Next door to me, out here in the wild, west county pastures of Bloomfield, are two separate properties with corrals. To the south is a family that keeps goats and alpacas. To the west is a broken down little paddock with an ancient blue roan horse, blind in one eye and sway back. When I first moved here over a year ago, the alpaca property hosted one youngish, chestnut quarter horse. The roan and the chestnut for months on end spent all their time at the one corner where their pastures touched, leaning over the gate to touch their necks to one another. If the chestnut was taken to another part of the alpaca farm, the roan stood at the gate, banging the metal lock and pining after his friend. It was sad, but entirely endearing.
Recently, the owners of the two horses got together and decided to have mercy on the poor beasts. They struck a deal, and the chestnut was finally moved into the paddock with the blue roan, where they now live happily, hanging out in all parts of the field together, necks touching, swishing flies from one another’s faces, clamoring for hay in the morning, nickering contentedly at night.
For the past few months I have been like that blue roan at the fences. My closest friend in recent years has been going through Difficulties (with a capital D) that have made it necessary for him to barricade himself more and more often into his Tower of Power, don his suit of armor and keep watch on the battlements, night and day. Coming to understand this posture has been a whole learning curve in and of itself for me. Historically, boys are a giant enigma to me. So it has taken some time to really get that withdrawal and unavailability in this case mean absolutely nothing beyond their function to him during a bafflingly arduous and painful interval in his life. Really coming to understand that has been a journey. Getting that has made things easier. But it’s still not all.
Perhaps I’m a little late to the party, but I’m really experiencing lately how important the closest people to me are, in terms of how calm, happy, centered, and well I feel on a daily basis. Well duh, you might say to yourself. But really, to someone like me who has struggled with human relationships her entire life, its a bit of a thing to marvel at. Perhaps for those who managed to form close relationships early in life, maintain them, and enjoy the comforts of a steady group of close humans who never wander far off, it’s not something they much need consider. Its taken for granted, perhaps, and part of the landscape of their lives. I think of my grandparents, who met as kids, married young, and stayed together their entire lives. They complained about one another a great deal, but in the end, when my grandfather died in February of 2005, my grandmother followed just a few months later. On a basic, primal, mammalian level, they were joined like a pair of horses in the traces. What is it the Christians call it? Ah yes, “equally yoked”.
My daughter became an adult over the last few years, graduated high school, fledged (awkwardly and with difficulty), and now lives on her own in town, going to school, working part time, carefully and slowly finding out about herself and life. The center to my life for the past twenty years is no longer here inside the four walls of my home where it has been. That basic mammal rhythm, with it’s stresses and comforts, has dissolved and transformed. Romantic relationships I have formed over those years never blossomed into cohabitation. Close friendships I enjoyed fell apart. My closest friends, across the board, I watched succumb to the ravages of drug dependencies and the inevitable fallout of those choices. My own shortcomings unable to salvage whatever friendship might have been possible regardless. I have close family, but not here in my town. For whatever reason, the current reality of my life has become a huge empty space where basic mammal comfort used to be. I live alone, fifteen minutes from town. I am between lovers. It’s just me and my cats at the moment.
So the loss, even temporarily, of my closest current friend during the tides of everyday life, I feel extremely intensely. How much I rely on the most basic thing, mammal touch & the presence of another human I trust, I love, I enjoy. So often these days I notice the absence of the most simple comforts: someone I care about just here inside my four walls and that one person I hold closest at the end of the phone line like a motion of the stars and moon, reliable, constant. Are you still here? I’m still here. How about now? Yes still here.
Meditation practice is helping me hold it with an open heart. Compassion for my own emptiness. Acceptance of how it just is. Last night I came home and stood on my back deck under the stars, listening to the horses in the field next door snuffling together in the dark. They sounded contented. Being human I remembered when they strained over fences, pining and thought of how one of them is old, and wont last as long as the other. I thought of what it might be like for the chestnut when the roan is gone. Being horses they snuffled happily in the moment, as Wendel Berry said, “not taxing their lives with forethought of grief”. Maybe it’s time for me to get a dog.