We rode out today, the long route that takes us all the way through the neighborhood, past dogs barking, along the road and over it, down into ravines, over deadfall. We crossed water, stopped at the pond, gloried at the wildflowers scattered about like wishes of elves.
Lily and I were the lead, not because we knew where we were going, but because she keeps a good pace. For a while she kept leaning to the left, attempting to will us back to the barn. After a while she resigned herself to the trail, to forward, the sweat darkening her coat In this early heat that has descended in Texas.
Three days earlier I was taking shelter with my co-workers in Dallas in the 11th floor hallway of our building. I'd flown into town for a meeting and we were nearly done when we were warned to listen for sirens. They went off a few minutes later and our little committee moved immediately to the stairs, then up a floor to join the others.
We sat there, those of us from out of town wondering somewhat about our flights, but also worrying over our friends here who had children and spouses somewhere out there where the sky had turned into a collections of angry, whirling gray whips. Tornados dropped down and set to scrubbing away homes, trees, buildings, vehicles, while we stood there, staring at our phones, watching the maps on our screens shift in a color pallet that said yes, these are dangerous times.
That was three days ago, and today I was under bright blue skies, purple and yellow dotting green hillside. It was strange to have the destruction be so completely gone, to have the world right itself so quickly, almost like those terrible plot twists when the problems are all solved when the heroine simply wakes up.
And yet, here we were, my copper horse leading, moving, impatient to go. I wondered if she was enjoying it, it was only when we neared the barn and she slowed, acted as if she wanted to turn back, to be out longer, that I thought maybe she did.
There are many differences between rides with Lily and the rides I had with Smokey. I realize now I'd come to a point where I was waiting for the sky to darken, that I wanted just to stay in that hallway until the sirens stopped with him. Now I simply go, without any prep time or emotional negotiation. The fear is gone, gone as if it had never been there. Sometimes I find myself looking for it, when the road is slippery, when I get disoriented and take a wrong turn.
But it's not there either.
I miss my boy's joy de vive, his youthful curiosity. I look for it, for the happy side in my mare, but my glimpses of it are fleeting, so much so I can't be sure they were there at all. She is, instead, dutiful. Completely in my hands.
Perhaps, in time.
About a week ago we cantered out alone, up a small incline. I felt different, the thrill of the canter without the edge, the wondering if we were going to stop.
Of course we will stop, I felt her say. Why in the world would I not? This is what it is to ride a horse that is finished. That knows her job. That will work, and push through, not for a need to please or for curiosity. But because it's what she has the discipline to do.
Next time I'll stop and tie a wildflower in her mane, so she'll know. She brings me joy and peace. I will look for the patches of green that she seems to like the most and maybe it will bring her of that lightness of spirit I miss a bit from Smokey.
Already she is responding to my style of riding, many times we move as one, smooth and together as I've ever felt. Now I am just looking for it to deepen.
Tomorrow we'll ride again.