Former columnist for the Los Angeles Post Examiner, the Baltimore Post Examiner, and Gatehouse News Service

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Barn in Winter

A barn in winter is a starkly beautiful place. Wind whistles through the barn doors, and brings gusts of cold air into the sawdust aisle, and slips under the old wooden matching doors of the horses' stalls.Your fingers freeze, then go numb as you try to unbuckle buckles, fasten clasps, or straighten out your saddle blanket, anxious to start moving.You warm your horse's bit in your wool glove while you saddle him up, dreading making him hold a cold bar of metal in his mouth when you ride.You warm yourself on his large warm body as you work, giving extra hugs.You must be careful when you love him, however, static electricity will spark up from your gloved hands, causing him to jerk in fear. He is already cold, no need to add scared to the mix. Your horses's breath and yours mingles as you hurry to get up and get going.

Water buckets and water troughs freeze. and the ground freezes, too.You wish for a more spiked boot as you walk with your horse back to the snowy field after your ride, worried that you, or he, or both will suddenly fall on the slick, hidden ice, lurking under the snow on the dirt lane. Mud has frozen into ruts like the tines on a yard rake, fanning out and ending at the fenceline. The only color in sight is your lead line that connects you to your horse, the one you picked out to get you through winter. It is bulky, and bright pink, and as familiar as your purse handles in your hand. At the fence you say goodbye; he will go back to standing with the other horses in his blanket you saved up for, waiting to be let inside for grain and hay and four planked walls.You will return to your work, your worries, and your day. But for that minute you are alone in the cold, under stark trees and a lowered, gray-white sky. It's quiet, and he knows you love him. A tear freezes like a diamond in your eye before it can even fall -- it may be several days before you can return to the sweet, frozen silence he welcomes you into.