Monday, July 22, 2013

midsummer on November Hill

My husband and daughter both asked me why I hadn't written anything here in so long, and I realized they were right.

2012 was a rough year in many ways, and although 2013 seemed a heck of a lot better, it has gotten hard again since May. My energy level feels really low lately and although I celebrate the things that happen each day on November Hill, I haven't been able to write much about them. This summer has been full of rain, green (the greenest the fields have been in years thanks to my overseeding and all the natural watering), adolescent cats enjoying their first butterfly season, and watching a herd re-configure after the loss of a very opinionated boss mare.

They have worn a path to her grave. I see them, mostly individually, walking out there and standing to look at it, the same way I myself do, and I talk to her. I feel sure they are talking to her too.

After the initial grieving, Rafer Johnson took over Salina's watchful eye. He seemed anxious to make sure he noticed everything because she wasn't here to do it. Gradually he's let go of that and although he still seems a little grumpy to me, I think he's okay.

Redford is much much spookier than he was before she left. He has always been a bit more horse-like in his behavior than Rafer. After his gelding he got more skittish, but that had stabilized. Since Salina left Redford is much more suspicious of new people and will skitter away if anyone makes a sudden move.

Keil Bay and Cody have become even closer than they were before.

The biggest change is in the pony. I'm not sure why, but he has gotten so much sweeter since May. He's created some rituals with me around breakfast tubs, and seems more relaxed in general. He and Salina always had some words for one another - the pony tends to push the boundaries and she never let him do it. But he kept trying. He seems to be letting go of that behavior.

I haven't ridden a horse since a few weeks before Salina died. Somehow riding has gotten caught up with the idea that it will be the first time since she left. I can't quite imagine riding past her grave site, which is almost directly behind the A in our arena.

We've had a lot of rain this summer and the usual heat, but the worst thing are the gnats, which I don't think I've ever really noticed as much as I have this summer. At times they cloud around my eyes (cloud is too big a word for the number that annoy me, but I can't think of a lesser word that still captures the sensation) and I am just not willing to get out there and ride knowing both me and Keil Bay will be besieged.

But, more than that, I dread the thought of riding past Salina that first time.

On Saturday Keil Bay shoved past me to leave his side of the barn and go to the near side. He rarely does that, though my husband said he'd done it to him earlier that same day. So I got his halter and lead rope and the dressage whip and we went into the arena together.

He seemed almost relieved to be asked to do something. We didn't even make it halfway down the long side before he was trotting beside me, showing his willingness to move. He can, of course, easily keep up with me with his huge walk, and he had to collect his trot to stay with me at my big walk - and it was mid-day, so hot and miserable in the arena. But even so, he was eager and he seemed happy that I was asking and tapping and connecting.

Without even realizing what was coming, we walked past Salina. Keil and I both had a reaction as we passed her grave. I held in my breath and he turned his head and looked at her, and we kept walking together. "Okay," I said to him. "Now that's over with."

I unhooked the lead rope and he stayed with me, walking, trotting, turning, circling, backing. He was good. At the end we stopped by the gate and I cleaned his hooves. And he hasn't been pushy since.

I hope to get back in the saddle soon.

Meanwhile, it's the summer my firstborn heads off to college, and that is bringing up a lot of firsts. It's going to be sad the first day I go out to do morning chores and realize he is not here. He has homeschooled his entire life, and I've never used child care, so for 18+ years he has been in the middle of most of my days. It's going to be an adjustment.

I realized this weekend that we're rolling toward the end of July now, and August will fly by because of all the things on the calendar. It won't be long before the gnats are gone, the air is cooler, and my favorite season will be here again.

I'm not sure how this "first fall" will be - first since Salina left, first since son went to college. I have a lot of book stuff waiting to be done, so if I'm lucky, it will all whirl together into a return to my usual energy level.

I hope everyone is having a good summer - if not, you can join me in looking forward to fall!