It is Friday night and I failed to drive to Woodlawn to hear Greg Cornett make music. I wanted to go, had heard him before, wanted to enjoy his music and stories again. For some odd reason, probably like not eating all day and not eating much yesterday, I felt slow and sluggish today wanting to sleep. Took a nap, woke up at the time I'd need to be leaving, still felt tired, didn't want to drive for an hour. I dragged myself up, picked up a couple of carrots from the refrigerator for Donkey Jack and walked out into the field with carrots and brush, forcing myself into some kind of motion. I chose not to call him today. I walked out into the meadow. I guessed he was in his shaded place among the rhododendron where he can see all the meadow. I hadn't walked more than a hundred feet when I saw him galloping toward me like a horse, somewhat hesitant, ears straight up, uncertain from maybe fifty yards if the figure he saw was who he thought it was. I called his name, Donkey Jack, and he set out in full gallop. It was beautiful to see his legs running like a horse. I'd never thought about a donkey's grace, but they have grace. Jack has the grace of a horse, the grace of a dog, the grace of one of God's creatures. What we humans call grace amongst ourselves is but a studied imitation of the natural grace in animals outside the reach of the human mind.
I've lived with dogs and cats and worked with cows, at first struck by the grace I saw in all my experiences with animals. I see the same grace in dogs that I see in cats, it just looks different. Studying grace in the animals, I see it all the more in the ones that live wild and never see a human except from hiding. I maintain it is our forebrain that messed up our human grace. To get it back, it seems we have to transcend the forebrain. A dancer, a musician, an artist has to leave mind and fall in with the flow. I suspect it is the ability to leave mind during the dance that makes the difference between the lead dancer in a New York company and the lead dancer in a provincial company. That ability to leave mind and follow the flow is where artistry enters, grace. Great dancers, great fiddlers study their art form to the point of transcending thought and that's where they find grace. In musicians, it's where they find music. I was not anticipating seeing grace in Donkey Jack's gallop. It reminded me that, of course, a donkey has grace. I felt that thrill inside when I hear Scott Freeman go off with his mandolin into some music that is the essence of grace. Seeing Jack's legs running toward me, all four legs in perfect sync with each other, brought to mind a one-second scene in the movie Gladiator showing the knees of the general's white horse. The editor and/or director saw the grace in that one second moment of moving horse knees. It worked.
Jack's ears sticking straight up above his long horse face looked almost as long as his face. It was somewhat comical, a horse with rabbit ears. He slowed down as he approached me and was walking when he reached out with his nose for a sniff to confirm the visual and auditory with the third sense. I've seen in all the animals I've known the need to verify one sense by another. When I called to Jack, it was to verify by sound what he was pretty sure he saw. When he got that verification, the hesitation fell away from him. It was heartwarming to see Jack running to greet me. I like to believe the carrots he believed I had for him were only half the motivation to run. I saw he is knowing me now, sees me as someone to run toward instead of away from. Yesterday when I was with him, the dogs next door were at the gate, Jolene and Martha. They came running through the gate actually wanting to meet this new horse that appeared to be friendly. Jack stepped back behind me. I saw they scared him. So I flung my arms and hollered, "Git!" They ducked back to the other side of the gate. I made the physical gesture to show Jack it's easy to turn them away. Jack is new here, not yet sure about all the animals that pass through this area by day and night. I talked with Jack about the dogs. I told him they live nearby and he will see them often. They are not threatening, but I advised him to keep them out of the meadow. Jack doesn't know it yet, but he will have a baby donkey, his own baby, gamboling about the meadow in near future.
I talk to Jack. I've learned by now from knowing so many four-leggeds along the way that they understand us when we talk to them. They don't understand the words, but they are picking up the meaning telepathically. When I talk to Jack I have the feeling he gets it. When I tell him I am happy to have him for my new friend, that I'm looking forward to knowing him, that I love this chance to have a donkey friend, he yawns when I talk to him like that. Same as a dog does and same as a cat does. I see Jack an intelligent being with a personality that I am gradually becoming acquainted with. I like his temperament. After feeding him the two carrots and brushing him with a brush and my hands, I find he prefers to feel my hands run over his hair. The brush seems to bother him, yet he likes it too. But I can tell he'd rather feel my hand run over his back than the brush. He likes the brush, but prefers the hand. After I'd brushed and rubbed him good, he started rubbing up against me sideways, kind of like he'd do to another donkey that was his friend. I felt like it was his way of petting me back. He doesn't have hands and can't hold a brush. He was rubbing up against me with the side of his belly. At first I was a little bit alarmed, not sure what was up, then I got it that he was rubbing me in return, that it was a familiar, friendly gesture, a donkey's way of saying, I like you too. That was all it amounted to, a familiar bump, a wordless, Hey, how you doin? I remembered the dance from the 70s, the bump.
I'm still not fully at ease with a four-legged that I know can kick the shit out of me in a second and bite really hard. I'm standing next to this thing that does not have to do what I say. The donkey has all the advantage. Without a weapon, I wouldn't have a chance against Jack. I had to stand there trusting my knowledge of animal mind that after a week of bringing him carrots, petting him, talking to him, brushing him, he's not going to do anything untoward. The bumping and pressing himself against me was just donkey to donkey. At one point he put a front foot on top of my foot, consciously, knowing that was my foot under his foot, and stood there. It didn't hurt at all. It was about the weight of a child's foot. I didn't tell him to get off my foot. It struck me funny. He looked like he had a smile on his face while he stood on my foot. I took it as another form of contact like bumping. Dogs show each other their weight by bumping, and I wondered if Jack was showing me his size, his weight. I bumped him back and showed him my weight. I assumed that was what he wanted and it seemed like it was. He just wanted to get a feel for my weight and give me a feel for his weight. It wasn't aggressive. It was simply familiar and friendly. We humans shake hands, donkeys bump. Jack is so gentle that he takes the last chunk of carrot from my fingers with his lips instead of his teeth.
I sat down on the ground and he looked at me a bit puzzled about what I was going to do. I just sat. I talked to him, told him his hair is the same color of a dove. He grazed some grass in front of me, gradually grazing a circle all the way around me. He wasn't eating the grass like a lawnmower, but just pulling at a horse-nettle leaf, plucking some blades of grass, not really hungry, but doesn't know what else to do while the human is sitting on the ground. Jack comfortably grazed as I talked to him. The very first thing old man Tom Pruitt told me about working with cows, Talk to them. They like being talked to. I find it applies to all the domestic four-leggeds. I see Donkey Jack likes hearing human talk, too. I told him today that he is an Equus africanus asinus, an African horse, aka an African wild ass. I can see him paying attention, close attention like he's seeing the telepathic images of my words and thoughts in his mind's eye. Anyway, that's what I suppose. He knows the sound I call him and will learn more words as time goes by. I've seen so much evidence by now that the four-leggeds connect with each other telepathically, just like they do with us, it seems obvious to me. Only difference, we don't get it. We call donkeys brute beasts of burden. I'm curious to know this donkey. Been checking out websites about donkeys for whatever information I can find. there comes a point real soon where there just isn't any more. I decided to let Jack teach me about donkey mind. I felt it was significant in the beginning of getting to know each other that he felt free enough today to bump without being interpreted aggressive.