Today, I went out in the rain. I stood in the rain, I walked in the rain, I talked in the rain, I rode in the rain.
A friend cast her eyes up to the dreich. The sky was the colour of lost hope. ‘You are going to ride in this?’
‘Yes,’ I said. ‘I am going to ride in this.’
Normally, when people are surprised by something I do (which is quite often), I offer an explanation. I usually want people to know why I think things and why I do things and what I feel about things. That, perhaps, is why I still write this blog. I don’t really know why I want people to understand; I don’t know whether it is a good or a bad thing. Today, I felt no need for understanding. I was going to ride in this, and that was all she wrote.
If you ride in the rain and walk in the rain and if you have a proper hat for the rain, the rain changes. It no longer becomes a gloomy, paralysing thing. It is a ravishing, soft, reviving thing. It is what makes the grass grow. It is what allowed the trees under which the mare and I pass to survive for hundreds of years. I don’t know who planted the beeches, still bright green in the doleful light, and I don’t know when those glorious seeds went into the ground. Those trees can live for a thousand years. That’s what the rain does.
The mare, who is tougher than she looks, walked through the rain with the gentle aplomb of a duchess. It was a friendly ride. We are friends, I thought. Today, we were of one mind and one body. All was well between us.
Then I went to my work at HorseBack and met some people who have injuries to the body, to the brain, to the spirit. It is a group that had come from Catterick, a new set of people I had not met before. I asked the group leader about his men and women. ‘That one,’ he said, looking at a pale gentleman with a kind face, ‘just saw too many dead bodies.’
I am carrying sorrow at the moment. It is the perfectly respectable, expected, appropriate sorrow that comes to all humans in their middle age. It has a reason. It is not a mood, or a self-indulgence. It is a response.
It lives in me like a low weight. It is a permanent ache. I know it well and, rather to my amazement, I know what to do with it. It has to be wrapped up and stored safely inside. It cannot be fought or dispelled or ignored or driven off. It has to be kept and faced and even spoken to. I speak to my sorrow, as if it is a small, frightened animal. The ache stops twice, on this rainy morning: when I am on my mare, and when I am taking photographs of the people who have seen too many dead bodies.
It has so many paradoxes that I find it interesting. It is a weight, but it has a hollowness too, an unbearable lightness of being. It hurts, but it is also cleansing, as if it has the spirit of fire in it, that comes and burns away all the shabby detritus of life. It makes me think of what is important. It is flaying, yet it makes me strong. It turns out that I am doing sorrow well, to my absurd and secret pride. I speak of it straight, if someone asks. I make jokes. In sadness, I get a gold star in irony. How odd that is.
I’ve had practice, and I believe in practice. This feeling trots beside me like an old hound, known, familiar. Oh, there you are, says the mind, faintly resigned; I remember you.
I expect I won’t always do it well. I’ll have off days and cross days and days when I get tired of the thing and try to run away. Today, I am walking in the rain, in the most ridiculous of my many hats.
HorseBack this morning:
The duchess and Stanley the Manly, on Sunday, when it was sunny: