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.