bab tales

Tales of Beauty, Adventure and Bravery for Golden Hearts

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Location: Colleyville, Texas, United States

Monday, August 01, 2005

The Girl and the Horse

Once upon a time I saw a girl standing in a field of green upon a hill over a meadow, and she was fair and carefree, exploring the beauty of the hills and the meadow but careful to keep herself clean. She wanted to be the best lil girl. And then I saw a horse standing across the way on another hill, and the horse was wild and free. And the horse began to neigh and bounce, running this way and that, seeming playful and gay. And then the horse saw the girl. And the girl saw the horse. And the horse began to run towards the girl. At first, the girl didn’t know what to think. Maybe the horse would be her friend. But as the horse got closer—which didn’t take long as the horse was swift—the girl saw that the horse was beautiful and terrible, and she was sore afraid. The horse seemed to have fire in its eyes and a storm in its nostrils. So she ran and was escaping the wild and dangerous horse—for she too was swift.

She ran and ran and ran until she reached the end of her world where there was a great cliff. She turned to find that the horse was now upon her, for the horse was indeed swifter than she, and determined to overtake her. Beside herself, she jumped. She fell and fell and fell until she hit the bottom of the canyon with a great crash.

When she came to, she realized one of her legs was broken. But at least, she thought, she was alive, and she wasn’t overcome by that dreadful horse. After a time, her leg healed up. And the girl said to herself, Girl, you’ve got to get back up to the top of that cliff. Surely that frightful horse is gone by now and the meadow is so wonderful, filled with beauty and adventures. And even if now you’re dirty and broken, it would still be wonderful to live in all that beauty. So she began to climb back up the cliff. She climbed and climbed and climbed until she finally reached the top. And behold, there was no horse, and the girl was happy, and she was more careful now, and she was just as fair.

Again she explored the beauty of that place. Days went by without a crisis. She had many friends—the birds, the trees, the little creatures making their living in the grass, the meadow, and beyond in the edge of the forest. And they loved her. And she loved them. It was simple, it was peaceful, and she felt like she was on top of the world again. But then one day the horse returned. She saw the horse first this time, for she was more careful now. So she lay down in the grass. Surely, she thought, the horse won’t see me from such a great distance, and then that treacherous creature will go away. But the horse seemed to know exactly where she was—whether by keen smell or sight, or by some intuition, the horse began to run at her even as she lay in the grass. The girl was terrified. She felt like throwing up! She felt jittery, like she would shake apart from the inside out! She steadied herself, thinking perhaps the horse has seen something else, and if she would lay still perhaps he would charge right by. But then the sobering truth settled in her heart—she was being hunted! She must begin her escape and begin quickly.

She ran and ran and ran until she reached the end of her world where there was a great cliff. She turned to find that the horse was now upon her, for the horse was indeed swifter than she, and determined to overtake her. Beside herself, she jumped. She fell and fell and fell until she hit the bottom of the canyon with a great crash.

When she came to, she realized that both of her legs were broken. But at least, she thought, she was alive, and she wasn’t overcome by that dreadful horse. But now she felt foolish. Why hadn’t she planned another escape route? Oh foolish girl, foolish girl, she scolded herself! If ever I heal, I will climb back to that beautiful place, and I will make sure that I never have to jump from this great cliff again—it hurts way too much, and it’s making a mess of me. After a time, her legs healed again, and the girl began to climb. So she climbed and climbed and climbed until she finally reached the top. And behold, there was no horse, and the girl was happy again, and she was even more careful now, and she was just as fair.

For her first order of business, she sought a new escape—she would do anything not to fall over that cliff again, and she knew now that even as wonderful and safe as she felt in that place, there would always be a return of that perilous horse. So she walked and walked and walked far and wide over all the meadow and the hills, searching for another escape, until finally she came to a great rose bush, growing to fifty feet high on a lattice. The girl thought it very strange indeed to find a lattice here in this meadow, and could not understand how or why it would’ve gotten there, or who would build such a thing in the middle of nowhere. But, she said to herself, you have found your escape—that horse won’t be able to climb the rose bush, but you can! You know you can because when you were on the bottom of that cliff you could climb and climb and climb until you reached the top!

