NONFICTION – Directions (McCowan and Faulkner, or This Rider and Her Daemon) by Brian Michael Barbeito

Where the two meet the one turns into the other. Both streets are real. The latter is the actual name of the street McCowan turns into as it shows a driver or walker a right angle, though for years I did not look at the street sign. I knew the directions in another way, that practical manner where someone is prone to say, Oh, I know how to get there by going there. Myriads of forms of life jostle and vie for position in the springtime. Wild shrubs announce themselves and they have actual purple arms. Even in leftover puddles a water spider can find itself. The tree line as you walk down one of the paths is still damaged from a big storm, vexatious storm, a storm pedestrians still speak of because there was nothing pedestrian about it. So much interesting dirt exchanged on the dirt paths. A lady was lost. She was elderly, had taken a fall trying to get back before the sheets really came down. It took hours to find where she had gone. Or, the police look with their yellow tape there, under the hawks and the pastoral sun, because a skull had been found. But as I went there that morning, it was something else that was seen. More nuanced than a storm or an injured and kindly aged soul. And it came and went quicker than a skull or search party or Johnny Law and his tape. It was something I saw that shall keep me seeing or seeking to see. A gift. A blossom. A vision that was not second sight or metaphysical but real. This happened amidst everything else. Everything is always happening at once. If you slip away into the mosaic of everything one of two things will result. Craziness or Enlightenment. And maybe one is not so different than the other. In the meantime, here is what I saw.

I was among the regular mix of folks that let their dogs go to run.  There is a pond at the bottom of the path. There is some of the suburban set there. Yoga pants. Clean nails. Quiet docile breeds by their sides. A rougher group also, more honest and salt of the earth. Most of those smoke. They are easier to talk to. Less airs. Less affected. Neither is perfect. Even the tree line is not perfect, damaged from the storm, but still some coy cumulus go wander out beyond there. There are horse people also, and these are a prepossessingtype if you ask me. She was one of those and a quick moment announced her, coming out from verdant thickets, but with a difference. She had a back straighter than the rest, as if her posture was half from physical health and half from a sort of psychic prowess.

I saw that this lady had something sticking out of her hair, in the back. I said to the one I was with, What is in her hair? There is something in her hair, and the horse also wears a decorative mask. And then I answered my own question as the horse and rider turned to the side. There are feathers in her hair. Black feathers. It looks like something out of a movie, but it is not a movie. Some lady had found a proud horse, black glistening by the afternoon star. Some lady had found her own self, her daemon, and either avoided the world or transcended it. No, she negotiated it with style. Only lip service or knee jerk rebellion was usually pronounced, if you could find a chance to pronounce it, against malls or television culture or societal mores that strait-jacketed most all. The urban and the rural are in an uneasy relationship as sprawl and heavy footed progress tries to overwhelm. Some of the ones city born like me and so many others, have reverence for green and wild and path. Yet, we don’t know it like a lover. We have had other lovers, and tasted other forms of dirt. These wide spaces and labyrinthine ravines, these loams that wait at the edges of fields and receive rains, – they know something and are something. What they know and what they are can’t be understood in a day or a week or with a cursory glance. They don’t lend themselves to the perfunctory. You have to do the work. This rider. I could see, though I am nobody to see, that she had done work.  This one, with far looking brown eyes surveying the tree line, that nodded at something, that carried something about her, was an inspiration. Moxy. Verve. Even nerve. Someone had skirted the kitsch and banality of Sunday drives and went through the valley and glen, the river tumbled stone and water, not as a tourist in their own life. It was as if the rider had married a path long ago and was pregnant with the progeny of guts instead of glamour. Soon after her horse drank some more, they both went off in the direction they had come from. They knew how to get there, wherever there was, by going there. And I stayed. I was left with the rest.

Brian Michael Barbeito is a Canadian writer. He is a two time Pushcart nominee with work that has appeared in various print and electronic publications. He is the author of the book Chalk Lines, [FOWLPOX PRESS, cover art by Virgil Kay (2013)].

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