Tuesday, 22 April 2014

The kindness of strangers.

The internet is such a curious thing. This morning, a writer I like very much was having difficulties with the etiquette of social networks. It is always a minefield in such a new medium, as everyone makes up the accepted mores as they go along. She had tried to do a little rationalisation of her online posse, and someone had become offended and got cross, leaving her rather bruised and baffled. Then I read an article about religion vs atheism on the Spectator website, and was amazed that the readership of such an august old lady as the Speccie should be so free from manners. The comment section was a brawling free-for-all, with everyone getting furious and calling each other names. The great-aunt in me was horrified.

These are the difficult sides of the internet. But there is also the miraculous, kind, touching side.

I follow various pages about this new school of horsemanship which fascinate me so much. I find them very interesting and very helpful. In my quest to let the red mare express her truest, most glorious self, and my own attempt to learn something every day, I find these places invaluable. I am normally too shy to write a comment, being conscious that I am at the very beginning of my journey. (What do you know? shout the voices in my head.) But today, a horseman I admire wrote something which struck a real chord, and so I threw caution to the four winds, and left a remark.

Would the fellow laugh, discern at once my most amateur status, peg me for a fool? Would he see quite clearly that I know nothing?

And then there was a little ping on my computer. The kind gentleman had replied. This alone is an act of courtesy. Most people do not have the time. What he wrote was absolutely delightful and filled me with joy. He wrote: ‘I guessed you were a writer when I saw what you wrote on my post.’

When I think about horses, I think that the most important thing is that mysterious attribute called feel. It’s almost impossible to pin down. It’s to do with the physical – a softness and give in the hands, a rhythmic way of moving the body. It’s to do with the mental – reading your horse, trying to think your way into their world. It’s to do also with the spiritual, if I may say that without sounding like a flake. It is a communion of two spirits, across the species divide.

This morning, I sat with my mare and watched her eat her hay. The spring grass is slow in coming, and she still needs a bit of the good hay to keep her going. It is glorious, fresh stuff, brought by the kind local farmer. She adores it, and as she eats she goes into a happy meditative state. I stayed by her and watched her dear face and thought about those two spirits, hers and mine, and how sometimes I cannot tell where one begins and the other ends.

Writing, too, has its mysterious, unnameable element. You can learn all the technical stuff you like. You can make yourself mistress of the semi-colon. You can quote Strunk and White by the yard. I have read all the damn manuals, sat at the feet of the masters, gone through The Great Gatsby line by line to try and identify where its genius lies. But there is that extra thing which is required, the thing which has no name, which is perhaps the equivalent of that feel I look for with my horse. It is a thing of the spirit. It does not arrive every day, but sometimes, when the light is coming from the right direction, something mysterious happens, a little alchemy, a sprinkle of stardust, and everything falls into place, and the words run free, and it is like dancing.

I could tell you were a writer, says the kind gentleman, out on the internet. (He could tell, yells my inner six-year-old, dancing with glee.) There it is, winging through the ether, a confirmation of my belief in the kindness of strangers, the best thing anyone could say, the perfect antidote to the shouting, rough voices. I shall smile for the rest of the day.


Today’s pictures:

After our dazzling Easter, dear old Scotland has reverted to her most dour state, so I did not take the camera out today. Here are a few pictures from brighter days:

22 April 1

22 April 2

22 April 4

22 April 4-001

I love the good companions, bowing to each other like Japanese diplomats:

22 April 8

And this is the contemplative look my old duchess has when she eats her hay, as if she is mulling over the Universal Why:

22 April 9

1 comment:

  1. I've been wandering through social media networks for nigh on 10 years now, and I still make undeniable tactical errors. I try and remember how incredibly easy it is to offend people, but I still occasionally make a comment, and despite being as careful as I can to ensure that I make the comment about one thing (I was, in this case, trying talk about the muddy mire that is religion and politics, pretty much guaranteed to get someone's back up), end up 5 minutes later being accused of all the things I thought I so careful and deliberately avoided.

    On a good day I think the trolls are there to make kindness and honest debate and people just being NICE seem even more important and remarkable. Other times it's enough to make me want to quit "the internets" entirely.


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