Snowflake the Snowpony

by Spangle

Ch3 - Look To The Light

My butt was getting cold, but I didn't care. I was just sitting there in the snow, staring at... everything: the stars, the Moon, the snow-covered fields and mountains with the lights of pony settlements spangling their visage. The only thing keeping my rear end dry was the bottom length of my APECS coat. For once, somewhere in the back of my mind, I was actually happy it was oversized. It may have failed to do the same for my legs, but they had already been soaked through-and-through from the hours I had spent outside; a little extra moisture didn't matter much at that point. And regardless, such things were insignificant to me at the time. There was absolutely nothing that could’ve ruined that moment. I was in a place I had only dreamt about. I was in Equestria.

And I had apparently failed to notice that the same magic that brought me there had at some point changed me into a pony...

Haha, just kidding! Like I would ever use that cliché... but I got you good, right? Pretty funny, right? N-no? No? O-okay, I'm sorry... back to the story, then. I've had my fun.

Well, despite it clearly being winter, the weather was surprisingly comfortable. Part of that was no doubt due to the fact that there was no wind to speak of. Most of you probably know how much of a difference windchill makes on a person's ability to tolerate the cold. If you don't, you just learned something today: windchill sucks. I estimated it must have been just below freezing, high 20s or so. Cold enough to keep the snow from melting but still bearable. I suppose top marks go to the weather ponies.

Sooo... you like your gift?” asked a clearly satisfied Snowflake. As if she had to ask. The answer was plastered all over my face! She knew full well what my answer was; I could see it in the playful smirk across her muzzle. She was obviously just being coy with me. I’ll concede this much: it was a very cute kind of coy. I think I might've even heard a squee from the cuteness of it all.

I, however, was stupefied, barely managing to mutter, “Out of all the things that could happen... this is the best possible thing,” in classic brony show-paraphrasing fashion. You've done it, too. Don't deny it; everyone's at least pulled a "20 percent cooler" quote once.

“Glad you like it!” her voice rang, resounding with the same enthusiasm and pureness it had earlier. She closed her eyes and gave an adorable tilt of her head as she said so, nearly causing me to fall over from cardiac arrest. Everything about her was just plain heart-melting. Gah! It’s as if some ponies are made of cute, you know what I mean? Right in the feels. No complaints here, though.

Anyway, I know they say never look a magical, bursting with cuteness gift-horse in the mouth, but I still had to ask at least one more nagging question. I’m a logical thinker after all, always asking this and that to get everything to make sense in the grand scheme of my mind.

“But why bring me here?” was the question as I continued to look at the scene around me in disbelief, doing my best to take it all in. I never wanted to forget that moment. “Not that I’m ungrateful,” I continued, “it’s just... I can’t imagine that I’d be allowed to meet anypony or—”


Yep, that was a cold and wet snowball. A snowball had just pelted me right upside the head and was now sliding down my face, leaving a very familiar sting. When I looked over at Snowflake, apparently something in the corner of her vision had caught her interest and she had suddenly began to whistle what I assume was Equestria’s most innocent tune. As if such an obvious ruse would ever work against me. Personally, I think she was just trying to weaponize her cuteness. It was official: "War were declared."

“Oh, it is ON!” I shouted in a show-quoting battle cry.

Naturally, I took the appropriate retaliatory action: I dug both my gloved hands into the snow, scooped up two massive clumps, and proceeded to use them to make a Snowflake sandwich. Her attention conveniently elsewhere, it was too late when she turned her eyes back at me and tried to back up. Her hooves failed to gain any traction and the snow made solid contact with each cheek of her adorably innocent, little face.

“Ah!” she yelled out in a cry surprise. I decided to take advantage of opportunity to quote my favorite lunar princess.

“Huzzah! The fun has been doubled!” I shouted with laughter into the night. I’m sure Luna approved.

Snowflake’s laughter joined mine, melodiously escaping into the cool winter’s air as she wiped the snow from her cheeks. By the time she opened her eyes, I had already fallen back a good distance and reloaded, a misshapen snowball in each hand and at the ready to be thrown.

