[All photos in this post were done by my dear friends Kevin and Katie Hulett in 2009 and 2010. Find them here:http://khpstudio.com/].
I feel as though I’ve let out a breath—a breath I didn’t know I was holding. When had it started? When I was one, sixteen, thirty, sixty-four? I honestly don’t know, but it was deep and old, ancient perhaps. Mammalian?
And this breath, as it was released, became a sigh, a deep sigh of relief, of joy even.
Much like an old horse I’ve befriended out on the llano. He’s a battered old thing, skin and bones, who has finally found his way into the pasture of a family, one willing to share what little they have to get him full again–cut grasses and fresh alfalfa from their yard, hay when they can get it. And there is something to nibble on the ground as well, in his large new pasture that stretches all the way down to the canyon. Sweet grasses and clover, blooming alfalfa.
Today I gave him an apple. You would have thought it was his first ever, and maybe it was. He looked at me with amazement in his eyes and savored each quarter as I handed it over.
After his apple I offered him the slow touching we’ve come round to. Most days he puts his chin in my palm as I curl my fingers back around his fleshy parts there. And he lowers the weight of his head, slowly, into my hand. I let him do this as long as he wants and I’ve noticed him nodding in and out of sleep sometimes.
But today I watched as he tried to scratch an area just behind his ear on a stick that is part of his fence, so I reached up and scratched it for him. At first I was startled by the sound and looked briefly around at what might be causing it. But then I realized it was coming from him. It was the horse.
The noise started up in his head where I’d imagine a whinny might be formed and he sang out a high pitched note that slowly descended into his throat, a little guttural sounding, a little hoarse (pardon the pun), until it bypassed his nostrils, reached his lips, and came out as a long, lush sigh—a sigh from somewhere deep inside of him, one that he’s been holding for a very long time.
My sigh was like that. Just like that.
The best word I can come up with, for that breath I’ve been unknowingly holding, is “fear” and yet that doesn’t really touch its essence. It goes so much further than a word can. I feel it deep into the marrow of my bones, rooted and profound. And broad, extending beyond my personal ancestors, way back to the ones who painted in caves, those who dwelt on cliff edges, and crossed the ice flows.
This fear feels so old. Its birthing place nestled within the ancient history of man I’m thinking. We all must carry it, some sort of constantly on-guard defense system that will make us ready when the inevitable strike comes.
But what if a strike isn’t inevitable? Might it be possible to uncoil a bit, to stretch out some and loosen the ties without unraveling entirely? Might it be time to soften toward life again?
I think it just may be.
Love to you all,