Horses define Lexington in many ways, in the beauty of the Thorough- breds cantering across the rolling land, in the mounted police that clip-clop through town, in the vernal and autumnal excitement as the racecourse at Keeneland opens for its brief seasons and—less happily—in the social stratification between those wealthy enough to own horses and those who come here to care for them. Even those of us on the most far-flung edges of equestrian life, connected only through the occasional riding lesson, are surrounded by the beauty and mystique of horses. Take any road out of town and within minutes you are driving through the rolling green hills of horse farms, many of them world famous. They are beautiful in any season, the miles of painted wooden fences and the dark horses grazing beyond, vivid and graceful whether against the autumn hues, the snow or the lush green of summer. Surely it's no accident that races at Keeneland and at Churchill Downs in Louisville, where the Kentucky Derby is run, are held in April and early May, when central Kentucky blooms forth into spring, and the horses, so elegant and sleek, frolic amid the blush of redbuds and the frost and flame of flowering dogwood, magnolia and apple trees.
Many Lexington natives believe they live in a special place, one impossible to leave. I'm not so sure about that—or it's more accurate to say I think a more general truth exists beneath it: the place you first call home stays with you always, whether you remain or go. Even after a dozen years in Lexington, and years of travel around the world before that, my own sense of home is still rooted where I grew up: near lakes, swept with snow—a landscape imprinted on the heart. For my husband, that landscape is the subtle beauty of central Iowa.
It's always strange for me to realize that our daughters, for whom Lexington has always been home, don't share our perceptions. They think two inches of snow constitutes a blizzard, expect spring to arrive mid-March and feel a bit uneasy swimming in lakes because the water fades into darkness above a bottom they cannot see. Their days are busy with school and swim team, camping and gymnastics, one ordinary and yet totally remarkable moment leading to another. Lexington is home—it's their hometown. Writing this, I pause to wonder: What of all this will they carry with them? When they're my age, looking back through the soft edges of memory or nostalgia, what sounds and scents and images will speak to them of home?
Kim Edwards is the author of The Memory Keeper's Daughter.