“Try it, tough guy,” she taunted, lowering her chest close to the ground and sticking her rump up in the air, her tail swaying back and forth leaving a trail of ethereal snowflakes. She was ready to pounce, dodge, or weave at a moment’s notice, but I sure as the Sun shines wasn’t going to let that discourage me from trying to land a hit! I chucked those snowballs as hard and fast as I could, one right after the other, and they sure did fly; they flew right over her head. She stood upright and turned her neck to watch as they sailed past, letting out a boisterous laugh at my lack of precision aiming skill.

“Oh yeah,” I scoffed as I proceeded to rolled my eyes, “like you can do any—”

SMACK... again. Headshot. Right in the face.

I’ll admit I walked right into that one, but you can bet your bottom bit I didn't take that lying down. Both of us volleyed snowballs back and forth, launching barrage after barrage of the icy projectiles at one another outside the treeline of that snow-covered hilltop. I nearly lost my footing more than a few times, threatening to make me take an unexpected tumble down to the bottom. If you’re wondering how Snowflake made the snowballs, you got me there. She just scooped her hoof through the snow and voilà! A perfect snowball. Chalk up another one on the ‘How do ponies do that?’ board. When the dust settled—metaphorically speaking—there was only one obvious victor... Snowflake. Hey, she’s a magical snowpony, that’s an unfair advantage if you ask me.

As you might expect from the previous snowfall fight I had earlier that night, it wasn't all too long before I was completely winded from our friendly little skirmish in the snow, so I surrendered to my exhaustion and ceased fire. I bent over to help catch my breath—yes, I know it's bad form and actually doesn't help, but it felt good—only to look up in time to see Snowflake take a running leap and tackle me to the ground, eliciting an "OOF!" from me and causing the two of us to slide the fifty-or-so feet down the small hill on my back. She simply let out an adorable "Weee!"

Once we reached the bottom, she rolled off my chest and we laid beside one another on the soft, yet cold ground, both of us laughing at her little stunt. When the laughter faded, we just laid there for a few moments more in companionable silence. If you've grown up with the snow like I have, you know exactly how comfortable it can be, especially when your energy is completely spent. If not, I guess you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Our chests heaved and gradually slowed as the frigid night air entered our lungs, white puffs forming with each outward breath as we simply stared at the stars. Lying there, I pulled off my gloves and stuffed them in the out-of-the-way upper-right arm pocket of my jacket. My hands were starting to become achingly numb and the gloves weren't helping anymore. They had already been frozen and damp from back when I made Snowflake, but that snowball fight pushed me past my tolerance for pain and cold. Instead, I elected to shove my hands in my pockets, hoping to utilize some my body heat. I certainly didn't want something like frostbite ruining my time in Equestria.

The welcome and peaceful silence still lingered between us as our breathing finally became calm and natural once again. It was nice, but I spoke up anyway. I still needed everything to make sense, and she had been cleverly avoiding the issue. That's my game, and I know how to play it.

“Ya know, you never answered my question,” I said lightheartedly and maybe a little accusingly, though my gaze remained on the night sky.

I heard Snowflake give a sigh. Yes, I knew I was ruining a perfectly happy moment by being all ‘srs bsns’ and stuff, but it needed to be done. I had turned my head to look at her, but she kept her brilliant blue eyes fixed to the stars, almost as if she was looking to them for the answer as her mane still flowed with the appearance of snow falling gently from the sky.

“Well, you were kinda right,” she replied, “about not being able to meet anypony, that is.”

Not quite the answer I was expecting. I hadn't even been able to really finish that question before I had gotten a surprise chunk of snow upside the head. Perceptive little snowpony, wasn’t she?

“Oh? So you were paying attention before your sneak attack!” I playfully accused. She gave a short, mirthful laugh with closed eyes. I couldn’t help but smile at the sight.

“Heh heh, yeah. Part of the magic that brought you here makes you invisible to everypony but me and the Princesses,” she explained.