Again she explored the beauty of that place, though not too far from the rose bush—she didn’t know when that horse might return, and she wanted to be sure to be near her escape. She felt a little sad that she wasn’t as free to roam and explore as she used to, but this almost felt like she was on top of her world. And the rose bush did smell sweet. After many days, the horse returned. As careful as she was, the girl didn’t see the horse until she was almost overcome. Perhaps she was paying too much attention to the roses. Whatever the case, the horse was running at breakneck speed directly at her, so she ran and ran and ran to the bush and climbed and climbed and climbed up the bush, but as she climbed the thorns pierced her fair skin. She cried and wept bitter tears for the thorns were sharp and they cut deep. The girl found herself unable to climb to the top of the bush for all the pain, so she just stopped and stared at the warm blood streaming down her arms and felt the warm tears streaming down her cheeks. This is dreadful—I should think it’s more dreadful than the horse! The horse! She had forgotten all about the horse. In an instant her mind raced to and fro—perhaps it was the intensity of the pain bringing her thoughts into heightened focus—she thought of the horse waiting for her at the bottom, she wondered how long the horse had waited for her atop the cliff before deciding to leave—she realized how foolish she was to climb the rose bush where she wouldn’t be able to stay long for the muscles in her arms would give out after a time—she thought of a million other things she would’ve, could’ve and should’ve done—all this she thought in a few brief seconds. Now she looked down to see if the horse was still waiting for her, but no horse was to be seen. So she looked and looked and looked for the horse, groping through the rose bush, smarting with every move.

Still there was no horse, so she decided to climb down. She climbed and climbed and climbed until she reached the bottom, every step, every placement of her hand bringing torture. Oh foolish girl, she said to herself! You shouldn’t have done that—that was more terrible than the horse! Well, how could she know that? And then she realized that at least the pain from the thorns was predictable. It was better after all than the falling from the cliff and breaking her legs. And at least the cuts and scrapes and bruises of the rose bush would heal and the blood dry up. Also, she knew now that the horse wouldn’t wait long for her if she climbed that bush—or at least that’s the way it seemed.

Again she explored the beauty of that place, though very close to the rose bush—she didn’t know when that horse might return, and wanted to be very near her escape. She didn’t feel too sad that she wasn’t as free to roam and explore as she used to—she was learning to forget how wonderful it was to live in all that beauty and adventure. And after all, she had the rose bush, and it did smell sweet.

One day, she decided to pick a rose for herself—they were so beautiful and what a pity that they should live and die without ever being plucked free and enjoyed by someone who had the ability to truly appreciate such a beautiful creature. As careful as she was plucking it, she still pricked her finger. She first jumped back and cried ouch! Foolish girl! You should be more careful! But then the pricks of her fingers reminded her of her escape from the fierce and terrible horse with fire in its eyes, and the remembering summoned a feeling of control, a feeling of safety, a feeling she didn’t want to be without. From time to time, she would pluck roses and swathe them for herself to enjoy, and she would always be careful to prick herself at least once to remind her that she always had an escape from the dreadful beast. But she felt ashamed to prick her fair skin that way—something in her was trying to cry out that this wasn’t meant to be, that there must be another way, but that little voice sounded like the muffled cry of a little girl suffocating under a pillow or at the bottom of a deep well. The girl decided never to tell anyone that she had done this on purpose, not until the horse had long since died and the rose bush withered to the ground and her beautiful skin was healed and all the scars gone. And maybe not even then.

From time to time, she would see the horse charging at her again, and she would climb her bush—her bush it was now—so much hers she felt like it was an extension of her very self. But over time she saw the horse less and less until finally she thought perhaps she had seen the last of it, but she was wise enough now to know that that kind of thinking was a trap! She knew the horse would return when she least expected, and the bush was her best friend.

