Apologies to anyone expecting a #smallstone, this one is really a big fat boulder in disguise.
My 31 Days of Waking Up challenge today was to dwell in the right now of the moment and see where it took me.
So I took a long walk in the rain with Plottdog tonight and thought about just that, and then as I have a habit of doing, I strayed a little off the topic and started thinking about specific precious moments I could remember and concluded there have been far too few and resolved to do something about it.
One stands out though. I can’t exactly remember the time of year – it was northern New England and it was snowing so it could have been anywhere from October to May. I was alone at the barn, everybody had left for the day because of the weather. There must have been a couple of feet of snow on the ground already and as I remember it was one of those winters where it snowed pretty much every day and it was brutally cold, the kind of cold that bites your bones and makes your lungs ache. So no change there then.
My horses were in, all four in their stalls relaxing, at peace with themselves and their world. There’s something about the way falling snow deadens sound and that day the silence of snow falling outside was exquisite — with a stillness so complete, right at that moment nothing else existed on the planet apart from those four horses and me. The every-day drone of far-off traffic or snow blowers was gone, the thunder of the gritters and snow-ploughs, clanking, scraping and banging down the highway was gone—the daily background white noise we never notice until we think about it and then it’s absolutely all we can hear—all gone. We were cocooned in pure silence from the outside world, just me and these four beautiful animals alone in the relative warmth of our little microcosm, safe from the harsh weather, them bundled up against the cold in their duvet-like winter rugs and me in god knows how many layers of ratty fleece and down and -20F rated boots (and my feet were still like blocks of ice). One of them sleeping— eyes, not quite shut but glazed, one hoof cocked, head down and ever so slightly nodding in time to his steady breathing, his big rubbery lower lip drooping and quivering and a tiny silvery thread of saliva escaping from one corner of his mouth.
Against the backdrop of that silence, the occasional rustle of the deep straw bedding as one of them shifted his weight; the rasp and swish of snatched mouthfuls of hay still redolent with the smell of summer sun and clover, and the slow and steady sounds of powerful jaws rhythmically grinding it down with huge tombstone-like molars —for me that will always be a sound that comforts and lulls, a little bit like this present moment as I write, listening to Plottdog’s pattern of breathing as he sleeps in his basket—he truly does make more noise asleep than he does when he’s awake. But I digress…
I cracked the main barn door open and stood for a while watching the snow come down from a sky so heavily laden it was like I could reach out and touch it and pull snowballs from those over-stuffed clouds. It was one of those skies so full, it was almost sepia coloured. I’m not sure we get skies like that here in England. The spruce and spindly tamarinds, dark on the edge of the paddock, like something from a Kincade painting, boughs weighed down and bowed nearly to the ground with the occasional mini-avalanche of powder falling from a branch as a Cardinal, aflame in his winter plumage, a shock of scarlet against the virginal white snow, hopped from limb to limb. It was the kind of snow that looked like someone had tossed handfuls of diamonds into it and even in that dead light, the trees glittered and shimmered.
It was like being in my own personal snow globe and for a while I recall kicking that around as a what if? scenario —what if my reality, my life, my past, present and future was contained in a snow globe on someone’s mantel just waiting for some curious child to pick it up and give it a good shake? What if all life was just one big snow globe in a row of snow globes on a mantel? What if it got dropped and smashed? What if every star we see in the sky was just another snow globe, full of people all doing their own thing? Was a black hole the space where that smashed globe should have been? I never did get that one figured out.
One of the horses decided he was going to lay down, selected his spot, folded his front legs and dropped his rear to the floor with a sudden thud and an exhalation of breath that was more of a grunt. His black tail, deepest anthracite shot through with strands of sorrel and flecks of gold fanned out across the golden wheat straw and I was seized with the need to slip the bolt on his stall door and step inside. He looked at me for a moment, big brown eyes a shade or two darker than polished walnut, assessing me, probably weighing up whether I brought more food and seeing none, dropped his gaze. I knelt down next to him, his warm breath, molasses-sweet on my face, brushed my cheek against that velvet -soft muzzle; it was a weird telepathy which passed between us—of trust, familiarity and lack of fear and of permission sought and granted. His assent comes in another deep exhalation and so I sat, settled myself into the crook of his neck and let him doze, while I intoxicated myself with his smell—sage and fresh air and the undefinable smell of horse, unique and never forgotten.
It wasn’t the first time I had done it but that one time is the one that lives on so vividly, the memory of that 1200lbs of muscle, bone and sinew at its most vulnerable and exposed, that massive creature so powerful and wonderfully wrought, whose first response always, always one of flight and never fight, would let me share his space and sleep alongside me with no anxiety and no fear—and so I sat there for as long as he permitted feeling like it was the safest place in the world and wanting so desperately to capture that moment in time, knowing that nothing could ever be more precious than that magic moment.
And so, even though it may be long gone, it inhabits and informs my present from a corner of my heart always reserved for that once in a lifetime horse and because I have been blessed to have had the truly marvelous experience of living perfectly in the moment.
Categories: Life or Something Like It, Writing Our Way Home
Your wonderful piece has brought me right inside the stable, Sallie. I can even smell the horses’ breath and hear their gentle sound. It is such wonderful writing it brought tears to my eyes. Many thanks.
Thank you Joanna, this one was especially close to the heart.
Boring.. You are better than this!
So two for two on the boredom front. Oh dear! My apologies that my writing is not to your taste. Thank you for your opinion, criticism is always welcome since it allows me to seek ways to improve.