of all the horses, it is a paint that corrals my eye, my heart.
he stands alone, on a patch of grass twenty yards from his nearest bandmate. his stance is perpendicular to the herd, the eye that faces the others wide and deeply aware. muscles bunch under smooth hide as he shifts from one foreleg to the other. there is just enough of a breeze to dance his mane against his neck, his forelock across the far eye.
what pulls me to him I can only ponder. I many not know the truth for hours, or during my lifetime. is it his outsider role, or his patience? perhaps his inner wisdom. or maybe he is a rebel. a denounced stallion. one who wielded power in an earlier life. I supply a backstory, I infuse him with traits I wish for myself. if he is my mirror, I could be a sinner, a has-been, a separatist, a pacifist, a former pugilist, an underdog, the unloved.
one hundred fifty or so other horses drink from the watering hole, tug at grass, nuzzle flanks and shoulders, instigate or respond to what may or may not be playful attacks. I’m curious, I absorb the experience, but I remain fully committed to my paint and know that as I settle in bed this evening it is he who will visit, he who will remain in my mind’s eye, he who will become the backbone of a story that begins to weave its way from head to heart, from heart to head.
[barb richardson, a writer friend of mine, is aunt to jim schnepel, who is the president of the Wild Horses of America foundation (catch that acronym), and jim was kind enough to invite me out to see the Onaqui herd. the photo here was taken by jim.]
I’m easily won over, easily turned-off, slow-to-warm, head over heels, reluctant, skeptical, leery, gullible . . . all of these things, as a reader.
I can fall in love with a book during the first page and refuse to let go, I can pick apart a paragraph and sink my teeth into an errant word and never forgive for the rest of the book. I can begin a book and set it aside in indifference, then pick it up again the next month and devour it. I sometimes read a book because it’s good for me. I have finally learned to stop reading–put down, give away, banish–books I don’t care for.
in reading tributary, by barbara richardson, I was engrossed immediately, and the fire kept its heat–sometimes a low golden flame, sometimes a hot flash and crackle–through to the very end, when, at the last sentence, I fell completely and deeply in love.
a similar thing has happened to me before. I’ll read a book, I’ll enjoy the read, even be eager to open to my bookmark each day, but not fall in love with it until after I’ve read the final page: these are the times a book’s impact can’t be known until it’s all been absorbed.
but this was different; the last line of tributary made me emotionally swoon. now don’t go cheating and pick up her book and read the last line: you have to earn your way there. not that the work is hard. tributary, clair martin’s story, is told so perfectly, so intriguingly and with such heartfelt honesty, that the work of reading it is only that of keeping your body comfortable as your hands and eyes perform their tasks that allow your mind to play along with barbara’s tale.
I’m a spiritual girl, always looking for meaning and bigger stories, larger pictures, connection and compassion. clair martin is as matter-of-fact and I’ll-believe-it-when-I-see-it as they come. not only did barbara’s story-telling make me admire and love clair martin, it eventually allowed for clair and I to see the world similarly and cause me to fall in love.
and that’s what I want to say about reading tributary. you can go read any review you want, or go with sandra dallas’ statement that “you’ll love resolute Clair Martin, the equal of any man–or religion. Clair’s strength and survival are the heritage of western women” to give you more of an idea about the book. I’m sticking with my words about reading the book, about its impact on me . . . it was entirely worth every minute I spent reading it, and every minute that last line comes back to tug at my soul.
in fact, it would be more accurate to say the read and its impact on me was–unexpectedly–priceless. tributary is one of those books I want to keep, always, on my bookshelf.