The Horse on the Hilltop

Driving back from the doctor’s this morning, a horse was standing at the top of a hill all alone. I can’t explain why it felt important. Single horses standing on hilltops just feel profound. I felt a flush of awe.

And associations of freedom, I suppose. All those big words that are hooked into big emotions, but I have trouble anchoring to specifics in my life.

What is freedom to me? It sounds like a high school essay assignment. What exactly are “endless possibilities”? I know the emotions I feel from these words, but have trouble pinning them down as phenomenon. Endless possibilities sounds overwhelming. A whole field of half-hearted creatures barely nudging up through the soil, and the responsibility to make something viable out of them. Which do you choose? And what if you fail?

I am learning to leave awe alone. To accept the flood of emotion, like slipping into a warm bath, and let go of associations and interpretations about what it means to me or for me. I am learning to let the horse on the hill be a horse on the hill, and relish the flush of emotion for its own sake. Children do that, don’t they? Thrill in things without believing them to be omens or signs from the oracles. Without believing they either deserve them, or have to work to deserve them. They just observe. I’m sure there are adults who do that as well. I actually think I know one or two.

They think I’m weird.

Also this morning, along a roundabout on the motorway, a car was stopped – dangerously, blocking traffic from two directions. I had to stop too, and figured it was car trouble, until I saw the mallard on the road. But then he wandered up onto the grass and still the car didn’t budge. Then the door opened and I thought the driver was going to try to catch the duck to take it somewhere safer. But when she got out of the car she was holding her phone and filming the duck. She chased after it – filming – until it flew away. Then she got back into her car and let us all continue on our way.

No one honked. That made my day. I am pretty sure everyone was as puzzled as I was. What I figure is this woman risked all of our lives so she could get a film clip of a duck. Not to save a duck. But that the weirdness of this act perplexed us all so much that we were trying to process it. We were all thinking, so: not honking. I’m happy that this behavior is still an aberration and not the norm, despite what people want to say about what technology is doing to us.

I probably take a hundred photos a month. But I love what it has done to me. Now, when I am driving, or in the passenger seat, I see how beautiful the scenery is. I “frame” it in my mind and appreciate the reflections, the colors, the incidental composition of elements, the repetitions, and patterns.

I notice more – camera in hand, or not.

I also think it’s helped teach me to be passive. In a good way – to leave my ego out of the situation when my ego isn’t necessary. To fully embrace the value of being an observer and not a participant at times. To understand that it is possible to take center stage when it’s appropriate and then step back without the fear of losing “my place”. To be more generous. Less judgmental. Less fearful.

It always comes back to fear, doesn’t it? For me, at any rate.

I suppose there are days
when the sky, mottled as gull’s
eggs, still warms the earth
so the smallest bit of green
will poke through and claim the day

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  1. My husband always says I should just enjoy the moment and see with my eyes. But my camera IS my eyes. It’s my memory. It’s my souvenir. It’s proof. It’s a document. It’s history. It can’t simply live in my head until it fades away. I need it, and I need to share it.

    As for the lady with the duck, I would have been PISSED!

    The last time I stopped traffic for an animal, it was to rescue a dog that was almost hit by a car. And the people behind me honked. The time before that, a deer was hit by a car and still alive, and I was blocking traffic from hitting him again and again. The car that stopped behind me was a veterinarian with euthanasia drugs in his bag. That was luck but not a sign.

    Horse on the hill? Awe is enough. But there’s nothing wrong with pondering it and assigning it some meaning for you.

    For me, awe happens when I’m caught off guard, like when a flock of red-winged blackbirds I’m admiring suddenly leaves at once, and there’s a force I’m caught up in. Or when an owl flaps his wings and I can feel the draft. You can’t photograph that feeling.

  2. Likewise. Post a geology class, how I look sees more story now. Not just mountains in silhouette but a rumpled dress of curving layered stone moving at a too-big-for-our-lives-to-see. I like these eyes.

    And fear? Common? Mundane? Leaves on a tree? But sky is bigger, above and below. I fall often enough, fear I mean, but yea, sky is still bigger than. For me I think it comes back to bright, no matter how much I forget. It’s just water, all of it.

    Still learning to swim.

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