He found the young, fragile creature just past a short rise, huddled against a small, rocky outcrop, shivering as much in fear as in the piercing cold wind that accompanied the enemy as it closed in. His horse deftly stepped down the rise, brought him close, then stood stationary as he gathered the small calf in his arms and remounted with it tied across. He clicked his tongue and shook the reigns just a bit and the horse knew to retrace its steps around the outcrop, back up the rise and towards home. Finding the lost little creature had in and of itself been a miracle. Getting home past the enemy, past Winter, through the icy, ferocious blizzard about to spring at them, that might be the harder part.
Beyond the rise stretched a treeless plain where the gale swept unopposed from the horizon. Snow blew in a straight line, icy as knives, increasing in volume as he went. He huddled lower against the calf hoping to combine their warmth. The horse’s neck plus the wide brim of his hat helped shield them just a little, but the tips of his gloved fingers curled around the reigns, had lost their feeling. He tried to control his shivers. There was little he could do from this point. His horse knew what to do.
His mind began to drift as they moved across the featureless landscape. The freezing cold, the whiteout of the snow and the howl of the wind seemed to have placed them in an alien void hostile to existence while at the same time as vulnerable as a blank canvas. As it drifted his mind began to paint. Short brush strokes, warm colors, impressionistic at first, then overlaid by flashing, broad, modernistic lines in vibrant hues. A summer world. A peaceful garden. A golden plain under a blue sky. Scene after scene supplanting each other as though a gallery of every pleasant vision he’d ever known were rolling through his brain, the exhibition moving while he remained immobile. The gale’s flat howl now overlaid by music from every song he’d ever heard played on a Saturday night in a hot, stuffy hall crowded with warm, laughing, dancing, drunk bodies.
He wasn’t sure how long they’d been at it, but he sensed the second the gale slackened, and knew they had dropped into the broad depression that encompassed the house and the barn and the outbuildings. The horse seemed to raise his head and increase his canter in pride. He saw bright light in the windows of the house, likely steaming with the scent of supper. He knew the calf would soon be safely snuggled into a warm bed of hay. He knew the horse expected his muzzle would soon be buried into a bag of oats. He knew he would sleep in his own bed that night, dug in naked under thick blankets next to his woman. And in his mind he saw a painting of it all that was indestructible.
All my life I have had to learn to do things differently. To see the world differently.