by Phoebe Wray
Starlite is a chestnut mare with a white stocking on the left front leg, a small, Araby kind of head, an unruly forelock, an irregular white diamond blaze between her eyes. She came to me in my imagination when I was five or six. I rode her almost every day, on many many adventures. She was as real as my classmates and my family asked after her occasionally, casually, not mocking, just "How’s your horse?"
Starlite and I won races, fought battles, delivered messages behind enemy lines, pulled people out of ditches, saved people from burning houses. We were the best! We rode thousands of miles together. All through my childhood in a very small village in Western Pennsylvania.
Then I was grown up, and no longer in the little village but with my family moved to Northern California and in high school and then college and then making my way in the world in various cities.
The day came that I read Clarissa Pinkola Estes' wonderful book, Women Who Run with the Wolves. In it she talks about getting back in touch with childhood memories, dreams, imaginings, stories. . . I read that part and sat straight up in bed, for I was reading myself to sleep, and said out loud: Starlite.
I was appalled with myself. When had she left? Where did she go? How could I have just abandoned her? Was it puberty that changed everything? Had she left me? I couldn't remember the last time I had seen her.
I went searching for days and nights, sifting through all my childhood memories, especially reliving my very difficult tenth year, and questing shaman-style through visions and meditations and dreams. Looking for Starlite, for our parting.
One night I was visioning a road I often walk in my meditations. It is a Pennsylvania road, a dirt one-track that cuts across a meadow on the side of a small hill. Just two dusty streaks with grass between then, a wagon road, a real one, from my childhood. The meadow on either side is green and grassy and fenced in the old-fashioned way with posts and two parallel strands of barbed wire. Queen Anne’s lace and yarrow and bluets and Indian paint brushes and nettles grow by the posts and scatter themselves in the field.
It was late afternoon. Warm and buzzing with cicadas and birdsong. Barn swallows swooping over the fields. A dog barking miles away. I came to the meadow gate -- just a once-painted wooden bar with a rock on one end and a loop of rope to hold it to the stationary post. I pried the loop off, went through, shutting the gate behind me, and looked off across the long meadow. It ended at the top of the hill in a woods of sugar maples, birches, ash and oaks.
And I saw her. Starlite. Standing right at the tree line. I knew instantly it was my horse. I whistled and she tossed that beautiful head and stamped her feet. Then I was running toward her and she did a little prance and came at me in a gentle canter, arching her neck, tossing her head, ears pricked forward.
I threw my arms around her neck -- easier now -- I'm taller! and kissed that pretty head with tears running down my face. Then I stepped back, smiling, to look at her again. And my heart stopped.
She was old. She had waited.
You may be sure, I rode her then and I ride her often, that I untangled her mane and curried her coat back to gloss. You may be sure, also, that I value her as my childhood's faith returned, and that I am perfectly comfortable with this divine madness.
We ride on dark moon nights, in the starshine, in the light of day. She is well exercised, and so am I. Starlite waits for me while I go about my business, and is there when I need to touch infinity, Self, Otherness, beauty, freedom. I intend to ride her for the rest of my life, and thereafter, straight into the light.