The smell of glycerin soap and leather off someone’s leather jacket, and summer thunderstorms threatening from the East are somehow reminding me of the tiny tack room in Barn #2 at Windfield’s Farm.
Yes, so specific a memory has crept into my mind this morning and not left me.
I am picturing the row upon row of exercise saddles, and the tangle of training bridles all hung on pegs behind, their bits jingling softly as backs leaned up against them during coffee break. The racks, shelves, benches, doors, and desk smoothly worn from years of use, and slathered with several coats of forest green, giving off a dullish, pebbled gleam in the light that would filter through the high window, highlighting the dust, leaving a small square patch that the barn cat would curl into when the weather was too warm to be outside.
I vividly remember the dark green squares of cloth that went underneath the numnahs for the saddles, and the mesh bag we would cram them into for washing every day. The training vests, a splash of aquamarine and yellow hung on the back of the door, laced up the sides and zippered, uncomfortable and essential. The silks for the hats all different colours, muted hues of reds, blues, and even black against the dark green paint of the shelving they were perched upon. I can even picture the ream of goggles dangling from a peg by the rotary dial phone, dusty, yellowed, and unusable, but never moved. Perhaps out of respect, or superstition, or forgetfulness. They accompanied an old, dusty calendar from 1992, a picture of a horse from the farm gracing the page.
With my remembering of the tack room itself , I summon up other memories, like drying my Winter work mittens on the electric heater, the smell of wet wool so atrocious that for weeks it was the prevalent scent, above the leather and the glycerin. Sodden, muddy boots trapsed in snow and puddles of wet, and the small tack room would feel even smaller. We would all cram our hands down in behind the bench, warming them on the heater, our heads together in cameraderie, or mittens warming, our feet out of boots and flexing in the warming air around us.
I remember solemnly being given Skye’s yearling tags in that room, by an understanding co-worker who had saved them for me, my heart breaking, wondering if I would ever see him again. I sat in that room for what seemed like forever, holding them, looking at them, turning them over and over in my hands, crystallizing the moment I realized I had befallen a cruel fate, letting a racehorse into my heart.
Of all the pictures I took from my time there, sometimes I wish I had captured places like the tack room in Barn #2. Now all I can do is remember them and write them down as best I can to conjure the smallest details, to recreate the picture in my Mind’s Eye, to summon the feeling of meaningful simplicity in every day things.
My time there was short, but such an integral part of who I am, that I often realize I shape myself on the memories I created there. I hold onto them to remember a time in my life that was so different, and so promising, and so very real. I hold onto them in a sense to keep Skye in my heart. Because if I forget them, I might forget him too, in some way.
And here, as I jot this down, I realize that the reason I was thinking about the tack room in Barn #2 isn’t some scent from a jacket, or a thunderstorm. It is because it is August.
August was the last time I ever rode Skye. We galloped through a forest, up a mountain, and stood on a cliff together, watching an Eagle fly in the winds, while birch trees swayed and creaked around us in perfect harmony.
That, I will never, ever forget.