Monday, 10 June 2013

Bashing on

It was sad going up to HorseBack this morning and thinking of the good man who has gone. Everyone is hard hit, particularly the younger members of the team. At the same time, it was soothing, because there were the horses, and there was the new course coming in, and there was everyone lifting their chins and squaring their shoulders and getting on with it.

I think crossly about grief that it is not useful. It has no evolutionary utility. Humans tend to explain it to themselves as meaningful: it marks the passing of the beloveds as that great matter should be marked. And yet, the person who has gone would not be delighted that mourning and melancholy is left behind. Still, there it is: the hollowness in the throat, the feeling of unreality, the stupid sense of waste. It must have some deep biological root, since even animals mourn; elephants most famously, but horses too have been observed displaying signs of grief. The Pigeon pined for six weeks after the Duchess died.

My theory is: honour the dead by bashing on. This is not necessarily straightforward, but I think it must be true. So I do my HorseBack work and come back and write 1546 words of book and then take Mr Stanley up to see the herd. The Horse Talker and I brush our ladies in the blinding sun, so that their coats shine in the light.

The Remarkable Trainer brings her year-old boy to visit. He is ravished by the equines and very keen on Stanley the Dog. He has no fear of animals but only delight. They all respond to him with astonishingly touching gentleness, as if realising that this is a very small person, still a little unsteady on his feet, who comes in peace and must be treated with care. He laughs at them and feeds them delicate strands of grass and waves his arms in unfettered joy. He is the totem of life going on.


Today’s pictures:

HorseBack morning:

10 June 1 10-06-2013 10-18-34

10 June 2 10-06-2013 10-47-59

10 June 3 10-06-2013 10-49-19

Mr Stanley says: please, please, please may I play with my absurd squeaky toy?:

10 June 5 09-06-2013 10-27-42

Answer: Yes. At which point, joy is unconfined:

10 June 4 09-06-2013 08-18-49

10 June 5 09-06-2013 08-19-45

10 June 7 09-06-2013 08-19-47

Yesterday was my mother’s birthday, and there are dear relations staying, so we had a very lovely little party. I made what I can only call Luxury Snacks, and arranged some special birthday flowers:

10 June 10 09-06-2013 11-22-03

10 June 11 09-06-2013 11-22-35

10 June 12 09-06-2013 11-23-26

10 June 14 09-06-2013 10-28-40

10 June 15 09-06-2013 10-27-21

No hill today. The camera battery died. Just imagine something very serene, and very blue.

Battery died before I could capture the horses with the small boy, or their special shining coats, so here is one of Red from a few days ago, because a blog is not a blog without her dear face in it:

10 June 18 24-05-2013 15-04-35

(Slightly wistful look means: is tea ready YET?)


  1. I am not sure that "grieving has no evolutionary utility". We grieve because we have the capacity to remember, and also to imagine a future, and we have evolved language to express these abstract concepts as tenses. We remember the familial and social value of the dead person, and we have the capacity to realise that death comes for us all in the end. To know these things is to feel them, and so we grieve.

    If we did not grieve, killing people would not be something that most humans would do only reluctantly, usually in very heightened states of feeling intensely threatened. The fact that we have such a moral imperative as Thou Shall Not Kill across almost all human cultures is becuse we have the capacity to feel deeply and grieve, and the empathy to imagine others feeling deeply and grieving.

    Our evolution as humans wouldn't have got very far without these characteristics. Where they are missing in a person or people or a political system, the word to describe it is usually "inhumane". Or capacity to love and grieve in inexctricably connected to our evolution as a species, and our evolution as individuals.

  2. While I agree with Ms. Bulmer's outlook on grief for its social value, I also agree with yours on a more gut level. There's something that makes me mad about death in general. I suppose I don't like anything that can just march into my life and MAKE me feel something negative. I like to think I can pick and choose, control the aspects of my life to reflect only the most positive energy, lift the mood, enable me to step over the problems and go on. But death? Grief? It stomps right in wearing combat boots and flattens you. For a while.

    A small part of me always waves its fist in the air and cries "but what is it all for, then?" when people die. Every death, whether beloved friend or stranger on the news, is just a reminder of how emotionless the universe is with regard to our demise.

    But we soldier on, because that's what we do. And you've got it right. Fill your life with love - horses, dogs, people - whoever crosses your path, exchange some joy.


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