Quite often I think: I must give them something.
The ‘them’ means you, the Dear Readers. I am sending something out, for you.
We make a grand bargain, you and I: you give me your time, and I give you some prose. I try and make the prose good, because that’s sort of the point of me. Sometimes, as you know, I indulge myself a little, when I am overwhelmed with one of my loves or enthusiasms. I feel an odd combination of guilt and defiance about this. The guilt is that I may be boring you; the defiance says it is my place and it’s free and nobody has to read it. The guilt usually wins. (Be more interesting, damn you, shout the critical voices, who have been drinking Negronis and are getting punchy.)
Today, after my morning mediation in the green field with my red mare, I suddenly thought: sending out is the wrong idea. By which I think I mean: it should not be a presentation. Here, have this, on a nice silver tray. I suddenly thought that the whole wonder of the internet is that it gives snapshots of other voices, other rooms. Not so very long ago, people who lived in the country hardly knew anyone beyond the next village. Even now, I know a gentleman who, until a year ago, had never travelled beyond Stonehaven. (About forty miles south, on the coast.) The internet lifted the curtain on a huge, gaudy play. I think that is its special gift.
I like the news. I like that I can watch Rachel Maddow and understand the intricacies of American politics. I like the pictures from NASA and the reports from my favourite training stables and the rolling updates from the BBC. I adore the photographs of the Household Cavalry and the beautiful landscape shots of Scotland’s hidden islands. But perhaps what I love the most are the small bulletins from the ordinary humans, living ordinary lives. An artist here is teaching old people to draw; a gardener there has spotted the first snowdrops; an amateur photographer here has captured a tiny owl on a stone wall.
I like seeing the world through other eyes. I take my own eyes for granted. The things I think, the things I value, the things I love are grained so deep in me that they feel natural and obvious. I am aware of my goofinesses and oddities; I know that not everyone is obsessed with red mares and lichen. I understand that I plough a fairly lonely furrow with my one-woman battle against the dangling modifier and my adoration of the semi-colon. But generally, I secretly believe my feelings and beliefs are fairly universal. (I think this springs from my great hope that there is more that unites the human heart than divides it.)
In fact, I am a creature of a very specific set of cultural markers. I am British; I grew up in a farm and a stable; I was given books to read from my earliest childhood; my first serious school believed in Shakespeare and poetry; my father was one of nature’s gentlemen and my mother insisted on good manners at all times. All those laid down foundational imperatives that run through me like Brighton through a stick of rock. I think I was born with innate optimism and cussedness, and those produce a confirmation bias of which I am hardly aware, even though I try to avoid confirmation bias like the plague.
The internet reminds me that although there are universal human truths and unities, there are millions of individuals who have very different cultures, very different perspectives, very different priorities. They are not just interesting, these other lives, they are salutary too. They stop me falling into tribalism or fear of the other or complacency. They open me up, rather than closing me down.
All of which is a very long way of saying that perhaps the point of all this is that it is one of those glimpses. Here is an ordinary woman, living in an ordinary country, making an ordinary life, holding ordinary hopes and fears and dreams. Just like you, and yet completely different, all at the same time.
I realise as I write this that it is mildly absurd. Why does there even need to be a point? But my mind is like the questing vole in the plashy fen; it likes answers. It is not very good at letting things just be. (This is why the mare is so good for me, because when I am with her that questing mind falls still, and I am in my most elemental, physical, present self, feeling the Scottish air on my face and the powerful animal under me, searching only for harmony and communion and softness. I ask why later, when I think about her and how her mind works. But when I am with her there are no questions, only the moment which has the two of us in it. She is like a miracle physicist, who can stop the space time continuum with her bare hooves.) If I can work out the point, then I am happy. Today, I have decided that a snapshot of an ordinary life is enough. Tomorrow, no doubt, I shall have lighted on something quite else.
More from the road. There really are rather a lot. I fear I may be posting them until every last cow has come home.
This adorable blinky person not only did the perfect collected trot with the bend in it again today, she did it in both directions. Yeah, yeah, she was saying, whistling a little tune under her breath, I can do it this way, and I can do it that way, and would you like me to do it the other way? BECAUSE I CAN. I did not think that I could love her any more than I already did, because the love is already turned up to eleven, but it turns out that I could. Ha. There is always, always room for more love:
I also love that the sweet Paint filly has her show pony face on, as if to say we can’t all be blinking our eyes and wibbling our lips; some of us have to be ready at all times for our close-up.