It's time to talk about mustangs.

There is something peculiar that happens when a young, untouched, wild mustang filly stares directly at you. She looks straight into you and illuminates you from the inside out. You can feel that she instantly knows everything about you. You are completely exposed and could hide nothing from her if you tried. You have no secrets. Every detail of your existence in that moment is immediately perceived by her, delivered in the form of countless betrayals by your own body of the effort you are exerting to prevent the molecules that you are made of from flying apart in all directions. Your awe, your excitement, your adoration, your exhilaration, your reverence, your fear, your longing, and your hope are all conveyed to her without a word.

She knows that you love her profoundly. And that this moment that you are spending together will be replayed in your mind a thousand times, relived with relish, and that you will labor to find the words to tell a story that can never be truly captured, much like the filly herself.

And she also knows the guilt you feel for even participating in an encounter like this with a wild animal. She senses the ambivalence you feel about allowing her to come this close to you because you know that the wild must stay wild and that the human world will only betray her. You know that she should not trust you, a member of a species that would run her family members, both living and dead, for miles over barren ground, in aerial pursuit beneath an insect of astronomical size and sound, flying on whirling blades of flashing metal, astonishingly close to the fleeing hooves, into a trap and then a truck, never to see their homes or families again. She knows the anguish you feel for the horses who have lost their freedom or even their lives in this way, and she knows that you are hopeful still that a solution will be found.

And she forgives universally, sharing with you her acceptance of all things. She reassures you that there is power in these moments, when we are stripped bare and confronted with the exquisite beauty that exists before we put our hands all over it and try to turn it into something else. Something that is more useful.

And then the first rays of morning sun peek over the ridge, and she goes on her way, to remain wild, alongside her mother, her brother, her two aunts, and her indulgent father, who has been quietly chaperoning this meeting since the filly first approached.

You sit, breathless from the encounter for some time as the filly grazes further and further from you, the sound and smell of grinding grass between her teeth fading as the distance grows. You are trembling at first as she leaves, with a smile that forms as slowly as the sunrise. It will be some time before you are able to speak above a whisper.

You have just entered the life of a wild horse. You know it was a personal indulgence to accept her invitation. You know that if she is ever captured, it will be horrible, and that the life she would live after would never compare to being wild and free with her family, here, on this mountain. And you know that in some way, the trauma of all that would be worse because in this moment, you have given her the impression that humans can be trusted - one more thing that can now be taken from her. And so you promise that in exchange for this moment of wild bliss that she has given you, you will do everything in your power to protect her, to ensure that the cost of her gift is never manifest.

You bring your photographs and your memories home with you and you share them with your own kind. You try to be an ambassador between two worlds. You try to give the wild filly a voice, certain that others will love her as you do, and that they will understand the importance of protecting her, even if they have never been on the mountain with her at sunrise.

Petite Colour, a yearling filly who lives in the Pryor Mountains of Montana. - July, 2016 -