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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