They live with us now, hooves half in their own history and half in ours, so closely inbred that our insecurities show in each other's eyes. So close that we tell each other's secrets with blunt honesty but pretend to not hear, just like family. Some horses show a bold compassion that humbles the human heart, while some bipeds manage to lift their shoulders and canter out, momentarily free of their personal gravity. Most of us walk the middle path, carrying the burden of our dreams, with hope whittled down to fit a smaller space. Quieted to cause less spook or bolt; cramped into a tiny corner of a small barn. Why would we reduce horses to our own image, when we could recreate ourselves in theirs?
He has walked on from this place. Into memory, this creature of heart and spirit. He can't remember a time he didn't know you, either. Named with a young girl's passion, this colt grew to encompass all that was true, the standard measure dwarfing all lesser things. Such a life cannot stay cramped in a worn body, tied to a shallow breath. Has he gone to wind, a heart unbound? Call out his name. Cry proud tears, for you are his legacy. He is worthy of mourning, worthy of celebration of all you've become in each other. Hold steady that primal moment in half-light just before the sun goes to rest; when gray horses pause in reflection of all that matters most. In that slow fade he will return; the dear scent of his mane carrying you up on a silver-white breeze.
Did he want to be invisible? As still as wood, his head holds solitude in the corner. This bay gelding does not have a lightning bolt blaze on his face or tall white stockings that pull my eye. His coat the color of honey in tea, his mane and tail a shade darker. He is elegance in understatement. Close enough to touch, I'm greedy to feel his warmth, to run my fingers though the texture of his mane. But I stand away. His body is not mine. My eye travels the flawless arc of his neck to his ear, fully aware of all that I am, have been, could be. At last to his eye, cautiously on guard. So still, so unmoving and exquisitely profound in his silence, that I exhale my jangling desire to show him courtesy. Let the air hang in peace. I will wait for the acknowledgment that is his to give, not mine to take.
Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Speaker, Equine Pro
(WordPress Photo Challenge is a weekly prompt to share a photo–I enjoy twisting these macro prompts to share our micro life here on the Colorado prairie. I take these photos with my phone, on my farm. And then I write a poem. No psych, definitely not high-tech.)
The whorl beneath a forelock. The velvet comma nostrils. The curve of a neck, the serpentine of a spine. That soft S-shaped swing of a tail, as hooves stride on by. The greeting from an intelligence that encompasses its entire equine body. The arc of a friendship. The swell of affection. The initiation of a spiral that begins as a light caressing curve and ever so gradually comes around in loops smaller and ever smaller, binding tighter and deeper, until there is just one life. A life that circumscribes the Infinite.
The sun hurries now, eager to be gone. A chill breeze scatters the last embers of fall, crisp leaves layer the pasture, enticing as dry toast. The north wind will take the rest tomorrow. Naked branches will haunt this farm and we'll retreat to the barn. The horses have grown dense coats against the season ahead and the elders, already stiff, seek corners open to the light but protected from cold gusting threats. My own skin is a bit thinner, rosy bruises on my forearms. I'll harvest the last of the season and sort the remains. Words that failed me. Opportunities that dried on a branch outside my reach. And worries, torn loose to the wind, tossed for want of healing. Warmth will come to this prairie again but for now we'll hunker close, shallow-breathing dry air and conserving energy for the storms that will surely come. Our nature charges a stark price to be paid for unfinished deeds, regretfully late.
The thing you call cute, in a high-pitched squeal, hears no compliment. Is it your goal to demean me? Because you see me as less does not make me your servant. Your cooing says more about your standing in this herd than it does mine. This thing you call stubborn is the obvious reply given to one with such arrogance. Such rude heckling and pink-faced ranting does not rate an honest answer. You may judge me but height is only a temporary advantage, easy to overcome. Your predator privilege lands hollow in the herd where we value each other's strength. How to understand you, Human, with your needy treat outstretched. Stand tall, you who cannot find equity in your own herd, trust your worth. You can earn respect here without bribery.
