Stripped stark

Barren trees

Allow more light to penetrate

An insatiable hunger for the withering warmth

Mid day light diffused by the soft sky overcast

It is only a matter of time before the snow settles in for the season

White world we know here for half our days

Until then longer shadows leave a vague pattern

As if something man made like an endless cattle guard

On the edge of the dying meadow


The thermometer has risen to twenty.  I postpone a longer walk and return quickly from feeding the horses, the dog from chasing off the magpies.  I am not yet used to the cold, too soft, still holding on tight to summer ways of forgoing long johns and tall boots. The cold has barely begun.

Horses at the water trough pawing through the ice.

The doves are down to four.  I see them now settled on the fence by the one big Blue Spruce that provides protection.  There is literally a pile of assorted small birds behind the house, all having been run into the windows.  Even the cats can’t claim responsibility.  The falcon flies by and creates another fury and another bang on the window.  A feather and dusty impression of wings remain before me.  A clear, hard wall one can barely see.  The crystals I hung in every window have not helped.

The little dark mare turns from the water and snorts. I see water dribbling from her muzzle like a silver spray of shining beads, as she stand tight , tall, alert, neck and tail high and ears forward. The language of the horse.  The moose is again in the willows.  Or at least, that is what she fears.

The wind rouses, rips up the remaining thin brown leaves of the bush.  No lurking sent is stirred.  The little mare lowers her head, relaxes her back and slowly returns to the herd.

A great horseman once told me that to learn to be a great horsewoman, all I needed to do was listen to the horse.  They have all the answers I seek, he said.  His wife reminded us both that this theory only works AFTER one has learned the language of the horse, and not all of us were “lucky” enough to be born into a world of great horsemen as our parents and peers to pass on such information.  A disadvantage on one hand. I had to learn it all from scratch.  An advantage on the other, for we learn to speak ourselves, with our own voice and manners.  After the magnitude of mistakes levels out, we are left with an understanding that is ours, between the horse and me, built from the ground up like a stone castle.  This is more solid, strong and real than if it was handed to me.  That is at least what I tell myself.  Might as well.  I cannot change how nor where I was born and raised.

Not everyone is lucky enough to be born where they belong later in life.  I say that on one hand yet I have heard to those that say there is a great burden that comes with “being born into…” Or are we the lucky who have the blank canvas before us and paint the picture as we will?

No matter. We can choose who, what and where we are.  And we can change it all too.

Can’t we?

9 thoughts on “Withdraw

  1. I have found that communication with horses is only possible if you quiet the noise and busy-ness of your mind. I’m amazed at how quickly my horse translates my thoughts when I take time to just BE with him.

  2. That’s a deeply moving photograph with the low light through the trees. Thank you for it, with all my heart. As for your question, I can only speak for myself, and in my case I have found that after twenty years wandering around, thinking I was a part of a larger conversation, I finally got the message that there is a place in the world from which i can’t be separated, although, I must admit, if I lived in the United States, I’d have a lot more of this place to choose from. Given that it’s a volcanic and glacial place, Iceland is pretty alluring, too. It’s a great irony: all these dozens of moves just to have to learn that the bones of the land are my own.

    • Harold, those are beautiful words, wise and deep and worthy of great thought… and wishing to know more… and wishing to know myself where the bones of my land and ancestors have merged and await me…

  3. I’ve needed to always have some part of me living in the language of animals. My world is too diminished without it. They are our teachers and one day the world will wake up to this fact.

    After all, the only thing I, too, really need to be concerned about is having water and keeping a bull moose in rut as far away as possible. Or some other such NOW situation. :)

    • Oh Amy, that really cracked me up! You are indeed a Canadian. (said with great love and respect as that is now the home of my son) Though… funny thing, we have similar bull moose problems here. Not native to this area, they were introduced in 1995 and although I hate the idea of the Colorado Division of Wildlife pretending to be God, playing with the life of the wilds at their whims, the moose has done well here… and I have learned to love having them as neighbors. Though my dog, my wild child Gunnar, is bold enough to chase them off, and has done so since he was about 8 months old. I don’t usually mind, especially when I’m on the trail horseback… as long as he chases them AWAY from me, not TOWARDS me! Ok, the tub is getting cold… I’m signing off for today…

  4. In more northern climes, I was driving home on a lonely highway at dusk one autumn. I began a climb up a long gradual hill. I saw a bull walk out onto the road. He stopped in my lane, lowered his head and began to rock from side to side. I realized my little brown Bronco II with racks on top may have him thinking I was a cow moose. I did a very quick u-turn and then waited for him to be swallowed by the bush. I confess, I drove like hell when I hit that spot again!

    • Amy,
      Having been the driver of a 76 blazer until recently, I must say, although a bronco not a blazer, I so related to your story, and got a great visual, laughing out loud. You could probably use a dog like my Gunnar who is not afraid to chase off the bull moose. So far, he’s been pretty good at chasing them away from me. But I’m pretty sure, one of these days…

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