I stopped along a country road to take a photograph. I had been down by the river under the mountain, but the shadows had grown longer and now on my way home the mountain was immersed in late afternoon light. At first, two horses galloped to see me, but they soon wandered off, distracted by the lush grass along the fence and under the trees. Then one, the one with a little white mark, trotted back, sticking her head over the fence. I rubbed her between her eyes and apologized silently for not having an apple or handful of hay.
It felt like a moment out of James Wright’s well-known poem, “A Blessing.” I know I could write here as if the whole experience of meeting the horse was an intellectual one. I could tell you about the ancient symbolism of horses and their relationship to human civilization (and war). I could report on how there are venues today where horses are used for various forms of therapy and even are engaged to teach leadership principles, processes I don’t know about and can’t evaluate.
What I do know is that my horse, the one who trotted over to see me, was a beautiful creature, powerful, sensitive, and poised. I met her via feelings alone. This is something the experts do say about horses, that they are good mirrors of emotion, reflecting your true self back to you — as any encounter would with what is truly authentic.
There are people that we meet sometimes and we know instantly that there is some kind of kinship, and there are people we meet that are guarded and have secrets. With the horse I felt the kinship, as if there was no point in secrets or artifice of any kind. She was just there, present in her innocence, her spirit plain, her curiosity and welcome already a relationship.
My horse raised her head, looked through me with her foreign, familiar wisdom, and slowly turned back to the field. She had imparted a fine lesson. I’d felt what it is like for a moment to be without any secrets at all, unguarded and natural. I had made her acquaintance but I sensed in her quiet way that was really no different from meeting a friend. Only we humans differentiate in that way. I asked myself: is it possible for us not to hide ourselves — in some way?
And that was the mystery of it. She offered and gave by concealing nothing of herself at all.
Perhaps that is the greatest “secret” of all.
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