The small things today were very, very fine. After I flailed my way out of the Swamp of Overwhelm, my eyes become open again to loveliness. Every day, I thought to myself, as I walked down to the field with my young friend Sophie, write down one good thing. Don’t just notice the one enchanting thing, write it down, mark it, be grateful for it. That may just be the secret of life.
Sophie is four. She likes coming down to help make the mares’ breakfast. ‘A bit more of this? Some of that? Oh, they will like this.’ They are very gentle with her and she has no fear around them and watching them together is enough to make the most battered heart expand like a flower in springtime.
After her mother came to pick Sophie up, I waved goodbye to them and took the mares down to a hidden glade in the west wood where there is the very first of the spring grass. They fell to grazing with such profound delight that it made me laugh out loud. I rang up a friend and we made jokes about generals. She has been spending time with some very splendid generals for her work and she kindly described the top brass in detail. This made my day.
Then the friend whose mare shares our paddock came down and we spent an hour clearing up dung. Shovelling shit is not my favourite occupation, but when you are doing it with a wise friend who is describing life as if she were a philosopher it becomes a keen pleasure. I felt all the things which have been besieging me over the last few days fade away, as if they meant nothing. We cleared eight wheelbarrows of dung and set the world to rights.
Then I ran down to do my HorseBack work. They are doing their Youth Initiative today, where they take children who are having trouble at school and teach them teamwork and leadership and how to look after and ride the horses. As I drove along the valley, thinking I was going to be late, I saw the group riding along the Deeside Way, a happy flash through the silver birches. I pulled over and leapt out of the car and snapped away with the camera. All but one of those children had never known a horse until they came to HorseBack and now they were riding through the woods. Even more wonderful, all the children had a veteran by their side, as both moral and practical support. It was one of the best sights I have ever seen.
These are small things, in terms of great wide world. They are small things when put up against the terrifying news headlines and the stories of death and despair. They are huge things to me, so vast in implication that I can hardly chart their depths. The more I go through life, the more I get thrown about by the swings and roundabouts, the more I bash into thorny existential mysteries which leave me bruised and bewildered, the more I think: cherish those small things. If I can hunt down one every day, like a questing hound sniffing for truffles, then at the end of each year there will be 365 moments of laughter and pleasure and gratitude and grace. That’s enough to fill a book. And that is a book I can take down, as Yeats once said, and slowly read.