"I ask not for any crown,
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.
As would be nearly impossible during such an experience, introspection came effortlessly that night and provided a personal truth yet unknown: Those few hours were a metaphor for the whole of my life. You see, there are avenues I want to pursue with all the fire of my heart; things that I know will bring self-actualization, unparalleled fulfillment, personal progression and identity capital. And the thought of them excites me. But it also terrifies me to the core. Taunting pangs of insecurity gallop across my soul similar to the ones like that of the horse’s hooves trampling my skull to oblivion, and once again, all those things I hope for- those soul-awakening things- continue to sit lifeless and unadorned deep inside me where all my fragmented pieces of self commune. And yet, despite the enfeebling thoughts I had that night, not only did I get on top of that wild and kindred creature, but, with some help, I guided the night. I was excited and petrified and unsure, but by the end of it all, I had fallen in love with the whole experience. Just like that ride in the dark, I would not be alone in the things my identity craves. There is a Master of all my life can be, who knows my destination- all its perils and all its promise- and can guide my reigns and lead me there with all the wisdom and direction that only an omnipotent being could. This experience was so much more than just one of life’s niceties; it was a glimpse from Him of something I very desperately needed to know: that I am made for better things than those I am engaging in. And I hold within me everything that I need to pursue those better things.
There is a force more ferocious than fear, and more persuasive than insecurity, and that is the pull we feel toward the un-embarked self. Fräulein Maria sings: “All I trust I give my heart to; all I trust becomes my own.” I think there is much wisdom in that. By Night’s end, I had branded that horse with my trust, and because of that, I learned an invaluable truth about myself. Without braving that experience, who knows how much longer it would have taken me to discover it and how much more of my precious existence would have been spent idled away because I could not learn how to quiet those voices so derisive to my progression and champion them with the even quieter ones that tell me to never stop reaching. The expansiveness of life is inherent within all of us, but it can be so easy to forget and neglect that sometimes. I will forever be in debt to that painted horse, that cover of darkness, and those guided reigns for reminding me.
Peace and Love.