Phantom Horse

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.

Author’s note:

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.

#SoCS: Strange new world

Written for Linda G. Hill’s “Stream of Consciousness Saturday”.
This week’s prompt is the word “wire”.

The newswire was no doubt humming all  week. Each day brought something new about the infamous Coronavirus. It has been in the news for a few weeks, since it began in China, but on Tuesday night, I felt a shift in the way it was being covered in the media. My spidey sense was tingling and I just knew it was going to morph into an even bigger story than it was.

I texted my boss and asked if we should prepare a statement and a plan of action. There were only a very few reported cases in Quebec, but as a cancer wellness centre, we deal with a vulnerable population. We decided to wait and see. But my spidey sense was right and on Friday, we sat around the conference table and made a decision.

Our faces were glum as we reached a consensus.  We could not take a chance that someone who had been unknowingly exposed to the virus would come to the Centre and expose many others with compromised immune systems. We had to close for at least two weeks as many other schools, municipalities and organizations were doing. Our faces were glum as we prepared the message to be sent by mass email.

Outside, the sky was slate gray and the rain was pelting the windows so hard, it looked as if we might all need an arc to get home.  I checked my phone and saw a text message from my husband. He had been to the grocery store and by 10 am, many shelves were empty, and the check-out line snaked around the store.  Panic was setting in and it was every man for himself. Another local big-box store had temporarily closed because customers were fighting among themselves. I felt the weight on my shoulders grow heavier. Many say that humans are still similar to wild animals in the jungle where it is survival of the fittest. We are hard-wired to see to our own needs and let the weakest fend for themselves.

Then I saw a post on my social media feed. It was on a group page devoted to residents of our town and someone was offering to pick up groceries, medication or other necessities for anyone who was sick and/or quarantined. Yesss! It made me smile and it restored my faith in mankind.

Have you found a ray of hope in this new, Coronavirus-filled world where we are all forced temporary residents?

Finding unexpected humour in cancer

I work in a wonderful place. Yes, almost everyone who comes through our doors has cancer and is seeking help. But along with the sadness, we find unexpected moments of hope, joy and even humour.

Last week, my colleague and I met with a warm, wonderful  lady from a foundation that offers services for people with brain tumours. We sat and talked for over an hour about the programs each of our organizations offers and how we can help each other and the people we serve.

Then she shared that, on a personal basis, she is a breast cancer patient advocate. She had a full mastectomy followed by reconstruction surgery because she carries the BRCA gene.  This led to a discussion on a recent recall of breast implants, bathing suits and bras for women who have had mastectomies, etc. My colleague is a nurse who works closely with our clientele, so she was very interested in getting information on these items that she could relay to women at our centre.

This discussion came at the end of the meeting and we were all standing and making our way to the conference room door.  The room has glass walls on three sides so anyone walking by can see into the room. (It is, however, on the second floor of our building. Our programs and services are offered on the main floor and basement, so patients never come upstairs. But staff, visitors, volunteers do).

Our guest looked quickly at the glass walls, gripped the hem of her blouse with both hands and pulled it up to her neck.  “I’m wearing one of those bras now; look how beautiful it is,” she said. And it was! She wore a beautiful, feminine, lacy slip of a garment that we all admired. She then lowered her blouse and we continued our discussion.  The gesture seemed perfectly natural at the time: It was a sharing of information among women to help other women.

It’s only afterwards that the incident made me laugh because, really, where else could something like that happen in a business meeting?