There’s a little track I walk through to get to the field where Merc and Ada graze. It winds its way through a patch of land that for years that had been taken over by the wildlings, many meters of invasive weeds that cloak the trees at their roots like a billowing skirt. The bramble bushes I can call by name, but the formal titles of many others embarrassingly escape me. And yet, I know them intimately, by the shape of their leaves, their individual outlines, what time of day they cast their shade and where. What chooses to grow under them and what does not. The names we call each other are not the names that have been given by the books, but names that together we made up- even if I’m not sure how they refer to me in return.
I write a lot about trees and birds and horses. I’m a tree hugging fan. If there’s anything the world needs more of, it’s people hugging trees. I’ve moved in circles that would be described as hippy dippy, but I was never the right fit. I’m not one for elaborate ritual or for joining hands and dancing. It’s too much work to keep from giggle snorting, uses all my bodily resources. I’m offensive to the sensibilities of the pure. I reach for the mystical and magical whilst keeping a healthy dose of realism in my pocket. It’s taken time, some picking through, to develop a relationship with the non-human and the animate that feels non-contrived and genuine- which mostly involves letting go of other people’s ideas of what that’s supposed to look like and just letting myself be.
Yesterday, I took my coffee and made my way across the paddocks. Past the speckled chicken who daily flies into chicken rages if the feed isn’t delivered fast enough, keeping a wide berth over to the right (she’d been fed earlier). Up along the stony path, feet picking my way through the jagged rocks to find the even ground. Over to the wooden gate that leads to my path. I open it and go through.
At first the land takes you winding down, in amongst the trees that throw a darker shade, before crossing a rivulet formed from a newly burst spring, where the light opens up. At the top of the rise here, the faces of my horses appear, a sight that always makes me stop and smile.
How are you so gorgeous, I call out. Merc blushes. He’s too gracious to reply.
Although I might not be one for formal ritual, I do believe that life is deserving of never-ending celebration. My heart daily grows new foliage. It full of sticks and leaves from trees I love, fallen bird’s nests that I’ve collected, the wisps of hair from horse’s past and present. It carries the people that I cherish and care for, grows heavier with the suffering of both those I know and those I don’t. As I grow older, I learn of its capacity to carry more, to grow lighter and heavier in equal amounts.
Yesterday, as I sat down with my horses, I felt an endless pool of gratitude, mixed with a tinge of guilt. I often ask, what can I do? What can a horse do? What use is hanging out in nature if we turn on the news and see the world around us burn? And more so, what’s the use in writing about it?
A horse, a tree, some words about the love of both does not save someone from harm. It does not put food on the plates of the hungry or fill a well with water that’s run dry. It does not grow a roof over someone who’s lost their home. This much I know.
But does it still have value?
I believe so. As a reminder of our human-ness. Of a deep care for the simple. And of the potential for our love.
Things we can never be reminded of enough.
I read this poem recently by Danusha Laméris:
I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk
down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs
to let you by. Or how strangers still say “bless you”
when someone sneezes, a leftover
from the Bubonic plague. “Don’t die,” we are saying.
And sometimes, when you spill lemons
from your grocery bag, someone else will help you
pick them up. Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other.
We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot,
and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile
at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress
to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder,
and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass.
We have so little of each other, now. So far
from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange.
What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these
fleeting temples we make together when we say, “Here,
have my seat,” “Go ahead — you first,” “I like your hat.”
Maybe, I think to myself, as I sit with my horses, the seeking of kindness and care is also an emergency we need to tend to. That part of our practice is to not deny the beautiful while we repair and make amends for the brutal.
Look after your gentle selves,