Volume 18 • Issue 43 | March 10 - 16, 2006

Downtown Notebook

The horse sense to know there’s no place like home

By Wickham Boyle

If you attempted to replicate the sounds of my home, my Downtown loft, you would need to know that daily quick horses trot home hotly — right beneath my window.

Rush hour happens at about 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., a morning and evening shift. These are police horses, mostly beautiful, large-boned Morgans bred for strength and calm. The police stable is on the corner of my small street and the horses head home, trotting down North Moore, always going against traffic, in a rush to return to a bucket of oats and the wonderful feeling of taking off a saddle.

I associate with these horses. I grew up riding and caring for equine wonders. Horses were my confidants, my playmates and incredible companions. I could tell my secrets to Shady or Koala, to Big Bear or Pixie and they never betrayed my confidences, or gossiped my crushes. Their breath was always sweet with hay, or bran mash and the tiny whiskers on their velvet muzzles gave just the right encouraging nuzzle every time I visited them.

I know how horses pick up their pace when they sense they are coming home. Like the police horses who often plod out the door at the start of a shift, I have ridden a pokey nag who has been a trial to push into a trot or canter only to find myself riding a high spirited wonder horse as we turn and point toward the stable. Horses love home. We all do.

We love the feeling that the day is over, we have worked hard, and we are coming home to take off our saddle and bridle, whether it is business attire, shoes too tight, a heavy brief case or just an over-burdened mind. When we love our homes, we burst through the door and it feels right, it feels warm, or smells good, the cats come to the turn of the key, the puppy or baby makes excited sounds and you know this place and these souls are on your side.

Twice a day the New York City police horses remind me of how much I love to come home. I hear their rapid pace as they clip-clop, fast hooves pounding west to east down my street. I listen as their metal shoes hit what was once cobblestones and now is flat asphalt. Either way the sound is hard, clear and unmistakable, magical horses are rushing past my home going to theirs.

All the places I have called home have had distinctive sounds. In my tiny cottage on the eastern shore of the Hudson River, a train roared past issuing a piercing, warning whistle, many times day and night. I loved the mournful cry and quickly found I could sleep through what was, to others, a jarring sound. For me it sounded like my country house and it soothed me.

For many summers I lived in an Umbrian hill town two hours north of Rome and I was the lucky occupant of what neighbors called the highest apartment in Spoleto. This wonderful abode, built in the 12th century, overlooked the duomo and the town’s biggest clock. It rang, it gonged, not only on the hour, but the half hour and had special mini-sounds for quarter hours as well. Again within days I slept right through all the announcements and in fact convinced myself that the clock must have been shut down during my somnolent times. It was only when I was pregnant and rising often to use the bathroom down the hall that I realized the clanging clatter continued right through the night and I wove it into my dream life.

My ability to incorporate any annoying, loud or invasive sound into my dreams is a skill. I truly appreciate my deep-sleep gene, but I am so pleased that the police horses bounce by my window at times when I am pretty sure to be awake and attempting to work. I love the sound both as a welcome distraction and a reminder that I am now at home doing my work. I have the incredible luxury of sitting right here at my desk writing as these gentle beasts make their way home to their dry, warm stalls.

I try to use the moment when the horses trot home as a parenthesis for celebration. I often close my eyes so that the only sensation entering is through my ears. I find that a break from intense thought, multi-tasking and stress and a switch to pure aural stimulation focuses me in some deep primitive way. It allows me to recognize my place through only one sense. I don’t need more.

If I hear the horses with their quick rhythm making their way home, that rapid clip-clop announces morning and night in an undeniable fashion. I am home and soon they will be too.


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