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!


Grey Horse Matters said...

I wouldn't rush to ride if you don't feel like it. Salina was a big part of your life for many years and it's only natural that you are probably still grieving and a little depressed and missing her. Eventually, all the members of November Hill will move on at their own pace. Everything takes time.

Having your son leaving for college could be affecting your mood and energy level too. Once Autumn arrives and the cool weather with it, you might find your energy again.

billie said...

A, thank you for the words of wisdom.

And C, thank you too - I am on the iPad and accidentally hit delete instead of publish! There seems to be no way back once I hit delete, which seems crazy given the touch screens so many folks use these days.

Right now I have a nasty cold but I also have a River-kit lying on my chest and shoulder, so... she is balancing the cold out to zero and notching me up to pretty good. :)

Mamie said...

I realize while reading this how much I've missed your thoughtful, thought-provoking posts about life on November Hill. Thank you for sharing the losses you are experiencing with us. You remind me how hard it is to say goodbye, for now and forever. xoxox

billie said...

Mamie, thanks for reading and for letting me know your thoughts!

I keep thinking how this past year and a half feels like the beginning of a whole new phase of life, and I guess that's precisely what it is.

There was a long spell where I had children and life was full and then we moved here and it got even more full with all the animals.

Suddenly I hit new territory when my dad died and then our Corgi Chase, but both those losses were expected and marked passages.

When I injured my back I started feeling my own aging process kick in. I am not impervious. There are recurring aches and pains.

And then we hit the roller coaster of this past year and a half: Keats' sudden death, Moomintroll, Salina.

When Keats died I said to my husband, bad things always come in 3s. And then, horrified, it occurred to me that the other two would in fact be Moomin and Salina - all the black animals. And that is exactly how it went.

That this all bumped up to my son leaving for college is the new territory. It seems like I've hit that place in life where these things become more common - losses and leavetakings and goodbyes.

It forces a new perspective on everything. Probably more abruptly on a person with a Pollyanna attitude at her core.

I'm in a sort of fog trying to balance this new perspective with who I was before it started.

Mamie said...

Thank you again for your willingness to share your thoughts.

Victoria Cummings said...

I think that Facebook has stepped into all our lives in a bigger way than I ever expected. I'm so glad that you posted this update, and I just got my act together to write on my blog too. It has been a tough year. I hope that you and the Big Bay go for a ride soon, but he will be fine if you don't feel like it. I once went for so long without riding Silk that I wasn't sure how she would react when I got on her. Someone was watching us and remarked that he couldn't believe how happy she looked. These horses know all about us, better than we do.

billie said...

Thanks, V - may the coming year be much better for all of us!