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'They Gave Thanks'

by Greta L. Anderson

January - February 2008
Washoe Valley, Nevada


On a wintry evening at half past nine
Far behind what should have been feeding time
Home late from work and dinner, past
I reached for my rough coat and laid the news behind.
Turning off the sounds of the day
Pulling on my broad brimmed hat and heavy gloves;
A scarf I casually cast
About my neck to keep out the cold.
A cold that through the day did last
As little sunlight had broken through the grey overcast.
A slow and dreary January twenty-third
A winter's day that had nearly passed me by;
When in the late hours I suddenly heard
Something that awoke my consciousness to a new high.
I heard my horses speaking in low tones
In a chortle and on a sigh
While broken moonlight lit up a reflection bright
Caught in the center of my horse's dewy eyes.
Under my rough coat and scarf a-shawled
Warm and toasty in my booted feet;
I pressed soft, deep prints into the snow
When I did hear my horses nicker
As they walked their corrals, to and fro.
I had heard their neighs a hundred times before
But little did I know
Exactly what their language said
As now I was quite sure; having listened to the horses more intently
While I stood in the snow so pure
And, as my horses across their deepening paths they tread.
'They Gave Thanks'.
I recognized a bit of magic
That I did not even dare
To fail to acknowledge my horses message
As it simply would not be fair.
I was nearly certain that I had overheard what sounded like a gentle prayer
That had come to me in such a peaceful expression on a horse's breath
Across the frigid January air.
I swear I heard my horses speak
And, this time it was I who nearly shied;
I heard my horses conversing among themselves
While I listened, stupefied!
They passed gracefully along the rail and through the snow
Walking side by side.
I caught my breath in the moment
So that I could more carefully listen
Hanging onto each sound intently until it had been spent;
While the silver moonlight on the falling snow did glisten.
The trees that lined the pasture humbly genuflected
Bending their limbs to the breeze;
And God's earth laid prone under a starry canopy
That stretched across the dark Universe
From every corner of the sky;
Reaching to the low horizon and to the points most high.
A tent of broken clouds above
Were anchored,  by and by;
Whispy clouds that hung on the corners of stars
Showered the ground below
With the makings of a bed of snow;
Rumpled sheets, a fluffy heavy quilt so deep and drifts that became pillows.
The wind that lifted the swirling white
Like a maiden, laid the bed;
While my horses watched me cross the drifts
They pricked their ears and began to toss their heads.
Eyes alert and watching me
One by one, they let out a whinney
When, all at once, on that starry night
The meaning of their sounds was shed and brought to light
In an equine chorus that did give me a fright
As I heard what they had said!
' They Gave Thanks'.
It was one of those things we mortals commonly dismiss
One of those miracles in passing
So simple and so rare;
What we mortal men often shut out altogether or completely miss
While we are caught up in the daily news
Or are simply on a winter's night too cold to care.
However, as routine and my sense of duty had called upon me
I had passed outdoors into the night;
Stepping out into the winter and the wind from the lee
Treading through the snowy white.
Under the shadows stretched out below tall evergreen trees
Blue-silver night, starry night
Crisp and lit with January moonlight.
Under my rough coat and scarf a-shawled
Warm and toasty in my booted feet
I pressed soft, deep prints into the snow
While the Washoe wind ruffled the white sheets;
When I did hear my horses nicker
As they walked their corrals, to and fro.
I had heard their neighs a hundred times before
But, little did I know
Exactly what their language said
As now I was quite sure
While across their deepening paths they tread;
' They Gave Thanks'.
The horses stood as the white blanketed them.
I heard a melodious hymn.
Angelic creatures that seemed to take on wings
While the Washoe wind began to sing.
Horses, agitated and waiting to be fed
Will paw the ground and nod their heads;
However, on this occasion, 
I had heard what they had said!
As in their prancing through the snow
In their peaceful, graceful pacing
And under their throaty, frosty breath they did blow
They, the horses, let me know that
'They Gave Thanks'
I wrapped my arms around their flakes
And laid them into their feeders round;
Each horse bent its neck as if in grace,
Bending in humility toward the snowy ground.
