A Promise to a horse

Before embarking on the Bonderman fellowship I wrote about the love and rage that had molded me, the love and rage that constituted my visceral experience as an American. How does one describe such things as these. Love. Rage. They are almost indescribable in any real sense. One experiences these as power. Before leaving I thought often, as I still do, on the words James Baldwin said: “to be a Negro in this country and conscious is to be in a constant state of rage”. 


I think some of us (being the men and women who have been systematically and generationally targeted,  dehumanized, and have been the subject of White America’s attempt to not fulfill the actual idea of American liberty) carry this rage in its raw form until the day we die. It is bitter, it is like molten coal that chokes out words in ones throat before a bellowing cry of indignity. Such a rage is usually bottled up behind grinding teeth and tensed jaw. It is the numbing pang in ones heart when we are failed again and again by the nation we have and have not a birthright to.  More and more I believe that this rage is being fused with love in the way that it can transform, it can transcend, like that of a steam powered motor that propels action and movement, instead of burning explosions. 


Freeing oneself is beyond healing. In leaving America, in finding worlds unknown, unthought, and unrelenting in their ability to open parts of me I could have never known, I found a deep sense of freedom. A freedom in my very being, I felt no fear, no anger, no chains that bound me to anything or anyone. Instead I found bonds that lift, that love, love in the very profound sense of the word. A love that desired no possession. Moments that began as fleeting, and which have poked into slips of light piercing the veil of America’s shroud throughout my whole life become more lasting, more foundational to my everyday experience; to how I began to see the world. 


It took coming back, back to the midwest and everything I knew and leaving again for the west and Mexico, to have this lesson sink in. To breech my thick skin and arrogance that has been garnered over two decades of singing hate and burning rage at this nation I was born into, fear and loathing of my white countrymen that shook my nerves and tested my resolve. A test I often failed. It took finding the most peaceful piece of land I’ve ever known in the Chichihuestan hills of Chiapas to finally turn this rage into steam that can move me. It took what ancient people have known as horse medicine to begin to harness instead of manage the rage that is inside me. 


The affection, trust, and love a horse can give a human is the most nobel and humbling emotional bond many will ever experience. There is no judgment, no desire. Although it is conditional love. One has to earn that bond from a horse, one has to be fearless and let go of all the illusions of self. After weeks and weeks of being in the company of meres, stallions, and the two colts, of sitting with them, cleaning their stalls, feeding them, listening to them, riding and falling from them I forged this. It’s taken returning again to realize how profound my outlook has changed. How much my heart has changed, which was not just in those two months in the company of horses, but in the nearly two years of traveling that has taken my not just across oceans and rivers, but beyond aspects of myself that I have never known. 


I made a promise to one of the horses, Augusta, a beautiful brown quarter horse, that I would be coming back as soon as I took care of some business up north. Breaking my word to a horse would be the last thing I could imagine doing. I’m not sure when the next time I’ll see the huron river with snow. Or if I will. But I have that memory stored away to remind me of that rage that fuels my desire to always move, to better myself, and to know this world for what it is.