DVD Cover

I revisited the movie and here's what I learned

Ever see a movie that moved you so much that you completely changed your life? The Man From Snowy River was that movie for me. Forty-two years ago that movie entered my life and I haven't been the same since.

Truth, though, it was a series of movies and words, which speak to the power of art to change a life. This is mine.

In 1979 I was a young military veteran who had been assaulted by four different senior officers. I was also living in New York City when one of the most iconic and seminal films was released: Alien, starring Sigourney Weaver in a career-making role. For women like me, Weaver's Ripley rewrote the idiot-female-in-sci-fi trope.

Ripley gave us permission to see ourselves as powerful, and able to stand up even to that slithering, slimy alien. We women needed that. Back then I was trying to get my brain wrapped around the notion that I didn't have to be a victim, that what had happened to me didn't have to be my story line.

A few years later I had moved to Colorado where my family had moved. As I settled uneasily into post-military corporate life, a few more movies landed which would lever me out of the buttoned-down world of corporate existence.

The first was the gritty Mad Max, which featured a very young and new-to the USA Mel Gibson. Most of us walked out of the theater in shock after watching the horrors depicted in that post-apocalypic world.

Many, like me, promptly fell madly in lust with Gibson. That was 1981.

The following year, A.B. "Banjo" Paterson's beloved poem The Man From Snowy River was made into a wonderful +movie. It landed in American theaters and straight into my heart. I was entranced. As a horse lover and living in mountains of my own, the movie spoke directly to deepest wants.

Here's the poem, set to clips from the movie:

I dragged all my friends and my mother to see it. They didn't get the memo; I had. Somehow I had to see the country which was so vividly depicted in those two movies. Some part of me felt that my destiny lay there.

Besides, it was one hell of a film. It won multiple awards, as did the magnificent score. I still use the score, just as I use the score from the movie "Rudy" for my training.

This was also one of the first times I saw a movie scene which not only put my heart in my throat, but also deeply inspired me to do something similar. In this case, it was Jim Craig's famous leap over the edge of the mountain to chase the brumbies (Australian wild horses), which actor Tom Burlinson actually did himself.

He'd never ridden before filming this movie either, which makes this feat even more important.

Now that scene may not get you like it still gets me, but Jim's leap touched a magical place. It wasn't until years later after I'd had some similar adventures that I was able to appreciate that it was this part of the movie, this gutsy risk, which grabbed my heart. Not the love affair, that leap.

As I was researching for my big trip to Australia, I stumbled on Amelia Earhart's poem Courage, which she penned before her fateful final flight:

Small broadside of the poem “Courage,” by Amelia Earhart, written before her flight across the Atlantic in 1928. The poem was first printed in “Who is Amelia Earhart?” by Marion Perkins, Survey Graphic magazine, July 1928, p. 60

Her words were just as powerful as Jim's leap.

When I finally landed in Brisbane in 1983 I desperately wanted a meet-cute. Maybe I would stumble upon my own version of Tom Burlinson's handsome Jim Craig. Maybe I'd meet my version of the damaged but rugged frontier man of the future Max, with his scruffy "mutt" (later identified as an AKC-registered Australian Blue Heeler).

Despite my having purchased a grungy old station wagon and wandering the Snowy River range, I never found a horse ranch. Never met anyone even remotely like either men. While I didn't find my Jim, the four years I spent in Australia, New Zealand and Fiji fundamentally changed my life forever.

I might feel damned silly about my motivations back then. Living and working primarily in Australia, exploring by thumb and backpack for four years changed me utterly.

I beat down my abject fear of drowning to scuba dive the Barrier Reef.

I hitchhiked the entire length of the Australian Eastern coastline, all the way around to the far West including Perth and parts north to the shipwrecks of Geraldton. For the toughest parts of that trip, the desolate Nullabor Plains, I bussed, or else die of heat and dehydration.

I learned to fly ultralights over the farmlands near Geelong.

In one magnificent year, I threw myself into riding my bike for hundreds of miles, changed my eating habits and dropped some eighty pounds forever.

