Tony Vagneur: Getting lost in our contemplations? It’s not such a bad thing | AspenTimes.com
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Tony Vagneur: Getting lost in our contemplations? It’s not such a bad thing

Tony Vagneur
Saddle Sore

The soft snow down the middle belies the rock solid, icy tracks where the tires go on both sides of the steep driveway, packing it down harder and harder each day. That’s where we walk, the 100 yards or more, down the middle, concluding our nightly dog walking expedition in those last few moments before darkness throws its cloak across our corner of the world.

Glistening against the last vestiges of light is the water in the horse tank, as though a leaden, smoky mirror was laid atop the rectangular shape. We’re rounding the corner, the bottom of the drive, where we’ll turn and walk up the short hill to the log house, but the water reflection, about 20 yards distant, stops me.

Just behind the stillness of the trough, shadowy shapes of horses can be seen, one on each side of the hay crib, noses buried in the warmth of green sustenance there; we’re too far away to hear the enthusiastic crunching of ivory against stalk, but we understand it from memory.



Tux, the dog, with seeming instinct, stops and sits ahead of me by the gate, awaiting further indication of what we’re going to do next. And we do nothing. It’s the silence that grabs me first, not a sound, not a ripple of intrusion into the pastoral scene. Aloneness comes with silence, the exhilarating knowledge that there’s nothing between you and the stars, except the blackness of space.

And the mind begins to tumble, rolling down those corrugated synapses of thought and memory so neatly tucked into our subconscious. It’s where on this night, we tune into the nature of the beasts gnawing at the hay feeder, horses they are, magnificent in their presence, but horses, just simple, beautiful horses. They’re not cutting horses, roping, barrel, jumping, fox hunting, or dressage horses. They are what Mother Nature intended them to be, standing there, their dark shapes even darker than the night, just horses that when the occasion calls, we are on the same team, doing our jobs with what we hope is efficiency and enthusiasm. No more, no less. Don’t try to qualify them now — they’re being horses in their world.




We get lost in our contemplations, much like climbing Highland Bowl or Willow Pass, step-after-step on a known trail, meandering through our thoughts with absolutely no direction other than the moment; counting steps subconsciously beneath our thoughts, wrestling with reflections of the girl we once loved years ago, who drifted out of our lives like a hummingbird with new direction, or was I the one who upended the special fit, a closeness like water in a furrow, massaging the sides, moving forward, unaware of the pitfalls? Maybe I was too young to understand. How many since then?

There was the night the wind got wild, littering the escape roads at Highlands with leaves, cones and branches, forcing ski patrolmen like Curtis to sweep them with rakes, without complaint, knowing full well his is a job envied by likely half the country.

Corkscrew Gulley on Aspen Mountain is hidden in the shadows, the top impossible to interpret due to the light, and I should probably go around. Once in, and further down, it is littered with tree duff, as well, and it’s difficult to tell the debris from potential rocks, but my skis unerringly get me through without a scratch. Should I have skied the gentler Strawpile instead, where a loose dog on the downhill course ended the promising career of a young racer, and the dog, for his freedom from a leash, paid with his life?

There may not be too many more divergent roads in my life’s travels, those decisions that make all the difference, but my internal compass will unlikely change. That path, the one over there, is clearly the one to be chosen, the one that makes the most sense, but no, this other choice is probably mine, this metaphorically wooded, overgrown, mostly unlit path, just for the curious ride it might deliver.

The horses move, changing sides in a friendly maneuver, I can barely see them, the dog tires of waiting and comes to my side, encouraging me to get along, let’s go to the house, dinner’s waiting. And I reluctantly agree, rolling thought after thought as we walk along, still remembering more Robert Frost:

“The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.“


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