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Two apples from Panera, chopped into tiny pieces, tucked into a ziplock bag.  Step out through the mudroom with me into the dusk, on this, the first night of spring.

Mind the cat, he’s deaf.  Sixteen years old, and he still catches mice.  I find the tails and gut-bits on the mudroom floor where he spends his retirement stretched out in the sun.  Appreciate the skreeeee-BANG of the screen door behind us.  That’s a sound from our collective childhoods, even if our grandparents lived in an apartment.  We somehow remember that sound.

The work week and all its craziness follows us only as far as the red tube-steel gate, set into the wood fence that separates the back yard from the pasture.  But, before you raise the latch, stop.  Feel the breeze.  Let it carry the stress and tired and all the thoughts right out of your head.  Feel all of that flowing out through your hair, and away.  Breathe deeply.  Close your eyes for a moment.  The week is over.  There’s no rush.  No hurry.  Down shift, so that you can meet the horses humbly, where they are, not as an adjunct to your own story, your own identity.

Breathe.  Deep.  Taste the extreme green of the sugary new spring grass reaching up toward the sky.  Feel the baby-leaf-green of the vines and trees as the spring energy pours through them and into you.  Let the sweet smell of horse shit fill you without rejecting or approving.  The pulse of the tiny frog songs becomes the beat of your own heart.  Be still.  Smile…  Ahhh, that breeze…

Now, raise the latch on the gate.  Do remember to close it behind you.

Don’t worry about the mud from this morning’s downpour.  Like all the other things you’d like to push out of your life, all the things you have opinions about, it’s just there, doing its thing, being mud.  Enjoy it as though you were five years old.  Squish through the mud with me to the barn.  The horses are there in the shadow of this evening, quietly chewing hay.

Look!  Look how the clouds rest silver and gray against the pinkblue sky, hovering over the neighbor’s greening field.  Magnificent!  After such a long, cold winter, this – here and now – this is the first moment of spring.  Drink it in.  The breeze on your face is neither warm nor cool, but perfection itself in its sweetness.  Little frogs call out, rhythmically looking for love.

Step into the dim cool of the barn, over the hay-strewn dirt floor.  It’s a small, old barn with oak boards rough-hewn decades ago, fading red like the strong cedar poles from right here on the property.   Kit, Captain, and Lil’Bits quietly look up as we come into their space.  They’re not in stalls, but free to roam the aisle.  Kit lumbers over to see if you’ve brought something tasty.  We’re tempted to speak, but their silent presence is so strong, so complex and deep, that we know we’d cheapen the moment with the sound of our voices.

Get that baggie of apple pieces out of your pocket.  Hold a cool nugget of apple in the flat of your palm and offer it to Kit.  She’s alpha here, and it’s appropriate to give her the first bite.  Feel her enormous and exquisitely gentle and fuzzy lips grope your palm for the apple.  Listen to the crunch and enjoy the sweetness of her breath.  Captain nickers loud and low, but doesn’t move from where he’s standing.  Careful!  He dives hard for treats.  Watch your fingers!  Lil’ Bits is dainty and gentle, her strong lips whisking back and forth to make sure she’s taken everything you have to offer.

Breathe them in.  Breathe in their scent, the damp hay smell.  Stand perfectly still while Kit bumps your lips with her massive soft nose, giving you a kiss in exchange for another apple slice.  Smell the sweetness of her breath in the tender quiet of this place.

We’re out of apple pieces.  Stand quietly here for a moment and just be.  Just listen.  Let them fill you.  Let the darkening evening wash over you.  The summer lies before us as though we were ten years old again.  And, this, right now, is the first moment of it.

Turn gently, and walk with me back out into the evening.  Horses go back to munching hay.  You and I watch barn swallow silhouettes dancing over the fields.

The sound of foot-falls heading home.