Last night and tonight my eight-year-old daughter (I’ll refer to her as “J”) and I took our dogs (a greyhound and a terrier mix) for a long leisurely walk around our neighborhood (check out the socks). What makes this mundane fact remarkable is that on these walks J was riding her horse named Lightning. While Lightning is an imaginary steed she is very, very real to us. As we walked we talked about why horses have to wear shoes. Indian horses didn’t need shoes because they never had to walk on the road. We decided that wooden shoes would be better than metal or plastic and they should be glued on and not nailed. We learned that a person who makes horseshoes can be called a blacksmith or a Ferrier.
I learned that Lightning likes to sleep standing up and she likes to eat apples. Lightning is gold/yellow/orange colored and began her life as a wild horse. She was tamed enough to ride by slowly increasing the load on her back until she was comfortable carrying a person.
As we walked J pointed out Orion standing his long cold vigil in the southern sky. We saw a cluster of stars that might have been the Little Dipper or the Seven Sisters. The Big Dipper was still hidden by the trees/horizon. We learned that the North Star (which you can follow north!) is also called Polaris. I told J that there were many more stars than we could see because of the street light glare. We also learned that another name for the Big Dipper is ursa major or Big Bear.
As we walked tonight the ride on Lightning was often interrupted by J’s dance. She would spontaneously twirl and skip, happy to be out with Daddy on a nice cool evening. We let Lightning graze while we talked and followed the sidewalk around the field to meet her on the other side. I found out that Lightning has a bridle with her name on it.
These are magical walks, time to suspend disbelief and treat imagination as fact. A time to dance and to laugh, a time to share a made up game that does us both a great deal of good. She is eight now and I know that all too soon she’ll think taking a walk with her boring old Dad won’t be cool. But for now, while she is still a child and before the innocence fades we’ll be out riding Lightning and dancing in the street. And I’ll be pretending it will last forever.