One weekday morning, years ago, I arrived home after a demoralizing job interview. Pulling up to the mailbox, I removed the usual bills plus an ominous looking notice from the bank, and shivered. The Southern Michigan day, damp and chilly, matched my mood.
At the top of our driveway, my Paint gelding peered over his gate at me. Geronimo was my guilty pleasure, my single extravagant indulgence in a shaky economy. He raised his foot and tapped the gate, asking for a ride. I felt inspired; why not?
In the house I tossed the mail unopened on the desk. Peeling my business clothes off, I tossed them and the memory of that wretched interview in a corner of the bedroom. Pulling on riding jeans, a tee, and a loose flannel shirt, I grabbed my boots and a jacket and headed out the back door.
The barn never fails to console me. Its scent of grains and hay mixed with animal sweat and leather is an elixir that both relaxes and invigorates me. I found Geronimo pacing in his pen. I approached with the halter and he dropped his head eagerly into it.
I brushed him quickly, picked his hooves, smoothed the blanket over his withers, and saddled him up. Swinging astride, I felt the knots of anxiety in my body beginning to ease. I guided my gelding toward the recently picked field across from our property.
Our neighbor, the farmer, had given us free access to his land. Crossing the road, I noticed Geronimo’s eyes and ears focusing on a flock of wild Canada geese that were gleaning edible bits from the field. I wondered how these notoriously shy birds would react to sharing the field with us. I expected them to scatter as we approached, but instead they watched us curiously, moving calmly aside as we passed among them, their heads as high as the bottom of my stirrups.
By now Geronimo’s attention had moved from the geese to the far end of the field, some quarter of a mile away. Tightening my legs and lifting the reins, I signaled him to trot. He accelerated instead into a lope, snorting and blowing, drawing the sweet smell of damp earth and crisp air deep into his chest.
He was ready to run! If I let him dictate our pace, however, he’d be hard to control, so I brought him back down to a trot. Geronimo telegraphed his frustration by tossing his head.
I grinned. “Easy, boy.”
At the far end we trotted back and forth, then picked up a canter. We headed back toward the road, the geese drifting like a living cloud around us.
Back at the beginning of the field, I turned Geronimo again, tested the saddle, then leaned forward. His leap into a full gallop was as smooth as any automatic transmission, and I laughed for pure joy. As we flew across the ground, I exulted in my horse’s high spirits, his love of movement, our symmetry, his raw power and strength. Meanwhile, the geese around us broke into a cacophonous symphony, seeming to share the moment with us.
That night, when my husband arrived home and asked how my day had gone, thoughts of bills and interviews were far from my mind.
“I rode through a field of wild geese,” I told him, smiling.
DeVonna R. Allison is a writer whose most recent work is in a newly released Chicken Soup for the Soul anthology. She also recently won the Southern California Genealogical Society’s memoir contest. DeVonna lives in Southern Michigan with her husband of 32 years and their three dogs, one cat, four hens, and an old goat.