I couldn’t say I was surprised; although it was a somewhat disappointing. A part of me had hoped I would be able to spend some time with the ponies I had grown so fond of, even if it would only be for one night, but I suppose it’s not like Equestria’s rulers could risk me running around, causing all sorts of problems and questions. And making anyone invisible to the Princesses was just asking for trouble. Honestly, I was still struggling with the concept that Equestria actually existed and that my actions could have consequences, but that was the apparently reality of the situation.

“I guess that makes sense enough,” I conceded and turned my eyes back up to the stars. “So why did you bring me here?” I asked. After all, I still hadn't gotten the answer I was really looking for.

“Well, magic doesn't really work on Earth—not very well, anyway—so we brought you here for some magic,” I heard her cheerfully explain as I simply stared at the Moon overhead.

There was that word again: magic. She was there to bring magic back into my life, or so she had said. It was very cryptic of her, and I didn't have the slightest idea what she was talking about.

“What do you mean? You know, about this whole ‘magic’ thing?”

“You see,” Snowflake began, “Luna has put together a very special light show tonight—with a little help from her sister—and you couldn’t very well see it from Earth, now could you?” She had me there. “So instead they brought you here!” she said with barely-contained enthusiasm. She was clearly as happy as I was that we both were in Equestria, causing me to smile at the thought.

“Then the Princesses don’t really have any influence over what happens on Earth,” I stated simply, thinking on it for a moment. I suppose I had already intuitively known that, though, even if I hadn’t really given it any tangible thought until that point.

“Not in the way you're probably thinking,” Snowflake interjected. “They don’t control the Sun or the Moon or anything as significant as that. They could bring me to life, but even that was only possible with a little extra help. There’s a lot to be said for the heart you poured into making me.”

That last comment caused me to turn my eyes away from my stargazing and towards Snowflake. I found her looking right back at me with a soft gaze of her own, a smile on her lips. I was glad to know that I had an important role in her coming to life, but there was also something that was personally a little unsettling about this whole situation.

“You know what I want to know?” I asked somewhat rhetorically as I pulled my hands out of my pockets and threw them forward to onto my legs to help me sit upright.

“Sure!” she responded with a beaming grin and closed eyes.

“If Equestria is real, if Luna and Celestia are real, what does that mean for Earth’s religions? What does it mean for my beliefs?” I asked. Understandably, the tone of my voice had become somewhat somber and serious when expressing my concerns.

There was a moment of silence as she contemplated how to answer a question of that magnitude. I could see the gears working behind the thoughtful twisting of her face, which eventually relaxed as she closed her eyes. When they opened, any sign of her smile was gone, but she wasn’t frowning either. It was nice to know that she could be serious when it really mattered. I mean, how do you even answer a question like that? It certainly wasn’t a nice thing to ask, I know, but this whole experience—as awesome as it was—was giving me something of a crisis of faith. That’s not a problem I can ignore. I needed something like that resolved right then and there. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m a man who believes strongly in his God, much to the disdain of my logical mind.

“If you’re asking if there’s a God, I'm afraid I don’t have the answer,” she said bluntly, “but let me ask you a question: Why can’t God and Equestria both exist?”

I tried to think of a proper response to that question, but nothing came to mind. Well, I could think of a few things, but nothing that could provide an absolute answer to the philosophical question of life, the universe, and everything. My brow furrowed and my lips thinned as I racked my brain for something that would help satisfy the question. Clearly seeing my dilemma, Snowflake was kind enough to give me a different idea to contemplate, something I could answer.

“How about I ask you this instead,” she began as she rolled over from her back to her chest and placed her legs underneath her. “Why do you believe in God?” she asked looking back at me with her concerned eyes more or less level to mine.

It was a thought so simple that it hadn't even crossed my mind. There I was trying to solve the monumental problem of providing a solid, logical argument of why God and Equestria could or couldn’t both exist when all I had to do was look inside myself. Cheesy? Maybe, but true nonetheless. Just call me "Cheddar."

“I guess I believe in God because He’s done so much in my life,” I started. “I've felt His love heal and change my heart from the angry and anxious child I used to be into a heart filled with patience and peace. I look at everything that’s happened to me throughout the years, all events and circumstances that fit together too perfectly and poetically to just be coincidences. The funny thing is... a lot of the evidence seems illogical. Ends turned out to be beginnings, doors that should have been closed were opened, things that seemed like impossibilities became possible, and all of it feels like it’s connected and leading up to some greater purpose, like someone's writing a larger, amazing story with my life.”