It was boring for the girl who was chained to her bush—her best friend—for there was no meadow or hills to explore, no other creatures nearby, no beauty and no adventure. So she decided to busy herself. She wrote poetry and songs about the adventures she used to have and the ones she would have some day, and of course about the blessed roses and their wonderful pricking thorns. But soon enough, she ran out of things to write, and she realized that she could not give what she didn’t have. Then she said to herself, Girl, there’s more to life than just sitting by a rose bush and singing the same old songs to yourself over and over and over. You need to think of all the starving and hurting people in the world that have never had beauty or adventures or even a warm meal. You need to plant a garden and grow food to feed others, and share with them your poems and songs and essays and novels.

So she dug and dug and dug a garden, always looking over her shoulder and taking care to return daily to the rose bush for a prick or two. She planted all sorts of fruits and vegetables, in dazzling array she set her table, and the little people who always wander the edge of the woods heard tell—maybe the birds spread the news—and they visited the rose-girl for feeding and refreshment. She built a large fire and kept it going day and night to cook her stew and warm the feet of the weary travelers. She would listen to their woes and give them advice for their journey—and especially warn them to be careful to watch out for the monstrous horse. At dusk she would sing and read to them—some would listen but some were only interested in true tales of battle, adventure, and rescue. But even they were polite enough, and thanked her for sharing with them. Some took her advice, most did not, but all ate and enjoyed her fire.

One day a traveler noticed all the scars on her hands and arms, and he stared at them, and he cried for her. When she asked him why he was crying, he only reached out and rubbed her beautiful skin, and kissed each of her scars. Then he kissed her on the forehead, rubbed her golden head, and whispered, “Who did this to you?” “What, these?” she scoffed, “these are just my clumsy pokes where I wasn’t careful enough in picking the roses. Here, I’ll pick you one.” As she took the rose to him, she didn’t even notice that her hand was bleeding, but the traveler did. He took her hand, kissed her bleeding wound, and whispered to her, “It’s supposed to hurt.” She was stunned. She changed the subject, “You there, would you like some more stew? I was just telling my friend here how much I enjoy serving and serving and serving all of you blessed children—I haven’t even a concern for myself any more—it’s so wonderful to be beyond the pains and cares of this world.” But inside she was crying, begging, straining to listen for that little girl’s voice inside. But it was gone. And so was the traveler.

One day as the girl was plucking roses, she noticed that she was pricking her fingers, but they were not even bleeding any more. Oh dread! she thought, now what am I to do? I haven’t seen the horse in ever so long, but the horrible thing is sure to return, and what will I do if I’ve forgotten my escape and wandered from my refuge, my precious rose bush? I must find the tender parts, I must find a way to remember the sense of control! I must find new ways to bleed! Oh dread! She couldn’t think of a sure way to always prick her beautiful skin in the course of her daily affairs, so she decided she must be more deliberate, more extreme. She would write it down to remember to do something that would bring the pain she needed to remember. She would use her fingers to stoke the fire rather than a stick, for the pain of that would remind her, too. She would climb the bush, for that brought the most pain of all and was without fail the best way to ensure something would be poked and bleed. So the girl decided to climb the rose bush on odd days, and on even days to use a new finger to stir the fire. So she stoked and stoked and stoked until her fingers were blistered and charred, and then she climbed and climbed and climbed until her arms were red and her cheeks were wet, and she again felt something like being on top of her world, but mostly something very unlike it.

After doing this so long, she could no longer even feel the fire or the thorns, and there was nothing left but to do nothing. She was perfectly miserable. And tired. What is the point of all this, she thought? I may as well be dead! I have missed the beauty of the fields and the adventure of my world for the sake of this stupid bush and these ungrateful people. Climbing and bleeding and cooking and crying for days and days and days until nothing is left for me but misery and numbness and solitude. You are my only friends, you sweet bush—putrid bush—and warm fire—wicked fire. If only I had been killed by the horse, at least that would have been something—at least it would have been an exciting way to die, instead of watching my life run down my arms and down my cheeks, drained away like time leaking out of some incessant ticking clock!

The girl laid as if dead for days and days and days, wondering if she would ever move again. She didn’t remember the pain of the thorns or the terror of the horse or the pain of her broken legs from her falls. Finally, she said to herself, Girl, what are you doing here by this bush? At least you should go back to the meadow and to the hills and roam once more before being tortured and killed by the horse. At least you have the cliff there—it hurts more than the thorns and who knows—maybe you’ll get lucky and die from the fall and end all this misery.

