Friday, July 31, 2009

Crown Jewel

The past is a funny thing. It isn't linear, really. Connections between the past, the present, and the future are a tangled skein that cannot be unraveled. Who we are, what we think, what we love and hate, the songs we sing, the whole of our identity is tied up with parts of our past.

I'll never forget, standing in a funny little gift store in Encinitas, California, and talking to the lady about Maureen Love. The little gift store was selling some of Maureen's birds... I was shocked and excited. It was called "The Third Bird" and it specialized in beach themes... appropriate for a gift store in the charming, funky, hippy town that whose entire western border was wetted by the Pacific Ocean. I was probably babbling, which I do when I get nervous. She said something like, "Would you like to meet Maureen Love?" (what a silly question) and when I nodded yes, she said "There she is, right behind you". My knees went weak. Seriously, My stomach fluttered. I turned to look a an older woman, who was tanned and slim, with a slight widow's hunch. Her eyes were sharp and bright, and her manner was shy.

The rest of that day is a fog, I can't remember a thing about it. But it was a turning point for me, bringing her into my little bubble of reality. Until then, she was an artificial construct... she existed in some sort of higher plane. Meeting her made her into a living being, even grander for being shy and kind.

Over the years, as we proceeded to write the book. ("The Hagen-Renaker Handbook"), we visited Maureen many times. I could take my kids over to her house, talk to her for a while, see her chickens and her goldfish ponds. She would teach us about her native plants, show us her sculptures, and just chat. There are too many memories, this pitiful medium of a blog can't possibly hold them all. But the point today is to show you something that I still have of hers. The most valuable horse I ever owned.

Crown Jewel is his name, and he is an HR Standing Arab/Abdullah. Maureen painted him herself. She used to do that, take castings (probably from the mold shop, where the master molds were made) and finish them. Crown Jewel has the most incredible detail you will ever see... it was Maureen in her highest form, and shows us just how much detail she really did sculpt into the pieces. He has lip wrinkles, leg chestnuts, everything. He's amazing. His color is sublime. His markings are so natural. His eyes... I keep looking at them, to see if I can figure out how to paint eyes like she did...they are just alive.

I used to show him, he went around the show circuit for years. Oh, I was so daring! Nerves of steel! Now, I hesitate to take him out of the china cabinet. But in those heady, early days, I even showed him in performance. He has a custom made Arab western saddle by Carol Williams. He has a Governess Cart by Duncan MacPherson, and harness by Carol Howard. An English saddle, sidesaddle, etc. also by Carol Howard. Top of the line, all of it. Nothing was too good for him. He was almost unbeatable.

He's been retired now, for may years. My life is different now... I don't show, I hardly go to model horse events at all. I make them, I don't show them any more, and my passions revolve around moldmaking and glazing. He sits, quietly, in his safe corner of the china cabinet, a hidden jewel in a much diminished collection. In the days when my hubby was unemployed, when money was nonexistant and I would have sold an organ if I knew how to go about it, and I was selling most of my beloved collection just to put food on the table... he was never going to be sold. It would be like selling one of the children. Unthinkable.

Now I am pondering, considering, skirting around the edges of selling him. I hardly look at him any more. It is not right to hide him here. It isn't right to hoard him, when he could be delighting someone else as he has delighted me all of these years. He and I, we have fallen into comfortable middle age, and we hardly see each other any more. He needs a new home.

He's the most valuable horse that I have ever owned, or ever will. He's not only a unique piece of Hagen-Renaker and Maureen Love history, he is part of model horse history and my own history as well.

Still thinking about it. He'd be priced very high. But it isn't the money, not any more. It's the guilt. I don't love him fiercely any more. I'd miss him, but only gently, like missing a pet that passed away years ago.

Maybe at some point he will go up for sale.



Marge Para said...

What a beautiful post and what a beautiful horse, I actually thought the first photo was that of a real horse! Maureen was one of a kind, and I am so glad I did get to meet her, even tho it was brief.
Please think about bringing back BOYC!

Heather said...

The fun of visiting Pour Horse is the surprises in the china cabinet and he certainly is a WOW! Keep him, and when you look at him, you will remember the memory! And it gives us the chance to tear-up at the story, what a great one!
Yucaipa, CA

bassgirl said...

This horse is unbelievably awesome. Yes, Maureen at the top of her game. Thank you so much for sharing his with us. Just amazing! What a treasure.


mel said...

Ah, Joanie, you made me tear up. I understand your love for a ceramic horse and how it can mean so much more than the actual object (as much as I admire Maureen and am so glad I met her once, it was because of YOU that I got to meet her!). When Liz Bouras introduced me to you, I was agog with excitement to meet you, and horses that you have made for me are treasures beyond measure to me: horses I'd be pushing around in my grocery cart, homeless rather than sell them.

And yet, as much as I joke about "taking them to my grave," I truly know that our horses need to live on beyond us, with new owners who will not only love them, but share them.

Crown Jewel renews my yearning for a Model Horse Museum.