“In the miracle of birth
He unfolded from the mare
Compact as a wet butterfly emerging from its cocoon.
His first instinctive thought – to stand!”
~ Kim McElroy
At 11 pm one night in the Spring of 1988, my friend Saradel called. I had been expecting her call, and now she was breathless on the phone as she said quickly, “If you want to watch, she just laid down. You might catch it if you get over here quick.” Fifteen minutes later, I pulled into their driveway and trotted over to the quiet barn shining like a lighthouse in the darkness. Within, I found Saradel and her husband, Bud, watching their chestnut Arabian mare beginning to give birth.
Just as I arrived, the foal’s legs began to emerge. I readied my camera and watched with great anticipation. I was witnessing my first birth. The mare groaned softly and continued to push, and with each push the legs emerged a little further. As the knees appeared, Saradel said, “Look at all that white, how high do those socks go?”
Then a nose emerged, also white, pressed against the knees. Finally a dark brown head, and ears, neck and shoulders. Then the rest of the foal slipped out in one amazing rush. Saradel and Bud moved forward gently to assist, and I let out the breath I had been unaware I was holding. It had all happened so fast.
The foal’s ears swiveled as he struggled to interpret his new, unfamiliar surroundings and strange physical sensations. Instinctively, he began trying to stand. First he struck out into midair with one long front leg, then the other. He crossed them repeatedly in a parody of Bambi. The deep hay might as well have been ice for the purchase he was able to attain with his wobbly legs. I winced at the thought of him standing on his soft baby hooves, which looked fragile and sensitive, not like the familiar hard horn. Saradel explained that they would harden in a matter of hours. He finally stood, and as I joined in the effort to help him balance, I touched his wet, slippery coat for a few magical moments, and the miracle of his solid body, curly wet hair, and tenacious energy filled my awareness. Saradel checked and confirmed he was a colt. He nursed as we watched, and his mother cleaned him thoroughly. We all looked at each other in shared awareness of the magical moment, and were thankful that it had all gone well.
The next day I went to visit him again. By now, of course, he was soft, dry, and frisky, whisking his fluffy tail and tottering around the stall. Nursing and balancing were taken in stride. He acted as confident as a big horse in a small body. After our reintroduction, he welcomed my scratches and groomed me in return.
When I painted “Promise” I chose a composition that conveyed the newness of the foal, his wetness and confusion being comforted by the first greeting of his gentle mother – the purple night surrounding them in the colors of insight and healing. When I look at the painting, I relive that moment of touching his warm, wet body, and witnessing his energetic awakening into a new life.