I suffered jelly fish bites, terrible sunburn, all kinds of trials and tribulations. My "Jim's ride" was scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef and learning to trust my instincts as I traveled all over that massive continent, alone, from age 31 to 35.

By the time 1986 rolled around, and Top Gun blazed through the movie houses in Adelaide where I was traveling, I no longer wanted to be the girl who got the pilot.

I wanted to be the pilot.

In 1988 I finally came back to Colorado, and corporate life, fundamentally changed. I was eighty-plus pounds lighter, had a pilot's license, had scuba dived one of the world's great wonders. While it would take me decades to deal with the aftermath of the military rapes, still, that time in Australia retooled me for good.

Snowy River was the movie which first inspired me to take the leap, literally and figuratively.

Years later I would ride a sleek black Arabian stallion at the dead run across the Egyptian sand dunes in Hurghadah.

I would ride an equally powerful horse in Africa at full speed, staying astride as he leapt over a wide clay road I didn't even see coming. Never imagined I could do it but I did.

There really are no words. We never know what art will do for us, to us, inside us. We never know how we will be inspired by someone else's art.

I'm not sure that the horses I've ridden since, the risks I've taken would have happened had I not seen that movie. None of us really knows what will light the spark or move us to take a leap that changes us forever.

As I watched Snowy River the other night for the first time in years, I choked up all over again. The surgeries, constant PT and limitations of these past four years have been difficult, but there are more of those rides in me. More gallops.

More risks and adventures and new territory.

We all have them.

What that looks like, I've no clue. But I continue to look to art for inspiration.

Art invites us to imagine.

Over the decades, certain movies have spoken to my deepest heart, including Dances with Wolves, Braveheart and others, usually those involving a point at which someone had to show considerable courage and then do something difficult anyway.

To that then, this: two magnificent movies began my seventieth decade: The Woman King and Top Gun: Maverick.

Woman King invited me to embrace a background that included rape. Viola Davis' Nanisca, a warrior general, take a massive risk to save her daughter and her people. She heads off alone, only to discover that a good portion of her army of warriors was following her into battle, all of them defying their king to support Nanisca. She'd earned it, a phrase repeated throughout the movie, and a phrase that I needed to hear.

We have earned where we are.

The other, Maverick, featured a nearly sixty-year-old Tom Cruise in a role where he was flying the final mission of his storied fighter pilot career. The movie ended with his moving on to the next chapter, having finally embraced love with someone badass enough to hold his interest. Now, do I think I'll have that love?

Not really. But the part about letting go of one huge chapter and doing barrel rolls into the sunset as you fly into the next, I am ALL IN.

Forget the jingoism of the movie. The fact that Cruise was in his sixties when he filmed that and the following Mission Impossible 7 while doing extraordinary physical stunts...that's what did it for me.

I was inspired to consider returning to flying. I've also thought very seriously about doing this. Okay, when I'm rich, but still:

Fly Like You’re A Top Gun | Sky Combat Ace Flight Experience
Fly like a Top Gun! With Sky Combat Ace you and a friend (if inclined) can battle it out in a true aerial combat dogfight just like a Top Gun Pilot.

Other actors vilified Cruise for his stunts because he was over sixty and still doing his own work, taking huge risks. I did that at sixty, too.

He's earned it. I've earned it.

Just like you've earned it.

I cheer people like Cruise on, because their art inspires others.

In doing so I cheer myself on at seventy, to get out of this bloody boot and back to training and adventure. To get out of my head which can criticize my lack of activity- a boot does make it hard to hike after all- and give myself the grace to get back to things on my own time.

Art does that for all of us. For me, it's movies and books. For someone else, a poem.

This morning I am off to the gym to keep training, to be ready for when the boot comes off and yet again, I start the slog back to full fitness. Art informs all of us.

Without ART, EARTH is just "EH."

Find your art and let it transform you this year.

man on rope
Photo by Loic Leray / Unsplash

Thanks for reading. My apologies to all as I've had some technical issues and posting has been a challenge. A reminder that I will be moving Walkabout to Substack this year, maybe sooner than later and I will let you know. Thanks to all for all your support and especially for your patience.

You can find me on Substack at https://toooldforthis.substack.com/ 

Come on over and see if it works for you.