I took a big, deep breath before getting out of my car. I could see Margot walking from the barn to meet me. I grabbed my bag, closed the door to the car, smiled and introduced myself (because despite ‘knowing’ each other for quite some time, we’d never formally met). Our eyes met and my face softened. Thats when I saw it- all the pain and hurt and love she had in her, all of it was right there on the surface. One more word, one more thought, and it would have all poured out. Swallowing the lump that I knew would be in my throat before the day was over, I started walking towards the barn- “So where is the big guy?!” I asked Margot, “I’m excited to meet him!” I babbled on about seeing her other horses around, but not actually knowing if I’d met Oscar before. As I stepped inside the barn, the forever comforting smell of horse filled my nostrils. Standing in front of me, ears pricked, was Ozzy. He had a cross-tie in his mouth and his tail was swishing. He was annoyed at how long it had taken me to walk to the barn and it showed. He didn’t wait for much, and I was certainly no different. I spoke happily and factually. I asked details of his injury and remarked about how he didn’t look or act in pain. Margot pointed out what was hard to ignore- the sunken hind end, the shifting of his weight, the fact that he hadn’t laid down to sleep in weeks. I changed the subject- “So are we putting this bridle on him?” I asked, looking away, wiping away the tears that were already welling up in my eyes. Be strong. They need me. I looked at Ozzy and he grabbed the cross-tie -not looking even a little bit in pain, or like I was supposed to be there, doing what I was going to do.
Margot had contacted me via Facebook a few weeks before- telling me about Oscar’s injury and how she’d be faced with a decision she didn’t want to talk about long before she ever thought she’d be. She complimented my style and told me she would need these pictures to heal herself ‘after.’ I cried. I cleared my schedule and told her I’d be there whenever she wanted me, whenever she needed me. We set a date. I drove up. I cried on the drive, not even able to imagine myself in the same situation. I did the best I could. I told Margot to love him and snuggle him and let him do all of the things that she never lets him do so that he’d be happy and fun. I stepped back and I watched a woman laugh with her horse. I watched years of memories wash over her face. I watched him try for her. I watched him love her and I watched her love him back. Not for me, not for my camera- for what they had and who they were to each other and where they were right now. Because they had right now. And Margot and Oscar taught me, right there that day, that that’s all you really ever have. So to live it, and love it. And that’s what they did.
As I got back in my car, I thought of Margot. And of Oscar. And I cried again. And I promised myself that I’d keep shooting for as long as these moments, these tragedies, these celebrations of life, showed themselves to me.
Margot and Ozzy, you are both so brave and special. Thank you for letting me in, even for just a little bit.