Finding our way home

12 08 2018

Girl on horse

I’d so love to own this painting, an oil pastel by Rachel Ricketts, because it reminds me of my own Summer 11 when I discovered home on the back of a horse. I didn’t particularly mind which horse I rode at the time, although I felt most comfortable on a Chestnut part-Arab pony who could fly us across the lanes and through the woods and sometimes over jumps. Being in the stables, grooming the horses or simply breathing along with them, I felt at home.

When you’re eleven, you don’t question things. You’re drawn to people, animals, ideas, activities that either repel you, or reveal you by bringing you closer to yourself, and you don’t realise you’re doing anything remarkable. You’re just living your eleven-year-old life. Through you, your life expresses itself in ways that make complete sense to you, and seem utterly bonkers to other people. Why would you decide Brownies or television or girls in dresses are unfulfilling and instead choose to spend your time cycling ten miles on a bike too big for you with the sun in your eyes, your legs in sweaty long black boots already tired from pushing up hills to spend the day with horses someone else calls their own? Why would you wait so patiently to be asked which horse you wanted to ride, not daring to breathe his name in case you spoiled your chances? Why would you endure extreme cold, extreme hunger, extreme heat, extreme love, extreme fear to be close to a horse who will never be yours? Why would you develop such extreme patience to write down everything you have learned about horses, but fail consistently to finish your maths homework?

Because this is your eleven-year-old life. Because this is you in the process of becoming who you are, and you don’t know it. You know only that you feel good around horses even when you’re falling off and going to hospital and getting stitched up, sometimes unskillfully, and coming home to think only of recovering fast enough to be able to return to the horses as soon as possible. What some young girls of your age consider to be madness is your sanity.

In their remarkably lucid work Coming Home, Dicken Bettinger and Natasha Swerdloff say that home is where we feel most comfortable, where we completely let go and relax.

“In this context, coming home is a letting go of all pretences and just being your true self. It is the place inside of you where you feel most at ease.”

Their enquiry points to a ‘vast inner space,’ a place that is empty and yet filled with the potential of what is about to be born. Looking at my eleven-year-old life from this perspective, I see how I filled my empty space with nourishment. I was drawn to connect with horses, not because I liked them, although I did very much even when I was so very scared of them, but because with them I felt nourished. They fed my inner being.

I might have picked up a paintbrush or flute with the same feeling of reverence or watched the birds or became fascinated with fashion. Art, books, words, music, birds, the sea, fabulous food and clothes, I love them all, but not in the way I love horses, and really I can’t explain why. My love is beyond explanation. It simply is.

And the horses know. If they are fortunate enough to escape too many human agendas or demands, they live rich and textured lives that are at the same time uncomplicated They understand the power of the unspoken because their love is unspoken too, generous, light and free as the wind. Sometimes to their great detriment and in honour of their exquisite sensitivity, they stand and bear suffering in silence

In the words of Bettinger and Swerdloff coming home is ‘realising the deep quiet of your inner being.’

From this deep quiet, lives are created, shaped and formed. No matter how warped they may become, and most lives will buckle out of shape at some point, we are able to come back to the quiet at any time. No matter where we are, we can return home to ourselves.

Coming Home cover

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