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Early in the morning when I venture out to the barn to feed, turn out the horses, and clean their stalls, the world is dark and quiet. Silence heightens other senses such as hearing. As I listen for sounds wild and tame, I hear the familiar nicker of expectation and the eerie tremolo of the screech owl completing a night’s hunt. Deer may scurry away in fright as they hear me approach or a waterlogged branch may crack in the woods beyond the fields. 

Above, the moon sets, still gently lighting up the sky. By five a.m., I arrive at the barn, the glowing white orb remains behind me to the east, a reminder that dawn is still to come, filled with the hopes and promises of a new day. On clear mornings, stars accompany the moon and I can make out the big dipper, Orion, and a few other easily recognizable constellations, more if I do some research. 

Once inside the barn, the horses hastily demand that I cease thinking about nature and get to the all-important morning task of feeding them. From the peaceful silence of the dark my morning moves toward the clamor of hooves on stall walls, nickers and snorts, the sound of grain scooped, and the reassuring sound of jaws and teeth mashing down to emit the sweet smell of molasses that cancels out the odor of the sullied stalls from the night before. 

My horses need to go out before sunrise to make my schedule work for me. Thus, I rise early to complete my chores, but I do not mind as the rewards of being in the barn and out and about just before the the moon sets and the sun rises are innumerable. 

Accustomed to early turnout, the horses’ awareness of their surroundings heightens as they may hear things that they cannot see. An occasional spook keeps us on alert for creatures moving about with us in near darkness. This deters no horse from wanting to stop for some grass on the way to the field where it remains long and green, untouched by hours of turnout each day. I tend to indulge them a bit so that I may continue to monitor the moon’s progress to the western horizon. Alas, I am usually in a rush to complete my chores, so we tarry on our way to the field quickly. 

By the time the stalls are cleaned, the moon has almost set. The sky is a deep slate grey as the dark night fades day and the sun begins to rise. I return to the house, happy to have completed the cycle once again with the moon and my horses.

Katharine MacCornack
Published on 2020-12-01