Snowflake simply nodded and listened with closed eyes, opening them when she spoke. “Then why can’t He have had a hand in this as well? All I’m saying is to believe what you feel in your heart. I never wanted you to question your faith,” she said softly, guilt slightly evident on her face.

“I know,” I said with a smile, trying to assuage her concern, “and thanks... for helping me find an answer.”

Snowflake simply gave a cheery hum of acknowledgement and the silence returned once again. I was staring at the snow between my legs with my hands on my knees, looking at nothing in particular as I thought about what she had said. It made a lot of sense, as much sense as a discussion about God and ponies could make anyway. As I've said, despite being a logical thinker, my heart is always telling me to believe in God, miracles, and I suppose to some extent magic as well. It’s definitely a very complicated relationship, and the two rarely seem to get along. I’m not sure how long I was lost in my introspection—which happens quite frequently—when Snowflake had apparently decided that the quiet had gone on long enough.

“Enough thought!” she declared as she energetically smacked a hoof on the ground, effectively grabbing my attention. “We’re going to be late if we don’t get a move on!” she said as she rose to her hooves.

“Late for what?” I asked, unaware that we now supposedly had a schedule to keep.

“Don’t you pay attention?” she said with a playful, exasperated sigh. “Luna’s light show! Come on,” she said, waving a hoof for me to follow, “I've got the perfect spot where we can watch it!”

She hadn't even finished her sentence before she started trotting at a quickened pace towards the next treeline, which wasn't all too far from where the bottom of the hill began. Not wanting to get left behind, I swung myself onto my feet and gave a short sprint to get up beside her before slowing my speed to match her steady, light gallop. From what I could tell, we were running towards a mountain range a bit of a ways off in the distance. I could still see Canterlot glistening high to our right, meaning we were heading north-ish as we made our way through a few open fields between the patches of forest. At some point, I thought we even crossed some railroad tracks, but it was difficult to be sure with all the snow while moving at our quickened pace. When we finally emerged from the last treeline after running for what seemed like forever, we had arrived at the base of a massive hill. It was at least seven or eight stories tall, probably taller; although, as far as I could tell, we hadn't quite reached the actual mountain range, only one of its larger foothills.

“Don’t stop now, we’re almost there!” she cheered.

Snowflake continued her gallop up the hill. Me? I was gasping for air and doing everything I could to stop myself from just flopping to the ground. My lungs do not like the cold, and after holding that healthy jogging pace for what was probably at least a good few miles, I wasn't surprised that I was out of breath. How she wasn’t in the same shape was impressive and a little irritating at the same time. Snowpony magic or earth pony endurance, take your pick. Regardless of my exhaustion, I wasted no more time and began painfully and slowly making my way onward and upward.

“Last one to the top’s a silly filly!” she taunted, taking a moment to look back down at my suffering.

Ya know what? That was fine with me. You have to understand, this was a steep hill. I even had to use both my hands and feet to have any hope of scaling the side of that monster. Fortunately for me, the snow packed together well and formed natural footholds, otherwise I probably would've been slipping and sliding more than actually climbing. When I eventually reached the top, I was still hunched over and looking down at the snowy ground. I dropped almost immediately to my hands and knees, the cold barely registering. It's amazing how much heat your body generates after such an extended and intensive physical exertion.

Barely a moment later, I had rolled over onto my back, my legs bent and feet firmly planted on the ground. Thankfully, my overly-large APECS jacket yet again served as a waterproof layer between my still dry backside and the wet snow. I closed my eyes and finally took a moment to catch my breath. I pulled off my Wonderbolts ushanka and let my head fall in the snow, my short military haircut doing very little against the cold, which was perfectly fine. The heat was visibility steaming from my head into the frigid night air, doing its best to help me cool off after all that effort. While I was recovering, I heard the crunching of the snow under Snowflake’s hooves get closer as she cantered over and gracefully plopped herself down beside me.

