The Horse on the Road
The road is pretty much a straight one: highway, with various intersections and stop lights. It passes a small shopping mall, a tiny airport, various yards stacked with lumber , a used car lots, garages, two farmer’s markets. To the left: high ground, still snow-capped; to the right, glimpses of the ocean. Houses. Densely packed trees. Occasional fields. What you see most of all, however, is the road itself, signals, blacktop, crash barriers, signage, and, of course, the cars and trucks ahead, to the side, or glimpsed in the mirrors. It’s pass or be passed on a two-way river of metal and glass; the road reels out and on, suspending us drivers in the means to our ends, and active trance, a kind of super-alert sleep… Then the brake lights ahead go on and we’re down to forty, then twenty kilometres per hour. Ten. Gaps narrow. Traffic clots to a standstill, vehicles pack the road ahead solid until it disappears around a bend. All of a sudden we are going nowhere.
Some days, the sky is spectacular, cerulean, stormy, or multiply rainbowed, but today it’s an even grey. We sit under it and wait, each in our metal box. One by one, we switch off our engines, reach for the radio or phone. A grey-haired man in the Subaru next to me winds down his window, lights up a smoke. According to temperament, we rage or resign ourselves. Perhaps five minutes pass before the reason for all this appears: a perfectly groomed chestnut horse – so real that he seems like some kind of hallucination – appears between a piled logging truck and an empty a school bus and trots at a steady pace against the now-stilled flow of traffic. He does not appear to hurry. Choosing always the widest gaps, anticipating, never slackening his pace, he threads his way between the vehicles as if they were simply part of the landscape. His mane floats up and sinks again with each step. Unfettered by any kind of reins or bridles, he disappears behind another truck, reappears and is suddenly just feet away: I look up from my bucket seat at a being from the World Before Cars. I see something far larger than I am with long teeth, soft lips; deep, velvet nostrils; brown eyes fringed with a plethora of lashes. His coat glistens, and beneath it, every muscle seems independently alive… Oh, to climb up there and be joined to him, part of the fleshy world instead of the metal stream. My own, lesser musculature aches for that lost world, for movement itself. All I can do is wind down the window to catch the beat of hooves on the road, the tang of equine sweat as the horse passes, going where he wants to go.
Our engines cough into life. We pull away from each other, accelerate, drive to work.