So she decided to go back to the meadow and the hill, so she walked and walked and walked until she arrived. And when she arrived, she found it to be more delightful than she had ever remembered, the way the sun winked at her through the clouds, the way the air itself was light and sweet and fresh like spring rain, the way the little winged creatures flitted effortlessly from flower to flower, the way the ground runners darted here and there, playing with each other and looking hopefully but warily at her—for they almost recognized her under her marred skin, limpy legs, weary eyes, and torn clothes. She almost lost herself in all this, but then she was slapped with a horrifying thought—the horse knew about this place and will surely find her. The horror passed when she realized it was for this very death she came back, but the delight never returned—she couldn’t shake the thought from her head, it’s too late for you, girl. You’ve ruined your body and wasted your life at the bush, and now all that is left is to die.

She waited and waited and waited for the horse to return, but on and on and on time dragged, without a sight of the great muscles, a sound of that rushing snort, a terror of those fiery eyes, a threat of those dreadful hooves. After a while, the girl thought that perhaps the horse was dead. And strangely enough, she was a little sad about that. After all, this was to be her last great fling. Before she knew it she was crying. She said to herself, Girl why on earth are you crying? You finally got your wish! No more horse! Nothing but you and this place! You could go anywhere! You could do anything now without the fear of that terrible beast haunting you, stalking you, lying in wait to pounce on you unaware. This should be the happiest day of your life! But it wasn’t, and she couldn’t hear her little girl’s voice. And there was no one to offer counsel or consolation. She was alone. And inside, her spirit had died.

She could do nothing now, not enjoy the sunrise, or the sunset, or the critters, or the grasses, or the flowers, or the hills, or the water, or the meadow. All that was left was to lay on her back and gaze and gaze and gaze toward the heavens hoping that death would take her and someone might find her and bury her so that her spirit and her body could be reunited in a tomb. As she had just completed this thought, she heard in the distance someone running, no something running, perhaps it was not feet but hooves, yes it was definitely hooves, and they were speeding up, faster and faster, louder and louder. Dread filled her from head to toe—she was stunned—the sick feeling returned. Then she remembered herself and her hope to finally be free from this miserable existence was rekindled. She rose to her feet and prepared to brace herself, but it was too late. The horse was already upon her, his wild hair slapping the wind! Mere yards away, he made the most frightful face and narrowed his fiery eyes, opened his mouth wide, and yelled out the most ferocious neigh she could ever have imagined! She froze! Had she any life left in her she would have surely fainted! Still the horse approached at breakneck speed to trample her under foot, making a quick work of her death! But then, as if by magic, he stopped.

He whinnied. He pranced around her gaily. He nudged her with his soft, warm nose while he circled her several times. At each circle, he moved closer and closer. She could smell the sweat and feel the heat from his body until he was finally at rest against her. She wasn’t sure if the horse was leaning on her or she the horse, but she could feel his sweaty coat and smell his wild, powerful scent. And then, she began to cry. Still the horse stood. Now she was sobbing. The horse picked up his foot and dropped it again, sighing heavily, the massive girth of his barrel pulsing with every breath. Now she was wailing. The horse shuddered and neighed. When she had wailed every tear from her eyes and every moan from her soul, she fell quiet. At last, the horse spoke.

“Why have you spent your whole life running away from me?”

Unnerved to hear the horse speak, the girl backed away as quickly as she could, and gazed with wonder upon this strange, powerful beast who now not only frightened her, but also wooed her with his words. “I…I…I was afraid,” she said.

“And rightly so,” said the horse, “I am beautiful and terrible, am I not?”

“You are.”

“Dreadful, relentless, powerful, exhilarating, wild, and treacherous, no?”

“You are all those things and more:” said the girl, “I was afraid you would kill me, afraid you would disturb my peaceful life, afraid of the way you would show up at the worst times, afraid to make any plans or promises for fear that you would again show up to completely undo me!”

