It was late on Saturday afternoon and the parking lot was nearly full.
I found a spot closer to one of the restaurants than the grocery store.
I pulled in, turned off the ignition and was about to climb out of the car when I saw him. I did a double take because this was definitely NOT part of the landscape of this shopping center.
It was a horse, saddled up, standing hip shot and waiting patiently.
I grew up in the era of western shows on television, and my girlhood brain was steeped in stories of cowboys and the American west. In all my hours of watching T.V. and movies I saw horses tied to hitching posts outside saloons hundreds of times. I’m sure many of you could say the same.
And while I do live in Colorado, this was different.
For one thing, we no longer ride horses as our primary means of transportation. There are no hitching posts in front of local businesses.
A horse standing in a small patch of landscaping outside a bar was most unusual.
But there he was, tied to a birch tree, cool as a cucumber.
I walked closer for a better look.
Two women had just pulled out their cameras and I did the same. We commented to each other that this was not your average Saturday afternoon at the shopping center scene. We laughed. Seeing a horse tied outside the Island Grill Restaurant had perked us up.
What really surprised me though was how many adults walked by this gorgeous horse, never even noticing him.
A woman came along with a dog on a leash. The dog pulled toward the horse until the woman stopped walking and looked up. “Oh my gosh,” she said. “No wonder he was acting funny. Is that a real horse?”
Then with no prompting from me, she told a joke.
This joke: “What did the bartender say to the horse? Hey buddy, why the long face?”
I groaned as one does when hearing a “bad” joke. We both laughed and went on our way.
I hurried into the grocery store and picked up the things I needed. In the produce section, I saw the two women who’d been taking pictures of the horse. We smiled, buoyed by our shared experience. We were no longer strangers.
When I finished shopping I stowed my groceries in the car and went back to the horse. I sat on a nearby bench and watched.
Dogs noticed him.
Children noticed him.
But the adults walking past had no time for him.
Didn’t look up.
Didn’t seem to care.
Most, I think, didn’t even know there was a living, breathing horse tied to the tree not twenty feet from them.
A woman came from the restaurant and approached the horse. I asked if he belonged to her. “No, his owner is sitting at the bar having a beer,” she said.
I don’t know why this amused me so much, but it did. I wondered who he was and why he rode his horse to the bar. I wondered about the horse too – what his name was and if this was a common occurrence for him. He seemed to be taking it all in stride.
I came away from this experience with several thoughts.
First, I realized that I felt lighter. Refreshed. This out of the ordinary event stuck in the middle of my Saturday afternoon was an energy boost.
Second, I loved the feeling of community it created. Those of us who did notice this horse shared something. We were no longer strangers. We were laughing together and telling jokes. Believe me, that’s not my typical experience when grocery shopping.
And third, it was a reminder to wake up and pay attention. There is always something to notice, and I don’t want to miss any of it.
What about you?
Are you an observer or someone that walks on by?
Have you had a similar experience where something you didn’t expect to see refreshed your spirit?