A veil of fog clings stubbornly to the air, like gray gauze wrapped tightly around the world to keep it whole and intact. She steps out of the woods like a phantom horse, her silhouette appearing from a break in the icy trees. Her thick, black coat blends into the grayscale landscape as she stands motionless in the clearing. Muscles taut, head high and ears pricked, she listens for the sound of danger from behind her. The image of wolves or coyotes circling her and sinking their sharp teeth into her tender flesh haunts her. But there is only stillness and silence.
She takes a few tentative steps forward. Out in the open, there is safety in numbers. The weakest or the slowest fall prey to hunters when a herd flees, the sound of their hooves making the earth rumble as they run for their lives. But she is an anomaly, a lone horse fending for herself.
Hunger gets the best of her. She relaxes, dips her head and paws the frozen ground, rooting and foraging for food that might be hidden beneath it. Her thick mane cascades over her neck and shoulder and her forelock nearly covers her eyes.
A loud crack, like a gunshot, pierces the air when a branch breaks under the weight of snow and ice. Her head snaps up, all her senses again on high alert. Nostrils flaring, she turns to quickly and gracefully disappear back into the woods. A dusting of snow dances and flutters in her wake before it too settles and disappears like a puff of smoke.
This story was inspired by the photograph of Heidi, my Canadian mare, taken by my friend and talented photographer Carmin Cristofaro. We need to find the beauty that still exists in the world during these uncertain times and I found it in this photograph.
On a lighter note, Heidi’s waistline makes it clear that she is neither wild nor starving. But, despite her bulk, she is a graceful and elegant creature who has graced my life for many years.