“So you ran?”

“I ran.”

“And you hid?”

“I hid.”

“And you fell, and you climbed?”

“I fell and I climbed.”

“And you plucked the roses and stoked the fire?”

“I pierced my skin and burned my hands.”

“And you busied yourself?”

“I busied myself to forget the life I had lost.”

“Pity,” the horse finally said.

“Yes, pity. Pitiful me.”

“No,” said the horse, “Pity that you don’t even know my name.”

“Your name? Oh, goodness—I…what…I suppose you do have a name—you can talk after all. Well, forgive me, but what is your name?”

“My name is Passion.”

“Oh. Goodness. Of course. You’re everything I’ve lost, everything I’m not. Of course you are Passion.”

“I am everything you have run from. But how can I be everything you have lost? I am after all right in front of you. What an odd thing to say.”

“Well, I mean that I have lost my passion.”

“And now you have found him. My dear, I am your Passion.”

“My? What? How?”

“I am the wildness you’re afraid to set free. I am the beauty you’re afraid you can’t be. I am the fierce love of a violent embrace, and I am the gentle wisp of wind on your face.”

“You are my Passion?”

“Or, if you please, call me Romance. Or, you could call me Wild. Or,” he seemed to grin, “call me Crazy. Ah, I’ve been called so many wonderful names, but I am Passion.”

“Oh this is all so confusing, but…Wait a minute! How is it that you can talk? You’re a horse.”

“Some say the Wind is my voice. I don’t know. I have neither the time nor the desire to answer all that can be answered, nor any that cannot.”

“Oh. Well…well…well this is all just so confusing, but—”

“But not, eh? Oh, Girl, Girl you have been so afraid to embrace me, or I would have swept you off your feet to the greatest adventures, beyond your control, beyond your wildest dreams.”

“Well, I’m not sure I—”

“I would have taken you across the canyon into which you fell and broke your beautiful legs.”

“Oh, but everyone knows there is no way over the canyon!”

“No way over? My dear, where do you think I’m from?”

“Oh! I assumed you were from the same place as me—this meadow, these hills. But of course you’re not from here—you’re…different from me…you come and you go… unannounced. Do tell me where you are from.”

“Yes, I do come and go unannounced and unbidden. I am from the land of Cor, across the canyon. Or, as some call it, the land of Heart. And if you ever want to go, there is but one way. I must bear you across.”

“Oh, so you can fly?”

“Yes. I can fly. Or, you may call it that. Let’s say I can bound high enough and far enough to span the gap.”


“Goodness? You have no idea.”

“Oh, is it wonderful there?”

“It is better than you can imagine. And there is more.”


“I can pick the roses for you without getting stuck.”

The girl cried. And she cried. And she cried. She felt humiliated, wasted, undone, and ashamed.

“Cheer up,” said the horse, “We’ve got a lot of living left to do. And the Wind does wonders for scars…and memories.”

She looked up, empty yet beginning to fill, dead yet beginning to finally live. The icy sheets of disbelief were slowly beginning to melt away. She looked into the fierce eyes now facing her, and as she walked closer and closer to him, he walked closer and closer to her until they were nose to nose. There were so many things she wanted to ask, so many things she wanted to explain, so many things she wanted to understand, so many things she wanted to get a handle on. She wanted to know if she could depend on him to be there for her if she joined him, but there were no guarantees. She wanted to know if she could count on him to come with an announcement and never ruin her plans, but looking in his eyes, she knew that his coming and his going would be at his choosing, not hers. She gazed for what seemed a lifetime into his eyes, struggling with the biggest decision of her life—was this it? Was this her last chance? Would he ever come again? Would the offer still be good? Would she have to give up her life in the meadow? What…how…oh, when…where…but, why…? All of her questions were swallowed up by a single new question that seemed to form in the depths of her soul, even seemed to be given birth in that moment, even it seemed that the reason she was born was to give birth to this question, the question she was made to answer. As the question took on form and became words, she noticed in the fierce eyes still gazing into her own a new sparkle, or no, it was a sparkle that had been there all along, the sparkle of excitement, even pleasure, or perhaps thrill, titillation, enchantment, intoxication, felicity, rhapsody, no, it was ecstasy. Life and death met in those fierce eyes, love and hate, beauty and terror. She now realized that it was her fear that kept her from seeing this before, but as she stood face to face with the Terrible Beauty who was engaging her, even embracing her with his eyes, she stood face to face with her own reflection that she had so eagerly and willingly turned away from before. And her question was this, “Who am I kidding? This is the only life worth living. This is why I was born. All that I had hoped for, all that I tried, and all that I wanted to be is dead. I no longer want to die, but to live—from the tips of my toes to the top of my head I will live from my heart leaving all else for dead. I shall never be called again timid, afraid, but will ride on the Wind with my Passionate Aide.”