I paused and watched my horses eat
While, like so many times before;
I listened to their contented sounds
Needing nothing more.
I felt no haste to run indoors
I felt no haste at all;
I simply stood there by the rail fence with my horses.
While the January snow continued to fall.
I forgot the cold and all the night became a comforting embrace.
I knew that I was in the right moment
And exactly in the right place.
When I did hear Equus give thanks
In a most subtle, equine and humble way;
As they bent their heads in gratitude
Over four horses' evening hay.
I laid their hay upon the snowy floor
They bent their heads and said no more;
But, as I heard them, the horses, sigh in a peaceful relief
I knew that their peace had deepened my own beliefs.
 I cherished even more dearly the open spaces
The expanses of land and the wide, rambling range;
All the mystical, historical and spiritual places
The sandy dunes and acres of sage.
The rolling hills of Jumbo Grade.
Washoe Valley.  Nevada.  And, God's wilderness.
My thoughts passed to various blessings too
Reaching up to the Virginia Hills
That descend to Washoe Valley and its lakes so blue;
The creeks that with mountain snows will run and spill
Like holy water in the Spring
Cascading down Bobcat Canyon and crashing against rock walls
All the creeks, run-off and springs
As they run over, trip down the hills and fall
Pouring into Washoe Lakes,
To transform and to fill
Either a shallow bed or alkaline flat
Back into a wave crested, respectable oasis
Now in January frozen shallow, icy and still.
As I stood there on a January night
In the absolute dead of winter
In the midst of a snowstorm yet deep in peace
Again, I had found my center.
My eye and thoughts had been caught by Equus
The snowy night had become a hush;
To all the frenzy of the day
Quieting any noise or rumor or fuss.
I felt the gratitude that my horses bore
As I stood there in my rough coat and wide brimmed hat;
While standing there in the boots I wore
On an ever deepening snowy floor
My gloved hand aside my horse's withers laid;
Moving one to the other, giving each a pat.
The moon embraced my horses and I
As we stood together in the deepening snow;
 I did not even mind the increasing winds
Of a Valley called Washoe.
I placed my gloved hand on the broad beam of Jack
And ran it along the heavy boned shoulders of my liver-chestnut's flank;
As he broke his silence, standing in his tracks
Letting out a sigh of thanks.
I stroked the neck of my Arabian bay mare
And while I brushed the snow from her mane 
My paint gelding, Scotty, moved over to share
The remainder of Libby's grain.
I heard my horses give their thanks for the feed
And I was reminded to be grateful for all my needs
I thanked God also for this beautiful Washoe Valley
As blessed are we under this expanse of sky
Still distantly removed from the city lights
A rich black Universe open and unfenced for stars to stampede
Whereto our wonder and creativity
Can still soar to unimaginable heights.
I have seen Eagles standing erect on the limbs of trees down by the lake
I have seen coyotes hunting in the fields
And the Congress of deer out in the hay;
And, I cannot imagine that they take anything for granted
As they get through every day.
I cannot wonder when they soar or pounce of kneel or jump
Is it simply their way to pray?
Living their lives with such a profound innocence
Of which some men have lost all hint.
Are you exalted when you watch a red-tail soar?
Are you moved when he glides and darts?
And when you watch God's creatures are you lead to wonder, awe and to prayer
By these things that move men's hearts?
Here on a January night were my horses bringing back to me
A certain understanding of the moment
In a particular clarity.
That if I would grasp the lesson
My days would be better spent.
In the peacefulness of that evening
My horses had carried me in a different kind of way
Transporting me to a new understanding
While I stood there watching them eat their hay.
Reminding me to take time to reflect,
And reminding me to pray, to give thanks.
For, 'they gave thanks'.
On a January evening dressed in white
On a whinney and a neigh
I heard my horses say their grace
As they bent their heads to pray.
Though some might think that all of this is ridiculous
It really is not at all;
As I was grateful to God that my horses had hay
Yet, even more so that I had heard their call.
A call to thanks, a call to reflect
On family, friends and home;
A call to prayer and a call to know
That none of us are alone.
