I am sheathed in gray, riding under smoky clouds and through heavy fog, soaked through on this late October afternoon, a light mist sliding off my lashes and I stick out my tongue to catch the rivulets running down my face.
I am atop, Chip, my seventeen hand gelding, a strawberry roan with a blazing white face and deer beautiful, big brown eyes, liquid when they melt into amber inside of a darkened barn.
I ride him bareback mostly, because he doesn’t like the saddle I bought for him and I like riding him as well without. His back is broad and flat, totally comfortable under my legs that hug him tightly. His father was a champion; his dam a respectable broodmare. He is gorgeous, except for legs that destroyed a more brilliant career. So my father bought him for me the day after Christmas when he had no money to spend.
We have rounded a sharp curve, bustling to heave ho as quickly as possible for we are playing a game of “hide and go seek” with Smokey, a gray Shetland pony who stopped awhile back for a few bites of sparse green. I want to find a spot to hide from him; it is a game we play often.
Whereas Chip is tall and rather clumsy at times because of his legs, Smokey is small and runs like the wind. We stop behind brambles; I crouch low over my horse’s neck.
We sit in the silence, Chip blowing softly.
I see my breath midst the sinews of fog, wafting and snaking through trees and tall grasses. The day is mysteriously murky; delicious beyond expression. No one is near to mar our domain with their sight.
I squeal with excitement inside. I am alone with my horses in paradise. I am one without any particular care. I love this day, I love the weather; I love my horses. I am fulfilled just being alive.
I know this moment will change. I know my life will become more complicated. At fifteen, these days are among the best I will ever have in my life and as I realize this, I grieve. These days will end along with my puberty; the innocence I share with my animals will be short lived and I cannot stop that change. I grieve that I am so young and have already spent profound, peak moments of happiness such as I may never see again. I grieve that someday my horses and I inevitably will say goodbye and that I cannot change. I cannot change this transitory world and know the harder I cling to that which I love, the harder it will be to survive its demise.
I fill my lungs to the brim with moisture of the lovely fog. I clean my face with it and my soul. I hold onto these moments, the glints of silver in fog; our ultimate separation is a mystery I cannot fathom, but this I accept.
I hug my horse with my bare hands and the strength of my arms so that he may know as he sleeps that he is loved. I embrace this luscious physical existence and the woes of it; I know its weight will help me transform and grow. Perhaps life and death are not so different, each a necessary reflection of the other as day and night, as breathing in and breathing out. I know that where love renders, there are no gates, no passages too narrow to roam.
Love, invisible, ad infinitum, never separates.
Smokey does not disappoint, rounding the curve, heard first by his whinny, the clarion call announcing his win over us, once again, charging in easily discovering our lair. I whoop in defeat and cannot help but laugh with delight as he tosses his head and prances elegantly.
He is a small pony, his white and silver tail reaches the ground behind him. His mane has flecks of black and brown, his body gray and dappled. His body is that of a horse and he runs low to the ground, his legs stretching flat out so far, so fast he can fire through the pasture and up to the barn in seconds. He invariably whips around inside the open barn and struts victoriously, blowing through his nose, looking fresh and bright, ready to do it all again.