Here we see the cycle of life played out before us on our wide screen TV we call the kitchen window. Now, I sit at the kitchen table, looking out at a spring storm, soft and wet and warm, covering my mountain once again in white. I see the horses milling around, working at their breakfast, a calmness amongst them in the gently falling snow, so unlike their tension that builds in the wind. Tres is there with them, so fat and full, ready to go… maybe in the snow.
Every day from my window, I watch the seasons come and go, the weather change, the cycle of life on the mountain folding and unfolding with every noticeable change in angle of sunlight coming through this window as I cook, and clean, and wash the dishes, and sit down with my family to eat and talk and work at the kitchen table. So much goes on around me. I can’t always be out there, a part of it. And I think there are some lessons I can only learn from being here, not in it, but watching it, life unaffected by “me.” Here, I’m just the silent observer. The student of life, inside looking out.
I watch the birds return to the mountain after their southern sabbatical, finding their feeder full and rewarding themselves after their long journey. I watch the leaves turn golden, then stripped from the trees by the wind and snow, leaving the branches naked and exposed for more than half the year. And in another couple of months (yes, our leaves will not emerge until the first of June), I will watch the little green leaves slowly surface and spread softly over the tree tops. I watch storm clouds build to the west and make my weather predictions accordingly.
From this window, I see the results of the blood, sweat, and tears of my husband, my son, myself. Building a dream, building a family, our home, our business. Battling against forces resisting of change. Inevitable change. Life is all about change. Every building and fence and man made structure I see from my chair at this table, we built with our own hands, our own plans. I am grateful for the loving friends and family who have helped us at times, as well.
It’s a rewarding view, to see how much we have done, how much we have built, how much we have given to this ranch, to this land, to this mountain. The chicken coop, the tack shed, the round pen, the corrals, the gardens, the planted spruce trees, the coyote fence, hay shed, wood shed, foaling shed… the very house in which I am sitting, so comfortable and warm and content.
Watching from my window, I have seen foals born, and horses die. I have watched a herd growing, learning, relating, interacting with each other. This has been my schooling, in a way. I have learned and am learning from my silent observation post. I am studying the horses we have chosen to keep up here for the winter. Possibly these are the lucky ones, to be under such watchful care and attention. Perhaps the rest of our herd is luckier, down in the valley on pasture, running free and wild, able to live and die unnoticed, left to fend for themselves, be “real” horses. We call these ones, the horses out my window, the Winter Herd. The stallion, four of his mares, two of his yearlings. All able to interact and run and eat and sleep and play and fight with each other as a true herd. I see them learn from each other, teach each other, and this has been for me the greatest book on horsemanship I can imagine. It’s real, it’s there, it’s clear, and it’s beautiful to me. They are remarkable animals, predictable, understandable, honest. Without the pride and ego and greed of humans. I observe the herd, how they work things out, so simple, so clear. Direct in their communications, with instant forgiveness. Sticking together, working together, all with their backs to the wind in a storm, or lined up like a row of sundials as the sun light first clears the mountain the east, running together away from something frightful or unknown, or lying together so closely in the warmth of mid day.
I could go on forever sharing with you the lessons I have learned from the kitchen window, watching the horses interplay. The answers are not always what I have read in the books. I question my observations, perhaps the books have the right answers. But what I see is real, and true, and it works. And perhaps I learn that some answers are right here before me.
Of course I would rather be out there with them, but you know, it is different then. Their behavior then focuses around me, excited for food perhaps, and attention, and lessons and grooming. I receive their interest, their respect, their best behavior. But I am not of their herd. I am no horse, and they know that. I am this figure that comes and goes throughout their day. A welcome site, I like to think, as they follow me around like the Pied Piper I feel like at times. But my presence changes their behavior, becomes their focus as long as I am out there with them.
The windows allow me to observe unnoticed, undisturbing of their true nature. Lessons there for the learning if you take the time to look. And I do. Until the last light of the day when I can no longer see outside from the bright lights we turn on in our cabin.
There you have it, the cycle of life observed from a kitchen window. Life coming and going, building and falling, growth and change, beauty and sadness. We can not always be out there, a part of it, calling the shots and controlling the plays. Every now and then, we need time spent inside looking out. Time to reflect upon the world around us.