I know this is technically a “photo” challenge, but I’m going to stretch it out to a little bit more. To begin with, I’m using a photo from my good friend – and one of my favorite professional photographers – Terry Valley. I’ve posted it previously, but it fits this week’s theme perfectly. I think my story does too.
I first saw her just across the ravine that runs through the Morgans’ wooded glen. I’d been walking there since dawn, too restless to lie in bed after hours of being too troubled to sleep. Old Man Morgan’s property bordered ours, and I often walked there, regularly ending up at my favorite spot, where the trees abruptly stopped to open up a small clearing and allow the sun to shine onto it in full power.
That day, as the sun caressed the earth with its warmth, it drew a heavy mist from the ground. A veil of softest silk; a gossamer film that shifted and swirled – light gray and white, but suffused with that iridescent pink that can be found only in the day’s very first kiss of sun.
All was silent except for birdsong, but as anyone who’s walked alone in the woods knows, that song is part of the unique quiet of wooded havens. There was no disturbance of nature from any direction – except within me. I had been besieged for months by a mind that wouldn’t be quiet, and a heart that raged against all that had happened until it sometimes felt as if it would burst from my body, and I would have to die. It raged at me that day. And the thoughts harangued me, until I finally threw myself down on the shallow bank of the ravine and leaned against the tree in exhaustion.
I don’t know for sure how long I sat there, looking out at the open meadow area directly across from me, watching the sun draw the mist and change its color from moment to moment. Finally, my eyes drifted closed. It may have been for a few seconds or for several minutes. Not having worn a watch, I’m still not sure. But suddenly, I opened my eyes and there in the open meadow walked the most beautiful horse I had ever seen. She was white –pure white – from nose to hooves, from mane to tail.
She was just far enough away that for a moment, I wasn’t sure I hadn’t imagined her form as a mirage resulting from the swirling mist. But the longer I watched her, more of the mist began to dissipate, and finally I was convinced of what I was seeing. She moved with stately grace, slowly and easily, but sure of her territory. I was interested to see that she walked the perimeter of the meadow, not stopping to graze, as most horses would, but seeming to delight in just taking the exercise.
I expected her to move out of my line of vision and go back to the stables or the coral where she had came from, but she did not. She came full circle around the meadow and back to the place she had started, right in front of me, just a few feet from the opposite bank of the ravine. She nodded her head a few times, then turned and looked right at me. Blowing softly through her nostrils, she watched me even as I watched her. Then she whinnied quietly, nodded her head at me a second time, turned and walked away, disappearing behind the stand of trees at the edge of the meadow.
I blinked, then closed my eyes. Immediately, I realized that my breathing had changed. My heartbeat had changed. My mind was actually quiet for the first time in months. I took a deep breath and roused myself to look around me more closely. I could see by the changes in the light that the day was well on its way, and some of my responsibilities wouldn’t wait any longer. At the thought of facing what the rest of the day held for me, I started dragging again, but I knew there was something different about me – something fresher and more alive that hadn’t been a part of me when I’d started my walk this morning. I’d need to think about it more later.
The following morning, I woke to realize I had slept five hours. That, in itself seemed a miracle, but I was wide awake at the very first rays of dawn. I threw on my clothes and headed out the door, knowing exactly where I was headed, and wasting no time getting there. I sat, again leaning against the tree, and waited. This time, I heard her before I saw her. She snorted softly a time or two, and I strained my eyes to watch for her. The mist was thick again. It was that time of year, and nearly every day, it took an hour or two for it to burn off completely. Then I saw her – the same as yesterday – walking slowly through the meadow – always within my line of vision. This time, when she was on the back side of the meadow, she stopped and looked across the expanse in my direction. I couldn’t see her eyes up close, of course, but I felt sure she was looking directly at me. And when she whinnied softly the way she had the previous day, I was convinced.
She continued her walk and came back to the edge of the ravine, stopping, blowing softly, looking at me and waiting. Yes, for some reason, she just watched me and waited. Finally, I spoke. “Hello there, Morning Star.” The name flowed out of my mouth without conscious thought on my part. I don’t know why. It just fit. She blew softly again and nodded her head. She liked it. My heart actually skipped a beat, and my breath caught in my throat at the idea that this lovely creature somehow genuinely cared about me and was wanting to communicate that fact to me. It was an amazing experience.
