Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunday Stills: Horses

For several reasons, this has been the hardest challenge yet, as Ed (facetiously) said. Yesterday's plan to get out and photograph horses was set aside for Phoebe, whom I posted about yesterday. Usually when I let Avo out in the morning he thump-thump-thumps (he's the most heavy footed rooster around) over to wing her and this morning he winged me a couple times and then cautiously walked around looking for her. I think not only do we need a new ewe for Finley's companion, but perhaps we need a real hen to be Avo's.

Anyway, I'm posting a photo of the only horse I own: Milda's Horse. It has an interesting story.

In the early 90's I was volunteering at the booth of a nature preserve at a fair being held at the Austin Botanical Gardens. On my break, I discovered a booth with these quaint little paintings, and one of a horse caught my eye. I had brought no money with me, and the artist was also on break.

The image haunted me for weeks. I called the organizer, and since it was the only art booth at the fair, was able to determine the vendor was a woman named Milda. Fortunately she was in the phone book, so I called her up and inquired about the little horse. She said it was $10 and gave me her address.

When I drove up, I realized she lived in an assisted living tower on the lake. Milda, in her mid 80's, not unlike my own Ruthenian grandmother, was under five feet tall and spoke with a thick Latvian accent. She had prepared Latvian almond cookies for my arrival, as she would for each of my visits over the next year. I bought the painting of her horse.

She had fled Latvia during the communist rule for France, where she studied at a national art academy. Her eyes gleamed talking about the European countryside she had travel and painted. I showed her my own paintings, which were large and realistic still life. My problem in painting landscapes was a matter of scale; it seemed I could not paint anything smaller than it actually was and make it work. Milda was sure she could help change that.

In reality I became her vehicle to get away from the home, as we would take our paints out into the surrounding hill country. She was always 'tinking' (thinking) about us having shows together. In fact, every time she was tinking it involved doing something together. Like me, Milda also played the guitar, only hers was tuned to an open G so that she could play chords by barring with one finger. She liked to sing Latvian folk songs, which we did if it were too rainy to go out and paint. She finally determined I was hopeless as small landscape painter. So we sang and ate cookies.

Then one day she told me her daughter had just died of cancer. I had never met her, nor had I known she was sick, but she lived nearby and apparently assisted Milda in whatever I didn't. Her grandson and his wife had just had a baby and were moving her to California to live with them. As it turned out, the little horse had become something altogether different and very big in my life that I was about to have to part with.

She gave me her daughter's knife and coffee grinder. Milda asked me if I wanted to have one of her paintings as a goodbye gift. I had really admired one of a blackbird sitting on a tree stump, but she said that was the only one she intended to keep. I asked her to pick, and she gave me one of a flower bouquet. We have lost touch. I wonder if she is still with us, and if so if she is still painting, singing, and making almond cookies.

Now the blackbird on the stump haunts me, so much that one day I may paint it in her memory. But at least I have Milda's horse.

For more horses, visit Sunday Stills.


colleen said...

A beautiful story. Sometimes people come into our lives for a reason when we least expect it. You were open to that experience, and that says alot about the woman you are.

Sorry again about Pheobe, I'm with you this week, we lost our Molly on Tuesday. It's hard.

Tracey said...

Oh...sniff...I'm crying now.

Ebie said...

A beautiful and touching story. You have kept a wonderful memory of two artists sharing the same interest.

Thanks too, for touching our lives and sharing the love of people and animals.


Ed said...

nice story and a beautiful painting..:-)

Anonymous said...

That was a lovely story and I love the painting! Great job. :)

Janice said...

Way to go this darn menopause at least that's my story and I'm sticking to it.It was supposed to be horses, not stories that make you all emotional.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Such a heartwarming story. I'm always taken aback by the way people...and even animals come into our lives, and change our lives for a time. Sometimes it's only a short time, even if we wish it were longer. No matter what these same people or animals change our lives forever.

Such a sweet, folk art style painting, too. Did she also tell you the story behind her horse?

My Grandfather was Lithuaniana. I used to love sitting beside him as sang Lithuanian Folk songs in his deep, lilting voice. Your post reminded me of him. I miss him very much, but he did what he promised, and lived just long enough to dance at my wedding 20 years ago.

Thanks for sharing

Anonymous said...

ed posted my comment lol :)
you did great

Holly said...

oh my. I am so glad you posted that story with the painting.

I will forever more say "tinking" and think of your friend.

Jennifer MacNeill-Traylor said...

What a beautiful story, and a very beautiful painting.

Callie said...

What a great story. Thank you for writing it down and sharing it with everyone.

Sandy "From the Heart of Texas" said...

Such a wonderful and beautiful story! I hope you hear from Milda again. The painting is lovely as well and little did you know that it would become so much more than just a painting.

Thank you for visiting my blog and I laughed about your John Wayne comment! It probably is his fault how people "see" Texas. Hee, hee.

CTG Ponies said...

What a beautiful story.

thecrazysheeplady said...


Horses are our Lives said...

What a special story. You were a very special friend to her. The story made me both happy and sad at the same time. You have reminded me of a lovely lady, actually 1 of 3 spinster sisters that lived together. My husband and I lived next to them for 2 years, about 26-28 years ago! They are gone now, but we did send notes back and forth for quite a few years. We visited them a few times when we traveled back home. They gave me an old Christmas ornament before we left. I think this year, I will place it at eye level. Thank you for reminding me of my "old" friends.

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