Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Deeper Why

There was a story in the news today about someone near Fresno, California, who won a fat lottery payout 10 years ago, setting him up for life (enough to set any ordinary person up for life, I'd guess.) So this winner went out and bought himself a ranch, like you do. He had 11 horses there. Yesterday eight of the horses, starving, were removed from the property. The other three will be removed today. Stories like this one are common, of course, regular as a kind of busted clockwork; just when you think it's stopped, the thing starts ticking again. Every story like this that I come across causes heart cringe in me, an unmistakable impulse of compassion, anger and sorrow. When you're wired that way, there's nothing that can be done to avoid the feeling.

Fresno Bee Photograph

But just once, I wish the reporters would investigate the deeper why. What is an animal to someone who isn't instinctively drawn to them? What is an animal to someone who is indifferent to them? How can they be less than living, be forgotten like an unwanted object? How does one disregard that they are there? These seem like silly, naive questions because the answers seem reflexively obvious, but the real answers aren't obvious to me at all.

I have a long commute to work. In the evening, driving back, I pass through a huge freeway interchange before exiting home. This mild winter I've seen two cats hunting on the high shoulder near my exit, inside the chain-link fence meant to keep them out. They're hardscrabble cats who seem wise to the traffic. I look for them with every drive. Sometimes I see them, sometimes not. When I don't see them, I look for them dead in the lanes. They're junk cats, abandoned strays or maybe urban ferals who've never known human contact. Still, I think about ways to catch them, can't help it. They're never not living to me. I have to take note of their welfare.

I want to understand what it's like to look at animals in need and feel nothing, not hate, not indifference, just nothing. I wonder what it is to see them from that perspective. What do such people know about themselves? How do they experience their sense of self? It's not the shocked How could they that I want to hear, it's the deeper Why do they. I want a reporter to explore that so I can check my judgment, because it is harsh and unforgiving.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Latitude Time, Longitude Horse

So I opened a vintage horse shop on Etsy shop in January because I like to dream it will pay for my sweet mare to have all that she needs, pay for me to continue with my riding instructor, pay for me to one day be looking out over verdant fields, musing over which of the three marvelous, suited-in-all-ways horses I shall ride just then, long freed from work I've lost the heart for and a place I've never ever thought of as home...

Ahh, dreams. That's a lot of freight to hang on a little cyber-commerce. But the shop is there, weaned off my wishing and moving on unsteady legs toward my wanting. What a magical thing it gave me yesterday.

In the evening, someone purchased this vintage photograph from my shop. I'd called the photo Shot In the Heart and written about all the details I'd noticed in it. I wrote about the kind hands of the rider and the strength of the well-built pony. I wrote about the Shriner at background right and the little girl at background left, whip-lashing her neck at the sight of the pony as her mother leads her by the hand. It was that very same girl, grown now and horse-fevered all her life, who bought the picture. She recognized herself and wrote me a wonderful note with her order; instantly we were bonded through years, space and time; we were bonded through horses.

Value of my time: nothing much. Value of the photograph: $7.50. Value of her finding it: Priceless.