Do I deserve my dream horse? I have been pondering this. Does it help that I am concerned about my neighbors and gather signatures? Deserving requires measurement, sufficient amounts of having been good or tidy or obedient or silent or respectful or whatever else grown people want from children. The accomplishment of these brings pride; which, as Freud said, is the consciousness of deserving to be loved. How many signatures do I need to become deserving? Magic travels in different company.You can’t earn it or deserve it, there’s no one to impress in order to get it, it is never owed to you and does not respond to bargains or negotiations. There’s something capricious about it, can’t be predicted, tends to show up when least expected.
Does magic happen to people who don’t believe in it? Definitely not. Does believing in magic bring it about? Probably not. You get something you’ve always wanted; it happens unexpectedly for no particular reason. There it is. It has arrived. What are you going to do now? When magic happens, to believe in it is a form of gratitude. I’ll never get what I want through deserving it. I’m simply not the kind of person who deserves things. If I am to get them there will have to be magic. But what kind of magic? In the traditional kind, If you want to catch an animal you draw its antlers on the walls of a cave, put on its skin, lie down in a clearing and wait for it to come to you. Or, if you want it to rain you punch a few holes in the bottom of a pot and walk through your fields watering vegetables, suggestively hinting.
When I was a kid in Los Angeles I used to gallop around slapping my thighs and making tock tock sounds with my tongue. This behavior was meant to work magic and persuade my hard-working parents to get me a horse, with no questions asked about where we would board it or how we could afford it. I am aware that my neighbors here in the village might look at this behavior with the same expression I see in their eyes as they converse with me.Therefore, I’ve been lecturing myself: “Conversation needs a vigorous editorial function. This you say, this you imagine, this you confide, this you shut up about.” It’s crucial to avoid situations where these hesitations might be compromised but this is not easy in a village where lines are constantly forming, where I might be tempted to hold forth about magic.
Next door to us we have cows, young heifers who come running when we walk by their corral. We have nothing to feed them and they must know by now so I assume this is a friendly, even neighborly gesture. As the mist and twilight come in over the hills the heifers frisk and frolic, kicking up their hind legs in what I thought, when we first moved out here, was a most un-cow-like way. Many animals, I have learned since, grow frisky as it gets dark. The deer leap and bound through our garden as if they were celebrating something; our cat, usually lazy and docile, races up the oak tree. We know the universe is full of mysteries that bring great joy until you try to explain them. I call this natural magic, the kind that is there all over the place if we bother to notice.
I talked about the magic of nightfall to our Village Clipper while she was cutting my hair. I knew she had some twenty different animals on an acre of land behind her house. In exchange, she told me about her cow who used to push the neighborhood kids on a swing tied to a tree, gently of course, using her big head. This same cow took care of the neighboring horses. Whenever their owner didn’t drive out to feed them she would push hay under the fence. When Catherine whistled the cow came, fast as a cow could, across the pasture. This is the magic of interspecies love. Imagine a doubled universe—ours, where things go haywire, are chaotic, force people from sheer terror to believe in the omnipotence of gods. In our world no one ever gets used to the suffering of the innocents, genocide, ethnic cleansing, wars, mass murder, the things we tend to bring upon ourselves in (almost) every generation and in every generation blame on god.
Now imagine the other universe, a light to our darkness, where there is no omniscience and therefore no being to hold accountable or blame, no reason to grow bitter or curse life. Things happening the way they happen; apples growing on apple trees and not on fig trees, for example. There is a simple order to things, rain falling on our heads not up into the sky, babies starting out new-born, growing older and not the other way around. This magical order is a kind of intelligence, far beyond any we’re likely to achieve for ourselves. All we have to do is align ourselves with it by stating our desires. This is spokenwish magic and reveals a perfect faith in the goodness of the universe. I started hanging around at Morgan Horse Ranch. I looked, I stared, I stirred up dust with my toe. I watched Black Mountain turn black on an overcast day and pronounced my wishes. I gazed at the horses and their straight-backed riders coming in off Bear Valley Trail and made myself stand straighter. I frowned, I narrowed my eyes, I came closer, I retreated to a distance, muttering my wishing- words. None of this worked until one long darkening afternoon, as the wind was rising, he was there. Right smack in front of me, burnished in the long light, exactly as I had imagined Plato’s horse, tossing his head to make the tiny bell on his bridle announce him: a copper-colored horse with a long flaxen main and tail and four perfect white socks and a diamond blaze on his forehead. I ran over as the rider was removing the saddle.
“I just had to touch him to believe he was real.” “I know what you mean. Same thing happened to me.’ “What is he? Is he one of a kind? I mean, the only one like him here on earth?” “Don’t worry. There are others. Horses of this breed come from Kentucky. They’re called Mountain Saddle Horses and the fantastic things you hear about them are true.”
I had never heard anything about them but I was ready to believe in the fantastic. “The breed doesn’t trot, it ambles. I mean, as fast as most other breeds cantor. You just sit there and relax as you go on your way because the walking-gait doesn’t change. No posting, no nothing. No one believes it until they’ve tried it.” Here was a horse even the most severe realist in the village could approve for me. She handed me the reins.
“Walk him around a bit. You’ll get a feel for how gentle he is. The breed is magical, I don’t know why anyone rides anything else.” The breed is magical? She had actually said it. “Do I have to give him back?” I handed her the reins. “I love Sinbad, I mean, I got him on my 12th birthday so of course. But honestly there are, you know, the dark brown horses with flaxen manes and chestnuts and whites and palominos, and reds and sorrels and all of them with two-foot manes and long tails that brush along the ground. If you’re looking for a horse, you’ve found him.” A fleeting thought of young Cooper, now suddenly discarded. How fickle could I be? All those months of pining and I had thrown him over, just like that? But maybe that’s how magic works. You cut yourself free from one obsession before you start wishing on another. I watched the trailer drive off, not sure if I was saying goodbye forever to the most beautiful horse in the world, or had been pointed in the direction of the right horse for me. My intended. Not that I deserved him. How could anyone deserve Plato’s winged horse who guides the chariot of the gods?