Up and down and round the houses I go. Existential complications swarm at me like angry bees. But there are sudden, dazzling shafts of light. I go up to HorseBack to watch a man in a motorised wheelchair work a horse. There is nothing to bring one to a sense of perspective like seeing someone who has been paralysed at a young age rising above that catastrophic injury.
What was interesting about this particular man is that he was not doing any sort of gung-ho, watch me overcome schtick. He had a job, and he was going out to do it. He was matter of fact, low-key, and quite reticent. As I watched him work, I could see why he had been so brilliant at the rugby which eventually felled him. He was utterly focused, concentrating always on the next step, on what he could improve, on what he could learn better. You can’t not notice that someone is in a chair, but as he bonded with his horse, that chair faded into the background and the human spirit revealed itself. I became fascinated with him and impressed by him not because he was a man in a chair, but because he was a man with a mission.
In quieter, less dramatic waters, the great-nieces came this morning to ride. The middle niece rode the red mare off the lead rope for the first time and they forged a glorious new partnership. The oldest niece zoomed round an obstacle course with a blazing smile on her face. The baby niece, four years old, had her first sit on the mare and decided that the broad, mighty thoroughbred back was the place she was going to stay. We had some difficulty in persuading her to get off.
I feel tremendous pride in my horse at times like this. I’ve taught her a lot of things. She did not get as relaxed and soft as she is by eating magic beans. But her tenderness and dearness with the children is really to do with her own kind heart. She recognises precious cargo when she sees it, and she carries it with gentleness and loving care.
Those were the shining lights, illuminating the darkness. I’m struggling with some stuff. It’s complicated, messy, grievous stuff and it makes my heart ache. But there are good humans and good dogs and good horses and the dear old trees and hills which lift that bashed heart. I have a sort of percentage rule. I accept that life contains frets and sorrows and blows. I don’t shut my eyes to those, but try to run towards them. But as long as I have a decent ratio of goodness and kindness and laughter and beauty to balance them out, then I’m all right. If the percentages work out at around the sixty-forty mark, I’m fine. When we dip below fifty-fifty, I have to concentrate. I have to dig for the daily beauty, the one true thing, the shy silver lining, the elusive shaft of light. Sometimes, I don’t have to dig so hard. Sometimes the sun comes out, all on its own.