Saturday, November 23, 2013

At Peace

If I were a singer, this would be my love song for Avalon [a little brown mare with a white blaze on her face, the attitude of a queen, and a heart for the children].

The day was falling rain, like tears from the sky. I looked out and for a moment doubted my decision to go riding, but only for a moment [I am a fifth generation Oregonian, after all. Rain does not scare me.] Stepping out into the gray afternoon, the cool air invigorating and refreshing my spirit after the lulling warmth of the wood stove, I collected that which I needed: a few apples, a halter, a brush and a riding pad. Out in the field, I called for Harold. He and the sheep were hunkered down by the edge of the forest, seeking protection from the driving rain. He raised his head when I called, galloping over with an anticipatory neigh. I would like to say he was excited to see me, but really it was for the apples he knew I had.

My beautiful Harold is normally white, dappling to gray in the summer. Today he was not white. He was an orangish yellow, the color of the clay earth of our hills. He looked around and neighed again,  his whole body shaking, his apples finished. The clay on his coat was not from rolling on the muddy ground; his shade was the color of grief. He had been lying on Avalon's grave.

Our beloved Avalon, buried deep in that clay of the earth, in a hole so big it had to be dug by a backhoe. I had stood there while bucketfulls of soil began covering her still body, and I had cried. A bouquet of ferns and forest plants lay on her mane, carrying with them my love and gratitude for all that she had been. In the field on the other side of the hill, Harold ran up and down the fence line, tearing the soft earth with his pounding hooves. Carving out his path of grief.

Today he is calmer, though he still calls for her, as if she might be out there somewhere, hidden perhaps in the curvature of the hills. The rain softly continues, and I brush rivers of mud off Harold's back. I put on his pad and halter, then look for assistance in getting onto his tall back. I settle for a slope in the hill, which gives me just enough of an advantage to make the leap, though not at all gracefully.

I guide him towards the gate at the other end of the field. We make it only a short distance before Harold lets it be known that he is in no mood for a ride. He turns, rearing up when I urge him in the other direction. I quickly realize that this is going to be a fight [and one I probably won't win], so I slide off his back with the intention of leading him out of the field, where I can remount and try again. (Sometimes fields are just too open and full of possibility. One needs a path for clearer direction). Only when I attempt to lead him do I realize how the trauma of Avalon's death has affected him, as he pins his ears back in fierce warning. Back off, he says, and leave me alone.

I stand my ground, trying again to lead him. He threatens to bite. The distance to the gate looms large.

I then turn my palm towards his chest and send out a prayer, thanking the universe as I begin to channel Reiki energy into the angry horse beside me. When his ears flicker forward, I guide him again towards the gate. He doesn't exactly have a smile on his face, but at least we are flowing in the right direction. Leaving the field, I use the gate to assist my leap onto Harold's back. We follow the gravel road up past my parents' house and into the woods.

It is no wonder that Harold is traumatized. He was shut in our small barn as Avalon lay beside him, thrashing and kicking in the agony of colic. Did she cry out for him in her last hours? Did he call for help as his beloved friend lay dying? I think he did. As I went to bed that night, I thought I heard a strange sound coming from the direction of the barn. To my deep regret and sorrow, I chose the comfort of my bed over an investigation into the dark, cold night. I had no idea what would await me in the morning.

As Harold and I make our way up the trail in the woods, branches obscure our path. They splash their collections of raindrops into my face as we ride by, flowing like tears down my cheeks. Harold is full of touchy, barely contained energy, and I marvel that I, so miniscule in my strength as compared to his, have control over this magnificent beast. Arching his neck, he prances like the Azteca he is,  descendant of royal bloodlines. My King Harold. The fact that he is part of my family is a blessing I'll never take for granted. And as painful as it is to admit, there was an undercurrent of emotion in that river of emotions coursing through my body the morning I opened the barn door to find Avalon stiff upon the ground amid the chaos of her death. As I knelt to hold her head in my hands, my wails rising and falling from a deep and ancient place of grief, I did feel a current of something. Something like relief. Relief that it wasn't Harold.

I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason, though the reason for this is not yet clear. Harold wants to run, but I don't let him, not yet. Keeping him collected, we neck archingly feet prancingly practically galloping in place make our way up a steep, muddy slope. Hitting an old logging road gone soft with moss, I let Harold take his head. The energy beneath me that had been delicately held suddenly releases. We are flying through the trees. The rain is like tears upon our faces.

Harold runs until he's done running, then we slow to a trot, then walk. He still moves quickly because he knows we've rounded the loop towards home, but the built-up energy from earlier is gone. We both feel clear and light, washed clean from the rain, purified by the crisp mountain air. Something was released when Harold hit the apex of his gallop, that wide open point of connection when we soar. Perhaps Avalon had been flying along beside us, perhaps she had continued upwards as we had continued onwards. What I do know for sure is that Harold and I had journeyed together, and we were coming out the other side with healing. The fields of home became visible through the trees.

Rest in peace, sweet grumpy queenly Avalon. You were deeply loved and will be remembered with gratitude. May your spirit fly high.


1 comment:

  1. That was SO.BEAUTIFUL. I am a sobbing mess. I'm so sorry Jenny. I'm so sorry Harold. Avalon was so blessed to get to spend her last days on that beautiful pasture surrounded by beautiful children and animals and amazing humans. My heart is sad. Sad for your loss. Sad for the way I know my own baby girl will be next time we come to visit and her "favorite horse in the universe" is not there. Oh life is so swift. I'm so thankful for your beautiful words. Thankful that you share in these deep emotions that are LIFE. I love you sweet mama. xoxox