We topped the hill looking down to Harvey Gap when dark clouds rolled over the Hogback, from the south instead of the west, where storms usually emerged. The view west lent itself to easily spotting any storms.
The horses, the sunlight on our side of the mountain, and the joy of spending time together distracted from the rumble of thunder that now filled our ears. Sprinkles began to fall, and we looked at each other, spun the horses, and started a quick trot back to Kim’s house, Hannah the dog right on the horses’ heels.
Soon the raindrops splattered and lightning flashed, and we urged the horses on, loping through clay quickly turning to mud. The thunder roared and lightning struck close by, and the horses’ bodies tensed with ours and we sprinted down the last hill, sliding down and then up to the road, where without urging Red and Duke shifted into a full out run.
My hat flew off and lightning hit somewhere a few hundred feet south and we raced to Kim’s driveway. I fumbled with the gate, threw it open and hopped back on without bothering to close it, and we galloped into the barnyard.The horses skittered to a stop and four pairs of lungs heaved together, the boarded-up building offering a modicum of safety.
A truck pulled into the driveway, and we tied up the horses. A lady opened the door, and out popped Hannah the dog. The driver then handed us my hat and Kim’s saddlebag, all left on the road, soaking wet, and all three safe now.
We met at an uncertain time in both our lives. She reminded me of this in our marriage vows, how we rode horses, outracing thunderstorms and watching sunsets from mountaintops, and all the while feeling she would never marry.
I am blessed that she changed her mind. I promised at our wedding to love her no matter what illness or disease may come – the broken arms that won’t heal, bacterial infections for which doctors cannot account, and multiple sclerosis for which no cure exists. The words made me laugh when I wrote them, cry when I spoke them, and encourage me now as I rewrite them.
I listen to high school students talk all day long – it’s my job. They toss the word “love” at each other, misunderstanding the weight and truth of that word. Love is not a feeling – every feeling fades, grows, diminishes, changes over time.
The man who relies on feelings to guide him relies on sentiments that easily disappear. Love is a choice and a commitment. It is an action that requires work every day and in every moment. It is feeding horses at 5 a.m. in a blizzard, and sitting in a hospital waiting room for eight hours, nervous for news.
Love is deciding to risk, to try, and to refuse to give in to fear or despair or worry. Love is patient, kind, always trusting; Love never fails.