“You have to see this,” she said nearly whispering.

When I turned my head to look at her, she was staring wide-eyed at something behind me on the horizon. Rather than arch my neck to try and see what was so astounding, I instead rolled closer to Snowflake and onto my stomach, supporting my body with my elbows and forearms. What I saw... no description could ever do it justice. It was one of those things that I simply cannot adequately translate into something like the written word. All I can do is try to give you some small understanding of the absolutely breathtaking sight to the north before us.

The horizon was barely visible between the dips in the snow-covered mountain peaks with the Moon, massive and full, glowing a soft blue in the sky above. Between the two, colorful lights in beautiful shifting hues of green, indigo, and violet danced like curtains in the wind. The true coup de grâce, however, was throughout the midnight masterpiece. Behind and around the aurora, countless shooting stars fell and streaked across Luna’s vibrant canvas as the constellations themselves seemed to come to life.

I’m definitely the stargazing-type, the person who’s always looking to the Moon and stars on a clear night, and I’m certain I’ll never witness anything like it again. Something like that is beyond a once in a lifetime moment. If I were a different man, I might've been saddened by such a thought: to only be able to revisit that incredible sight in dreams and memories. In all honestly, I just felt blessed to be able to see it even once, to be able to cherish that memory for all my life.

“Wow,” was the only word that came out of my mouth, and even that was barely a whisper. Underwhelming, right? Well, that’s because the view was so amazingly overwhelming to me. I really did mean what I said: nothing spoken or written by my lacking abilities could ever be sufficient to completely capture that sight. If a picture is worth a thousand words, what I saw was probably worth at least a million. Clearly that didn't stop me from trying here on this page, now did it? Snowflake, on the other hand, was at less of a loss.

“Kinda takes your breath away, doesn't it?” she commented, tilting her head towards me as she spoke.

It did... it did that and more. I didn't just feel awestruck, I felt inspired. I felt alive, something I hadn't felt in a long time. All I could do in that instant was take a deep breath and let it all sink in. Then, I let it all go. Every hurt, pain, and sorrow that was harbored deep within my heart was released with a sigh into the air of that night. It was cathartic in every sense of the word.

"I needed this," I said softly. My eyes never wavered from the horizon as I continued. "I've felt so exhausted and empty for so long, but here? Now? I feel like myself again... It's kinda sad this night has to end."

“The point was to cheer you up! ‘Bring some magic back into your life,’ remember?” Snowflake playfully jeered, giving me a light nudge with her hoof as she giggled.

Sorry!” I said, nudging her back. “This night has been perfect, I promise. I just find it hard to believe that the Princesses would do this all for me.”

“Actually,” Snowflake interposed, “this is for the Winter Moon Celebration. Tonight’s the longest night in Equestria. Luna just thought you would like to see it. She wanted you to rediscover your... ‘Guiding Star’ I think is how she put it?”

“But how did she—” I began to question only to see Snowflake giving me a certain ‘haven’t you learned your lesson’ type of stare, causing me to simply say, “I’ll stop.”

“Good!” she said with smile and exaggerated nod. “Now why don’t you tell me about that sigh earlier?” she asked somewhat schemingly. Clever pony is clever.

My initial response to that was another sigh as I gathered myself for the inevitable. I had a feeling she wasn’t going let this go until I completely spilled my guts. I mean, honestly, one of the first things she did after she came to life was call me out. I didn't really see a point in avoiding it anymore considering the circumstances. Here was someone who was willing to listen, who genuinely wanted to help, and she seemed to know more about me than I knew about myself, so I decided to get comfortable. I shifted from laying on my stomach to sitting and rested my arms against my knees for support, fully unzipping my jacket so I could feel the refreshing winter’s air flow around my chest. APECS doesn't like to breathe all too well, in case you were wondering.

“Have you ever tried to burn so bright that you end up only burning yourself out?” I asked, trying to be somewhat poetic and metaphorical.

Snowflake arched an eyebrow as she looked at me. “I’m not even a day old,” she pointed out.

