Sometimes absolutely wonderful things can happen to you on the most ordinary of days, by the most ordinary means. You might fall in love with your taxi driver, or find an old postcard wedged within the pages of a book, tickling you with the memory of a very funny college moment…or someone may call your telephone one morning, and you may hear the voice of a friend telling you that he wants to give you a pony.
Ponies are the kind of thing that are best as surprises, best given, rather than bought. Somehow I’ve always coupled the idea of a pony with the idea of unexpected delight…just as I’ve always thought of bon fires in tandem with heart-to-heart conversations…
When you and your four year old and your seven year old are given a pony, you suddenly experience the kind of joy that removes you from time…a pony ride is like Narnia. You go there, and time outside of your experience seems to sort of stop. The first time you plop a 4 year old onto the back of a tubby little pony, and you watch her clutch his mane, and you take the lead rope and with a kiss or a cluck, or a “walk up” you meander along the driveway, down the garden paths, and around the lawn, you will look back and behold a sight that caused the word rapture ever to be invented. You will see an enraptured, beaming, face so bright and seraphic that you will turn away, lest it burn your retinas, or steal away your very breath.
Today our gift pony leaped in front of the sickle bar mower as Shane and our two fjords began to mow the hay field’s second cutting. He sliced his front two legs so badly that they were nearly severed off just above the hoof. When Shane numbly put him down, the question of burial became a tough one, as we had just returned from a trip to MN to retrieve the last of our fencing, and left our shovel there…It was decided that we would have to arrange a funeral pyre. We had turned the fjords out in the front paddock, near the driveway, and the bon-fire was lit just feet away. From the house, looking down at the fire, which devoured the remains of our little brown pony, the grazing figure of marta, lit all ghost-like by the flames seemed as a shadow spirit of the little equine.
Campfires, Bon-Fires, woodstove fires, fires in the fireplace…they all seem to pull thoughts from men…standing before this one the thoughts become so loud as to leap into spoken words and wonderings…like: “Why is farming such a punishing enterprise? How is it that you make one mistake, one oversight, and nine times out of ten you pay for it, through the teeth, often for months or years to come. One gate unlatched. One animal un-penned. Two animals penned together too early, one crop cut one day too late, one crop cut too early, all resulting in huge loss. Death. Injury. Loss of money. Loss of respect. Loss of crop.
I have no answer for this, except to say, that it seems that every wonderful worth-while thing to do in life seems fraught with some kind of constant risk or danger…falling in love, climbing a mountain, giving birth, walking a tightrope, believing in God. Somehow in each of these pursuits, accepted vulnerability ends in triumph and glory...or maybe just the butterflies -in- the- stomach thrill of being alive.