeting with us about Irish poetry. Batt’s richly timbred voice, his lovely Irish accent, and his passion for the words that have become a part of who he is all contribute to the effect of the poem. In this case, Yeats’s words felt to me like an invitation to move forward, to create a place where good things might come together, with sounds and movements offering a rhythmic harmony.

Yeats’s words came alive in a different way as I’ve reflected on experiences I’ve had recently.

In the past week, two of the more unusual and enjoyable activities many of us did were horseback riding and motor kayaking. The horseback riding we did wasn’t too crazy. We went to a stable, got outfitted with boots and hats, mounted our horses by standing on crates, and walked (and later trotted) down the road and across the beach with some guides to, well, you know–guide us.


Here I am, giving the thumbs-up on my horse, Megan (photo credit: Lindsey Wotanis/Marywood University)

I definitely loved the trotting–it took some focus for me to rise and fall with the horse’s timing, and I had to remember to land solidly on the cushioned part of my bottom. I wish we had been given more time to do that.

And I loved the scenery. We were on the beach–one of my favorite places to be!

The one other aspect of horseback riding that was an unexpected joy was the goofing around I did with Lindsey Wotanis. Her horse was behind mine part of the time, and she started thinking aloud about how our lives would be if we rode horses everywhere instead of taking cars. Because Lindsey and I think in similarly odd ways and get a complete kick out of our own imaginings, we started thinking about having all other current technology updates, with horses instead of cars–where would we put our GPS’s and our music, would the saddles be all souped up, how often would we need to stop at the “apple station” instead of the gas station? Before long, Lindsey was trying to decide whether traveling on four legs or two legs is easier. I’ll let you think about where that conversation went.

At some point early in the outing, I was reminded of a horse I’ve ridden several times at Chuck E. Cheese. Here’s what it looks like, though this is a picture of some kid on this horse ride, not me:


a girl I don’t know riding the Chuck E. Cheese horse, with the video screen just in front of the horse (image source: http://www.mothering4money.com/2010_08_01_archive.html)

I’m terrible at this horse ride. You’re supposed to actually race the horse on a course that you view on the video monitor just in front of the horse’s face. I end up steering the horse into the railings and losing the race without making it very far around the track. Lame. Yet I have ridden that Chuck E. Cheese horse many a time. Why? Well, because often it’s the closest I’m going to get to riding horses. And because I’m willing to be a goofball in public.

Still. Lame.

There are horse stables within miles of my home. Yet I have never, in the seven years I have lived there, even looked into horseback riding.


Way too often, I substitute a plastic horse and video screen for a living beast and a beach. The former is easier, like McDonald’s is often easier. But it just ain’t the same quality. It ain’t the same experience. Even if I’m mounting the saddle by standing on a crate, even if I’m walking more than trotting–even then, the experience is alive in a way that the Chuck E. Cheese experience simply isn’t. And I shouldn’t need to come to Ireland to go for what’s good and alive and full of connection and movement and wind.

Sure, I act like a fool and have fun with my kids (and any friends I run into) when at Chuck E. Cheese. I could probably bring Lindsey for some great silly conversation. But trotting down the street is still way way way way more full of life than crashing into a railing on a video screen. And that’s a part of Ireland I need to bring home with me.

That’s a part of what Innisfree might be to me


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