In amongst the challenges and uncertainties of lockdown in spring and early summer, one of the gifts for me has been the opportunity to spend more time with my two mares. In a normal (pre-Covid) working week, I’d have seen them briefly most days. Long enough to bring them extra food, herbs to support their aging bodies and to be still long enough to know whether there was a new need requiring my attention. Then there’d be a couple of days in the week, when I’d have the ‘luxury’ of spending more time with them, playing with them or just simply being with them. Those times were always treasure.
So in the last few months I’ve had the opportunity to have every day, like one of those few days in a week. I go in the mornings and we have a routine born out of the need for my very elderly mare to graze richer and more plentiful grass, than my other mare’s insulin resistant metabolism can handle without injury. The elder mare wanders where she pleases enjoying the lush new grass, her old bones soaking in the early summer sunshine and warmth. The younger mare, a moonshine grey with the bloodlines of Arabian desert racehorses, walks alongside me. We wander along the hedgerows and I love to watch her neck arching gracefully as her lips delicately manoeuvre prickly gorse and bramble shoots into her mouth. But most of all, I love the walking between the browsing stops. The sound of her breath as it ebbs and flows through those velvet nostrils. The sound of our footsteps. The footsteps of the wind racers, touching the earth behind me. Mine sounding flat and sullen in comparison to hers.
We walk, she and I, each in our own rhythm, her head by my shoulder. And the rhythm brings quietness to my mind and the noisy clattering thoughts. My boundaries made up as they are, of a litany of assumptions, begin to soften and I feel her sense this. Her body softens too and I feel it in mine and that’s the moment I feel something else too. It flows like warm honey between and through us. A soft thickness, the at-homeness of the enfolding of a favourite blanket. As familiar as an old beloved friend. The kind who knows all your secrets, shames and triumphs and loves you all the more for it. And in this moment, I know everything as a part of the wholeness, even, perhaps particularly, the losses. I know where my own true north points and I sense everything constellated around.
And then my mind starts it’s clattering, it’s incessant busyness and my mare responds by putting her attention elsewhere. The soft aliveness of our connection, not just with each other but with all of the life in those fields, is lost. At least to me it is. Each time I experience this loss, my longing for the connection grows more intense. It is the rhythms of my breath and my footsteps that bring me back to the sweetness and I feel again the song of life dancing in my blood and filling my bones. And I know myself to be ‘home’.
I understand this knowing as a fundamental, original state of being, walking as I am, one song within many. And birdsong swells the air around me, the breeze touching my face, rifling through my mane and the mare’s, mingling our breath with the breath of the trees, the mice and the vixen I sometimes see on the way back to her cubs in the early morning. I feel home again. It is a deep feeling of safety. Not safety that comes from a false sense of control over what will happen. Not the false safety that comes from exchanging shelter for comfort as I’ve heard that trade described. Instead it is the way that we feel safe when we are connected with each other, when we are connected into the circle of belonging of all life on the Earth. It is the embodied experience of the connectedness that is at the heart of belonging.