Friday, 22 July 2016

The art of stillness.

I write 2872 words. Bash, bash, bash go my fingers on the keyboard. I see to the horses and walk the dogs and make my stepfather his breakfast and we talk about the madness that is Donald Trump.

Yesterday, I sat for forty minutes and listened to one of the most interesting men I know. Usually, when I see him I am in a rush. I have to get back to my desk, I have many miles to go before I sleep. I put my head round his office door, wave at him manically, perhaps stop for a couple of minutes of chat, explain why I must fly. Yesterday, I had twenty-seven things to do, but I made myself sit down and not think about any of those things. He started talking and I thought: oh, this is the good stuff. I thought: bugger the world, I’m going to get off. I actually concentrated on stilling and softening and opening my body language, so that it said: I am here, I am present, I am not thinking about what I have got to do next. I am listening to you and that is all.

It was a rather magical forty minutes. It was very quiet in that room, and there was just the interesting man, and his stories of things that I shall never know and can hardly imagine, and his vast store of knowledge. He is a seeker of knowledge, and he shares it with easy generosity, never showing off or trying to make a point or intent on making himself look good. He does look good, but not because he tries to. This lovely knowledge poured out and I kept still and mostly silent and merely tried to absorb as much of it as I could. I love the interesting people. The interesting people make it all worth it.

Oddly enough, I’d had some interesting stuff from the vet, earlier in the day. I’d taken the mares up to have their teeth done. One of them needed a post-operative wound treating. There was a bit of bad news and some fairly intricate treatment. I like to watch the vet at work and I like listening to him. But I could not be still and present in that situation, because all the frets swarmed round me like flies. My poor little mare, with her wound, and the threat of her bloody buggery sarcoids coming back, haunts me. I feel a little helpless and hopeless. Her wound is my wound. So, in reaction, I do a lot of nervy talking. I am tense as a guitar string. I take in some of the interesting stuff, but I can’t sit there and let it flow over me like I do with my friend in the quiet room, because I am too busy covering up emotion with pointless speech.

I always think the vet must think me a little bit nuts, on account of the pointless speech. I wish I could say: don’t pay any heed, it’s just that damn monkey mind, chattering fearful things in my ear. I wish I could explain that I can’t quite do the art of stillness when I’m fretting about that horse. I try to do matter of fact and hopeful and stoical, and sometimes I make a decent fist of it, but inside I’m wailing like a child.

She’ll be all right, that sweet horse. We’ll get her right in the end. And in the meantime, I shall go away and work on the art of stillness. I’m too damn old for the pointless speaking. 


  1. Brian, late The Kings Troop22 July 2016 at 13:22

    Pointless Speaking....Nahh...You've always got something interesting to say...

  2. Dear Tania, I've only just looked back at this blog since I wrote a comment on the 24th June after Brexit including "elephant on the blog" saying it felt strange for you to mention calling people and not mentioning Tania. I'm so sorry if that unleashed sadness it was not my intention. I was saddened to read the following comments and posts.

    I thought (still think) your book was brilliant and bought many copies for friends. I relished your blog a few years ago but had drifted away. I value your thoughts and written word, so in my attempt to find meaning in the havoc post Brexit I thought, "I know, I'll see what Tania had to say, it's sure to be sound". I admit I was disappointed. I understand confidentiality etc but it felt strange reading your blog. I suppose my expectations were unfair. I'd come to your blog in search of something tethered, something grounded, something sound. It is because I respect your thoughts and writing that I came in search of something that would make sense. I probably also secretly hoped that you could call and speak to Michael and ask him, "now what, what is the plan?".

    So I'm really sorry. Many people including me value your writing (my writing is hopeless, I know). I'm sorry to have contributed to a move which shook that idea. This all calls to mind the Theadore Roosevelt speech.

    "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

    I meant to question not criticise. Sorry. Rachel


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