Today, I met a guy with a boat.
This kind of thing sometimes happens at HorseBack. My friend The Marine says, as I’m leaving, ‘Oh, there’s a guy with a boat coming.’
I know better than to ask what guy and what boat.
This morning, I get a message saying: ‘The boat arrives in fifteen minutes.’
I drop everything and drive down the valley.
There is the boat.
She’s not just any old boat. She is a boat. Boat is not a good enough word, and all the other words don’t do her justice. I don’t think she is a vessel, or a craft. Actually, the word that sounds best for her is skiff, because that gives a sense of her sleek, athletic, cutting self, but a skiff is a small rowing boat for one person.
This is the biggest ocean-going rowing boat in the world.
The guy with the boat is a veteran of the Royal Navy. He smashed up his leg so badly that his femur was poking out of his hip. He had two years lying in a room to think, as he put it, about what would really make him happy in his life. Quite soon after he got up, he went down to a harbour near Edinburgh and saw an ocean-going rowing boat, and that was it, for him.
So now he has Avalon, and she’s already broken the Indian Ocean World Record, the fleet, flying darling, and now she’s going from Thurso to the Faroe Islands to raise money for HorseBack.
My goodness, the Interesting People.
The sun shone and I was so happy about the boat, and the guy, that when I went down to do the mare, rather later than usual, I stood with her in the field for about ten minutes, just scratching her ears and thinking about men and boats. She liked this plan very much. Partly because it gave her time to put in some practice for the Standing Still Olympics and partly because she really does like having her ears scratched.
We did some gentle work and then we did some more standing. There are days when she is antic and bright, days when all her thoroughbred blood runs through her, days when she is high and comical, days when she is dedicated and active. Some days she is a dancer, some days an explorer, some days a dressage diva, some days a dowager duchess.
Today, she was all Zen Mistress. The sun was glancing about and a quick, dry wind was blowing in from the east, but she had, at the heart of her, a low, spreading calm. It is a peace that comes up from deep within her, and ripples out in waves, something so actual and visceral that I can feel it flowing from her body to mine. When she is like this, she gives me the gift of time. She anchors me in the moment. Most days, I am thinking always an hour ahead. When I am doing anything, I am thinking about the next thing, and the thing after that. It’s a terrible habit, and I’m going to try to train myself out of it.
When the duchess is in her Zen mode, she stops the world. I actually think: it does not matter if I die now, because everything is here, in this moment. All joy and goodness and peace and love is here. All life is here.
I don’t think they mention that in Horse and Hound.