There was no bargain to be made, no deal to be cut. She knew the offer was but one, and he would accept no terms from her. And she now realized that she wasn’t making a decision at all—had her decision not already been made, she would never have seen deep into those fiery eyes.

“But I might get hurt.”


“But I might die.”


“It’ll be dangerous.”


“What if you go somewhere I am not ready to go?”

“I may, and you should be prepared to appeal to the Wind, for only the Wind controls me. I am more powerful than you—in fact I am your power, your gift from the Wind to finish your race, to become your destiny. But apart from the Wind, I am nothing, and neither are you. So we are in this together, you and I, that is, if we are to live. And if there is no life, then all of this, all of us, is nothing but a lie—a fruitless chase after the wind. Ride with me, Girl. Ride the Wind. Embrace the life you were born to live.”

“Yes, I will ride.”

And the girl and the horse had many adventures—beautiful ones, terrible ones, delightful ones, painful ones. Many joys they shared, many pleasures they knew, many losses they suffered, many victories they won. They spoiled many enemies, and graced many a humble one. They played joyfully, loved fiercely, fought valiantly, bled righteously, wept earnestly, gave freely, walked humbly, rested peacefully, and in the end, they most certainly lived happily ever after.

Copyright © 2005 by Steve Coan All rights reserved. Written permissions must be secured from the publisher to reproduce any part of this story, except for brief quotations in critical reviews or articles. Published by Steve Coan, 1909 Ashton Court, Colleyville, Texas 76034


Blogger bluesbaby said...

This just made me cry and cry and cry, because it's me and no-one ever put it quite like that before. I can't really write more on that because it's still making me cry. It is rare that someone has ME speeachless.

12/10/06 12:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just need to thank you for writing this story. You have no idea how God used it to set me free. So much of what he has been saying to me as of late about my art and music and writing began here. I felt guilty for wanting that and foolish and childish and immature for wanting to do those very "trivial" things with my time. This story is etched in my mind and when I start straying from myself for fear, I see that rose bush before me. That is no way to live. Not for me. I really wanted to share that with you because, I imagine that, like myself, your heart is to be part of setting people free with the art that you put out into the world. So that being said, you have done a very good thing in taking the time to craft this story and share it with others. I hope you will continue to use this gift because it really blesses people.

3/12/06 10:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alessandro Manzoni said that
"Opportunism is the art to sail with the wind produced by others." This is something very different than "Passion, driven by the wind."

These two approaches make me wonder, is there opportunism in passion? If it is, is opportunism so bad then? Maybe is opportunism the ultimate way of listening to our next?

However, I am at least once every year on the Aeolian Islands, the Islands of my childhood, the Islands of the Winds, the Islands who Odysseus once came to, fighting Poseidon on his travel back home to Itaca. I love these Islands like my mother, who left me, there.

Maybe this is the reason I created "Aeolians, the People of the Winds" without really seing how this fitted to my posts and seeking in them. Your poem gave me an explanation, a new meaning of this! I am this one. :)

I believe one must let the soul be driven by the winds, yes. But be careful, passion hurts and not only yourself. I am and I have been a passionate lunatic, a passion driven idiot who forgot he had children and wife looking for him. I hope they will be able to forgive my absence one day. I miss them.

Brandon led me to Melissa, who led me here. Thank you.

19/3/07 3:54 PM  

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