She Always Knows

I run my hand down her neck, across her back, down her hip.

She stands, quietly dozing, one leg resting. One liquid eye opens, head slighted, and an ear is turned towards my rustling in the bedding behind her.

“What are you doing Mum?” She seems to ask, but already knows. She always knows.

How many times have we been here before, in silent meditation? How many times did we spend entire rain-soaked evenings listening to the din on the roof above, while a brush stroked through an already glistening shocks of tri-coloured hair? My cheek pressed to her, dreaming of  jumps yet to be jumped, ribbons yet to hang on the tack room wall.

I tell her “So many years ago…” then stop. She knows. She always knows.

I played this same motion years ago, head to hip, over and over, incredulous that I was actually touching a dream, this living embodiment of my entire identity. My enthusiastic heart was hers to break, my entire reason for being was to chase the wind from her broad back, and borrow freedom from her gallop.

She was five, I was fourteen.

And what of it then as now, when I remember, old hand now running over old mare?

I am thirty-two, she is twenty-four.

From outside the stall in his stroller, my son says “Pick me up!” the only way he knows how. Broken from my contemplation, I turn.  Life has changed. We no longer chase the wind. Now, as the sounds of evening drift , we simply cherish the snippets of time we have left before she leaves us forever in gentle, retired contentment.

As I reach him, a grizzled, old muzzle slowly dips down from inside the open door and blows warm air out towards my son. He is no longer crying to be picked up. A baby now gleefully grabs fists of whiskers and giggles as breath tickles skin. Her eyes close and she sighs, one hip slowly creaks over, and a back leg rests. Her lower lip flaps, further provoking peals of excitement, grabbing at his new toy.

I pick him up, and return to the sanctuary of the stall. He stetches from my arms, reaching out to touch mane, shoulder, ears, anything he wants to discover within his grasp. He babbles in pure delight as she twitches her skin. I laugh.

I show him how to pet her. Head to hip.  Small hands follow mine, patting and stroking soft cream-coloured hair. Small fingers try to pick up brown spots from her markings, grabbing fistfuls of hair and skin as one.

She stands, quietly dozing, one leg resting. One liquid eye opens, head slighted, and an ear is turned towards our rustling in the bedding behind her.

“What are you doing Son?” She seems to ask, but already knows.

She always knows.

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