Friday, 23 October 2015

A special kind of love.

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In a quiet Scottish field this morning, I said, out loud to my dear red mare: ‘I will always love you the best.’

There are several faintly odd things about this.

First of all, it’s not a competition. Love is not a zero sum game. The heart expands to fit all of the Best Beloveds into it.

Second of all, I was talking to a horse. She really does not speak English and I know that. Also, two days ago I was talking to a sheep. There may be an actual name for this condition.

Third of all, I’m not sure that animals entirely understand human love; there really is a species divide. Horses understand consistency, safety, reliability, fairness and kindness. I don’t know how much they do love.

I was saying this because I have a new mare. She arrived yesterday, and I spent all morning settling her in and working with her and paying attention to her. The old mare went out for a nice graze in the set-aside and looked after herself. I can trust her to do this, and she seemed not at all disconcerted that I was spending my time with an interloper.

Yet, for all that, I wanted to reassure her.

I like to think I don’t play favourites, and I really don’t. I already adore the new mare, and that love will grow as we get to know each other. She is a very dear person, and I’m enchanted to have her.

But in a profound way, I shall always love the red mare the best, not because she is better or sweeter or kinder or more clever, but because she was the one who made me a finer human. She was the one who taught me what was required. I’d been away from horses for thirty years when I got her, and so I had to sharpen up and raise my game and go back to school, to remember all the things I had forgotten.

In the middle of that dark wood, I had to choose the road less travelled, because of her. She taught me lessons that I shall never forget, that I did not even know I needed.

With the new mare, I hit the ground running. I know what to do. It’s a completely different kind of relationship, because of all those lessons I learned. It’s fun; it’s a fascinating exploration; there are no doubts or fears.

The red mare, the original and finest, the best professor I ever had, will always have that special place in my heart, because she took me when I did have doubts and fears, and she made something of me. Because of that, I owe her a debt of love and gratitude.

I know her so well; I love her so much. And, this morning, I needed to tell her that.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Willie Nelson and a Sheep.


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This is a new idea. It came to me as I was driving through Glen Shee yesterday. It may work; it may not. I’m not even sure why I like it so much. It’s going to be secret. I’m not going to tweet it or put it on Facebook. Three women and a dog may read it. It’s my own tiny, private experiment, lost in the prairies of the internet. Every day: five hundred words and a photograph. There may be fewer than five hundred words; there will not be more.

I was thinking of not missing your life. I drive through Glen Shee quite a lot, so it is like an old friend. I love it still, but I don’t gasp any more at its grandeur. It’s my old mucker, so known and familiar I can map it in my mind with my eyes closed.

Yesterday, I opened my eyes. I got out and looked about and smelt the clean Scottish air. The car door was open and Willie Nelson was singing I really don’t know clouds at all and then I saw a most splendid sheep. He looked at me gravely. He was so fine and handsome and unafraid. We stared at each other, in contemplation.

I said, out loud: ‘I don’t expect you’ve ever heard Willie Nelson before, have you?’ He looked at me beadily, not saying yes, not saying no. Perhaps he has. Perhaps the Invercauld keepers love nothing more than Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow up to be Cowboys, at full blast, in their Land Rovers.

In the back of my mind, a voice was saying: you are in the middle of a glen, talking to a sheep. The critical voice thought this was perfectly ridiculous. The whimsical voice thought it was perfectly enchanting. The whimsical voice won.

Don’t miss your life. Because you never know when there will be Willie Nelson and a sheep, and moments like that are worth more than emeralds.