By Annie Penfield

August 10, 2020


Low-slung fog canvasses our narrow valley. The film of haze blurs the trees, rubbing out their distinct edges––as if the forest is fine print and I am trying to read it without my glasses. This morning I awoke thinking of my old brown mare; she died two years ago on a dark winter evening.

For twenty years, she stood in our field. Together, we navigated our first pregnancies. As a sleep-deprived, brain-fogged mother, I sat my three small children in a buggy attached to the mare and went on newly cleared trails. Nothing startled her, not the turkey jumping into the trail, not the fluttering cloth windmills on my neighbor’s lawn.

Next I led my children on ponies attached to us with a line, an umbilicus, until they piloted their own mounts. We haunted the forest like mist rising through maples, cantering through woods into high pastures. When sports teams claimed my teenagers, I moved on and competed her great brown gelding son.

After he died unexpectedly, I sat on the soft earth of his grave, my eyes clouded by tears, watching her graze beside me. When she was too old to ride, the other horses parted for her as she entered the barn each evening. Until the night I came home from the last high school basketball game, went to hay the horses, and found her dead and warm in the snow.

This morning’s fog has trapped ghosts around me, hovering near to me, whispering, Steady on.


Annie Penfield is a graduate of Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Writing Program. Her work has appeared in numerous journals and forthcoming in the Catamaran Literary Reader. She is working on a narrative based on her essay “The Half-Life,” winner Fourth Genre’s Steinberg prize, and a Best American Notable Essay.


Photo provided courtesy of the author

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