Thursday, 22 August 2013

Shared experience. Or, a still small moment of calm.

This morning, I woke to a low sky and a light, misty rain. It’s that kind of rain where there is just a sense of water in the air; less falling than swirling, almost like a flying dew.

The Horse Talker and I arrived at the paddock at the exact same moment. At the exact same moment, we saw the exact same thing. All three of the girls were lying down in the paddock, in a delightful collective doze. We made Did You See That faces at each other, and walked in cat-like silence through the gate so as not to disturb the glorious picture.

The little pony decided to get up, and performed some astonishing yoga stretches with her hind legs, which made us double up with laughter. Then we each went to our own horses and sat with them and stroked their dear faces and entered into the circle of calm which they had created.

It’s quite rare that we see them lying down. Autumn the Filly was flat on her side, completely flaked out. Red was resting on her belly, her long legs curled up under her, her chin resting dreamily on the grass. It’s also quite rare that a horse will stay down when a human approaches. Often they get up and shake themselves. Their flight instincts mean that they have to trust you a lot to stay in the vulnerable prone position. That is why it is always very touching when you see pictures of people lying with their equines.

They were both so still it was as if every atom in their bodies was at rest. They were in a low, humming dream state, every part of them existing in peace. The field was very quiet, apart from the lone cry of a circling buzzard. The misty rain had driven away all the flies and brought a sort of suspended animation with it, as if the world was on hold. Nothing existed but these beautiful creatures and these two grateful humans.

We laughed and smiled at each other and invented fanciful scenarios as to why they were so dozy. Rather madly, there is to be a techno concert on Saturday in the cut hayfield, and we decided that the girls had clearly been up all night practising their rave moves. No wonder they were so sleepy.

Eventually, Red got to her feet. Autumn was still dozing. The Horse Talker and I went up to the shed to make breakfast. I let Red out into the set-aside so she could do some free grazing. This bit of the field is where the good grass is, and there is no fence. She could, I suppose, gallop off to Tarland if she really wanted, but she doesn’t. She will usually come when I whistle, or if she is too busy eating, stand quietly when I come to collect her.

As we were mixing up the feeds, the Horse Talker and I suddenly heard a swish of grass and a dash of hooves, and Red arrived at a busy trot and poked her white face into the doorway, urgent enquiry in her eyes, as if to say ‘You are making breakfast and you did not tell me?’ She looked so comical that it made us laugh and laugh.

The whole thing was one of the most enchanted hours I’ve ever spent in my life. But what was particularly lovely about it is that it was shared. The Horse Talker and I are now custodians of that collective memory, and we shall be able to say to each other, when the hard snows come and we are trudging through the winter mud, or when we are having a bad day, or when we wake to a grumpy morning – ‘Do you remember that day?’

I am solitary by nature. I do a lot of things alone. I need quiet and peace; I like the space of my silent room. But sometimes, in life, it’s important to have a witness. I thought this as I came back to my desk to start work. I thought suddenly, that is what this blog is all about. I started it, ruthlessly, blatantly, because I thought I could go viral and everyone would buy my book and I should be rich and retire and buy a boat.

The internet gods laughed at that puny plan, but I continued doing it because I discovered I liked it for its own sake. I love the small, tight band of Dear Readers. I love that you remember the Duchess and the Pigeon, and that you have taken Mr Stanley to your hearts. I love the little messages which wing their way from as far as New Zealand and Sri Lanka and California.

People tend to be quite sneery about blogs and social networks. It’s all ghastly self-indulgence, absurd show-boating, awful narcissism. The tired old joke about Twitter is: who cares what you had for breakfast? (Although absolutely nobody I know tweets about bacon and eggs.)

In fact, although these grouchy criticisms have a tiny acorn of truth in them, I think there is something quite profound going on. I think it is to do with having a witness. I think, at its best, this new medium offers something wonderfully collective. Here are our small lives; they are seen.

Of course lives are seen by the real people in the real world; the family and friends and best beloveds. But there is nothing wrong with virtual seeing in the virtual world. It’s not all trick cyclists and Look Ma, no hands. It can be a simple, good-hearted offering of some of the lovely moments.

When the news is dark and the world seems crazed and the big things are so big and bad that the battered brain can hardly take them in, the small, ordinary pleasures in small, ordinary lives can be an anchor to sanity. As much as there is flimsy and nonsense and pointless shouting and idiot arguments in the virtual world, there is also a lot of kindness of strangers. There are shards of wisdom and moments of glad grace. You get a glimpse into lives of which you would otherwise know nothing. I think there is something rather marvellous in that.


Today’s pictures:

One from the morning field:

22 Aug 1

The day was too gloomy for pictures, so here are some of the Beloveds from the last few sunnier days:

22 Aug 2

22 Aug 3

The focus is hysterically wrong in this picture, but I love it, because it gives a sense of the happiness of the dear little band:

22 Aug 4

Free grazing. Two things make me smile: Stanley the Dog channelling his inner horse, and the most excellent colour coordination:

22 Aug 5

Perfectly synchronised eating:

22 Aug 7

Is it time for breakfast face:

22 Aug 8

And a few more of my Hebridean pictures:

22 Aug 10

I love this one because it could have been taken in 1953:

22 Aug 11

22 Aug 14

22 Aug 15

Happy holiday faces:

22 Aug 16


  1. What a wonderful post. I can just see the five of you and Mr. Stanley out there this morning. Your likening the shared experience with sharing on your blog struck a chord in me. Yes, bloggng is really about having a witness to my small life, and sbout being 'seen'. I had to put out my own thoughts in my blog as a small Thank You to you.
    Lee Johnston

  2. Gahhh... the Hebridean pics wring my heart to pulp. Love.

    The oddly focused shot of the herd makes them look like 20-foot-tall horses! Weird, but totally fun.

  3. Thank you for sharing this - amazing that they let you walk up to them while lying down. Actually the last 24 hours have had a kind of weird, spellbound quality. There was a full moon last night and I had to walk in my lovely park because it was too bewitching to stay indoors and a friend just said that she picnicked upon Hampstead Heath until midnight. Maybe we are all moon-drunk... Rachel

  4. Long time reader,first time commenter. Reading blogs is my way of experiencing what I love but isn't part of my daily life. I commute into central London with a daily walk of urban splendour across Waterloo Bridge, up past the Opera House to work in a square of Georgian gorgeousness. I wouldn't swap it! But I also love my daily "trips" to Scotland to "see" the little herd, the splendid dog and the hill.
    Also many years ago I lived in one of the little houses that overlooks the far end of the Knavesmire in York.
    The internet allows for all these little connections and crossovers that would otherwise pass without knowing.

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