They flash upon that inward eye.
What are they thinking? I'm referring to the many horses I have encountered along the Way, who almost always are standing stock still, looking at nothing in particular. Many of them are on a rope or a chain, so they can't go anywhere, and the only movement might be an occasional swoosh of their tail at an annoying fly. But it's not just horses. The cows and the goats and the sheep do the same, although many of them seem eternally busy pulling out grass from the ground and eating it. But that must get monotonous too. What are they thinking, if anything at all?
My walk has a monotonous rhythm to it, step by step, but my mind is all over the place. What is making that noise over there? Where is the next Camino marker...please God I haven't walked too far off the trail. Why do the Spanish spend so much effort on their sidewalks, which are beautiful? Are those rain clouds? Where did that woman get those five loaves of bread in her arms, and why so many? I wonder if those children know who Kim Kardashian is, and if so, why would they want to?
But today my mind was on the horses, and on this most sunny of all the days so far, my mind was also on light. And sight. And color. Do those horses see the beauty of the light that is falling upon that gorgeous blue house in front of them? Are they partial to the vivid orange flowers that someone has carefully cultivated in the garden? Or the rich green of the creation striving mightily to live under the good sun over our earth?
Do horses actually see in color anyway? (Upon arrival at my destination, I consulted wikipedia, of course, and discovered a fascinating trove of information about the anatomy of the equine eye. Apparently horses naturally see the blue and green colors of the spectrum and the color variations based upon them, but cannot distinguish red, somewhat like the red-green color blindness in some humans.)
For years I have taught my film students about the physical nature of light--its varied wavelengths, which delineate red from green from blue (RGB, the primary colors of light), and all the other colors of the light spectrum. And they have always had trouble understanding that the light from the sun is not actually white--or yellow, as they always portrayed it in their childhood drawings---but blue.
I have always loved the color blue above all others. What's up with that? Why do we have favorite colors? Is it possible that my body--or my soul--resonates with the blue wave of light in particular? Does that wavelength of light harmonize with my favorite sounds (like the giggles of children, or the sound of a dog's delighted murmur)? There have been some gorgeous blues on this pilgrimage, including on the walls of the room in which I am writing these reflections. The blues of the Spanish sky have been awesome, as have been the many vivid colors of the flowers along the way, and on the exteriors of the homes I have passed.
The Spanish are not afraid of colors. They do not restrain their color palette the way we Americans do. I can imagine the stares of disapproval in an American suburb if someone painted their split-level in the vivid oranges, purples, reds, or blues that I have witnessed here. And what's up with that?
What a grace color is to us, isn't it? What a miracle is the lightwave, how beautiful are the shades of light! What a dreary world it would be without them, and how much less our souls would know. Since film school days, I have often stopped in my tracks at the astonishing beauty of summer or winter's light falling upon a building, or finding its way through a canopy of leaves to a path or sidewalk below. I cannot imagine what it must be like for those born blind, and how differently they know the world. When my father suffered from diabetic macular degeneration and his sight was reduced to shapes of light and dark, he told me that he dreamed of the colors he could no longer see.
When I was a child, every night before I went to sleep, my mother would tuck me in and introduce a poem to me. We'd often recite these lines from Wadsworth : I wandered lonely as a cloud, That floats on high o'er vales and hills, When all at once I saw a crowd, A host of golden daffodils; Beside the lake, beneath the trees, Fluttering and dancing in the breeze,,,,For oft, when on my couch I lie, In vacant or in pensive mood, They flash upon that inward eye, Which is the bliss of solitude; And then my heart with pleasure fills, And dances with the daffodils.
The yellow of those daffodils often play out in my own dreams, as does the color of my mama's red lipstick, and her lovely brown hair. God's colorful light plays to our hearts and to our souls doesn't it, no matter that you are American, or Mexican, or African, or Chinese, or Spanish. The colors all around us in the creation, the multitude of colors of our skin and hair should fill our hearts with pleasure and make us want to dance with the daffodils and all the merry flowers that grow among us.
And who knows, maybe in its seeming stupor, the horse dreams of stepping lightly to the music of light and color that plays out all around it in the meadow.
I pray in praise of horses and cows and sheep and goats and for the incredible grace of light and color and sight.