Walking out to feed my horses in the winter always occurs in evening's darkness. The blackened sky is refreshing like a cold glass of strongly brewed ice tea and the brisk air makes me feel frisky. Since the mercury drops to the low 40's in the evenings, I sometimes pick up a little jog and wave my hands around to keep my wimpy hands warm. But my other babies need me and I have to take care of them too.
On moonless nights, I like the feeling of walking to the horses in almost total darkness. I have about 500 feet to cover between my house and the barn. During my brief walk, I get a few fleeting moments of stillness, no kids and no husband. In this blink of time, I can just breath in the simple night time air.
The neighbors houses, about 1,000 feet away, are sometimes lit up like a shopping mall at Christmas, albeit minus the blinking colored lights. They are pansies, afraid of the dark. I wish they could just turn off their floodlights for a few minutes and enjoy the night instead of blasting it with their light pollution. When their back porch beacons are not ruining my night, it is very dark, the kind of dark where you almost can't see in front of you. That is when I practice seeing with my peripheral vision. The sensors in your eyes that register color are different from the sensors that receive black and white. And if you look really closely using just the sides of your eyes you can see all kinds of things in the black and white spectrum. So, I never feel blindfolded when the night is at it's darkest of dark. My eyes like the challenge, and I know I always have my own "night vision" to fall back on.
When I get to the back of our property, the horses get put in their stalls and blanketed much to their objection. Gemma the youngster, a mammoth 4 year old Dutch warmblood, walks out to her paddock and avoids me for as long as she can. She will make several turns and swing her gigantic haunches at me; but after I corner her and grab her by the muzzle, she submits to the torture of being warm. Obviously, she is not fond of wearing her blanket. Since this is the first year she has worn it regularly, she must accept the fact its going on no matter what. Sharpie, my 12 year old Thoroughbred gelding, knows what is coming and stands still, even puts his head in the neck hole of the blanket, but then snakes his face at me with a snarling mouth. As if he would even think of really biting. Believe me, he knows better than to put his teeth on a human body part. I'm a bitch on wheels and all my horse experimented when they were younger and figured out that "resistance is futile." Sharpie's all show, and I know he would rather be naked too, but has to demonstrate he still has objections. The old timer, Alfie, a 23 year old Swedish warmblood gelding, walks out of his stall into his paddock and stands. No fussing about the blanket, just pragmatic acceptance of the inevitable.
As I move around the barn I will often catch fleeting glimpses of my cats who follow me on the nighttime rounds. These emissaries of the night scurry through the aisle way, scamper up the hay stacks or creep into my tack room: sniffing, listening, hunting. "Get em boys," I encourage the cats as they prowl around for rodents. I don't think winter gives them much luck but they still must make their presence known. Two of three "Boys" I can see with my night vision, but little lithe Lucky is pure black with a few white hairs on his chest. If he comes with me I never see him frolicking. He is truly invisible in the night, it's almost like he is one with the air...
After the neigh-neighs, are snugly tucked in their blankets, I walk out from the protection of the barn. Then I can look at the sky spread infinitely above me and observe the stars sparkling from the heavens. At this time of night, low on the horizon I see the constellation Orion rising over the oak covered hill which juts dome-like into the sky, east of my house. Before I knew it's name, I alway thought Orion looked like a hand with the middle finger extended, flipping off some celestial God. I think I was in my early teens when I dubbed it "the finger." I promised my son Wyatt that we would get a star chart so we can correctly identify the night sky. I think I can make him an admirer of the night and stars too.
The last few nights I have been lucky enough to see several shooting stars streak across our sky. Meteors arriving from galaxies I will never see... One of the spectacular ones left a long trail and terminated in a burst of blues and greens against the blackness of the universe. I put a wish on it, but then thought: Why do I need to wish on a star? I think I must already have those things that I actually need.
And here are my two riding horses:
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