The wrens started it all, during a photo shoot capturing their quick-as-a-flash movements in and around the old farmhouse here.
This year unusually there are two pairs – unusual as they’re supremely territorial, even although in this case one tiny pair are raising their brood on the south-facing aspects and the other in thick spruce boughs on the north side of the house by the summer door (ranchers didn’t usually put in openings on the north sides of buildings – think winter and prevailing winds and you’ll grasp why this door only gets opened up, used, summertimes).
This solstice day lymphatic issues were singing like canaries, so it was as I was sitting there, taking a breather, that the photo shoot began, outdoor light altered, time passed.
I began noticing the wrens were actually ground feeders; then they’d zoom in with a mouthful of goodies and sit atop a nearby bird feeding station, their whole bodies literally vibrating with song, warning their nestlings they were about to get fed. My, what racket for such a very small feathered person!
And, sitting there, camera in hand, waiting for these lightning tiny little winged ones to zoom in, I began timing their visits. The parents, I found, were slinging in every 2- 8 minutes.
Waiting, the lighting changed from sombre to light-charged, sunlight bursting from behind summertime fluffed clouds. A mule deer had been wandering the property’s south property line all morning, deep grasses, leisurely no-fear stride as she drifted up and down. Panning the camera in there she was, nursing one extremely young fawn; they only feed their young two or three times a day when very young, otherwise leaving them ‘parked’ in secluded ‘safe’ areas. I hadn’t picked up that she had a young one, at all.
A shadow drifted across the sunlit hazed grasses beneath, small birds immediately diving for cover. A Swainson’s hawk gliding through westwards and then, ten minutes later, because I was looking, a blue heron winging into the fast-diminishing ponds to the west (it’s a serious drought year forming up). In the western wood young crows were raising hell, one flying in to perch on the fence-line, feathers still growing in, a bit scruffy, eyes carefully watching. Listening, he heard his siblings squabbling again in another location. Off he went, then a lone magpie sliding in, the wrens again diplomatically evaporating from sight completely – magpies are notorious nest-robbers.
Ground squirrels are rampant this year, their young ones madly chittering between their different family mounds – and now really tuned in – it was noticeable (yeah, really, where-are-your-eyes, Asheton, before then??!) a young badger in the deeper grassed quarter of one front field was having a wonderful time scooping out earth in hot pursuit, 2 lb stones casually tossed behind as if weightless nothings.
‘Hey you,’ I shouted, ‘stop that!’ and it paused, then walked ten bold steps towards me, in broad daylight. Badgers don’t do this. Badgers though are known by native people to represent strength and perseverance and as storytellers – where, I heard from some mystical land and place, are all your short stories, the children’s stories that you have in your head and aren’t writing? The whole morning began to feel like a combo between Noah’s Ark and Dr Doolittle frankly, but these are countryside happenings that, indeed, are happening all the time around if one chooses to be aware, listen, look. The sounds of the grasses rustling, the wind fluttering the aspens by the creek, a green flicker’s unique call and the swallows endlessly up-and-down diving along the water meadows although mosquitoes are in decidedly short supply this year; there are only one breeding pair, not the usual three, barn swallows nesting this year and for which I, ridiculously, feel a bit personally responsible.
It’s like that, too, with horses – awareness. How an incoming horse boarding for a month after trauma and I watched feeding in more detail because it was hot and I was tired and had, ah, time… noticed his eating ability wasn’t quite right and whose teeth probably need floating. How another horse in for schooling is always resting a back foot. Or wondering one day why Mops was suddenly a bit sharp on being approached on the off side.
I watched The Apache and The Best scratching each other up (she is absolutely the love of his life, which as a diva alpha mare, she thinks is totally her right although I believe she does quite like him) and taking photographs, noticed their mouths were only just open and they were actually using the outside of their teeth to scratch out the final remaining winter hairs along their backsides.
And then too, with The Apache on his free work (in the elderly corral which, magically, has just the right measurements akin to the Spanish and Portuguese training areas known as a picadero and much better than a round pen for a couple of reasons), it’s obvious when you long line or longe or ride him, how this horse so picks up on where your breathing is. Ridiculously obvious, that, when you think about it, that an animal always looking for predators, with one now sitting on his back, would pick up on breath inhaled and exhaled – so, take that a step further and use in your training, be it for pleasure or competitive riding surely?
And then, dipping in again after a year’s absence, for a few pages of California clinician Mark Rashid in his book Life Through Horsemanship (and who’s walked sideways too into martial arts and Aikido in a big way), he mentions aligning rider core awareness and doubling that with awareness of the horse’s core. He mentions a kind of visualization then happening, so that the two fuse together into a simply super-aware super-everything partnership and my, he’s got me interested in a big way. This I haven’t worked with as a concept yet, but with the pinto who’s taken me on a whole new road of learning as he’s just so darned aware of breath, give me a few weeks of fiddling around.
And, it started with wrens!