top of page

This ride's for you

Big Bend National Park, Texas

The first thing that changed was my hands. Short but clean nails are now dirty and ragged. Rings no longer fit; a clear but slow shedding of the life I lived before.

Then it was my hair. Any strand which dared grow longer than shoulder length split and broke into the wind like so much wasted hay. The desert is trying to take my skin now, but I fight her tooth and nail. She can eat you alive this desert, and I think she knows it.

But there is something magical which happens when the cell signal runs out along this never-ending highway - a weight off my shoulders, a lifting of the brow. I keep looking for words to describe it but there is nothing except this - I love disappearing. Every. Single. Time.

We arrive at dusk and in the morning I sit by the fire waiting for the sun to lend some warmth to the day. The dogs whine, frustrated at being leashed but a necessity at this park. The only other sound the horse grinding hay, his ears swiveling back and forth with some noise beyond my hearing.

I've ridden here before and the trails which used to seem long now seem less so and the horse traipses down this one full of what looks like river rock, worn by the passage of time before ours. Above a screen of clouds glazes over blue sky creating a watercolor effect on the land below.

And the desert is full of color today, full of purple prickly pear, bright green lechuguilla, dank creosote and mesquite mixed with rocks of a million earth colors. We ride into the draw and across the arroyo and a raven caws out as if protesting against the sound of hoofs interrupting his pristine morning.

In the distance, the Chimneys stand tall in their dusty orange cloak against this backdrop of muted colors and ridges. A single massive chasm in the background marking Santa Elena Canyon, soft and beautiful against the cloudy sky.

I dreamt last night my life was stolen. I searched and searched to get it back and finally found it altered and pimped like some TV show which never should have been. Unrecognizable. But in my pocket I held the key, and I walked into that den of thieves and took it back. Choice words were said.

It’s slow going today, but I’m okay with that. We amble along the path until we reach our destination and there run up to the trail along the base of these rocks. The ground is softer here in places with years of hardness fallen to the wayside and churned by mice and other small creatures but the trail becomes too boulder full so I rein the horse around and we descend to try another route.

Circling this outcropping from the desert floor I spy another possibility and dismount, tie the horse, and walk the base of these ancient sculptures – scouting the trail ahead. Now there is an opening and so I return to the horse slipping here and there in my riding boots and spurs, free him and slide my right leg over what’s become a well-worn and loved fender and down into the stirrup.

We bound up the incline again and find our mark, a brilliant display of those who came before preserved for generations.

Do you know what it is to get to the heart of things? To the core of it? To live in a mode of survival, remembering that’s really the important part after all. I do.

This place opens inside of me like a river flowing deep and hard and I can do nothing to stop it. It fills me and I want to be here and only here. To ride into the desert on a horse named Wildfire and disappear. Or maybe Dexter – who knows?

Ok, definitely Dexter.

This ride is for you.

1 Comment

Teresa Vento
Teresa Vento
Feb 15

Always beautifully written.

bottom of page