Half of the Geneva experience, for me, is a reconnection to the animal, to nature, especially when juxtaposed to the urban jungle that is Brussels.
Top it off with the fact that I tend to stay in Versoix, a Genevois ‘hood halfway between city and country, and it is a feast of earthy, smelly goodness. Here, my aunt-slash-godmother Nathalie and her family live in sweet surroundings of cows and horses, stables and equestrian centers all around, and today, I join Nathalie and my cousin Alix for their daily jaunts with Hermès and Talisman, their current and ex-horses, respectively.
Nathalie is an animal whisperer, and as so frequently happens when I am with her, her magnetism astounds me with how she draws them to her, communicating. Harissa, the stable’s newest member, a sheep saved from halaal slaughter, hears my aunt from around the corner and bleats a warm welcome, calling Nathalie in for a caress through her thick wool.
Animal speak fascinates me, a language I continue to learn as my flock and exposure expand, so much of it about sensing and feeling, observing, paying attention. For those not blessed with years and years of animal companionship, this conversation between human and equine or canine or feline seems strange, I know, especially the back and forth that so closely resembles familial ties, and sometimes, I find it sad that not everyone has this experience, that people feel a need to denigrate this relationship as less significant than human on human.
Because, as my aunt says about her Puk, a Portuguese Water Dog who recently departed to doggie heaven, she’s never had a being so loyal, so pleased by her companion, so forgiving, so willing to give her self, so respectful, so kind, so loving. It’s humbling, actually, all that animals are capable of giving of themselves for us, to us, often with so little in return.
Like this afternoon, where Nathalie and I set up obstacles for Alix and Hermès to practice, giving human and horse a dose of needed exercise, and despite Hermès and Alix being out of sync, both a bit flustered by the cold weather, the horse jumps on command, giving her best, over and over again.
Ever the delicate balance, horse and rider become one, frustrations shared, bouncing between each other, the horse an unforgiving mirror to the rider, a manifestation of what she exudes.
Being in the company of animals is meditation, a window into ourselves, and for me, it is one of the most rewarding doors I’ve ever walked through.