A few weeks ago I was driving home from work listening to American journalist Krista Tippet (On Being podcast) interview the poet philosopher David Whyte. A friend had introduced me to his poetry readings a while back when I’d needed some centring and his words had had the desired effect. That night the drive home was no exception and I pulled into the Gisborne rest area to write down some of the lines from the poem he was reading and to let them really soak in.
The poem was titled ‘Sweet Darkness’ and these particular lines spoke to me:
The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see
You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in
Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.
Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.
The next night I drove straight from work to Duck Puddle Farm. There were 418 bales of hay to collect and to be honest I couldn’t be arsed. There had been delays in the hay being baled. It was off, then it was on again, then no. Oh, it was the weather that delayed us. Rain, seriously. We were meant to pick up on the weekend. We kept our schedules clear in amongst riding lessons. When the baling was called off again that weekend, yes I was relieved, yes it’s true. I’d never collected bales before. I didn’t really know what to expect. It didn’t sound like much fun and I didn’t want hay in my bits. So I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about baling (I know, I know) especially when the initial guesstimate was up around 1000 bales. Hay anxiety was real.
And yet the 17th century peasant in me wanted to be hands on in the field, open to the elements, partaking in a tradition that remains, at heart, unchanged. Make hay while the sun shines, eye rolling with cliche fatigue, but it is true. When conditions are right it has to be done. And I wanted to part of that.
But while we waited for Mother Nature to get her shit sorted I’d begun noticing baled hay in other paddocks that I drove past. Some round, others square. How come theirs was done. Why was it still sitting there? When a truck passed on the freeway loaded up with round bales I began to count and wondered where it was going. Without even realising I was doing it I knew where to buy the best bales of lucerne and could quote prices like a pro.
I was later than the others getting there. The shed was already piled high with bales. The pony family had brought their men. We filled the horse float, we unloaded, filled, unloaded, the sun dipped, we worked to a kind of rhythm.
And I thought of the poem and the lines I had written down.
I think I am slowly finding the world in which I belong.
Being with people who bring me alive.
It’s this open paddock with grass and its shitty crosswinds that are crippling in winter when you’re waiting for the farrier and he’s late and the pony is restless.
It’s feeding in the dark with a head torch.
It’s meeting at our cars and walking across the paddock together.
I’ve fallen in love with this life, given myself over to horses and the humans that circle them.
And I’ve gotta say there’s nothing more beautiful than a shed filled with hay. And one we filled with our own hands.