The moment nearly fell still in frozen time
While I lifted my chin to the heavens and skies;
What I had heard and what I did see
Filled me with hope and faith
And a profound tranquility.
I was the humble recipient who had no hesitation
Spinning words and images into rhyme
After I had realized the clear, undeniable translation
Spoken in the Language of Equine.
'They Gave Thanks'.
While, I swear, I heard my horses give their thanks
In the midst of their grazing, all the while letting out sighs;
They, the horses, made me question
If I had been so wise
As to have paused more regularly on the average day to even realize
All my blessings and what I truly needed to prioritize.
These four horses standing in the snow
A bay, a liver-chestnut, a sorrel paint and a butterscotch palomino
On a cold, brisk January night
They did let me know
What blessed message they had to share
Telling me also, precisely why I was there
Leaning on a rail fence watching my own breath chrystalize on the icy air
While they, my horses, these noble equines nearly lead me to a prayer.
'They Gave Thanks'.
I thought of the wild horses
Which in the winter's difficult times often scour the ground for their feed;
And, somehow I imagined how they must paw the barren earth
Looking for their meals in dire need.
I reflected on how when a band of Mustangs or ferral horses
Come across what little vegetation they can find
How they must give thanks in their own way
To simply be alive.
'They Give Thanks'.
Deep in my thoughts and deeper in snow
I lifted my eyes to the shoulders of Jumbo Grade
When just in that moment
Wouldn't you know!
I saw a possee of white horses
Or possibly a parade
Billowing clouds amassed like a band
A herd of white horses crossing the sky
Dusting the ridges with white
And dimming the light of the moon
As the stampede crossed over in flight
Angel-horses all in white
Ridden by winged angels dressed in gossamer gowns
Showered the earth with lacy blessings
Dusting and covering the ground.
These white horse-clouds rode on the Washoe wind
Silently elsewise passing by
And assured to return again
Passing above us not so distantly high in the sky.
Spring and summer will bring the blue-roan, purple bands of clouds
That will thunder through the sky like horses hooves on shale;
But, for now the winter herds of snow clouds
Are silent, white and pale;
Like Lippizans with flowing manes and tails;
January's horse-clouds across the sky do sail.
I heard my horses say their grace
While I realized how in Life's harried pace
We mortals forget or lose our rightful place:
Distracted, upset, disturbed or somehow non-prioritized.
Misplaced, mis-directed or sometimes even caught by surprise.
Wrapped around the axle and driven by less deserving forces
Than we drive or ride even our noble horses.
Unworthy mundane endeavors or jealousies or issues that leave us stressed
Blinding us not to realize how indeed we are so blessed.
Despite these economic times, upside down
Aside from losses of the heart
Removed from disappointments and difficulties
Each one of us must find a chart.
A way to maneuver through even the worst of times;
Even if it means to find meaning in a rhyme.
For myself, I found a chapel on snow covered ground
That stood quite apart
From any cathedral or convention of man.
However it was a place where grace did abound;
It was a sanctified alter on open land
And to me it all made sense.
Wherein the incense was the scent of pine heavy in the air
And the smoke that curled from neighbors chimneys;
And in that manger, in the warmth of my horses sighs, sounds and earlier whinneys
I had discovered a prayer.
'They Gave Thanks'.
As homes and ranches and businesses are lost or fold
While in these times security and faith might be hard to hold;
In a time that global, national, local and even family concerns have soared
And after some long-sacred values sank;
Tonight, I tell you, tonight I heard my horses give their thanks!
For economic times, upside down
For losses of stability or of the heart
In the warmth of my horses breaths and sighs, I found that
'They gave thanks' of which I became a part.
When dreams are shattered or left behind
Man can always turn to his horse, Equus, and to the faithful canine'
Loyal creatures that depend upon our fidelity,
Who are also our playful partners into Life's revelry.
And possibly, too, they are winged, finned, pawed and hooved
Prophets to a purer and truer Theology.
