Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Anecdote on Pastoral Living

This entry has absolutely nothing to do with either dance nor poetry. But it is a recent experience that I would be remiss not to include in this blog because it deserves to be written down so it will not be forgotten.

This past weekend I went on a lovely little hike with my friend Lesa. We hiked a commonly hiked path behind my house on a special property called the Brandeis-Bardin Campus of AJU (American Jewish University). We started the hike passing a field of hay that had been harvested and cleared over a month before. The goats had been let into the field to munch away any and all of the residual growth so the field can be fully tilled and replanted in the next season. The goats looked at us with their floppy ears like velvet, framing their brown and white faces as if made just for this portrait of pastoral life. The next field housed a cow and her growing calf and they didn't pause or even look up as we passed along the fence within feet of them. They too were busy feasting on the forgotten grasses and weeds. It had already been an unforgettable hike and we hadn't even gone a half mile.

We continued into the hills along a path that follows a dry creek bed. The creek had rushed with water earlier this year, feet high in March when the rains had saturated the hills so fully that the run off rushed down in rivulets before gathering in this creek that goes through the entire property and dumps into the Arroyo wash of Simi Valley. Now the creek bed was dusty and dry, and it was a wonder any water had passed there at all. The seasonal wild plants have long dried up, left to the sun in light browns and tans, violet and grey at their most exotic. These hills are a study in subtle tones and hues, perhaps Monet would have enjoyed painting them in the afternoon light before it dropped behind the hills.

My friend and I chatted away as we watched lizards skitter across our path and into the safety of holes and dried shrubs. But, the real magic began as our conversation halted when we noticed a group of 1, 2. . . 4 no. . . 6 horses before us, unbridled and looking wild, standing right on the path where the dry creek crossed our path. The tall reddish brown one looked up first, having heard our voices. Then one by one they all looked up at us. Curious and calm. The sun edged their backs and manes in halos of light.

We watched. They watched. I knew these horses were from the property, let out on the hills to graze in their off season when there were no programs and riders. I see them most mornings outside of my kitchen window on the hill across the field. So, I knew they were not wild, but still not knowing how they would respond to the likes of two chatting women encroaching on their afternoon of they grazing was unknown. My friend and I weren't going to risk it. We decided to watch for a moment before then turning back. But no sooner had we decided our plan of action, that the red headed leader started toward us. Slow and calm. We stood uncertain. If they spooked we knew we couldn't out run them. There were no immediate climbable trees. So, we stood still and waited, letting them take the lead.

They approached in a line following the red horse's lead. I started to get nervous as I realized they weren't just walking past but aiming toward us. Toward me. We stood on the side of the path where there was a mound of dirt which gave us a little more height. The animals were beautiful and big. The leader came right up to me. I didn't dare reach out. I felt its soft nose against my arm and its warm breath in short bursts as it sniffed me and probably smelled the salt that had collected on my skin from dancing earlier that morning and the hike so far. It wished I had a treat to give it. It probably wondered why this human wasn't sharing an apple, carrot or something yummy like humans tend to do. I could have petted its nose, but not sure what that would lead to left it alone. After she determined I was treatless and harmless, she continued on the path where we had just come from. The others came next in single file: light blonde, black and white speckled, another darker brunette. . . They each approached me smelled my skin and clothes briefly before following the leader in a slow walk, one after the other.

It was incredible. Magical. Unreal. I felt like I had just experienced the wild world in a way that that has become obsolete, as we sit in our cement houses situated on streets and blocks lined with stucco houses. For just a moment I was experiencing the world unbridled and free. Calm and peaceful. Exciting but safe.

We reached the farthest point of our hike at a destination called Old Well. The entrance to the small camping area was blocked by a large tree branch that had recently fallen. The branch was dead and bare. It had clearly died on the tree then having lost its tensile strength collapsed into the path. But, the way it fell, it became an archway, a gate into the camping area and we were able to walk between the branches at nearly full height. It was as if it were meant to be there. A reminder that this world is sacred and beautiful. Our time precious and finite. We stood for a moment in the shade before starting back.

Lesa and I enjoyed more stories with each other as we returned along the path curious if we would meet the horses again. Which we did half way back at another place where the dry creek crosses the path. This time the group of horses just watched as we passed. Unconcerned. We continued past them and were surprised to then hear their footsteps behind us. Following us slowly. My friend got nervous. I didn't mind. I only felt bad that I didn't have water and an an apple to share. We didn't change our pace and they stayed a good 10 yards behind us. We passed the gate where we climbed through easily, but it was there that the horses had to stop.

I couldn't help but feel a bit sad as I saw them collected at the gate behind us. In that moment I loved them. I still love them. And, this magical memory will not fade. I cannot let it fade because it was so pure and sweet, wild and free. An unexpected blessing and a reminder of all that is precious in the world.

No comments:

Post a Comment