Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More


Patient Horse

Oak Leaf Ranch, East Napa, California, USA

November 29, 2008



This essay, Patient Horse, is the third in the septology Menagerie:

Photography by Victoria Hamilton-Rivers

Oak Leaf Ranch, East Napa, California, USA

7:29pm Friday June 19, 2009
with Patient Horse
Before dawn breaks, almost invisible in the night's delicate mist she's there, patiently waiting for me.

Greeting me as soon as she sees me, her breath puffs around her face in the chill of the early morning. She sways from foot to foot, tapping a hoof on the ground, a kind of greeting tattoo. If at first I don't see her standing there cloaked by the mist, she'll tap harder, willing my attention.

I can't recall exactly when our friendship started. Was it the day I was in my yard clearing some fallen leaves? I stood up, pausing to rest and catch my breath, and there she was off in the distance. I waved and called out to her. She looked up, saw me, and the next thing I knew she was walking over to my fence where she stood, watching my work, inspecting and silently approving its results. Was it the time I locked my front door one morning and left to go to work for the day, and she just happened to be waiting at the fence between our properties? I greeted her, pleased she would trust me and honor me with her presence. She greeted me back.

Most people wouldn't have heard her greeting back. Most people would have simply heard her whinnying. Most people would have simply heard the sound a horse makes when it's excited. But I heard her greeting me back. I heard her distinctly saying "Good morning ranch dude. Got any carrots?".

It's not often a horse comes over for a friendly chat, at least until then it wasn't, not in my life anyway. It's even less often a horse can be heard  asking for carrots. She asked "Got any carrots?" as ordinarily and as uninflected and as blandly as the advertisement asks "Got milk?". I looked at her. She looked at me. I realized we were in communication, even though I didn't know how.

"Wait here" I said, and she nodded in response. From the Cowboy Cottage I retrieved some peeled baby carrots I keep in a tupperware container in my refrigerator, ingredients for a salad yet to be made.

One at a time I fed them to her, holding them on my flat, outstretched hand. She took them into her mouth with velvety lips which roughly caressed the skin of my palm, never once causing me concern she might resort to retrieving them with her bone crushing teeth. As she ate, chewing the carrots with her molars causing a grinding sound which reverberated and echoed through the large cavities of her skull, I reached over with my free hand to stroke her on the hard bony area between her eyes. She pulled away, eyes wide, her pupils suddenly reflecting uncertainty and trepidation, nostrils flaring.

I said to her calmly "Please don't fear me. I don't fear you.".

She considered what I'd said. Then after a moment or so, she came back to retrieve the next carrot. This time she didn't flinch as I patted her while she ate, although whereas before her eyes remained on my hand in anticipation of the next carrot, this time her eyes looked directly into mine - deep, black, melted pools of serenity and trust.

That's how our friendship began. I've made a pledge to her. If she comes over to the fence to visit, I'll always stop whatever I'm doing to be with her, and I'll always have carrots for her. If I see her in the distance on the ranch, I won't call to her to come over. But if she honors me by coming over to visit, I'll bring carrots and stay with her for a while.

From where she roams on the ranch, she can see when I come home. So she knows when I'm indoors, and she sees when I step out again. Being indoors, I have no idea when she comes over to the fence and stands there, patiently, waiting for me. When I leave early before dawn to go swim the morning mile, she's there. She'll tap her hoof and greet me with deep, breathy neighs. And, keeping my promise to her, I'll lay down whatever I'm carrying and go inside again to fetch carrots for her.

I no longer offer her peeled baby carrots, however. I keep a stock of regular large carrots which behoove a majestic animal of her stature and grace. I break each up into large chunks which I pass to her on my outstretched flat palm, thanking her for honoring me with her visit, acknowledging the gift of her friendship and her trust, stroking the hard bony area between her eyes while she chews, and she doesn't pull away.



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