“Right, I forgot. Fair enough,” I said sheepishly, smirking at my own absentmindedness. She did have a sort of wisdom about her that betrayed that fact. “I guess what I’m saying,” I continued, “is no matter how much I try, it just feels like I’m never who I want to be.”

“How do you mean?” she asked.

I knew enough by that point to tell that she really did care and that her question was sincere, so rather than doing what I habitually would've done, which is provide a halfhearted explanation to end the subject, I instead took a minute to gather my thoughts as I watched the shimmering night sky that continued to dance before the two of us. Snowflake laid patiently and quietly for my answer, realizing that I was basically about to rip my heart out and show it to her.

“I try so hard to make the best out of everything,” I began simply enough, “but it feels like I’m getting nowhere... like nothing I do really matters. Even when I’m at a full sprint, working as hard and fast as I can, it feels like the finish line never gets any closer.” I closed my eyes and gave yet another sigh before continuing. “Most days, I have trouble just getting out of bed. I don’t feel like there’s really a point to keep trying because it seems for every step I take forward, ten more steps are added in front of me.” I wasn’t quite sure what to say next. It wore me down just talking about it.

“Wow,” interjected Snowflake with an exaggerate bob of her body. “You really are depressed,” she facetiously observed.

“Tell me about it,” I said in a slightly dark, flat tone as I fell on my back and just let my arms fall to my sides. I simply stared straight up at the sky, Luna’s nighttime spectacle barely entered the lower edge my peripherals. I wasn’t upset, but I didn't think it was funny either. Snowflake leaned against my chest. I could feel the warmth of her body through her soft coat.

“Hey,” she said tenderly. “I’m sorry, I didn't mean to make fun of your feelings.”

“Don’t worry about it,” I said, putting my arm across her back. “It’s not all bad. I've been able to experience a lot of incredible things in my life, but I always feel like I fall short. I never seem to reach the goals I set for myself.” Snowflake continued to lay against me as brief glimpses of the cosmic display licked at the bottom of my vision.

"Why is that?” she asked. I could tell that her questions were going somewhere. They weren't from simple, random curiosity; they were thought out with a purpose in mind.

“I work so hard to do something meaningful,” was my answer, “something worthwhile using the gifts God’s given me, but I try to do so much that I end up taking on more and more, setting higher and higher expectations for myself, and giving so much that I eventually just feel drained and discouraged. I begin to feel overwhelmed by it all and don’t know what to do next, so I end up not doing anything.”

“Then why do you take on so much? What are you trying to prove?” she questioned. She had every right to; it didn't make sense. It was illogical to overload myself, but there was an answer. I lifted my head, put my free arm behind it, and looked again at the incredible lights in the sky.

"You're starting to sound like my mother," I lightly observed with a slight hint of laughter.

"Well, maybe that's because she has a point," playfully retorted Snowflake.

"Honestly?" I started, earning a soft hum to continue from Snowflake. "I guess I'm honestly just insecure about my own abilities. I'm trying to prove to myself more than anyone that the gifts I think I have are real and not just in my head." I took a moment to think about it more and went a bit deeper. "When I first start something, it's all driven by my inspiration and determination to achieve my vision. It's a pure and uninhibited passion for whatever I’m doing, but the more I work, the more I feel like I can’t do it, like I’m not good enough...” I paused for a second, but not because I had to think. I stopped because what I had to say next I hated to admit. It was a hard truth, but it had to be said.

“So I avoid it," I said, the self-loathing clearly present in my voice. "I always avoid it because I'm not strong enough to overcome my anxiety and uncertainty. I just put it off until I feel like I can do it,” I continued, “until I feel like I am good enough, but that feeling never seems to come and another project or goal gets pushed aside. It happens again, and again, and again until I’m surrounded by half-completed attempts that are constantly reminding me of my failure, which just adds to my insecurity. Sometimes, I think it would all be easier if I quit trying, if I quit dreaming."

There was a respectful silence; my steady, deep breathing could be heard clearly as I soothed myself with the crisp breezes of the night while trying to clear my mind with the beauty before me. Another moment passed before Snowflake proposed the inconceivable.

