The wind, the sea, the horses

It is a day of wild frolicking horses, droves of them crashing on the beach. There is nothing to be done but watch in awe as their hooves lift the sand in swirls that the sea greedily gulps. The wind is blowing hard. I am laying down flat in the dunes, sheltered in the high grasses, from which I watch the spectacle. The rain starts. It is pelting the sea’s surface angrily, prodding it, taunting it, but the giant pays it no mind. It is playing with the mighty wind and together they are creating horses. The rain’s contribution is to keep the voyeurs at bay while they unite and procreate. Yet I am here and see it all. When I leave, soaked through and through, the sand under me miraculously dry for a moment, grasses flattened under my weight, my heat evaporating from the ground as I get up, I can see that neither are spent and leave them to their night of passion.

The next day, the drove is still there but they are not as wild nor restless. The wind has died down, the horses no longer frenzied under its whip. I watch the sun rise under gray skies, the sea still moody, lashing idly to move the horses around. I am wearing a warmer sweater, dressed as I should have the day before, too warm for today. The horses are grazing, big liquidy eyes, fretful ears. Seagulls are calling from on up, seaweeds are littering the beach. Men arrive with boards. They are suited up in black. They lie on the boards and paddle to sea. They wait until a tamer horse comes close to see what strange beast lies in wait. They hop on the first tame horse they can catch, riding it safely to the beach and repeat with progressively bigger and riskier mounts.

The ballet goes on for hours, until the riders are exhausted and easily dismounted by an unexpected kick. Most head home. A solitary rider is still out there, one with the sun and the wind and the sea. He rests, lulled by their presence, then paddles and rides. Eventually, the horses want a rest and settle in for a nap, the sea cradling them and whispering sweet nothings. I want to ride the horses and I come day after day to watch. I get a cheap Styrofoam board, on which I approach the horses. I lay still on the sea, let them smell and taste me, until I am just seaweed they can safely ignore. I watch the young ones break and re-form under their mama’s watchful gaze. I am no threat. I lay for a long time, then sit, then stand. I ride my first colt and feel its skittishness under my feet. He lays me down gently on the beach.

I return again and again to my friends. On stormy days, mama opens her mouth wide, swallows me whole, tumbles me over and spits me out. I gasp for air, look for light, roll with the punches. They cannot rid themselves of me. I scour the beaches to discover new droves. Some like wilder, rockier terrains. Those are tricky and dangerous, exhilarating to master. Not that I strive to tame – that would be my downfall. I wish to feel the power, be a small part of it as the wind is, the sea, and the horses.

 

The Fall

She was pinned to the ground. He was walking slowly towards her. “Stay calm, don’t move.” He used the voice you reserve for animals stuck in a trap. She felt helpless as he lumbered towards her, a large, slow man. She started kicking the dead weight, trying to slide away from under it. His voice took on a tone of urgency, “Be careful, don’t, don’t.” He tried hurrying along, she believed he did, but she was starting to panic, and he still did not move quickly enough. She managed to scrape her boot from under the motorcycle, marking the fuel tank. He pulled the motorbike off her, had a look at the tank. “Why couldn’t you wait? I told you to wait.” His precious bike. He didn’t even check her out for scratches. She pulled herself off from the ground, dusted herself off. The shoelaces of one boot were worn off from the slide, the boot ripped open. They were still salvageable. She was glad she had been wearing construction steel-toed boots. That could have been her skin. She was wearing jeans and a leather coat, leather gloves, helmet. Nothing else was frayed. She hadn’t been going fast, they were practising with cones in a parking lot. She had skidded out of control, not sure how or why. She didn’t care to know. She probably had been going too slow, tried to redress instead of being one with the beast. She was told it was like riding a horse. You should not fight it, just try and be one with it, follow its movements. Her experience with horses was limited to an unfortunate ride at day camp. The horse had tried to bite her and chewed leaves and bushes instead of walking sedately with the others. She was told to kick it but she did not have the heart, and so it nibbled. She had hated every minute of it, the height, the uncomfortable seat, the power she did not master. The other kids had moved along nicely, nobody struggling. She had declined to ride the following week. Said she had female troubles. They left her alone to chat with the instructor on a bale of hay, in the shade.

She wasn’t even sore. She tried limping, to give him a bad conscience. “You need to ride her again now, so you won’t be afraid next time.” She obeyed, docile. It wasn’t an animal she was afraid of. She circled the cones, cautiously, leaning in, giving a little more gas than before, gliding in a smooth figure 8. He was in the middle, a lion tamer, his voice a limp whip waiting for a mistake to rear up its head. No mistakes. “Enough for the day. Let’s pack her in.” They gathered the cones, put them in his side saddle. He looked again at the scuff mark, at her, reproachfully. She looked back. He knew better than to start an argument when she was like that. There would be other times.