But that which all may win.
Nor try to conquer any world,
Except the one within.”
-Louisa May Alcott
I was terrified to ride her. But not terrified enough not to. We began at my favorite hour, when Night begins its quiet capture of Day. On the back of a painted horse, I breathed in the free night air and let the sounds of Outside accompany my heart’s nervous trepidations.
We trotted up and along, down and through, under and between, as and until the declarative darkness of Night arrived. The sky had no secrets then. It bore its stars like an endless string of heirloom pearls. What a beautiful awareness it was, to have that honest, open sky above me and such a powerful creature beneath me. I wanted to be as present as possible, quiet and sentient of another beating heart beneath my own. What is it called, when your remaining senses become more attuned to their surroundings because sight is no longer the prevailing sensation? Besides the stars, all I could see were the silhouettes of equine ears and the whispering branches of trees. But I could distinctly hear the sounds of the hour- the wind jete’ing through the leaves of those branches, the brushing of the blades beneath steady trots of hooves, and of course, crickets- those sentinels of the night known most familiarly by their song. I was keenly aware of the uneven rhythms of my heart which beat against the steady pulses of the cool, dark air on my face. I thought of the creature beneath me. I wondered what kind of soul she housed in that majestic form of hers. Was it really so different from mine? I had entrusted my safety to the will of this wild and beautiful beast, and that made my heart tremble. But then, what of her? I was an intruder in her existence, a timid but earnest stranger thrust upon her back exuding mountainous expectation with the commanding force of a breath. Perhaps she and I were like creatures. Maybe, like me, the heart inside her trembled for its own reasons; terrified, like me, of the things she wanted most. The more I contemplated these things, the less fearful I became of her will, and by the end of our ride, she had warranted my trust.
Until that night, I had never ridden a horse before, and as it is prone to do, my mind ran rampantly with the potential perils of the occasion. Horrors involving all manner of equestrian calamities revolving around rebellious hooves and my helpless cranium galloped across the plains of my mind without any provocation other than the free agency of my synapses. Fortunately, my synaptic proclivities are also wondrously adept at the converse (how remarkably well-rounded they are!) and can contrive extraordinary scenarios based very minorly in reality and with very little provocation as well. So, as it were, the coetaneous emotions of terror and excitement contended for my affections, and the visions of me galloping atop that horse, barefoot and bare soul with mysterious night air in my midst and wildflowers in my wake triumphed over the ones involving my pulpy cranium. It should be noted, however, that I was not embarking on this deliciously terrifying adventure alone. I would have a companion who knew both the horse and the terrain like they were mere extensions of his own being. He was ever attentive and kindly obliged when I requested* (*begged) that he please guide my reigns along with his own because I did not have the confidence to guide myself. That there was someone with me who possessed every needful thing to protect and pilot me was the final panacea for all my reservations. Our ride was hours long and each minute that passed was a beautiful one. My fear never really subsided altogether but it was quieted somewhat by the knowledge that my reigns were in the hands of someone far more experienced than I. It wasn’t until the whole thing was nearly over that I realized… He had relinquished control of my reigns without my knowing and I had been guiding myself for a great portion of the night.