Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Curiosity and Recoil

There is a full grown white stallion beneath a blue sky made pale by a thin layer of smooth clouds. The horse has a mane of thick and long white hair that hangs over the right side of his neck and a tail to match that journeys halfway down his long legs before tapering off into a thin point. All the bristly hair that should be covering the bulk of his body is gone, just a thin layer of grayish peach fuzz coats his meaty torso and accentuates the very small black and red dots that punctuate its pale pink skin. There is no pattern to the dots, but they cover him extensively, from the skin above his hoofs to the underside of his soft belly, there are dots the size of pinpricks left to bleed. Despite his skin, he is a healthy animal, there are no protruding ribs and his footing seems steady on the compacted soil.
There are houses and a busy street not too far away and the sounds of tires on asphalt can be heard in the distance, but there is still a quietness in the landscape and in the surrounding hills and the feeling that no one is around despite the signs of their proximity. There are houses in four directions surrounding the horse, but they are far removed ranch houses that do not impede so much on the raw landscape, on the sense of open exploration that abounds in a world without roofs and walls.
From where the horse stands, there are four wide paths made clear by the blades of a small tractor; each dirt path eventually leads to a house in the distance. There is not a stray patch of clover or a rogue yellow dandelion on the paths. They are well traveled and maintained. But, along the edges, not too far from the horse, there are large patches of young grass. Each blade is only half an inch tall and they are the brightest of greens, the burst of chlorophyll containing the raw life wish of the soil and seeds. It is the first exploding note of a song, loud and clear as bells floating over hillsides. It is the color of birth and crying, the baby in the arms of mother soil.
Also in the intersection between paths, only a couple steps from the horse, is an old woman in a stainless steel wheelchair. She is thick from lethargy and lack of exercise. Her bulk fills up the entire space of the vinyl seat and spills over the tops of the arm rests like dough left far too long to rise. Her feet rest upon the small metal foot rests of the wheelchair and, covering her withered legs, is a heavy black afghan quilt decorated in a grid of small colorful squares. Above, covering her wide trunk from the cool air, is a man’s flannel shirt that is just one size too large. Her hair is bright white and short, cut straight just above her ears like a flapper dancer from the 20s. She is covering her mouth with a thin white paper tissue which she holds on her left hand.
The woman and stallion are engaged in a cycle of retreat and curiosity. The woman’s head is cocked slightly to the left side of her body and her right hand is outstretched to the horse. The horse retreats when she raises her hand to it and when she sees its recoil, she puts her hand back in her lap…then, the horse steps forward in curiosity. As the woman reaches up to touch its nose, the stallion retreats slightly once again. She places her hand in her lap and the horse nudges closer once again.

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