Denise Lynch reads her short story "Learning Curves" in a new segment for Radio Free Galisteo - Stories Of The Basin.Support the show
Learning Curves by Denise Lynch
The best Mays are the ones when my mare expects a foal. The roses are opening wild and loud with color and fragrance. Bees seem to take over the attention of the skies and their work becomes so evident and important. The Spring and it’s births strengthen me in ways that are obvious and some in ways that lift a veil to magic and wonder. Woodsworth wrote, “Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting…” and yet, I will not soon forget the Spring where part of me died along with a dream, a foal and my great Uncle.
It’s thrilling to watch a mare’s curves grow full and round with her pregnancy. Belle was used to this process and was an excellent brood mare. I had moved her into my front yard to care for her after a long sad time of past marriage and ranching days.
Those distant places in memory and truth were dying away and the new seed of life was to be electrical and intimate. I was studying technology and reinventing myself in the long loving task of raising a few horses, so as to keep occasions of my past happiness alive and as a testament to myself that I could rebirth the past into a bright future. In hindsight my fervent efforts seem so stubborn and clumsy.
The idea was to photograph and film this mare’s foal, from birth through it’s training and poetry would flow. These two would dovetail in the “Visual Essay” of my contribution, a bridge from the world of nature, to the invisible one of modern man. This could sustain me and join my attempt to make sense of a situation that had all at once left me broke, heart-bruised, but with a curious spark.
One early morning I peered out the window of my bedroom and there was my mare looking strangely unsettled. The other two horses I had not yet separated from her were staring anxiously into the straw bed that I had begun to lay out for Belle. My throat closed off in a gasp of energy and excitement and then at once I was outside seeing a baby (two weeks early) attempting to stand. This was thrilling and terrifying. My previous sense of when she would give birth and my acute sense of the moon’s phase and the whole intuition, “thing” was an apple cart toppled.
I called the Vet, my mother and my son and neighbors, and the dogs, bees, ravens and even the clouds all came for me and especially for Belle who wanted unusual moral support.
The foal didn’t seem right. Shiny and similar to his Sorrel dam, some sparkle was missing and I felt some knowledge looming. My vitality became introverted and I soon forgot about the cameras and the fountain pens and his name, Cyber Speed Ocho, and all the vast multidimensional meaning that previously I was projecting.
A few days passed with gentle growth and things settled down. His sucking reflex worked and the precious reluctant balance that baby horses move around with began to establish a new presence in our village. Belle and I who love each other very much and have as Woman and Horse been through the best and worst of times, partnered tenderly in a new and caring way for her son.
A phone call from a darling and quiet spiritual East Indian man, one who had been caring for my aging Uncle, was to change my quiet pace in this pastoral setting. Donald Random had died peacefully and with as much bliss as is possible for old humans that are so strong and full of hard grace as he had always been. My first response was remembering the love of bones he always remarked on. From skulls to the structure of my cheeks, to the impeccable rooms he designed, full of mirrors, green velvets and tasteful handmade furniture. He never forgot my birthday or my love of horses. Part of my inner marrow subtracted and evaporated like rain that day while I accepted the fact that he would not see me or my mare or this foal or this spring. The June days coming around the corner would not be a celebration of life but its opposite, that give it a contrasting truth.
My dilemma began swirling inside and out with an incredible wind. The funeral arrangements competed for my attention to Belle’s baby. Dressed in my best black dress and my low and pointy heels, with my hair tied tightly back on the day of Donald’s service, I watched the foal weaken and I gathered the strength to write a few words about my gratitude and Love for this amazing artist-actor Uncle. Kindness can never be measured among mentors and their generous irreplaceable adult gestures that open our worlds. He gave me cheese for breakfast and silk scarves and once threw me a party in Beverly Hills.
The large moment arrived and wilding bees were mingling in fragrant yellow rose bushes. People were driving by in a similar fashion. I stood head to toe in black and was running late, while Belle just breathed hard with maternal sadness. The foal had lain down and was weak and occasionally was reaching his neck out to me, but mostly just trying to rest his bones on the ground and out of gravity. I could do no more to save this mystery from becoming a tragedy. No amount of questioning or calling or wondering would explain. This is how it sometimes goes. Livestock, dead stock as my Cowboy ex-husband would say. Long life, soft death, I whispered to myself. Stretched in my desire to be in two places, I had to leave the corral and drive to town. I did not know if I would see the baby again. Belle blinked in silent exhaustion through the fickle spring light that fragmented rainbows in a stream of tears and smeared mascara.
Returning on the long drive home, my mind’s eye saw the large vase of white roses around his ashes and the fancy “dinosaurs” of the old charm Santa Feans. The society of his cultural world was without peer. It lingers now and would never leave. They all listened so slowly and so carefully amongst themselves to my story of reflections. Later as I drove steadily out of that realm, I knew I would miss that opulence as surely as a princess would miss her kingdom. Heading into the abyss and uncertain shadow of my world, one of star-gate blue on a computer screen and one with the fast pace of time and no extra allowance. Gone was my youth and the easy security of an older generation’s opinions.
At home Belle was pacing and upset, and in my best black I dragged the body of the foal out of her corral. Good that I drive a truck and good that I am the brave kind who cannot bury, but will let the desert have its way purifying the sheaths of life. This young creature was so heavy and its bones held the full gravity of my situation. Dead things seem to weigh so much more, while life’s light proves to give us wings and ease.
So there perching in my heels, I began to load the foal in the truck, the tailgate became my own Everest. At that moment my Mother pulled in the driveway and together like two women clearing an ancient battlefield we rose him up, while the horses neighed strangely and deep. I drove him into the desert, my desert, and stacked rocks on him until my fingers bled. Something my Mother had said to me in the past surfaced, “When you start to have the bones of those you love around, it really becomes your home.”
The last of that great man and the first of this foal have nothing to do with technology or Art and its unresolved relationship within me. I squeezed my eyes impossibly hard, and while closed… I saw a large sprite, an electrical storm splashing across Earth’s curve. Hope was being dissolved and nothing could enable me to adequately document a long love or a short one. My foolish bridge between worlds collapsed that day.