My birthday time is coming – late April, snow on the high peaks, blossoms bursting forth in the valleys, blackbirds singing in the reeds as they pair and repair their nests. Radiance, aliveness, burgeoning irrepressible….
In my childhood on the ranch, baby calves came forth and their mothers licked them into wakefulness, yet their big, soft brown eyes grew weary in the sun of feeding time and they slept on the hay. I would slip up behind them and gently rest myself on them until they stopped their startled struggle, felt my warmth and sweetness, and then we both slept there together among the blossoms in the nurturing light of spring.
In the sky on the April morning of my own emergence into the light of day, the constellation Taurus the Bull lined up with the sun and also with the horizon – giving me double the energy of Taurus (sun and rising). I ran wild and free in that mostly unsettled part of the reservation, following animals trails into the high mountains on the back of my pony. In times of challenge in my young life, my mother would say to me “Stop fighting your head,” when I would bloody myself on whatever tried to confine me, as did the huge, thick muscle-necked bulls when we ran them into confining chutes on rare occasions. I eventually learned to stay calm and breathe my way un-bloodied through the small spaces, yet I was never tamed.
This day I have visited the high mountain Andalusian town of Ronda, and the oldest bull fighting ring in Spain – blessedly quiet on this sunny afternoon. All around me are images of wild bulls, brought into the confines of the ring to fight and lose their lives. On the town walkways, famous matadors’ names are enshrined, and their colorful and extravagant moves flash at me off post cards and posters. But mostly, i can feel the bulls, already harmed – frightened and wild-eyed in a full and shouting ring of those who will cheer and watch them die.
I have recently felt myself in such a place, with my heart pierced in the end and the townspeople applauding; and I am with the bull in the glory and sadism of his final challenge. The crowd is there – looking, judging, yelling, frenzied by the thought of blood. The dark, magnificent bull awes them; his wildness frightens them. They hurl their cowardly shouts from behind high walls, clustered together with others of their kind, yet wishing they had the courage of the last one who steps forth into the ring – the only one brave enough to act out the people’s bloody will. Toreadors – horsemen with their long weapons – dare to be in the ring, near the danger, yet above it.
Yes, then the matador – the one who has courage enough to step into the ring and dance with the wild one – comes forward. He reminds me of the man who recently stepped into my personal ring with its power and challenge. Although his elderly walk was stiff and seemed clumsy, when he danced he was young and agile and joyful like a matador in his shining moment. He dared to join the thrill and intensity of the dance with me, and was buoyed up by the love and power of it until he could hold me no more. It was time to finish it, and to my utter astonishment, instead of setting me cleanly free, he unsheathed the long blade which plunges through the back.
Toro, the bull, comes out of it’s dark and tortured enclosure into the blinding light and is surrounded – by the small ones above who judge and jeer, and by the horsemen who start the slaughter with spearlike weapons. Only the brilliantly-clothed matador is smaller than the wild one who fights for life. In the glaring sun, a bull fighter swirls his enticing cape; the bull charges, and comes out with a barbed banderilla stuck in his back. Again and again, the toreador’s dancing skill allows him to strike, and soon the bull’s back is festooned with those small picks that looked like feathers flying and bouncing as he runs, unable to escape, blood trickling down from his back above his heart.
All of it – the fear, the rage, the shouting, the horsemen, the bleeding, the unrelenting barrage of insult – begin to wear him down. He does not know he is to be killed; he is only fighting to be free. His wild heart beats fiercely until the end, when the matador drives a sword down through his great heart. He falls, to the cheering roar of the small people in the stands. The wild one has once again been vanquished; their hero has come out unscathed! The people of city and town can go back to their lives, feeling safe again from the terror of what seemed an intense and powerful darkness.
And yet some place in their heart mourns the loss, for deep within them lives the song of wildness that comes from Great Earth Mother. It calls to them of pure streams and clear air and sloe-eyed baby calves born of huge bulls, and of meadowlarks and blackbirds singing in the valleys under high, white peaks.
Magnificent wildness cannot be tamed or conquered by smallness. In the heart of life, the bull lives and is free again. What is destroyed is destroyed within the hearts of of the mob who fear and judge and jeer. The ‘triumphant’ crowd which hangs together feeling satisfied and proud, are diminished and yet cannot perceive what it is that eats away at them during the sameness of their days, huddled together in agreement and colluding in justification behind walls of numbness and judgement.
GLORY TO ALIVENESS and FREEDOM!
The bull’s magnificent life awakens again on this spring day in Andalusia, beating in the heart of a newborn calf just being licked by his mother in the sun of a new and radiant morning. Wildness lives on among the blossoms…..
PS: I came upon a site which tells the whole story of the bull’s torment, should you care for the nitty gritty…