Years ago, when my mother was visiting during a particularly snowy winter, she was walking down our snow-covered front steps, taking her time. She was going very slow, grasping the handrail for dear life and cautiously placing one foot in front of the other. I recall that I had a flash of a feeling–not anger, but perhaps annoyance, that was quickly followed by overwhelming sadness.
It was the first time I really understood that she was getting old. And I didn’t want to acknowledge it. Didn’t even want to think about it.
And honestly, the feeling quickly passed.
I hadn’t remembered that moment for years, until recently as I watched Pepper come in from the pasture for her grain.
On this day, there were five or six younger horses hanging around the gate. These are horses that Miss P. isn’t so fond of. So as I laid out the grain pans, she began her walk. She made a huge arc around the shed, walking slowly, her focus forward, as if ignoring the other horses.
I called to her, “Hey Pepper, where are you going?”
She ignored me.
I thought she might be planning to come around the back of the shed to the gate.
I was wrong.
She kept walking, plodding really, until she arrived at a completely different gate. Then, and only then, she turned her head toward me. “I want to eat my grain here, today,” she seemed to be saying.
By now, Chickadee had already come out the first gate and was happily chomping her grain, so I couldn’t accommodate Pepper.
Then I sighed again.
I took the lead rope and strongly encouraged the younger horses to leave. It took a few swings, but they finally got the message.
Then I climbed through the fence and walked down the hill to fetch Miss P. She’d been watching me chase the horses away and looked to be considering her options. Eventually she walked toward me and got to her grain.
Interestingly I experienced the same emotions I’d felt all those years ago with my mother.
A flash of irritation followed by understanding, then sadness.
Pepper avoids the younger, stronger horses because I believe she feels vulnerable, and unsafe.
Her body doesn’t work like it used to, and she can’t protect herself. Hard for an alpha mare to admit!
Her caution and vulnerability tug at my heart, and in many ways resonate with my own aging.
I’m not as sure-footed as I used to be, so in snowy weather I walk more carefully.
I suspect my mother is smiling at that one.
As I get used to living in a sixty-seven-year-old body, I want to be kinder to myself as I navigate the world with a little less confidence about my physical abilities.
Like Pepper, I may need to learn to take the long way around the shed. Thanks old girl for showing me how it’s done!
What makes you feel vulnerable these days?