This morning, in the Co-op, my favourite check-out lady and I were having a little chat about the vicissitudes of existence.
‘Life,’ said my favourite lady, rolling her eyes. ‘What a business.’
‘I know,’ I said, eagerly. ‘I like to think that I am a student of the human condition, but then I realise I know nothing.’
Beside me, a bright-eyed woman was putting her groceries on to the counter. She gave me a laughing sideways look, and said, with all the dry pragmatism of this part of the north-east: ‘I should stick to dogs.’
I laughed my head off. I was still laughing when I went out to the car and drove home. That’s my blog for the day, I thought, right there.
I laughed not just because it was very funny, but because today a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders. Both my horses have been on the sick list, and despite the fact that I pretend not to indulge in worry, which is a pointless emotion and does neither them nor me any good, I have been fretting so much that I could not sleep for two nights. I love those mares so much and the thought of losing them was pressing down on me like a malevolent stone. Today, both were better. They were back to their true selves. The red mare was dreamy and dozy and duchessy, at ease in her world. The little brown mare was bright and light and comical. (If she were a person, you would say that she had a twinkle in her eye and a mischievous sense of humour.)
I don’t think I had quite realised how heavy that weight was until it was removed. I am used to pressure. My work is very, very pressing at the moment, and I’m driving myself on mercilessly, and constantly trying to think of new ideas and working on new secret projects and typing and typing and typing and thinking and thinking and thinking. There’s a bit of a make or break aspect to the thing, just now. I think I was so used to having pressure on that I did not recognise how heavy that extra weight was.
The horses are usually where I cast aside all care. They are my lightness. They carry such authenticity and goodness, they are so present in the moment, they are so honest and genuine and true that they have the power to banish worldly worries. In the first weeks after my mother died, when I was carrying grief around with me like a heavy bucket of water, the only place where I did not feel sad at all was on the back of my red mare. I still wonder at this. It was not a conscious letting go of grief for half an hour or any switch in perception, it simply happened. I sat in the saddle and the sadness went away. I got back on the ground, and it came back. I’m still not certain how this came about, and I don’t know anything else which has that power.
But in the last few days, and with the brown mare over the last few weeks as her hideous sarcoid grew and grew and I had more and more doleful conversations with the vet, that lightness went away. I would go to the field with dread instead of joy in my heart, fearing one would have bled to death and one would have succumbed to a raging infection. Today, the red mare’s leg is no longer filled and hot, and the brown mare, having got rid of her ghastly sarcoid herself, is bright and healing. She will still have to have an operation to clean up the last of the mess, but it will now be a fairly simple procedure, not the high-wire act I was fretting over.
Don’t worry, say the sages, over things which have not yet happened. I know that wisdom intellectually. I tell it to myself. I even think I am doing it. But in my gut, away from my rational head, I do run those doomsday scenarios, and they wear at my spirit. Words of comfort spin off me, unable to gain purchase. I grow convinced that these gentle creatures, whom I love so much and who illuminate my days, will be lost to me.
But this morning, there they were, in all their glory, amazingly alive and vivid in the mild Scottish air. They are furry and muddy and happy and here.
I am determined to use them as a cautionary tale. It really is high time that I learnt not to waste precious emotional capital on those things which have not yet happened. I am going to wait until I stare disaster in the whites of its eyes before getting myself bent out of shape.
I sometimes wonder how many times life has to send me its lessons before I learn them. I always thought I was a quick study. Apparently not. The lessons come, over and over, and one day, eventually, some of them will stick. I shall be learning until the end of my days.
In the meantime, the sun is coming out. I hear Brian Blessed’s voice, roaring in my head, yelling in his blazingly theatrical way: ‘GORDON’S ALIVE.’ The mares are alive. And the dear old hills are alive too, with the sound of music, as I sing songs out loud into the lightening, brightening sky.