Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Question Of What You See

Only a few days before Christmas my Mountain Boy and I have spent far too much money in far too many stores recently, and on a mild and extremely heavy raining day we finally finished spending money this morning.
I have not run since Sunday and the combination of holiday preparations and the weather have interrupted both workouts and picture taking.
So these are more pictures taken over this past year.
Only a few miles from where we were living in Cody Wyoming was the wild mustang refuge.
Thousands of acres of BLM land dedicated solely to the protection of mustangs that were born wild and will always remain wild.
We had driven out to the refuge the evening before and disappointingly had only found a couple of horses.
The next evening we again drove out to the refuge and after slowly driving on dry and dusty trails on BLM land looked to our left and saw a huge herd of horses both adult and young grazing and playing and drinking near a large pond in the middle of the desert.
They were a couple of hundred yards away from us and we quietly climbed out of our truck and walked perhaps 10 or 20 feet off trail and then stopped to watch them.
We drove to the refuge frequently during the Summer and saw them often but this was the biggest herd of horses that we had seen.
The sun was beginning to slowly set on the horizon and we stayed for a long while both watching and photographing these beautiful, wild and free animals.
Eventually they began to head away from the pond, first one then another then another until they formed a long and informal line.
When they disappeared behind a sandy rise we climbed back into the truck, talking and laughing and ecstatic to have witnessed these beautiful animals in their natural state on such a beautiful evening.
We turned the truck around and headed slowly back the way we had come on the trail, trying to catch sight of them again, and they did indeed finally reappear from the other side of the rise.
Again we slowed and then stopped the truck, climbed out and watched them playing and running and walking and grazing.
And then LC called my name and pointed to my left.
I looked over the hood of the truck and saw the horse in the picture above.
He was walking slowly, sometimes stopping to graze, and moving in the same direction that the rest of the herd was traveling.
I watched him and then looked more closely at his body and realized that this horse had very recently been in battle.  Maybe more than one battle.
He was bruised and scratched and beaten. 
The winners of those battles were still with the herd.
This beautiful but hurting animal was now on the outskirts of the herd.
It was a mesmerizing experience to watch this battle weary horse and to watch these horses in their natural state.
Running free.................

This sunset picture of Heart Mountain in Cody was taken from the house that we were living in while we were there.
If you drop your head to your right shoulder you can see the profile of a Native American face in the rises of the mountain - the forehead, the nose, a wart of the chin.
One of the many things that my Mountain Boy and I loved so much about living in Cody were the mountains that surrounded us in all directions.
The Carter Mountain Range, Cedar Mountain, Rattlesnake Mountain, Heart Mountain.
I hiked to the top of Cedar and Heart Mountains. 
We drove to the base of Carter Mountain more than 40 miles away, and extensively explored the very wide and very long Rattlesnake Mountain twice by truck.
Cody is situated in a large bowl and these mountains both encircled us and embraced us, and we could see all of them from the house.
They created their own weather patterns and we could watch storms rise up over the mountains and head in our direction long before they ever reached us.
The mountains surrounding Cody dominate the landscape and are extraordinary.
And they are very beautiful................

