8pm. In a quiet green field, with a soft rain falling.
I have my arm over the little brown mare, rubbing her neck as she eats her tea. Most horses hate to be touched when they eat. It is good manners to leave them alone. She loves it. If I stop rubbing and move away, she turns her head to me as if to say: where have you gone? Come right back here, she says, and keep me safe.
I’m not sure I ever knew a horse who loves humans as much as she does.
The red mare is eating her own tea, in grand solitary state. The Paint tries all her stealth tricks to get a bite, but the wily old duchess sees her off. The Paint bridles and pulls herself into a contained rodeo leap. Her father is a Western champion, and she likes to channel him sometimes. Then she starts the stealth approach all over again.
Stan the Man has gone to look for critters in the woods. Darwin the Dog is swishing and swaying about my feet, faithful and questing.
A lone swallow flings himself over the meadow, flying sure and low. I wonder where his wife is. All the swallows are alone, just now. They are out, I suppose, whilst the good mammas are guarding the nest.
In my ear, Van Morrison is singing I’m Not Feeling It Any More. He may not be feeling it, but I am feeling it. I saw him sing this song once at the Fleadh, years and years ago. It lasted for about twenty minutes. The brass section went crazy. They were just riffing by the end, and Van was riffing with them, making those yelping jazz noises with his voice, as if he never wanted it to end.
I leave the horses and walk up over the bridge and through the trees. The Flaming Lips are now singing about Yoshimi battling the pink robots. She has to beat those damn machines. She will beat those damn machines. I had forgotten about The Flaming Lips. How could anyone forget about The Flaming Lips?
In the old cow barn, a wedding is in full swing. There is a lot of good Scottish dancing. ‘They are having fun,’ I say, with satisfaction, to the dogs. I sneak up and peer in through the window. A man turns round and looks slightly surprised to see a curious woman in a hat in the rain. It’s a nice hat. It’s a green hat. But I’ve already sat on it once, so it’s not what it was. I smile at the wedding man, a little rueful.
We head up the beech avenue and then double back and strike out across the wild meadow, where the grass is as high as my hip. The dogs, as if infected by the party music, start dancing too. Darwin needs no excuse to dance. Then they roar off into soaring lurcher races, their fast bodies close to the ground, all their speedy ancestry rising in them like smoke.
I sing out loud. There is nobody to hear. I don’t care if there is anyone to hear. It is James Taylor now, a very old friend. Then it is Dar Williams. That aching voice. It is a voice to end all voices.
The burn is still as glass and the dogs have disappeared into the rhododendron bushes where clearly they have important business.
I never want this walk to end.
But the gloaming is falling and it’s time to go home.
Write it down, write it down, says a voice in my head. You must never forget this.
You don’t always have to write it, says another voice. You could just live it.
I’d like to remember, though. I’d like to look back when I am old and grey and nodding by the fire, and remember.
This, this moment. This is all that matters.
Everything else is just noise.