I’d been a Christian believer all my life, and I was firmly convinced that God had personally created every single creature on the earth. I knew that in His Word, He clearly indicated that the human race is responsible for those creatures – not only to bring them into subjection, but also to love them, care for them, meet their needs, and bless them. I had always been a responsible pet owner when I was a boy, and I believed my dogs and cats had always been happy in my care. But this experience was a different thing. This time, it felt as if this animal were taking the responsibility to love me and care for me – even if only for a few moments. I wondered: could God cause these less elevated creatures to know – really know – when humans had needs? And could He — well, admittedly, I believed He could – but would He call on them to help those humans in their times of need?
I didn’t have an answer to that question, but Morning Star, whinnied softly to me again, nodding her head once more, so I started telling her about my life. I poured out more that morning than I had poured out to any other creature under Heaven. Well, in fact, I don’t think I had even said all of those things in so many words to God Himself. He knew them, of course, but there’s a difference.
When I was to the place that I was ready to stop, Morning Star was still watching me intently. Throughout my speech, she had responded with her soft, comforting, blowing sounds and an occasional nod. That was all, but oddly enough, it was all I needed. When I had been quiet for several minutes, she whinnied and turned away, again making her stately way into the copse of trees that evidently held the trail that led to her home.
I went every morning that week, more eager to rise from my bed each day, and realizing when I did so that I had slept more hours each night. By the seventh day, I felt truly rested. I hurried to my place of rendezvous, and, to my delighted surprise, Morning Star, was already there waiting for me. She stood, beautiful in the mist, which held a unique golden-pink glow this morning. “Hello, Morning Star,” I whispered. She greeted me with her familiar soft blowing, nodded her head at me, and began her walk. I wondered at her turning away to walk right after I arrived, but then I realized that she was giving me time to settle in and get quiet enough to receive more help.
When she had come full circle and stopped, looking at me, waiting for me to speak, I realized the I had nothing to pour out to her about my terrible life experiences. My mind was so quiet that I couldn’t even find the haranguing thoughts that had been pounding through it for weeks on end. They were gone. My body felt light, fresh, energized. “Well, Morning Star,” I began, “Believe it or not, I don’t have anything to complain about today. In fact, I’m feeling grateful that I’m alive and well and capable of working.” As I spoke the words, I realized that deep inside I had been experiencing a gentle nudging for the past couple of days — a desire to begin work on projects that I had put off for months. I realized with a thrill to my entire being that I actually wanted to work again! I wanted to live again!
I looked back at my friend. “I’m okay, Morning Star. Really okay! I’m ready to get back into life.”
She whinnied, more forcefully than she had done previously, and nodded her head so energetically that I had to laugh. Then she began to paw the ground and even prance a little. I could never explain to anyone how I knew, but I did know that Morning Star was happy – happy for me! It was one of the most exciting experiences I had ever had. I laughed, and she whinnied, eventually rearing up on her back legs and pawing the air in her own excitement. “Thank you, Morning Sar.” I said, and her response was another excited whinny as she reared up once more and then settled down again.
I rose and slowly made my way across the ravine, thankful that the water merely trickled through it this time of year. She stood still before me, still making her comforting blowing sounds. “Thank you, Morning Star,” I whispered again, reaching up to lay one hand on her nose and the other on her neck. She felt like velvet, and I was not surprised. She turned her head and nuzzled my cheek. I laughed, patting her neck again. “I love you, girl. Thank you for being here.”
After nuzzling my cheek another moment, she stepped away from me and half turned. I glanced upward, knowing the true source of the gift I had been given. I closed my eyes and lifted both hands in the air. “Thank you, Lord,” I whispered.
Opening my eyes, I turned to reach out to Morning Star again, but she was gone. The mist was gone. In its place, glorious sunlight enveloped the meadow and filtered through the trees and shrubs, spreading it’s warm brilliance everywhere. It bathed my face, drying the tears that had begun to course down my cheeks. I couldn’t hold them back, but they were not tears of distress. They were tears of joy and gratitude. I knew Morning Star would not be back. I would miss her sorely for a while, but she had given me a gift that would always be a part of me. I had my life back, and the will to live it.
I have no idea how she came to be in that glen. That she was not a figment of my imagination coupled with the mist, I am quite sure. I touched her with my hands and felt her nuzzle my cheek. But do I believe she actually lived on a segment of land anywhere in that county? Maybe not. Maybe an angel rode her to the glen each morning for that week. Perhaps I’ll never know. But I do know that she is one of God’s creatures, and that He graciously led her to me when I needed her. She loved me when I needed love. I’ll love her for the rest of my life.