A rambunctious mule and two spirited mustangs enter their enclosure after a rousing day on the land. It is a hot afternoon and everyone is tired. With flared nostrils and prancing panache they swoosh through the gate flamboyantly, only to quickly assume “stay apparatus”; an ingenious way to sleep cocking one hind leg while leaving the other straight to take on full body weight. Within minutes the red-carpet dazzlers have morphed into dozing sloth-like creatures. Insects buzz around tender body parts and congregate in moist eye corners. Lips dangle, eyes flutter, chins quiver and a tranquil shifting-into-evening ensues. But it drives me crazy that bugs are “bothering the guys”. They certainly bother me. Gnats crawl up my neck to bite the back of my head. I want to scream.
I prudently begin my rigorous regime with polite-guy-Traveler. He stands obligingly as I comb the snarls from his mane, but when I pull out the dreaded fly spray with the weird spritzer, he arcs his muscular neck and snaps at the air. Working at liberty without a halter, my companions possess voice and choice and this is a direct warning. Only a dunce would misread such a signal.
In endless patience with their human prodigy they deliver clear communication via body language, yet I plow forward in determined persistence to take care of things on my own terms. A boorish human void of equus etiquette, invading their quiet tune-in and tune-down space with my efficient agenda. I lack manners.
Something inside me withers and deflates. My shoulders hunch and collapse in defeat. Traveler, the nice one, is giving me the big put down. Moving away from my friends, I sit cross-legged on the hard ground and close my tearing eyes.
Scuffing my bottom across the dirt to turn and face the sun, I let hot rays burn through thin eyelids to illuminate the orche-orange lattice that I’ve known since childhood. Breathing slows into a rhythmic cadence and heart expands to meet sun.
When I open eyes, the equines have circled around. Twitching lips and half-mast lids indicate participation in my altered state. On the hard, dry earth with wet cheeks, sweat-encrusted clothes and swarming gnats: I understand life, I understand how to live. Savoir-vivre. I would rather be here than on any manicured estate lawn sipping champagne and nibbling petit toasts. Elegant vibrancy on our harsh, wind-swept mesa is alive.