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You walk down the dusty aisle of the barn. The smells of horses, dust and hay tickling the inside of your nose. The rough edges of the wooden stall poke your fingertips as you make your way down the barn hall. Half way down is a small group of stalls, one is empty and one has a large inhabitant. The horse stairs placidly out of the stall. You look into the deep eyes of the huge, bay gelding*. You wonder if the intelligence behind those dark, glittering eyes understands the meaning of life, something incomprehensible to your own feeble mind.
Weight of a saddle
Cold, metallic taste of a bit
Heels pressed firmly to my side
My feet prancing through the forests
The high reverberation of birds singing and the whisper of August wind
You are nearing the end of your ride and your cheeks are aching and stiff from smiling. You look out at the wide countryside of northern Vermont. It is like a cradle of green, the tall, old trees cushioning the rocky and rich pastoral landscape. You see the barn approaching and you are happy to have a break; the sweat that has rolled down your neck is growing sticky and uncomfortable. The perspiration on your forehead has dust sticking to it and is making your head itch. The two others you are riding with decide that they want to jump the crossrails in the field parallel to the barn. Your gelding, however, has lost his ability to jump over the years and, although you are tired, you are going to canter next to the jumpers. You start off feeling the wind blow through your hair, the sun shining on your back, the world rushing by you in a blur. Suddenly you feel the horse tense beneath you.
The sight of my barn
The distant memory of food
Speed, speed, speed
Abruptly you are losing control and you feel yourself fly off the horses back and soar through the air, like a bird flying into the sky, like a bird diving from the sky to spear a shinning minnow on her beak. Unexpectedly you find the world has stopped around you.
Light as a feather
The smell of grass is a bright, clean, familiar one, as well as the odor of your own sweat and the horse paddocks. “I didn’t realize that the ground was so far from the back of the horse,” you think to yourself. “If I die, I wonder if those who I loved will remember me forever and know how much they made my life sparkle,” you ponder as you hang in the suspension between horse and earthen floor. I consider maybe this is heaven, just a floating in between.
“But it can’t be, dying hurts doesn’t it?” There was no life flashing before my eyes, I just exist inside a living, breathing, vibrant world of color, sound, smell and taste. Abruptly time speeds up. I feel my neck jar and my whole body tense up. Like a bullet from a gun, I can’t see anything, I can’t feel any thing. I think: if I were James Bond I would be able to roll up in a graceful somersault, but I am not. I stop moving, everything is still. my eyes flicker open. The sky is such a beautiful blue, the color of a robin’s egg in the spring. I don’t understand, why am I looking down at the sky? The taste of blood fills your mouth, “yuck!” you think. Blood tastes like sweet salt, if there was such a thing. Rapidly everything came back into motion. I feel my mind float above my head, I can see myself get up and start walking, my brain and my body, two separate entities. People, my riding partners, my father, my father’s friend, all begin running towards me, calling out to their little girl. I see myself opening my mouth, “I’m fine, its just my arm, its broken, I’ll be fine, trust me.” Just as my sister bursts out in tears and she and my other riding partner take away the horses my Dad comes over and grasps me. “I’m fine,” I hear myself saying again, the only words that comes to my breathless throat.
Away from the rest, home
The shade of my barn
The sweet, regular taste of grass
Just as my father’s friend, a doctor, comes over I feel myself collapse. On the ground, I close my eyes. I hear the doctor diagnosing my wrist, broken, several places, six weeks healing time minimum, I hear him telling my dad how to hold it out so its won’t get any more crushed or sink back into itself and cause more damage. The doctor leaves, he is off to get something for me to drink and to bind my arm up so I can make it to the hospital.
For the first time the detached bit in my mind that is still there looks down at my wrist. I see my arm, my hell bound arm, broken twice before, the thin white wrist, the one that played the notes on guitar for me, the one that helped me win many first place metals in swim races, the one with which I first held a boys hand. The once beautiful arm was mangled, the wrist twisted in a weird way, the wrong angle, like a Picasso drawing. Pain, obscuring my vision, like someone had thrust a hot iron into my heart and a frozen rod into my head. I hear the beloved voice of my father calming me.
I suddenly hear an aggrieved scream, the scariest sound I have ever heard in my life, the cry of my mother. I look up at her face and I see the tears falling from her eyes, the look on her face so full of pain and fear for her daughter, me.
“I’m fine, the arms fine, I’ll be fine. Don’t worry Mama, I love you, don’t worry its going to be fine.” The only thing I say is the one thing I don’t really believe.
But it is me who is saying it, odd, I think, that the one blood stained and mangled would be comforting the uninjured. I hear my father shoo her away, he always knows best, I tell meyself. I spat the blood in my mouth on to the sleeve of my shirt. “Crap! I ruined my favorite shirt.” The thought was detached. Why would fashion overpowered survival in my mind? The pain built up inside is going to spill out. “Dada?” I whisper, my voice rough, my throat tight, “Sing to me, please.”
As my dads voice sounds over the empty field I feel mine mingling with his, harmonies swirling away into the August wind. It was that second in time I realize that there is much more to song then a sound, there is a bonding deeper than any ocean, and true song is something you can only experience once in a lifetime.
“I love you…”