“A thing of beauty is a joy forever Its loveliness increases; it will never Pass into nothingness; but still will keep A bower quiet for us, and a sleep Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.”
~ John Keats
I met Sally Rogers at the Arabian Nationals in Albuquerque where I was exhibiting my artwork. She was very appreciative of my talent, and she told me that she had a photograph of her mare with her newborn foal that she would like to share with me in hopes I might be inspired to paint it someday.
I received the photo a few weeks later. Her letter said she had taken the photo years before. The filly was now grown up, and though she had witnessed the births of many foals, this beautiful image still held a special place in her heart. The filly was a daughter of her Arabian Stallion, Barexi, who graced the cover and pages of Robert Vavra’s book, “Horses of the Sun”.
The gentle love in the mare’s eye was a wonder to behold, and the image of the filly’s sweet, scrunched up nose made me smile. I knew I would want to paint them.
Several months later I ran across the photo again and decided to begin a painting of it. In my imagination, I tried to place myself in the stall in order to be aware of the intimate details I would observe and perceive if I was there with them. The mare’s eye reflected the distant doorway of her stall – a safe haven for her precious angel. The light was soft and the air was warm. The hay rustled. I could almost feel the soft, short fluff of the filly’s coat. I sensed the quiet breathing as the mare gently nuzzled her foal. As I worked, I perceived these small details and tried to portray them with all the magic and softness that was present in the moment the photograph had captured.
As I worked, I became aware of the special feelings that foals inspire in us. Infant horses are so unlike human babies. They are so much more active in their own survival. They are born to run instead of crawl, they seek to nurse when they are hungry instead of crying for food, and they can identify their mother immediately from other horses. Their minds are awake and vibrant. It is no wonder they fascinate us. It is only when they sleep, that they remind us of our own kind. It is in their innocent dreams and sweet breathing, that their vulnerability is revealed.
When I had finished the painting, I was anxious to send Sally a photograph in the mail as I rushed to get the painting ready for an exhibition. I wanted to let her know I had created the painting in case she wanted to purchase it, though at the time she had sent me the photo she had said she probably could not afford the original. I offered to send her a print as a gift for her inspiration.
She called me two days later. The photograph had made it in record time to her home in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Haltingly, she explained that the timing of receiving the photo was a poignant coincidence, for she had picked up her mail that day after burying her mare, the one depicted in the painting, who had died of colic. Her tears were a mix of grief from the loss of her mare, and joy at seeing her so beautifully depicted in my painting. Through it all, she became aware that there was a glimmer of healing being offered to her heavy heart at the prophetic appearance of the photo in her mail. She decided to purchase the original to commemorate her love for her mare.
I knew then, that somehow I had been given the special opportunity to create that artwork as a gift to Sally’s heart, at a time when she was most in need of healing. “The Gift” is also for the hearts of those who love horses like she does. Her mare and foal are now appreciated the world over, and we have all become witnesses to the special magic of their precious love.