I think of being on top of my friend’s horse Mariah. Of riding Mariah on the fire trails of Topanga. Of being on the fire trails, riding fast, fast, so fast we are galloping, galloping up and down stretches of fire trails, not loping because loping is what she does, this gorgeous Arabian, down the switchbacks, on those barely there trails through the scrub, loping right into the reaching arms of sage and coyote brush, loping through clumps of yarrow and hemlock, anise and Queen Anne’s lace, no hesitation at all, charging under low branches of spreading oaks, me sitting on her back where I sit higher up even than in my Honda Element from where I can see over bridge railings that I can’t see over when I’m in the Honda Civic, like downtown crossing the 4th Street Bridge over the L.A. River, which going west has a sign that says “Keep Your Eyes On the Road” just before the sign which says “L.A. River,” which just goes to show who doesn’t want to watch the river, especially there, downtown where she sports mismatched bridges, which, by the way, cinched my love for her, the L.A. River, because isn’t she the perfect metaphor for the wildness of me, for each of us, contained, tamped down by society’s more important need to ensure that any one of us not overrun our boundaries and flood our neighbor with our urgency and so a bureaucracy or three, or probably our parents, one more than the other, most likely, figures a cement channel for us to flow our lives down, to keep us predictable, manageable, contained, and yes, with some luck, unharmed, but tamed all the same and yet, somehow, somehow wildness still grows in us so that somehow some trees and some shrubs and some birds, and especially my favorites, the white herons who still cling to Ballona Creek, insisting their long legs through the marshes the developers haven’t yet figured how to develop away so that a heron can still stand in a marsh and cast a shadow like a radial on a sundial and be like the timekeeper for everything that still lives in the river, and the marshes, and how the moon light and the sun light and, on the nights when there’s no marine layer, the faint city star lights still ripple and shine on the contained surface of our river, her lovers having come to caress her, our river, as sometimes our lovers remember to caress us, and we remember to caress them, and to assure her, and us, that her beauty, and our beauty, while altered, while having been subjected to horrors and indignities, still runs deep and that while there are places where only a ripple crosses our surface, the ripple remembers who we are and tickles us back into laughter, back into our memories of when our beauty was not only urban, back before it was urban and not yet encased in modern times’ hard urban edges where a river runs in a Portland cement trough with hard shoulders to caress her, hold her, and how she wears grocery carts as jewelry and graffiti as wardrobe.
I remember horseback riding in spring in the Santa Monica Mountains, grasping Mariah between my legs, afraid and happy, happy and afraid. Afraid I’ll fall. Happy and exhilarated to be afraid of falling, but not falling. Not falling. Flying. Soaring instead. Breathless. Mariah and I, we fly. I feel her humid warmth and hear the wings of her breath opening and closing between my legs. The sound of the thundering bellows that surround her heart. Her reins loose in my hands, I feel the reverberation of her hoofs on the trail, rhythmic and hard. I wrap my legs around her and hold her hard so I won’t fall. So I won’t fall. So that she will be held by me through my legs and we won’t fall. Leaning forward, only my legs touching her, I hold her. Trusting her, and trusting me, that in our wildness, we won’t fall, even though I can’t predict exactly where it is we’re going. Fast. Every-thing is fast. Green rushes by me. Yellow rushes by. Brown rushes by. Blue rushes by. And orange, too, rushes by. Hikers move out of our way and watch the blur of us. We are fast. Blurred and fast. My torso parallel to her neck. To her body. Only my legs touching her, gripping her with my thighs. We gallop at the front of a cloud of fire-trail dust. We let others eat it. Until, until we are exhausted, and stop to catch our breath. Until we wonder where we are now and some of our dust catches up to us, and sticks to us, as happens when things get stirred up. Until things settle back down, and until we, Mariah and I, satiated, saunter back to where we began, this time taking in the blues and oranges and browns and yellows and whites and greens because not everything in this world happens fast. And we feel each other. We feel full of having felt what we could never have felt by ourselves.