High Hunt Field Notes

My perspective has been reframed by a set of sorrel ears.  Everything is better with a horse.  I have ridden Resero every single day since we arrived in this basin and assembled the tipi.  Last night after riding, I untacked him, put him on a long lead, sat down in the grass with a book and let him graze around me — a casual togetherness in a beautiful place.  Every now and again I spooled him up, spoke to him softly until he dropped his head and muddled my fingers with his lips and then with the comfort of closeness to him, I settled back into reading and the last warmth of the sunset.  I am charmed by him when he is aloof, when he’s being savage and sensitive and without confidence, when his head is up high and his eyes are focused on something distant and futuristic in the sagebrush and he is completely unaware and uncaring of me.  I am charmed.

I have been passionate about horses since I was five and I figured out how to overturn a grain bucket and scramble up a white mane onto the warm back of a palomino.  I have ridden all my life and sought equine companionship as often as possible, leaning and reaching over barbed wire fences for soft muzzles on country roads in different states where withers and swaybacks matched the curve of distant ranges.  It’s only now, now that I have him, that I can say I am officially a student of the horse.  I study him with a curiosity that is as wide as these Idaho valleys and every detail I learn about him and his kind is like a white mountain looming up before me, an exultation of illumination.

Day by day I learn the power of his mortal being and the curious workings of his mind.  His essence is complicated because a portion of him belongs to the wind and so he remains, at his very core, ethereal and ever changing.

I can call his gentle warmth the zephyr.  I can call his changing from coldness into warmth, his softening and resulting calm, the chinook.  I can call him tempest, gale, squall, breeze and when he moves with strength and confidence, I can name him jet stream.  But no matter the shape he takes in any given moment, he moves with a freedom and power, no matter how strong or weak our connection in any given moment.  Though I am with him, though I ride on his back in a way that renders us dependent upon each other, we remain separate until I channel him to such an intensity that our passage through space is effortless, my communication invisible and his responses become the definition of fluidity.

His very self is utterly natural, who he is today may not be who he is tomorrow.  Yet, he is true to who he is, moment by moment, so that every bite of grass or breeze-braided piece of mane is God given, humble and brimming with quiet destiny.

He is simple.  He is true.  Being with him makes me wonder about my own homeostasis.  Who am I when this spinning world sets me down in silent rest?  How far or close am I to my intended self, the beautiful design of my God-hungry spirit, the unfettered cloak of my crackling soul (in me is a flame that requires no fuel)?

When I step forward through the sage, I, too, am all the names of the wind.  I shuck the four walls that seek to bind me, the pressures that attempt to define me in a singular way, the crush of the things that hope to press me into being one thing, but not another.  I look out, I turn in place, I see four directions and I set out into space.  I am free to move fast and to rise in the gloaming so the sinking sun becomes my halo and I am rich with the gold of the world.

This is my house, this crown of peaks in this gaping wilderness.  I forget where I come from.  I can’t recall where I’ve been.  There is the spin of cycles and seasons — moon, wind tides, blood, breath, earth spin, sunrise and sunset, planting and harvest, the headwaters of a river, the holiness of the springs as they pour forth from stone.  Every blade of grass rises up in worship.  Every living thing sings praise.

The material of life recycles itself in infinite ways and I watch the rotation of elk into wildflower into river riffle into exhaling trout into riparian zone into bear tooth into mule deer whisker into me.  And more or less cosmically, in me there is the very life and death of the innumerable cells that build and bind my body together, the everturning wisp of a thing in me that shines outward to illuminate beauty and understanding and closeness to the eternal so that everything I encounter is as large and as small as a burning star and a sage leaf, thrumming and holding steady through the span of time.

 

Fifty Bucks

I wouldn’t call myself a slave to the work, because the work has brought me joy, but I have been galloping since May while working on a big project and on the fifth of September I suddenly felt my world slow down.  I was eating dinner with a film crew on the edge of the lake in McCall and I let myself relax.  I felt it in my bones, in my neck muscles and shoulders — something easy passed over me and my work-hardened spirit softened.  At some point, after our table had been cleared, I looked out into the night where a floating trampoline sits in the lake and I asked the crew (who are my real life friends) and Robert (he was there, too) what it would cost them to swim out to the trampoline and do a backflip.

Someone said, “A thousand dollars!”

Some other numbers were tossed out and we mulled it over for a time and I spoke the words, “Fifty bucks.”

One of the guys reached into his wallet and pulled out a wad of cash, set it on the the table and we all sat there and looked at the money for a moment.

Then I stood up, climbed over the stone wall that separates the dining patio from the beach and I took off my corduroy pants and button down shirt and waded out into the lake in my underwear beneath the night sky.  When I was hip deep, I submerged myself and began to swim, thrilled by the feeling that comes with being in water in darkness in the summertime.  When I reached the trampoline, I climbed up the ladder and jumped around for a bit while my friends laughed with delight from shore.

The water was warm.  The act felt young and true and free of the responsibilities and seriousness that comes with being thirty-five years old.  I swam back to the restaurant, stood dripping on the patio, wrapped in a down jacket, smiling and shivering and Robert said, “Well guys, I guess we’re going swimming.”  They, too, left the table, stripped down to their underwear and swam out, eventually doing backflips off the trampoline into the lake.

I never did pocket the fifty dollars that my friend set on the table.  The money wasn’t my reason for swimming.  Nor did I do it for attention.  I did it to make a memory with the hopes that my friends would choose to make a memory, too.  I did it to feel young and free and wild.  I did it because I knew should not, because it’s not considered ladylike to publicly take off your clothing and swim around in your undies while people eating in a nice restaurant are watching.  I did it with the hope that others would follow in my mildly outrageous footsteps and find themselves ageless for a moment.  I did it so we could all swim out and feel the night surround us, paddling with childlike strokes towards distant lights.

Meanwhile, at the farm…


…everything is growing beautifully, I am at war with a skunk, the kittens are hunting, I’ve started my 2017 canning/preserving as well as infused oil and tincture crafting (wildcrafted and homegrown), we took our second cut of hay, the orchard is about to be ready for the first harvest of plums.

Old Fashioned Summer Holiday


Just as long as I’m with you, babe.

+Of The West+