by Laura Crum
Be warned--not a cheerful post.
Since my husband died I have had several well meaning people tell me to take comfort in my horses. These comments range from the woman who never owned a horse in her life telling me that horses were powerful spiritual beings and I needed to go to them and rub their velvety muzzles and …etc, to kind fellow horse owners mentioning that a ride through the trees on a good horse can be soothing. I have no doubt that all these things might be true. But I cannot muster much interest in them.
My life right now is an endless round of getting things done that must be done while I am so sad. I feed the horses three times a day, I cast an experienced eye on them, noting that they are sound and bright eyed and seem normal. I have their feet trimmed, and I run my fingers over them to be sure they feel right. I would know if anything was wrong. I have owned horses non-stop for over forty years. The horses are fine.
They may be a bit bored, but the youngest of them is nineteen, and they all run and buck and play when they feel like it. So I think their life suits them well enough. They are certainly doing better than I am when it comes to having a happy life.
Do I get comfort out of them? All I can say is I don’t wish them gone. I smile sometimes when they gallop up to greet me. I don’t want to betray their trust. I told them I would keep them and take care of them and I plan to do that. Sometimes I sit in the barn and watch them eat. Maybe I take a little comfort from them.
The truth is that there isn’t much comfort for me in the world right now, and that’s just the way it is. I look at other people discussing the normal matters of a “normal” life and I feel that we don’t live in the same world. Quite frankly, I feel their world does not exist-- that it's an illusion. That world where hair color and sporting events and social engagements have some meaning—that world just isn’t real. In my world I stare straight on at mortality. Anyone can die at any time. The only constant is change and impermanence. This is the real world. Those other people live in it, too, but they don’t want to see it. I don’t blame them. I wish I could be like them again. But I don’t have a choice.
I can still feel love for my son and our animals; I can smile when the corgi puppy is cute, and see the beauty in the wild birds that come to our pond. I can tend our garden and think it is the right thing to do. I can be glad the horses are healthy. But the kind of comfort that comes from feeling content and secure in the world, happy with the illusion of stability—no I don’t get that kind of comfort from anything. And I have to say that I’m pretty damn sure I’m looking at reality.
My hope is to become peaceful with that reality. Not to close my eyes again and suppose that things of no meaning are important. But to see the world in all its constant change and mortal loss and be aware that I’m part of it, I’m connected to it. And that love is real.