Chicago

*

“Just before you begin, say a prayer.” He says to me. “Do you want to know mine?”

I nod.

“I pray to let the story come through me. It’s not you that matters- it’s the story. That’s why your audience is there. Get out of the way so the story can come through you.” There is a ball of sun in the room at that moment. Its heat is soft and wraps me in its arms. The furniture is made of wax and leans towards centre. The space between.

“That’s really beautiful.”

I have just said yes again, this time to fly to Chicago to be Rupert Isaacson for 4 days. I said yes thinking I would be doing the riding parts in the workshop he was teaching; did not know I had agreed to intro his film at the first ever Equus Film festival and give his lectures and run the Horse Boy booth at the Festival of the Horse and Drum- AND that I would be going alone. “Good thing you bought my flight before I found out” I say, joking. Half joking. Excitement and terror spinning rounds in my heart.

I leave his house with his spurs in my hand, the right one completely bent out of shape by the warmblood mare who fell on him and broke his leg the day before. This is the reason why I am leaving instead of him.

“I’ll go if I can borrow your spurs.” I say to him. “I want to wear them on the plane.” (I dropped him off at the airport with spurs on his boots the last time he left, and could not believe security in Texas lets you fly with spurs. Rowelled ones too, apparently.) 

“Sure.” He says. “Take them. They’re still on my boots.” 

But in the end I don’t wear them, because I’m nervous that something will go wrong and someone will make me take them from me at check-in. The spurs become a talisman; the object of transformation that will make me him, the way a shaman puts on the heavy head of a buffalo in order to become the animal in a way that makes even his bones forsake their species. And I remember suddenly the statue I walked circles around last Sunday at ‘The Oasis’; one lean bronze brave becoming eagle, the other buffalo, each caught at the precise moment of transformation.  One world leaning into the next. 

“Maybe you’ll meet a boy.” Ru says. “Wear breeches. Then you have a better chance of a handsome Mexican putting you up on a Lusitano Stallion.” This is my life now. Powerpoint on my computer. ‘Live Free, Ride Free’ written across the back of my T-shirt. There have been so many open doors in the last few months and I have moved across the thresholds of them all without thinking. It’s as if I have re-encountered an art installation I once saw in the desert that was made out of old doors all framed together and rigged in such a way that when you closed one door another opened. Except this time all of the ropes have fallen away from the gearboxes and every single door is blown open as wide as it will go, and I’m moving through these open doors, my feet finding their way of their own accord, guided in a way that is precise and generous and of an immensity beyond my comprehension. 

*

The plane lands in Chicago. I grab a shuttle that takes me to the Advantage parking lot to pick up my car. I’m working my way through a to-do list one item at a time; a steady line of travel that will land me at the film screening this evening. I’m not panicking about the screening much, not yet. It’s far away, at the bottom of the list, and I’m not allowed to think about it until I get through all of the items before it. The car the rental place gives me is my own. The same one I left parked in a friend’s driveway in BC. Well, almost: it’s a Toyota Yaris instead of a Suzuki Swift, but the exterior and most of the interior is the same. It feels familiar in a very comfortable  way. Like those old jeans you slip on that remember, always, the shape of your legs. I drive the car to the fairgrounds and meet the organizer, Lisa, who gives me the info I need to check in at the hotel. And when I pull into the hotel parking lot and back into a space, I’m struck by the strangest feeling of familiarity. Why does it feel like I’ve done this a million times before? And then it hits me. The last time I was in the parking lot of a hotel it was to pull into a spot and sleep in my car. And the time before that. And the time before that. And the time before that. And the time before… And now I’m in the same car, except that this time the back is filled with two suitcases of merch instead of my bed and guitar and camp stove. I’m about to check into a hotel room for 3 nights, and then go to a film screening and introduce myself as Rupert Isaacson. If you told me I would be doing this a year ago, I would have not believed you. I would have said “Oh yeah, there was that movie…” And then told you to have another drink. 

And now, now-

Even the doors behind me are thrown wide open. 

“How a life is transformed.” My friend Shannon says to me. 

Winds blowing in from all across the world. 

About Kera Willis

Kera Willis is a writer, nomad and deep environmentalist who (as teacher/facilitator at Mountain Horse School in Pemberton BC, Canada) continues to share essays, bouts of myth making, and articles about the human equine relationship, rewilding our connection to the land, and the gifts of autism.
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