All the last few days a quote from a poem by Michael Ondaatje has been circling round and round my head like a bird coming in to roost, flying out again from behind bushes and ambushing me softly in the midst of carrying fence posts, hosing off horses, tacking, untacking, lunging, listening to Rupert’s wonderful explanations laying out a map before me-
‘I don’t know what this love is
but I refuse to loose it…’
How ‘loose’ (to let something go)- and ‘loose’ (to have lost) have the same spelling and are therefore indistinguishable…
Sarah picks me up at the airport. “Sorry I’m late.” She says. “The baby Ibex got out and I had to catch him before I could leave.” It is then that I know that everything will be perfect. There is sheet lightning in the sky when we arrive at the Ranch. The fields and forest surrounding it- the whole spirit of the place- will remain a mystery to me until dawn. I stand on the porch smelling the air. The heat and dryness smells the same as high desert Oregon, except that something is different. It’s not until the first drops of rain hit the ground and move the layers of smell closer together that I realize it’s the smell of the earth itself that is unrecognizable. In the morning I see that it is red clay, and instantly a Gillian Welch song pops into my head- ‘With my red clay wings/ My red clay robe/ And a red clay halo for my hair. ‘ That is my introduction to this place.
Now, two weeks later, it is anything but a stranger. As I write this Nikki is feeding a lame baby goose at the kitchen table. “Maybe you just got the brains instead of the brawn” she tells him. Three dogs are sprawled out amongst our feet. Rabbits in the bedroom. Rats in the living room. Goats, chickens, deer, Ibex, ducks, and Guinea Hens tucked into their communal house for the night. My laundry is drying on the fence in the backyard, beyond which the horses nose through the slumped shadows of round bales. The stars are out. Texas at night is a beautiful lady you have to stay up late to see. She takes a long time getting dressed, and all through the long heat of the day she wears almost nothing at all. A necklace of Cicadas, the thinnest whisper of a shirt made of grasshopper wings. Strands of Green Briar twined around her ankles. But at dusk she sits at her night table and brushes out her hair, puts on a dark indigo robe that hides the cuts around her ankles and glides, smooth as water, out over the fields.