Horses – April 10 2018

THE WATERWHEEL
 
Stay together, friends.
Don’t scatter and sleep.
 
Our friendship is made
of being awake.
 
The waterwheel accepts water
and turns and gives it away,
weeping.
 
That way it stays in the garden,
whereas another roundness rolls
through a dry riverbed looking
for what it thinks it wants.
 
Stay here, quivering with each moment
like a drop of mercury.
Rumi
 
My friend, Lauren, and I used to ride horses together. Twice a week or so, for about a year. I’m not a big horse person, but Lauren needed a partner on her rides and, thinking my Montana pedigree implied horse sense, nominated me as the guy to get her thorny horse in order. In truth, when I was living and working in Montana I was much more a farmer than a rancher (big difference in that world at that time), and whenever a cow or two needed chasing, I did so on a dirt bike, rather than on a horse. In those days, for me, horses were way too much trouble. They required attention, love, affection, humanness–qualities in which I was sorely lacking. But now, forty years and a lifetime or two later, when Lauren asked me to ride, I didn’t hesitate: You’re a good horseman, right? Oh, absolutely. Where and when? I’m there.
 
Why? Because I wanted to spend time with Lauren, and if that required me being a good horseman, then by God, that’s what I was going to be. 
 
When we rode together, time didn’t matter. Problems didn’t exist. She wasn’t sick with cancer. I wasn’t losing a friend. It was always springtime. The horses would stop and eat flowers and we’d let them. The problem horse was not a problem for me. (I’ve picked up a thing or two, mostly from Jack Lilly and his sons, Hollywood wranglers I’ve had the honor to learn from on Westerns I’ve done, and after a few test runs, Cheyenne let me be the boss.) We almost never talked about anything deep or meaningful on our rides, but Lauren was a meditator, too, and for those few hours a few times a week, we were together–myself, Lauren, the horses, the sky, the day, the path, the moment–all one thing. One thing, and awake.
 
This is the power of consciousness. Some version of this is available to all of us all the time. This kind of sharing. This kind of oneness. Why don’t we always have it? Perhaps because it scares us. It scares us to think of having it, to let ourselves want it (because what if someone could take it away?). It scares us to think of letting someone else in. But guess what? They’re already in.  
 
In consciousness, this is the only truth. Oneness. We can make ourselves ignore it, which we so often do, but in truth, we humans are as intimate as intimate can be with each other, always. Sometimes we let ourselves feel it; and when I feel it, and you feel it, we call it love.
 
The last time Lauren and I went riding together, she called me, seven in the morning, and said, “I’m just back from the hospital. I haven’t slept all night. Haven’t had a shower. But they gave me steroids, so I can breathe for the first time in days. Come. Let’s go for a ride.”
 
I was there in 15 minutes.
 
We rode way out into Griffith Park, let the horses drink their fill and graze in the shade, then headed home. On the trail back, there’s a ravine. Coming to its edge, we paused for a moment. There’s a path around the rim of the ravine, safe and serene, the path we’d always taken. And there’s a path, steep, down one side, through the brush at the bottom, and up the other side. Lauren looked at me–God, I can see that look now. The beauty of it–and said, “Let’s do it,” and suddenly we were over the edge and down and riding faster than I’d ever been on a horse. The four of us were alive and together and flying. It lasted forever and was over too soon and then we were moseying back across the L.A. River and past the stables and through the neighborhood to Lauren’s home and the corral there, the horses seeming proud and fulfilled, and both of us with the silliest grins pasted to our faces. 
 
Today I will allow myself to know someone as deeply as I would if it were the last time we’d see each other, and I will express my gratitude to the universe for the opportunity.

Horses, Carpinteria, CA
All original material copyright © 2018 Jeff Kober