Mileposts

Landings

Homage to a friend

By Julie O. Petrini

It was time. The needle angles in. His eyelids droop and his head lowers, prehistoric in the haze of age and sedation. First his knees and now his hocks buckle and, this final time, he lands onto the earth.

I remember other landings. He sights the obstacle. His ears perk and we each await the cue from the other. Mostly, I trust him to find the way and we take off in brief yet timeless flight. Gracefully, he lands and we gallop to the next.

Once, I take desperate charge and insist we fly too soon. All heart, he complies. Dense fence rails splinter as we crash and 1,500 pounds somersaults hard. I lay by his side and momentum hurtles toward me. Steel-rimmed hooves above my stillness. All will, he reverses gravity and gracefully he lands.

A little girl’s dream. Maybe every little girl’s dream. Madison Square Garden. Jumps overpacked into a spotlighted arena, fans noisy in the folding seats. No little girl anymore, I ask for his indulgence. Around we canter, finding each jump in stride. Up and over. Gracefully he lands.

We pass three decades together. A constant among the variables of marriage, children, career, life. He nickers at the crunch of my car wheels in the gravel of the stable yard. We wander rooty trails in the Massachusetts autumn, hoping for fallen trees across the path. I urge a trot and then we leap. And gracefully, always, he lands.

An old horse’s dream. Sun-soaked fields, crayon-green grass, Carolina-blue skies. The devotion of a little girl, in worn and torn costume. For as long as you want, until you’re ready, I tell him. I’m ready, he says to me one day.

And gracefully he lands. PS

Julie O. Petrini is a lawyer, writer and avid arts consumer. She splits her time between Southern Pines, North Carolina, and Wellesley, Massachusetts. She can be reached at jpetrini@petrinilaw.com.

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