Young mare, on the full-moon night you were born, we recognized one another. It was an awkward kinship of un-belonging, both of us being more like the other than either of us were like our mothers. No baby talk or embraces, we each stood squarely as equals, never anyone's little girl. You were a coppery redhead, eyes ringed with white, a reverse racoon, and your body followed suit before the season changed. I took to silver before my time too. It isn't flattering in my human world but it's not our way to contritely bow our heads or apologize for our nature. Last night, not thinking, I brought the geldings in before you. With a sharp angle to your brow, you blurted out a snort as vehement as a sonic boom. The arc of your neck outraged, your furious hooves took flight, barely able to reach the ground, galloping one churning circle after another. Yes, you're right. So, I waited at the gate. The geldings don't respect you yet, but I do. I'll hold this space for you, as mares have done for me. Today, my sister, I'll be humbled by your metallic strength and raw pride. We stride this earth together, but mares take the light and prance; not placated, not born to be mere pedestrians.
Has it been a year? Scanning the pasture from the kitchen sink, I don't see your swayed back. A sideways pause at my desk staring out the north window to check the runs; there's an old donkey in yours. Walking my tea to the back porch at dusk, the colors aren't flickering in your tail. The sun isn't setting softly on your ears. You're still not here. It's a time-worn habit so I keep checking. But for a sense that you might be standing just back of me, your whiskers not quite tickling my shoulder. I still don't miss you.
It began with a word so small and unspoken that it waited in a bitter slick at the back of your tongue, held in check, afraid to trespass the air. The rest of the words trickled down the back of your throat, left dangling with other threads of hard yearning and cold disappointment, caught suspended between fear and lust for a scream. Soon even a whisper is too much. So little air can pass that a sigh turns to a gasp, a strangle self-inflicted but denied until it bloats the body, stifling light and intention. So bound by muzzles of our own making, blue tints to our lips and the water in our eyes floods over the parched skin covering dehydrated bones. We are not dead, just feigning life. Suffering will never nourish your blood. A feast of tears and angst is a hollow meal. Let your ragged gasp bray out, hack and spit those stale words to the earth to be cleaned. Suffering is not a sacrament to be lifted up for worship. Avert your eyes instead to the blunt beauty of clouds galloping shadows over the mesa, warming crevices with new growth.
Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Speaker, Equine Pro
(WordPress Photo Challenge is a weekly prompt to share a photo–I enjoy twisting these macro prompts to share our micro life here on the Colorado prairie. I take these photos with my phone, on my farm. No psych, definitely not high-tech.)
We shared stories as we drove up the canyon road that angled between rocks, colored grape and copper and sienna; geometric rocks stacked like massive bricks as perpendicular to the earth as castle walls. Tucked between gnarled trees were ageless log cabins without porches or windows, creosote black and hunkered low on southern exposures, open to long meadows edged with pine and aspen that quake and sway in the late morning sun. We first saw the herd under the shade of a lone fir on an open grassy stretch. They'd been watching us long before we saw them, a platoon of longear sentinels judging our intent. One tall and elegant with an aristocratic nose. A stoic gray who asked for less than he wanted. A jenny as wide as she was tall and just the color of milk in tea. Two rough and tumble brothers with a schoolboy sense of humor. Our friend's laughter came up on the breeze and we all stood shoulder to belly and head to heart, passing hours grazing, scratching donkey ears, and admiring wise mule eyes. At the water tank, Fiona sipped with slow caution and then left the tip of her pink tongue dangling just past her whisker lips; she let me and it felt cool and delicate to my touch. And intimate beyond reason. Driving back, the road was unfamiliar. Aspen leaves turned to gold before our eyes as the sky faded to a pale shade of winter tourquoise. We nibbled on cookies made of seeds and apples and grains, and the particles wedged between our teeth became the bittersweet flavor of reluctance and September grass.