horse and rider by marino marini
Went to the meadow today to take Jack a couple of carrots. He heard the clanging chain on the metal gate, walked a little bit toward me, curious, ears up, and then at the point I guess to be about a hundred feet, which could be anywhere between fifty and a hundred and fifty. At this distance I see the sparkle in his eye when he recognizes me. Today he charged me before I had the gate latched. He set out in a wild gallop, head extended all the way forward, mouth open, squealing and braying. I was seeing a living image of a work by Italian sculptor Marino Marini, who made horse images, often with the horse's head extended forward or upward. I saw Jack a Marini horse burst into life. It really was a mild rush seeing Jack as a Marini sculpture come to life suddenly and charge me in a playful gallop on the verge of breaking into dance. The bray started with a squeal that went louder, then into a full bray, hee-haw, two long syllables. It was a beautiful expression of joy. I hadn't even finished fastening the gate when I let the latch go and turned to receive Jack. It felt a little odd to be standing expectantly in front of an African Wild Ass bearing down in full gallop and full bray, mouth open, lips curled back, teeth showing, hee-haw. The rush I felt was humility and joy. I saw clear as anything can be seen that I am important to Jack. The wide open spontaneous expression of joy when he recognized me sent a wave of humility over my soul.
It was like a dog I lived with after I'd been gone for two weeks. So excited to be touched it can't stop squirming and jumping enough to be touched. What a sight it was seeing a donkey head pointed straight forward and lowered toward the ground like a dog about to attack. If I had walked into a field with a donkey I didn't know and this happened, I would not have had a chance to get back out the gate. For one thing, he was fast. He had purpose. He stopped in front of me with a dance and did the sound equines make fluttering their lips. Overwhelmed by seeing that I am now Jack's friend from Jack's point of view as well as mine, I saw a friendship like with a dog, and reminded myself never forget that we now have a bond as friends. I know in advance that I will never be betrayed by this friend, unlike with human friends. And being a human, fallible in the department of loyalty, I noted to myself that I must never forget this moment, never forget that Jack is now my friend. He is not stock. I never understood people who could buy and sell dogs. Somebody offers you a good price for your hunting dog, you sell it and buy another, train it into a good dog and sell it. I can't do that. I've seen books on how to train dogs, esp the ones by the monks purported to be so good, and I wouldn't do any of it to one of my dogs. I love my dogs. I can't treat them like stock. I don't require obedience, yet my dogs have obeyed to the letter. I can't do things to them that are about dominance and submission. I don't want submission from my friends. I want them to be themselves. The connection I make with my pets is love. I love them, they love me. They want to please me, so I don't have to train them. I want to please them, so they don't have to train me.
With every one of my dogs and cats that have lived out their lives with me and are buried outside my windows, I remember the moment of their first expression of love. It's a sparkle in the eyes, a smile few can see, visible joy. It's the same as I feel when I see them. Donkey Jack is responding to my love for him. I'm good to him. I don't treat him like stock. I take him a treat every day, carrots to crunch on, call him my friend when I talk to him. He's Jack when I'm calling him, and he's Friend talking to him. I tell him I am happy he's here, I like having Donkey Jack for my friend. I talk to him in sentences with certainty he understands my meaning through telepathy, how the four-leggeds communicate with each other. When I talk, he reads the images in my mind of what I'm talking about. I'm guessing it's about like the Chinese language, images. I know he doesn't understand the words except for words he hears over and over like Jack, friend, donkey, love. I tell him I love him and want to give him a good life here on my meadow. While he was doing his little quick-step dance in front of me, his nose went to my face, we touched nose to nose, I put my hands on the sides of his neck and put my forehead to his forehead and we held there a couple of seconds. I've learned with the four-leggeds that a gesture, when it's done it's done. We humans like to make things last a long time and dwell. My human inclination is to put foreheads together and hold for several seconds. A donkey, like a cat, like a dog, once the gesture is made it's meaning is communicated and it's over. No big deal made of it. I've asked him to teach me donkey and he is. Every day he gives me a new insight into donkey nature. Part of why I'm writing it here is so I won't forget, a memory aid, as well as to share it with you.
Jack's delight when he saw me was so ecstatic he humbled me to see my donkey friend act out his meaning. The way I see him, we have the same brain, except I have the curse of the forebrain that created all the confusion we call human. I see him fortunate to have a mind not burdened with questions, belief systems, traditions. I want to learn the language of silence, how the four-leggeds communicate with each other in silence. They have their language of sounds their tongues allow them to make, which is quite expressive. When I open the door for Caterpillar to come in the house, I say, "Hey, Pillar," and she mutters a barely audible sound that says Hi. She steps over beside her scratch pad and looks up at me, meaning pick me up and tell me you love me. In a short time she's had the experience she wanted and is ready for me to put her down. A moment of connecting heart-to-heart. She only needs it once a day. No matter what I'm doing, I do have time to take a moment to hold Caterpillar and connect with her. Today I saw I have bonded with Donkey Jack and from now on we are friends, the real deal. After today, instead of going to the meadow to give carrots to the donkey, I'll be going to see my friend with carrots. Now that we've made the heart connection, we can have a good time. He'll teach me donkey all the faster. When I sit with him in the meadow, it will no longer be me apprehensive of him turning his back to me and kicking, and Jack will no longer be watching me apprehensive of what I might do to him by surprise. From here on, we'll be more relaxed together. Our meetings will be characterized by a quiet comfort, feeling protected in the presence of the other. It is a thrill for me to befriend an African herd animal. Gives me insight into the individual minds of the zebra, the wildebeest, the antelopes when I see them in National Geographic videos.. They're people too.