This new slate piece is in loving memory of my friend Rita Heydon who died January 8, 2015, following a battle with cancer. She was one of my best lifetime friends, an odd, sunny character with a messy jeep and shabby, colorful clothes, a ready laugh and an inquisitive nature. She had a voracious love for animals, and a heart as big and genuine as her smile. Her appearance belied her education. She had studied music and the arts. She was a poet at heart, deeply insightful, sometimes blunt to the point of hurtful, but never, ever malicious.
For eight years, while I lived close to her Ann Arbor home, we were like sisters… The best kind of sisters. We saw or talked to each other every day. We went on many animal rescue adventures together. We visited Wendy’s and pigged out on burgers and Frostys. We drove around. We went to see and hug baby donkeys in the spring. She struggled with health problems, and her joints hurt. Eventually she walked with a kind of shuffle and couldn’t turn her head anymore. But it didn’t slow her down. She always knew what was happening, and where, and what was worth checking out.
When I moved out of the area, I knew we would speak less. She was grounded in her generation, a little older than me, and never used a computer. As is the way with time, we saw each other less as the years passed, but she remained branded on my heart as one of my dearest friends. When I called, upon hearing my voice, she would yell a happy, “Heyyy!”
I treasured her friendship because of her inherent ability to listen. She was an active participant in conversation, enthused, agreeable, insightful, loaded with questions. She really cared about what I had to say, and always wanted to know more. Real listening is such a rare quality, and I ache with missing this part of her.
Rita had a mare named Origami, a spotted warmblood that she showed in eventing. I think Origami was an offspring of a stallion named Art Deco that Rita admired. She had several foals by this stallion and named the babies accordingly. Sadly, Origami died of an aneurism, in a sudden and awful way, at one of her shows. I wrote this poem and presented it to Rita in her memory. It has gone on to be featured in my Equine Sympathy card. I like to think of Rita, able to move again, running “on the wind”.
Now I can run on the wind
My skin like a velvet shiver on the breeze
My hoofs passing over the grass
In leaps too great to be measured
My mane tumbling like the boiling clouds
You will feel my breath
In the warmth of summer
You will hear my heart beat
In the sounds of the sky
Now I can run
In these great, wide rolling hills of time
I am truly free
Here in the spaces of your heart.
~ Nancy J. Bailey