The Call of Wildness

I wonder what they think about us two legged mammals wandering their territory. Their eyes follow us, aware but unfazed by our presence. We give the horses a wide berth so as not to provoke any wild protective instincts. But we cannot help being mesmerized by their sleek dark brown coats, black tails, and white streaks defining their muzzles. Their equine muscles ripple with each step as they alternately move and graze, meandering the summer meadows among tall Ponderosa Pine and scraggly Juniper.

These animals are part of a wild herd in the Big Summit Prairie area of the Ochoco Mountains. They can be traced to ranching stock released intentionally by ranchers in the 1920s with hopes of ensuring a future supply of good mounts. It was not long before the horses regained their wild nature. They survive harsh winters by bulking up on lush grasses growing here between 4,000 to 7,000 feet in elevation. The abundant forage is framed by spring fed streams in an environment that seems to snatch moisture from the clouds.

I am not paying attention to greenery or clouds right now, distracted by a feeling of trepidation as the creatures move toward us. One mare snorts and my hair stands on end, sending shivers through my body. It is as if she says, “you are doing okay—but watch out!” They do not seem to yield anything to us as they follow their natural urges with an air of indifference. It’s up to us to be mindful of their movements and maintain safe distance. 

Although experiencing a tense awareness, I admire the easy way the horses move and interact in the context of natural space. Having lost their domestic relationship with humans, these beautiful animals flow without rein, hooves lifting and settling to earth with an uncontrived cadence. I might be catching a glimpse of my own unconditioned presence mirrored in the grace and ease of wild horses. I want to reclaim wildness in my own life.

This is a challenge because, as most humans, I suffer with self-awareness. I am conditioned by thought and habit. I live in a contrived environment of insulation and heated space. My feet rarely feel naked upon the earth. The few times I wander barefoot I am quickly reminded of my tenderfoot ways. Even so, I hear the stirring of a small bit of wildness that has not been erased from my original nature. It calls me to wilderness and into the untamed corners of my mind. Something rests here, untethered to thoughts, gently grazing in a spacious buddhafield.

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