The face of the gray horse, looking over the backs of the two bays, sits squarely in the frame of the photo, a line of trees cuts across the back of his neck like a far off horizon. The eyes have the effect of looking straight into the camera, though they sit on either side of the head, woeful eyes, cautious eyes, curious and world-weary. This one, this traveller, is not new to his situation—to being herded into a pen, crowded with other of his kind, here at the pleasure of humans that may, or may not, mean anything in his world of breathing in, with those generous nostrils, the scent of sage, dew fresh in the morning, of the mares and foals he runs with.
The ears point straight forward, aware that to survive, to attune to the possibility of freedom, he must stay alert, ready to take his massive, but lithe, body through an open gate or launch, with his powerful hindquarters, over a fence, his hooves flinting the ground as he lands, no thought of looking back, trusting his legs to carry his weight, his every instinct calibrated to guide him home.
This is what a human might surmise looking into that equine countenance, a presence that says so much, conceals even more. It’s not logical to fall in love with a creature in a photo that, in all likelihood, is long dead, but I have. I will never be the same in a primal part of my heart where this noble animal dwells, his unflinching look of knowing exactly what he is and his place in the world. This is what I crave so passionately for myself—to step out of my frame, to vault the fence of my fears, to know without a doubt the direction home, of where I belong.
(I saw this photo as a 48″x36″ print on the wall of the VRBO cabin my husband and I stayed at in Central Oregon on a recent trip. It dominated my thoughts the whole time and on an afternoon when there had been a dramatic thunderstorm and the skies were gray and ominous, it seemed the perfect time to sit and write about this image and how it affected me. The photo is titled “The Flirt” by the photographer Aledanda.)