The rains came yesterday, cold and constant, saturating the already-soaked ground and turning the paddock into a swamp. There are hoof prints a foot deep in spots, where restless horses churned up the earth as they endured the relentless frigid pounding. This morning, they huddle in a soggy clump, already recovering and patiently waiting for the sun. Fog drapes itself around them like silk.

It is so very quiet.

There’s a tree in the center of the back field, still clinging to last year’s leaves. Fog licks the branches in a slow, silent dance. Intimate.

I’m captivated by this tree. It stands completely alone, conspicuous in it’s out-of-season leafy coat. Yet, it’s surrounded by a supportive chorus of conifers, skeletal maples, and oaks. I understand this tree.

I’m terrible at making friends. I never learned how. I remember one day after school, standing in the kitchen and asking mother if I could invite some classmates home after school the next day. Must have been about third grade. Her face scrunched up like she’d smelled something bad, and she said, “Absolutely not. They’ll want something to eat.”

We weren’t poor.

Once, a girl did come home with me. We all walked to school and back, and it was on her way. Mother went to the kitchen, reached onto the shelf and found a can of tomato soup, hissing, “Here, give her this. She’ll never come back.”

There was a girl at church that I liked. She asked me to her birthday party. Mother shook her head and said, “We don’t associate with people like that.”

I was a quick study as a kid. There were no further attempts. Over time, I learned from her that the reason I had no friends was that I was simply too dreadful for anyone to want to be around. Mother did this as routinely and as surgically as a physician treats wounds. I believed it, absorbed it like grass stains into the fabric of my personal truth.

Half a century later, standing in the mud, in the quiet of this morning, I feel a warm breath on my cheek. Captain has come to stand with me in the mist. I grin, and dig into my coat pocket for a chunk of carrot. He’s content. I’m content. I’m learning, slowly, to send the love out in all directions – to the tree, the fog, the horses. Just send out the love that overflows.

It’s a little more difficult to pay attention to the love that comes my way. I tend to deflect it, not to believe in it. But, I have the best teachers around.

“Surrounded by the warmth of friends and family” is an orientation, an experience, that is utterly alien to me. But I’m learning. I’m learning. It’s never too late.

I invite you to pull up an over-turned bucket. Sit a while with me. Let’s watch the fog swim through the back pasture together. Yeah, it’s ok. You can touch the horses, breathe in their steamy scent. They don’t mind. Let’s watch quietly together, until the sun warms us. I’m glad you’re here.

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All photographs copyright Zen Doe

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59 Comments on “Intimate Solitude

  1. Beautiful piece.

    Oak trees (don’t know if that’s what you have there) are in the midst of a millennia-long transformation from evergreen to deciduous… Every time i see one clinging I think of the change that accompanies us, that dwarfs us, that embraces us all at once…

    Be well this day~

  2. Beautifully constructed. Your words have feelings and I don’t want to stop reading. Touching. A gift.

  3. Now I have somewhere new to travel on my excursions from the real. I usually go to the same place all the time. I wrote a post about it not long ago , Tranquility. Thanks for sharing your world with me.

  4. So grateful for your words, your friendship, and your over-turned bucket. I am grateful for you mother who shaped you into the magical spirit you are today. Thank you. {{{Hugs]}} Kozo

    • Thanks, Maarit. Funny thing is that when I was writing this one, I was lamenting the fact that in winter, there’s not much smell to anything! I’m looking forward to spring SMELLS! 🙂

  5. Zen Doe. Darling. I’m sitting on the bucket. Great tree. Thanks for this line: “send out the love that overflows” I caught the waves of that overflowing love full on in the chest. Also, I would have come back for another can of tomato soup. 😉

    • Always makes me cry when poets respond to my scribblings. It’s ok, it’s a good cry. Hey, when the buckets become painful, let’s go down to the beach with the hula hoops and dance like children.

  6. I also grew up with horses until junior high. One of my fondest memories is of riding on the side of the road with my fellow riders, trailing in a line, as we made our long ride to the beach. Then the feel of the wind in my face, as we raced along its shores, and the sense of freedom and peacefulness that fills you at being completely and utterly happy is something I will never forget. Horses, or any animals for that matter, are therapeutic but it isn’t just the animals, it is the scenery too. You have a way of painting a picture that touches the soul.

    • Thank you for the story, Denise. Wonderful!!! I grew up riding 20 hand high working percherons, in the mountains, along dirt mountain roads. Not quite the beach, but I understand what you’re saying.

  7. I could feel the mist on my skin as I stared and stared at those great pics! I also was never allowed friends in our house, my dad might be drunk!

    • CrankyC, It has taken me a lifetime not to be terrified just to write this stuff. But, the older I get, the more I recognize just how many of us struggled with some really heavy sh*t long ago. So, I write to ease that stuff lovingly to the surface – for all of us – to put it in a context where it feels ok. Good for us to be able to look around and realize we aren’t completely alone. Thank you for your words.

  8. You know just the right recipe for looking out towards the tree and the fog and looking in towards your mother’s cruelty and the child’s hurt and shock. How spare and true your writing feels.

    Thanks so much for saying hello this morning which led me to finding your blog!

    • I’m absolutely delighted that you stopped by, Dan. Welcome! I look forward to more of your own posts. Be well.

  9. Absolutely beautiful, the heartbreaking story, the redemption, and the photographs. In America, in an attempt to de-commercialize Valentine’s day, we now have “28 days of generosity.” I love that; I send you love.

  10. How beautiful. Your writing strikes such a chord with me. I too have trouble making friends, and feel more at home with my animals. Thank you for visiting my blog.

  11. You have a talent for writing. Have you ever read Paulette Jiles?

    “Writing was the same, the pinching of thoughts into marks on paper and trying to keep your cursive legible, trying to think of the next thing to say and then behind you on several sheets of paper you find you have left permanent tracks, a trail, upon which anybody could follow you. Stalking you through your deep woods of private thought.”

    You and her could have come from the same deep woods.

  12. Dear Zen Doe,
    Thanks for the soft caress of fog
    the deep aliveness of mud
    the quieting breath of trees
    the warm flanks of horses
    sitting with you sitting with you
    watching waiting for the sun

    -aj

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