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Brantley Lake State Park, New Mexico

I am a flannel shirt person, tank top underneath, scrappy jeans and boots below. Button down flopping in the wind and straw above my head. I don’t think I really knew this about myself before – not entirely anyway.

I sit now, watching my heart stretch its legs inside a portable hot-wire fence against a backdrop of silk under moonlit, as the day rolls off us both. The Milky Way is faint tonight, barely scratching its way to the surface. The Big Dipper outshines it easily and the only sounds are the buzz of an occasional mosquito and the distant rumbling of cars on the highway.

In the morning, I toss hay, fill water buckets and watch the light spray across the lake as a skiff slowly putters by searching for something - bass, longeye or catfish maybe. The horse raises his head to listen, then lowers it to the pile of hay at his feet as I brush him out, place a pad along his back and turn to lift the saddle. The sound of molars grinding never stops.

Near the floodplains of the Pecos, east of Carlsbad, is a captured beauty. The southern taming of a once great river until the wild and scenic remain only far to the north, hidden among rugged canyons and wilderness. And this riparian landscape is foreign to me with its marshes and waterways, so different than my desert home.

The loop is short around Rocky Bay and the horse would keep on, but I have decided I no longer fit the places I’ve outgrown. I am ready to move and circle him back to camp.

Dex stands tied now as I remove the bridle and lean in to scratch his forehead. He tosses his head in response, pushing against my weight. I loosen the girth, unhook his breast collar then move to reverse the latigo and release him from his burden.

The ripples of a motored wake spread across the shore and the sound of an engine fades, only replaced by the flapping of wings. A solitary raven flying overhead – an arrow of his own intentions and a reminder of the world always before me but never really seen or heard. Never tamed.

And in this I know, nothing is the same and never will be again – scrappy jeans or not.


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