I used to live on a ranch in the middle of nowhere.It had an old time Western gate
that was way more magnificent than the ranch it protected. It was like the previous owners had grander plans for the dwelling but spent too much on the gate to ever really recover.
My ranch was at the end of a very long road from the highway to national forest that no one really ever went to. And when I say no one, I really mean almost no one. The national forest opened up less than a mile from my property and it was beautiful and magnificent. And it being New Mexico, there were families of wild horses that roamed the open wilderness. And sometimes they would come for a visit.
They would rush my gate and spring it open. In search of the nascent grass that barely grew
And the dogs would wake me in the middle of the night, barking at the intrusion.
I would look out from my bed and there would be 15 horses, all shapes, sizes and colors meandering around my perimeter. Completely sure that they belonged right there, gate be damned.
Every year there would be more of them, foals born out on the open range, no human interference. They were wild and free and suffered with all that freedom, just like we do,
left to our devices which were as spectacular as they were damaging.
I respected the necessary distance in them.
Me too I thought
I need space to be free. Which is what led me to live on a ranch in the middle of nowhere alone, for years. I miss it and long for a place that is remote, and vacant and isolated.
Being free has its upsides and also its downsides. I am sure those horses went hungry a lot. I am sure they needed medical care that was lacking often. I am sure some of those foals didn't make it because of all that freedom. But the other times, the times when peril was not so close, I know they enjoyed the hell out of roaming where they wished, when they wished. And I respected that. I never tried to close the gate and keep them in. Even though there was a huge part of me that wanted to save them for any harm or hardship.
I thought about it often, just closing the gate behind them and keeping them, turning the whole ranch into some sort of mustang sanctuary. But I realized what I called sanctuary would not be that for them. Their lives were meant to be lived free from confines and people and our rules. They lived the life that horses were meant to live. Out there on the landscape running wild. I could never hold them back. Mostly because I related. I have never wanted to be confined, owned, managed. And that has been my persistent struggle all the while. This desperate need to be free, coupled with a completely contrary need to be loved and cared for.
I like to think that I struck a balance with the horses that I have always found elusive...I loved them, and I cared for them in the most simple basic way, I didn't interfere with their freedom. I didn't try to help or fix them or change them, I just loved them as they were. Present and then gone, me waiting for the next time they might show up and barge in again. Grateful for this type of intrusion always.
I am not a wild horse. But I could be. Perhaps that is why this life has been so fucking hard sometimes. I am just not good navigating the whole delicate balance between being free and being domesticated. I wonder if the horses ever felt that way as they roamed past other horses in their pens...did they long for someone to brush them, water and feed them? Blanket them in the cold Winters? Or did they look upon the stabled horses pitying them their confines and limits?
I like to think it was both for them as well. Because freedom is never really free. There is always a cost, sometimes a life altering one. I like to think that they took their comfort where they could find it, and remained grateful that my ranch was a place of respite and repose for them. It did not provide that for the dogs, as they were super pissed off about the horses arrival. But for me, it felt as though kindred spirits arrived. And so too when they moved on. I was always wistful at their departure, always silently wishing I could join the herd and disappear into the barren landscape. Free at last from all the things and beings that kept me tethered to the life I was currently living.
But I am not a wild mustang. I am a woman who only longs for the kind of freedom and comfort found in a pack of wild, roving horses. Again, still.