Today winter wears the robe of spring, a soft gray gauze of mist and gentle wind. The early darkness tells the truth, though. Even though my work hours aren’t particularly late, a drive home at 7 p.m. feels like a midnight ride. Here in Amish country, the roads twist through rolling hills. The scenery is heart-meltingly lovely by day, but the drive by night scares me. The country darkness is mostly undisturbed by artificial light, and it seems to consume the world beyond my headlights. Generally, my fear is of the practical, grown-up variety: Is there a deer ahead, poised for leaping? Is there an Amish buggy, black against the night, clopping its way slowly down the road in front of me? I generally keep the fear in check by keeping a vigilant eye on the road and a vigilant foot over the brake pedal, thinking grateful thoughts of the mercifully short commute now that I live just a few miles from where I work. But snowy nights are different; the darkness sweeps a white veil over the road, and every curve threatens to cast me into the ditch. I’m not a great driver in the best of conditions, so a snowstorm terrifies me. But when my headlights sweep over a plowhorse in a field, my terror eases. It stands, silent and unafraid, blinking mildly in the wind. No matter how dark the night or how wild the storm, this bastion of life will stand unmoving, its breath warm in the chill air. The sight of the horse’s solid form calms me and reminds me that no matter how menacing the unseen world may seem as I travel, the road remains unmoving, and unmoving lies the home at its end. All I have to do is get there.
Horses in the darkness