I have three days off from work. Three sun-drenched, glorious days away from meetings and deadlines, expectations and responsibilities. In my mind, I hear the clatter of a chain slip from a gate. The gate creaks open.
“It is time,” the voice beckons. “You can go now.”
I stumble out of bed. Comb my hair, plug Mr. Coffee into the wall, scoop Fancy Feast into bowls for the cats. My suitcase yawns on the stand. I start tossing: bird book, butterfly book, wildflower guide, binoculars, camera, film, notebook, pens, water, cheese, crackers, wine, and oh, a pair of pants and two tee shirts. Pack it all into the red Camry and kiss my husband goodbye. I am off to Elk Lake Lodge in the Adirondacks, my favorite place of retreat and renewal.
I push the garage door button. It rattles back in its tracks to reveal a brilliant morning. Suddenly, there is a strange silence. Is something wrong? I turn to look at the car. It was fine yesterday. All gassed up, oil changed, washed and ready to go. What could be the matter?
Then it happens. Before my eyes, the Camry slowly transforms itself. From the routine car driven blandly to work every day, the Toyota draws itself together and slowly, warily, shifts. The black tires lengthen into slender, powerful limbs. The scarlet hood narrows and arches into a muscled neck. The headlights blink and glisten with intelligence. Amazed, I watch the car morph into a seething, snorting red steed. Sparks fly as hooves paw at the concrete floor. By the time my husband comes downstairs to the garage and offers me the keys, the Camry has become a gleaming crimson charger, a powerful mare packed and ready for battle.
My husband doesn’t see this.
I grab a hank of mane and throw myself into the seat. As the key slides into the ignition, the mare gathers her bulk onto powerful haunches, ready to spring at my command.
I kiss my husband. “See you in a couple of days; I love you!”
“I love you too, be careful!
We trot primly up the driveway and slip past the hedges. The neighbor waves as she picks up her morning newspaper. I rein left. The mare responds, knowing what is to come.
We jog down the street and onto the local highway. A right turn onto the New York State Thruway North. There is no holding the mare back. I drop the reins to the buckle. She picks up the pace and stretches her legs into the growing strides that will eat up miles in minutes. She gallops hard and fast, her chiseled head held high as she scans the horizon, her tail a banner of joy. She bucks out once, twice, for the sheer thrill of her strength. I ride her lightly, the wind whipping my hair. I touch her flank with my leg, asking a question.
Her answer is immediate. She lowers her head into the reins and grabs the bit. Her back flattens beneath my weight and I grin, knowing this is the moment we have been waiting for. I lean down into her neck. We are of one body, one spirit streaming up the highway.
An explosion of power flashes from the red mare’s flying hooves. There is nothing to stop our flight or match our joy. Birch trees melt into maples and the maples into the towering white pines of my beloved north woods.
We gallop for hours. We speed past lumbering tractor trailers, SUVs, summer campers, motorcycles. We race by towns and hamlets, streams and rivers. Only the threat of a state trooper drops the mare into a light canter before she snorts back into her flying stride.
We pull off at Schroon Lake in the Adirondacks and slow to a trot through the town, then pick up the pace along Route 9 to our final destination. Hemlocks feather the highways. A loon laughs as the sun climbs higher in the sky.
Thus we arrive at Elk Lake Lodge, where everyone thinks I am driving a red car.