And, so as the snow continued to fall
I pondered all God's creatures
Great and Small
I wondered if God had created them all to be emissaries
After these horses had handed off to me
Like "whisperers to men"
A lesson in humility,
On a solitary winter's evening
Deepening in my own tranquility.
For those of us who have horses to ride for work or for pleasure
Some other non-horse persons might ask us to measure
The struggle of owning these magnificent animals
These spirited, soulful and noble steeds
Even as prices go higher these days to pay for their feed.
Other non-horse persons might even question our personal needs!
As in modern times man is far removed from memory
And many things akin to simpler animal's instinctive knowledge that is keenly sensory;
Modern man also far removed from a recollection of history
Knight, explorer, pioneers and cavalry
Frontiersmen and those who have ridden with the hound
Western Cowboys and Middle Eastern Sheiks
All with differences that abound
And yet kindred in one thing we can trace.
They ventured forward on their horses
In all of the horse's nobility, strength and grace.
There is an incredible beauty in connecting with a horse
As any horse owner would respond to that: "Well, I understand, of course."
And, whereas for the horse owner who is pulled outside in every kind of weather;
To a non-horse person to spend time in the cold or heat
Or out on the dusty trail, in a damp barn or on a mounted police beat;
Such demands and responsibilities, would be a much unwanted tether.
Yet, tonight my horses watched me approach
My equine friends saw me passing toward their bales of hay
When suddenly I heard a different phrase they spoke
In every single neigh.
'They Gave Thanks'.
I forgot the cold and all the night became a comforting embrace
On hallowed ground under an endless sky
In a wide open, quiet place.
I stood there like a pilgrim in a church
Or a yogi in meditation
When I heard my horses say their grace
I did not spook or shy or lurch;
As I was a mere horse owner
Who happened upon a new equine translation.
'They gave thanks'.
So, here I stood into the night
On January twenty-third
In the middle of a corral deepening in snow
Amidst my little herd.
When I listened to my horses say their grace
And, I was grateful too
That blessings had given us home and dinner
And our problems for that day were few.
I thanked God for another day
As it seemed had my horses
Creatures simple, earnest and true.
What horses and animals can provide to us mortals in sensory and spiritual highs.
And, how God's creatures render to we mortal men indescribable loyalty, comfort and care
It would be consummately irreplaceable for us, to pause for just a moment
That we might really share
In hearing the message that comes from all creatures around us
Even when it is a prayer.
Having fed my horses, then long remaining outside
I said my thanks to God and said my grace
That I had been able to provide;
I felt my horse's contented peace
As their thankfulness they sighed.
'They gave thanks'.
Let truth be known that it was I who nearly shied
As my "horses whispered to me"
Rather than I to them in any way
Reversing the myth and the tide
Reversing the claim of 'who whispers to whom'
And they showed me how to pray.
Disbelieving persons might listen to me with some hilarity
However, my gentle sweet horses had handed back to me
Through their gratefulness, trust and greeting
A whinney on the air
A comforting notion that they were deep in prayer.
'They gave thanks'.
For years I had absorbed my horses peaceful countenance
Yet, I had been deaf and unhearing to what it meant
However, now grasping another part of their significance 
My day was better spent.
 Here on a starry winter's night
I had taken time to listen, standing in drifts of white
The broad brim and crest of my hat became heavy under snow
My shoulders were weighted with a mantle of light
That no one passing by would ever know
That I was standing there;
Stationary with my horses, like a part of the herd
Caught up in a silent prayer.
I blended with the night
A fixture in the snow
Garbed in white like a praying monk
As my horses gently let me know, that
'They gave thanks'.
On a January evening dressed in white
On a whinney and a neigh
I heard my horses say their grace
As they bent their heads to pray.
Maybe simple creatures of all kinds
More easily find a humble prayer
In an unassuming way
To give thanks to God and Mother Earth
For their nest or for their lair.
Whereas we mortal men get caught up in all the human mayhem,
When we really need to pause and to listen to all God's creatures;
That we might be reminded to express our thanks
As we can learn thankfulness from them.
'They gave thanks'.
Greta L. Anderson
January - February 2008
Washoe Valley, Nevada