From age five to age fifteen, I spent most of my summers with my grandparents. They lived in a small town in Tennessee where most of the community were farmers. Even those who technically didn’t live on a farm still had vegetable gardens or berry patches. And those like my grandparents – who didn’t have farm animals – always had a stray cat or two running around their yard.
My grandmother was an expert canner and I tried to become an expert cat wrangler. I failed miserably. There were a couple of summers when I was greeted by a new litter of kittens living under the crawl space of the back shed but I never – not even once – was able to get close enough to pet any of them. They were wild to the core and were obviously extremely wary of humans.
My grandmother’s sister lived nearby and I always enjoyed going to her house to visit. She lived on a real farm with chickens and goats and cows and horses! The first – and unfortunately the last – times I ever rode a horse was at my grandmother’s sister’s house. And that means – I haven’t ridden a horse since I was fifteen.
I don’t even think I could ride one today. Or maybe I could – maybe it’s like riding a bike: they say you never forget how. Somehow I doubt that though.
I think the “civilized” parts of us – the parts we learn, like riding a horse or proper canning techniques or multiplying polynomial formulas or reciting Newton’s laws of physics – take a back seat in the ride through everyday life. And because we tend not to use those learned parts of ourselves, we forget them.
But the “wild” parts of us – call it instinct or intuition – are always there. They can go unused but never completely unlearned. Because we didn’t learn them in the first place. They just always were.
And sometimes, I swear, I can see that spark still in the eyes of our domesticated pets – our horses, our dogs, our cats. That gleam of the eye that looks … beyond. They weren’t always domesticated; they used to be wild and free. Just like those kittens who lived under the crawl space of my grandparent’s shed.
And sometimes, I swear, I look into the eyes of my dog and I think, “I know. I know. I want to run free too.”