Out of the wreckage, rising from the ashes, a new life emerges.
It is a great change. For years, my day revolved around going down to my mother’s house to cook the breakfast for her and the dear Stepfather. Then, for many months, it was just breakfast for him. This was a new twist and a new job: to keep him going, to raise a smile on his bereaved face, to bring some sound and life to a house which seemed now so silent and empty. The feeling of absence in that house after she died was as palpable as weather.
This was the daily anchor in my existence. It was a deep habit, a customary pleasure, an instinctive routine.
I was very afraid, as the house was packed up and the day of departure drew near, that without that anchor I should simply float out to sea.
It turns out that, somewhere hidden deep in a dusty old locker, I did have another set of charts. I have plotted a new course, and the dear, leaky, battered old ship is sailing on.
I think of that great truth, which I know but do not always believe, about how the dreading of something is often worse than the thing itself.
I miss them. I miss them like rocks and stones and arrows to the heart. I miss that sweet start to the day. But missing, as I suppose I discovered with my dad, can be faced. I think you have to embrace it rather than fight it. It is, and there’s no point in pretending it isn’t. It’s a real run but can’t hide number.
So, yes, there is the missing. But, amazingly, there is also the living, the laughing, the working, the talking, the striving. There are the good canines and the good equines. There is the physical work, each morning, which I bless with all my heart. I am incurably lazy by nature, and the idea of going for a run or doing pilates or attending a gym makes me want to chew my own arm off. But if you have horses to care for and to ride, you have to get outside and get moving. You have to embrace the day.
There are the books to write, so that I can pay the hay bill. I appear to be writing three at the moment, which is really not what one should be doing, but fuck it. This week, I wrote eight thousand words. Not all of them were bad words. I did my HorseBack stuff, which gives me a small weekly glow of achievement. People on the internet were kind and funny. I quite often cheer myself up by posting pictures of the red mare doing wonderful things, and generous strangers are kind enough to celebrate her as if she were their own. I can’t tell you how much this makes me smile.
I took the little brown mare up to the vet for her sarcoid treatment, and as he got to work, he said something about Donald Trump, and we galloped off into a tremendous exploration of the curiosities and drama of the American political system. Last week, I lost my wallet. (It turned out to be in the top paddock. Darwin the Dog had taken it from the feed shed and tenderly placed it two fields away, by the mounting block. He is very busy like that.) The vet at once fished in his pocket and gave me a hundred quid, so I could put petrol in the car and get to the station to collect a friend and then buy that friend some food to eat. He not only gives micro-loans, but he can talk about one of my favourite subjects. So, I gave him his money back and we discussed the madness of The Donald and I thought: write this down, because all these good things add up.
The red mare, of course, was at her crest and peak of magnificence, but I write about her elsewhere now, so we don’t have to go into the weeds of the equine love. Yet love it was and love it is, of the purest and most galvanising kind.
Darwin the Dog and Stanley the Man made Pearl the Postwoman laugh. Pearl is the nicest woman in Aberdeenshire, and she always gives the dogs a biscuit, and each morning we have a talk and a laugh and I feel grateful that it is she who brings my deliveries of Manuka honey for the brown mare’s wound and think how lucky I am to have that smiling face each day. She is one of those humans who makes you feel better about everything simply by her very presence.
A very old friend rang up. I had not spoken to him for months, but we picked up exactly where we left off, as if it had been five minutes. I felt the history and fondness between us run back and forth down the invisible telephone line, and I thought of how we first met when we were eighteen, and how dashing he looked in his rowing kit, and how all the girls used to make Chariots of Fire jokes as he ran through the quad on his way to the river. And here we are, fifty now, still talking, still making each other laugh, still tied together by many memories and profound affection, so that distance does not matter.
Write all this down, I think, so when you are old and grey and full of sleep and nodding by the fire, you can take down this book and slowly read.
There is the missing. But there is an awful lot of having, of filling, of living. The lost ones slide away, into their own twilight. I watch them go, and then I stretch out my hand and take them and stitch them into my heart. That is where they live now.
That is where they live.