I'm layered in wool - head to foot - and can feel the sting of the elements only on my face, only when walking into the wind. The blessed fur-lined "Mad Bomber" hat buffers the bitter wind making that fierce winter element almost a friend. Around my waist I wear the rope attaching me to the toboggan, a walking stick provides additional stability and traction as needed. I advance, like a mule in harness and the load slides along behind me. I'm leading, breaking trail in the deep snow, Kevin follows in my path. Soon we will need snowshoes for a task such as this.
|Your author, in a photo from a previous winter at the Ravenseyrie Sorraia Mustang Preserve|
The horses knew we would come...there they are! At the edge of the forest, shapely equine shadows move, anticipating the delivery of dried summer. How beautiful the snow!...so much gentler on the lee side of this particular wooded region of the Ravenseyrie Sorraia Mustang Preserve.
|Kevin gathers up the empty toboggans|
|One last cookie delivered to the young Sorraia stallion, Sedutor, and Kevin turns to head back to the house in the wind and snow|
|The horses often move from pile to pile...if the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, maybe the next hay pile is, too!|
|Sorraia stallion Altamiro, showing striping made of snow and skin folds...I daresay seal skin isn't any warmer a pelt than Sorraia fur must be!|
|The light in the window of our little home in the wilderness...how welcoming in a storm!|
|Through the trees, Kevin follows the trail back to the house|
In no time, my hands grow numb...but I have a simple, reliable remedy. I gather my cape around me and sit in the snow, leaning against a tree trunk. I fold my arms over my chest and slide hands up sleeves, left to right, right to left, skin on skin, under knitted warmth. Some of the horses look at me, quizzically. The sounds of wind gusting in the open seem far away. Snow melts on my nose, undisturbed. Somewhere deeper in the forest a Chickadee song rides over the masticating sounds of dried grasses being consumed by our bachelors. In one sense the world shrinks down to this and nothing more, with a blue shimmer one feels more than sees...yet at the same time my body expands as if it has assumed the width of the entire bluff and beyond. And my hands tingle with heat.
|How beautiful bleakness can be!|
Look there! What a fantastic composition that is! The camera and I return to the pleasure of documenting how beautiful bleakness can be.
Not everyday has a wicked winter wind. On calmer days the horses prefer their hay in the open regions. And they continue to graze and browse. No matter how deep the snow, these elemental Sorraia horses (and Jerry the mule and Zeus the Thoroughbred) find extra things to eat. If no fences existed and the entire bluff were available to them...they would have no need of hay at all. The landscape provides for all their needs, and while wintertime is not lush with green edibles, it does not leave its wild inhabitants without resources for survival.
|When not eating hay, the horses dig for forage beneath the snow|
|Snow, but no wind, breakfast in the open|
|Ousado and his herd mates are perfectly outfitted to enjoy breakfast with the snow falling|
Some winter days yield up the kind of beauty that can only be found because of the brittle cold, the bleak austerity and challenges of the season. Yesterday, as the dawn touched the bluff, my camera sought out more scenes of life at Ravenseyrie to share with you...a desire to shift the perception of those readers who feel little but fear and loathing when winter comes. I want you to see what I see, feel what I feel...winter is a fabulous time of year!
|It is -23°C as dawn comes to Ravenseryie|
|All the colts know Kevin keeps cookies in his pockets for them|
|Four Ravens in the Zen Elm seem to wait, just as I am, for the sun to come up over the east tree line|
|And just then, the Ravens take flight!|
|Frost, yet untouched by the fingers of the sun|
|Then the sun reaches out, like a burning fire!|
|Hawberry bushes covered in frost become something "other" when touched by the winter sunrise|
|Morning sun casts a warm glow on the horses|
|Zeus, the twenty-something domestic Thoroughbred wintering well alongside his wild herd mates|
|Legado, on the move to steal someone else's pile of hay|
|The amazing Altamiro, glowing golden in the morning sun|
|What a place to be!|
And if you are still not convinced that winter is not just a time of challenging elements, but is filled with joy and a sublime lightness of being, have a look at a video clip of Interessado, Silvestre and Legado bursting with the pleasure of being young and free!
|Silvestre and Fidalgo|
|Altamiro erupts in animation too!|
|Altamiro showing off among his many sons|
|Altamiro conversing with Interessado|
Blow, blow, thou winter wind. Thou art not so unkind --William Shakespeare