On one of our trips into the Yellowstone this past Summer the traffic in front of us as we were heading through Sylvan Pass suddenly and inexplicably slowed to a crawl.
We had no idea why we were moving so slowly until the car in front of us finally veered into the oncoming lane and we realized that he had actually been veering around this buffalo.
This section of the pass contained no vegetation at all.
Rather it was made up entirely of rock - some large boulders but mostly loose rock on both sides of the road.
There was no way that he would have climbed through this loose and constantly sliding rock which meant that this huge buffalo had slowly but methodically made it up to the pass by road.
As we followed slowly behind the buffalo, waiting for a chance to safely veer around him, I watched him closely.
He was not injured. 
He was not disturbed by the traffic. 
In fact this huge beast completely disregarded all of the many vehicles that were driving around him.
He was in no big hurry.
Eventually we found an opportunity to go around him and as we did we saw that there was a pull off to our right.
Excitedly we turned off the highway, pulled into a parking spot and I climbed out of the truck and quickly climbed to the top of a gravelly boulder-filled small hill.
I snapped this picture from the hill as I watched him slowly lumber down the highway, taking his sweet time.
Where did he come from?  How did he get to this place?  Where was he going and why was he alone?
There was no way to know.
But a few hours later, on our return trip, we saw this solitary bison again
He had eventually found his way out of the pass and was grazing on lush grass, still alone, happily feasting along the side of the road...........
On a separate visit to Yellowstone we veered further South and stopped often to take in what were truly extraordinarily beautiful views of the Grand Tetons.
Exceptionally rugged. 
As beautiful as anything I had ever seen.
They were so compelling that I would have been happy if we had simply stayed in this one spot for the rest of our trip, instead of continuing to explore and see further.
We did not of course.
We saw much and each time we left the Yellowstone and drove the last fifty miles back to the cowboy town of Cody, both LC and I felt real joy in knowing that this magical place was so close to us...............
This picture was taken in back of the house in late evening as the sun was setting this past Summer.
Blackie was his name and he belonged to the owner of the property.
He was one of two horses that used to be part of the wild mustang herd who roam freely and are protected on the refuge a few miles from the house.
A number of these horses are adopted annually as a way to control the mustang population that roam the BLM land on the refuge.
Although Blackie had a caretaker this horse did not receive a lot of attention.
The caretaker cared for his physical needs and the owner rode Blackie once a year.
Brief, all too brief, methodical and perfunctionary interactions.
He was not my horse so I refused to become attached to him.
But I fought a constant internal battle to stay detached.
I watched LC begin to feed Blackie by hand, talk to him, pet him, caress him, walk with him.
It did not take long before Blackie began to visually and physically follow LC whenever he walked out of the house and I realized that man and horse were beginning to form a bond.
He was an absolutely beautiful jet black, tall, strong, wonderful, sweet animal.
I looked at him and felt sadness.
Because he WAS beautiful and was sweet and at one time he had been free.
Free to run and free to roam and free to be the master of his own universe.
And now he wasn't................
By early September we were back in Tennessee.
Staying at this very rustic and quiet cabin between Lynchburg and Fayetteville while we worked to get the non-paying dead-beat renters out of our house.
The cabin was on the property that belonged to a lady I used to work with and is located in a very quiet and very beautiful rural area filled with lush fields and rolling hills.
Although we were very eager to get settled back into our own home, this was a good and peaceful transitional place to wait out the month.
From this cabin I walked Jamie and ran country roads, and LC and I explored areas we used to know so well until we left for Alaska.
We became reacquainted with Tennessee again while staying in a small and rustic cabin.
Horses on the farm across the road. 
Deer running and grazing in every field and yard around us.
Solitude and quiet...............

A couple of days after moving back into our house in Tullahoma I went out to the trails at Arnolds Air Force Base and ran.
Although I had been running off and on for months I found the idea of running at the base daunting.
The trails are a combination of technical root and rock filled single track, double track, jeep trails and horse trails and I had spent years out there training before leaving for Alaska.
It was home for me - that place.
The place I ran and biked and kayaked occasionally with others but predominantly alone.
But after knee injuries and a heavier and softer body and a tired brain and two more years added to an already aging life I was not sure that I could simply pick up again where I left off.
Was not certain that this place would again feel like home.
But it does.
I see deer and squirrels and hawks often while running and biking.  Occasionally I even see a skunk and give him a wide berth and the respect that he deserves.
Woods Reservoir is a lake filled with birds and fish and coves.
It is a beautiful place and a beautiful space and every time I head out onto trails or out onto the water I feel the excitement of a new adventure..............

The question is not what you look at, but what you see.............Henry David Thoreau

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