“Then why don’t you?” she asked in a flat, almost accusatory tone. "If it’s so hard on you, maybe you should just quit." Looking back on it, I know now the words were forced and she didn't enjoy saying them.

What?” I asked incredulously, a bit hurt by the comment. She lifted her head and looked back at me, her cobalt eyes uncharacteristically cold, unyielding and demanding an answer.

With a nonchalant tilt of her head, she closed her eyes and gave a response of “Sure.” It lacked conviction. I pieced together that she wasn’t seriously telling me to give up, only trying to make me acknowledge how wrong my thinking was. It worked.

“If only it was that easy,” I stated calmly, “but it’s not. The thought of giving up is totally unacceptable to me on principle alone, but that’s not even the whole problem. Somewhere in my mind, I unquestionably believe I can reach my goals and that I’m simply not living up to my potential, preventing me from letting go. In some twisted logic, if I only avoid them indefinitely, then I haven't really quit; I haven't really failed... I guess the answer is I can't accept failure; I don't know how to completely give up. It's not who I am.” She gave a nod with a smile. Her question had clearly done exactly what she wanted it to do, but Snowflake still had one more to ask.

“Does chasing your dreams and inspirations make you happy?” she inquired with a gentle and knowing tone.

I was a little taken aback. I took a moment to think about the implications of the question and tried to think of how to answer. It seemed so benign, but it certainly wasn’t as simple as ‘yes’ or ‘no’... maybe it should have been.

“At first, yeah...” I finally responded, “but the more I get involved and the more I invest, the more I feel the need to make them my definition of perfect: my absolute best. Then I start to suffer setback after setback of not being satisfied with anything I do. They stop being enjoyable and start being stressful, and rather than finding the strength to push through the stress... I let it control me, paralyze me.” I said, my frustration clearly present in my voice. "I just don't seem to know how to let go of my expectations and live in the moment. I'm always worrying about not achieving the end result I want. Every criticism I get from others just reaffirms my own doubts and insecurities."

“And there’s the problem,” she declared, tapping a hoof against my chest. “You don’t have to be perfect, you just have to love what you’re doing. You know, do things from the heart and stop taking yourself so seriously?" she asked, giving a pause to let it sink in before continuing. "You have to realize that you usually give your best at that moment, that doing less is usually a conscious decision. Being content knowing that you gave all you had at the time instead of saying, 'I should have done better,' is one of the hardest things to accept."

She turned her head and went back to staring at the sky before continuing, as if drawing upon some greater wisdom than just her own. "I'm not saying you shouldn't take note of your shortcomings and focus on improving them next time, but do that for next time. And don't forget to notice what you did right and what did improve. Take it all in stride, don't expect to reach your potential so quickly, and remember to cherish the journey."

She turned her gaze back to me, though mine had never left her. Her eyes were even more gentle than before, and it was clear what she was about to say next was very personal for her. "Enjoy what you've created," she said softly, "because it's part of who you are and don't be afraid to share that with the world, but don't gauge your value by their approval. Trying to find your worth from the praise of others is a hollow happiness that's short lived. Real joy—true happiness—can't come from anywhere but inside yourself, from loving who you are and what you do. As long as what you're doing brings you joy, it’s as perfect as it needs to be.” She looked at me with eyes that were almost begging me to understand. “If you do that,” she said, “I can promise you that you’ll end up with something worthwhile.”

I made a thoughtful noise and gave a few slow, slight nods of my head. Snowflake stared hard and searchingly at me for a while, trying to appraise if her message had really gotten through before her gaze again softened and a smile crossed her lips. She went back to leaning against my chest and we both resumed watching the horizon.

As I laid there with Snowflake, I thought about what she had said. She was right, I didn't have to be perfect. It wasn’t about what you could do, it was about loving what you did. I had to let go and just live my life the best I knew how, being content in the knowledge that I had nothing to prove. Easier said than done, to be sure, but at least I knew what I had to do.

In that moment, however, I let myself enjoy the remainder of Luna’s gift with Snowflake in peace, knowing that the night would be over all too soon.