I need to see the world in dimension, that the ancient trees do not rend the sky but lift their fullness up against it. That small, short-winged birds fly in two strands with one in the lead, like a broken necklace, and fade into distance, yet do not truly disappear.
That Patterson’s mares are still there, on the furry stubble, stiff with frost, in the field off Lindenmier road, a two-lane north-south route along the eastern edge of Fort Collins that I have driven for decades.
I drive past in late afternoon and they are clustered near the fence. They will each foal in a few months, dropping writhing life in shining silver sacs like porpoises into the grass.
A newborn foal does not make a sound. Wet, its ears down, it sits up, shakes itself, drinking in oxygen, while it is licked dry by its dam. It hears its own voice, its tiny facsimile cry, later.
I once thought that the pack of coyotes that come in during foaling season, lurking at the edges of this field, should be trapped or shot. I would do it, if these were my mares.
But I have seen them come in to the hollow in the field where a mare foaled and clean it up, sac and afterbirth and cord. If a coyote ever likes the scent of the foal too much and follows it, the mare whirls, pins her ears and goes after it in a snaking gallop.
We– I– have learned the world with my hands, as much as my eyes. I remember breaking the buds off the irises that grew against the adobe wall of our house on Indian School Road, in Albuquerque, and wrapping them in small squares of soft blanketing, and lining them up in a box, on a piece of red velvet. I loved their shape and pulpy softness, their warmth.
I remember creeping in my sneakers over a forest floor, in the Manzano Mountains, my father scaling trees to collect samples of dwarf mistletoe, my hands cupped, scooping up tiny skittering horny-toads, little lizards with soft white bellies. I would sit on a fallen log with one of these in my hands, turning it by the tail onto its back, rubbing its stomach with one finger so that it would close its eyes, seeming not to fear me.
One day, on impulse, I bought a small brown foal at a farm garage sale for a hundred dollars.
I sat in the long green grass with my foal while he slept, his mother grazing nearby. I stroked his muzzle, counted his whiskers, rubbed the skin over his eyes, caressed his ears. He gave me someplace to go, something to touch.
The world in its dimensions, its depth of field. Lindenmier Road runs past the hospital, across Highway 14, and north, past the barrio that came into being with the construction of a sugar beet factory along the Union Pacific railroad tracks in the fifties, past the field now leased by a farmer named Patterson, who owns the paint mares in foal.
The road used to then take you into the country where few people lived. On the right side of the road was the estate of the man after whom the road was first named: Old Man Lindenmier.
He lived in a dark, enormous house back in the house, all alone. No one ever saw him. We imagined what he might look like, what he might say.
We hid in the trees, wondering what would happen if we explored the woods. Nothing. Then, one day we slipped into the small lake that was his, untying his raft, and pushing it out into the water. We climbed aboard.
The raft was made of pallets nailed together, in turn nailed on empty, sealed off oil barrels. It was covered with a ragged grey carpeting. We dove from it into green, depthless water, at first when we could not swim, turning around and dog-paddling back.
He never came to chase us away, or fired a shot over our heads despite the No Trespassing signs that rusted every fifty feet or so on his barbed wire fence.
From the raft, looking North, we could get a close view of Lindenmier’s buffalo. For a decade he had his own small herd, shaggy cows, a patriarch bull; every spring the cows would lie down in the grass and birth small red calves with curly fur, that stood shakily in the spring sunlight.
I borrowed a red mare named Honey Bee from friends, and rode toward the mountains from our house. I never went very far; you couldn’t, because the road would cleave at another lake stretching away, white gulls flying over it.
I would often ride her to a ridge across from our house, in an undeveloped field. I could see the entire sea of mountains, rocking back against each other like a monumental tide frozen in stone and in time, quartz clefts zig-zagging through them– compacted veins of snow, meeting at the summit.
I have traveled far and wide to learn the world, first to Minnesota, then to Europe and to Italy, to Corsica, to France– to Maine and to Nova Scotia.. Then I came back to Colorado and lived in my family’s salt-box house on a hill, with the mountains filling the window.
Again and again I broke away, to come back, to the quadrant of Larimer County boundaried by Lindenmier Road to the East, and Taft Hill to the West. I began to give up on leaving and becoming an expat in Mexico, or Italy.
A few years back, I had a small trailer house at a boarding stable a mere mile and a half from my family home. I kept a young rose-grey Arabian named Seranade in the barn, hock deep in clean shavings and fresh straw.
One night I went in to check on her, to stand with her, my arms wrapped around her neck, her head dropped to my shoulder, her great, dark eyes half-closed, in the prescience of the Arabian; an Arabian mare knows to whom she belongs.
I heard a sound that I thought was a lonely and bored stallion sucking air, chewing on a post. I walked down the dim alley of the barn; the white Paso Fino mare kept in one of the stalls had disappeared. Then I saw her down, straining.
I went in grabbing an armload of hay to make a bed behind her. Her foal was hung up by a shoulder.
I eased the foal free; it slid into my lap; I peeled away the sac.
The mare stood, whirled and came to us and dropped her head, breathing in the scent of her foal, an auburn filly.
I left the stall, walking on down the alley way, to take Serenade out to grass, in the deeps of greenness, the two of us part of a depth of field, the dimensions of existence, two beings within the dragonfly detail of a moment that spent itself quickly, in the disintegration of the clouds overhead.