There is something very special about coming onto the Chewonki campus in the early morning darkness. Sometimes the Neck Road is winter white, evoking images of Narnia, and mine are the first tracks in the snow. Sometimes it is strewn with piney branches after a rough blow. Other mornings it is like an obstacle course, when I see families of deer, raccoon, and turkey and slow to watch them disappear into their forest homes, so close to our place of work and learning. In the summer, I am mindful to close my car door softly, so as not to disturb slumbering girls in tents right in the orchard field. Always, Sal is in her paddock, a quiet sentry, taking note of passers-by. She raises her head and gives a lery glance, and I say “good morning Sal.”
I’ve been curious about Sal, Chewonki’s draft horse, and so reached out to farm manager, Megan, to learn more about her. Pages and pages have been written about Sal! Among my favorite facts are that Sal is from a town in Maine called Meddybemps, and that she performs a job in the woods called “twitching.” Wonderful words, those.
I wanted to share something about my feelings about Sal, but what can I say about her that hasn’t been better said by those who work closely with her and call her friend? I came to this: I am from the suburbs, mostly, having done a good deal of my adventuring in the city. The wonder I feel about Sal is related to that. The opportunity for a relationship with Sal is special, and is likely so for the hundreds of children who get to experience her. To put a hand on Sal and feel her power and her breath and the softness of her coat is an experience that I treasure. I am grateful for the opportunity to put my hand on Sal. Her power is in the field for certain, but it is also in her ability to unite all of us who have the privilege of being near her.