Gallop
by Dorey

I was named after Sable Island. My blue eyes and dark blonde hair reminded my mother of the sky and sand that she loved so much.

Stirring the last of my mushy cereal, I looked up at Mom, who had been acting strange since last night.

She hummed a tune, and a happiness surrounded her that seemed unusually light-hearted. She almost seemed giddy with an excitement she tried to hide, but in vain. It glowed from within her.

There was no denying it. Something was up.

“What’s going on?” I got right to the point.

“What?” She smiled, and turned her attention to pouring milk in her warm tea that smelled of nutmeg.

As if I would be distracted so easily.

“You’re acting strange.”

Mom thought for a moment. “Well, I suppose I might be. But not that it’s any of your business.” she added mischievously.

Groaning, I protested, “Mom! Please tell me.” I took the last bite of cinnamon flavored sogginess, which actually wasn’t that bad.

“Well, it involves Sable Island.” She leaned against the marble counter of our small kitchen, grinning and sipping her tea, trying to build suspense.

“And?”

“And an airplane, and you and I.”

I glanced up from my glass of orange juice. “You mean . . .”

A nod confirmed the news.

A dream was coming true.

Sable Island, finally.

My mother came for a day when she was my age, and was captivated by winds that tore at her, wild horses roaming freely, the sand dunes beneath her feet, and the sky above that saw itself in the ocean with a fierce glint. Sable Island had partially satisfied something wild inside of her that longed for adventure.

I had that same tug on my heart, and now it was finally my turn.

My backpack was tucked under the seat in front of me, stuffed with field guides, sketchbooks, pencils, a camera, binoculars, a compass, and more. Mom told me to pack lightly; we’d be doing some hiking, but I knew it would be useful to have things despite the extra weight. One should always be prepared for adventure. I was not accustomed to it, living in the city of Halifax, but the thought of embarking on a journey to a new place was a pleasant one.

I leaned against the wall of the plane and stared out the small window at the clouds, while playing with my messily braided hair.

Mom had mentioned that there weren’t only wild horses I could sketch. The seals, flowers, old buildings laid to rest by sand, sky, ocean, clouds, and birds were worthy of attention as well. I loved to draw, the struggle to create the right shadows and highlights, to put thought and time into the effort it took. But could I capture the lovely, wild ways of the island with just a simple pencil and my hands?

“Sable, look. There it is.” Mom pointed, a faraway look in her brown eyes I had never seen before.

I gazed at the ocean, ripples of white scattered among the water. There, in the midst of the never ending sea, was a small strip of land.

“That’s it.” I breathed out, mesmerized. “How soon until we land?”

After some time, the plane touched the ground. My fingers clutched at the handle of my backpack, fervently squeezing and twisting the leather straps.

Mom glanced in my direction and saw my impatience. “Relax.” She laughed softly. “I’m excited, too.”

Passengers ahead of us on the flight began to exit the small plane. I stood up and took a deep breath. “Ready?” I asked, a nervous smile on my face.

“I’ve been waiting for this for years, of course I’m ready.”

Oh.

The breeze. Gulls circled overhead, crying out. Sand shifted under my feet. Waves rippled on the shore, gleaming a golden color. Small flowers bloomed quietly on the ground, their petals shivering in the wind.

Inside of me, something was happening. “This feeling, it’s so big. I can’t take it in. I think it’s . . .”

“Freedom.” Mom whispered. “This is what freedom feels like.”

After a briefing about Sable Island, we were taken on a tour that lasted about two hours.

Camera in hand, I crouched down to get a good shot of a small seashell, washed up on the shore. The gentle, yet wild ocean made a perfect background as I focused on the intricate pattern of the shell.

“What kind is it? I love the creamy white color.” Mom picked it up and turned it over in her palm.

I tugged the stubborn zipper on my backpack and pulled out a book titled; The Shores of Sable Island.

After flipping through the pages, a picture of the shell caught my eye.

“This is it, right? The slipper shell.”

The tour eventually finished, and we were free to explore the island ourselves.

With the click of a small button, I took many pictures of wild roses, seals gathered on the beach, waves coming in and fighting to take hold of the land, hoofprints left behind by wild, free horses, and more. But there was one thing I hadn’t yet seen.

“Let’s look for some horses.” I suggested, holding a sunburnt hand to my eyes and scanning the sand dunes as Mom examined a small feather gently.

We hiked and talked, but mostly stayed quiet, taking the island in. I looked out at the sky, and thought, why does it look different here?

“I think we see things differently here.” Mom’s voice drifted quietly into my thoughts, answering my question.

“What?” I was startled that she knew what I was thinking.

“This is a special place because we see everything differently. It is beautiful here because it is quiet, untouched. This place nearly satisfies a feeling we get, a strange, wistful loneliness. That desire will never be fully contented since it’s what drives us to explore new places, and causes us to appreciate the things that are found when we get lost in wild places.

A faraway whinny caught my attention. My head jerked around, and I caught sight of a retreating tail, flying fiercely in the wind.

“Over there!” I whispered eagerly, waving at Mom to follow.

We quietly climbed up a sand dune, and there in the golden sunlight, shone a herd of horses, galloping. Manes flickered, light reflected off shining hoofs that tore at the ground. The sun warmed my face, and everything seemed to gleam with a sort of magic.

I held my camera up and squinted as I fumbled with the lens, concentrating on taking a picture worthy of the simple beauty that surrounded my heart, aching with a strange happiness.

It was so calm, and everything seemed to be humming a song. I didn’t know the language in which the ocean, hoofbeats, gulls, wind, seals, and sky spoke, but the tune was familiar to my ears, and I listened with a quiet pleasure to the tranquil notes that floated on the air.

The lyrics of a different song I loved and knew well came to mind, and I hummed the words, “. . . It cannot be any more beautiful, I can’t take it in . . .”

I closed my eyes and breathed.

Oh. This feeling. This place. This song.

When I looked out over the roaring waves again, the sky was becoming a shy pink color.

“This adventure is coming to an end.” A sad smile tugged at Mom’s lips.

“It will never be over.” I placed my camera in my bag, and hefted it onto my shoulders. “I have memories. Lovely memories.”

“So you like it here.”

“Like it?” I asked softly. “There is just no word to describe how much I love it.”

“You can describe it in your drawings.” Mom reached for a handful of sand and let it slip through her fingers.

We stood and soaked in the light, flowing from some place beyond the never ending sky.

“I will.” My fingers would be fearless, deftly shaping and shadowing the ways of Sable Island.

Breaking the spell, a voice crackled on the radio we were given for the day, telling us it was time to leave.

Walking to the airplane gave me time to memorize all that was around me. I would always remember this place, where nature was free, relaxed, gentle, and yet so wild.

The lively wind teased my hair, pulling and twisting the strands that had stubbornly refused to stay braided. I tucked a wavy wisp behind my ear and glanced at all that was around me once more.

As the plane came into view I sighed quietly.

Goodbye.

After buckling my seatbelt securely for the flight home, I leaned forward to get a view of the clouds on fire with sunlight, drifting across the ombre sky. I stayed that way, staring out the window as we took off and the island disappeared beneath us.

My sketchbook was waiting.

With steady fingers I picked up a pencil and put down on paper what I had seen and felt. Light, mystery, gleaming waves, shadows, roaring wind, and the call to wander united in a sketch of horses running fiercely down the beach in a wild gallop.

It couldn’t be any more beautiful.

Dorey © 2022
Age 15, Kingston, NS

Winner
Sable In Words 2022
Youth Writing Contest, 14-17 age group
Sable Island Institute