My day of vowed silence was shattered by the thunder of horse hooves on pavement. I looked up from my knitting, previous experience around horses telling me that this horse had bolted and I was hoping that it was without a rider in tow. Within seconds the horse appeared, he was the familiar flea bitten grey that was sometimes boarded across the street from me, charging down the hill in front of my house. Thankfully it is a quiet road and even more thankfully there was no sign that riding had been taking place.
Action was of the essence, before I knew it I was jamming my feet into my muck boots and grabbing the nearest thing that could serve as some kind of lead; my favourite scarf. Out into the cool Autumn air I went, scanning for my quarry. He was a grey streak galloping up the neighbour’s driveway, handily heading to a place he has called home. In pursuit I went, scarf in hand, but as I got a quarter of the way up their driveway I stopped to contemplate. Their yard was practically made of paddocks, and at this point in their driveway there was a gate. Should I close it? With uncertainty I turned towards the road, wondering if the owner’s of the horse might be appearing soon.
In the moment of my hesitation a pick-up truck appeared occupied by a man full of intent, he pulled up and rolled down his window.
“Are you looking for a horse?” I asked, speaking for the first time that day. If one must speak on days like this, it may as well be with a line fit for a film.
“Yes, did you see him come this way?” Was the urgent answer.
The problem was that in the moments before my hesitation I had watched the horse gallivant into one of the paddocks and then promptly off into the woods. I told the man so.
“Take these treats,” he said shoving them into my hand, “see if you can get him to stay here if he reappears, I’ll go next door.”
With purpose I turned and continued my way up the hill, but there was the horse back in the paddock. Quickly I descended back to the truck.
“He’s back!” I exclaimed, and the man reversed his direction and pulled into the driveway.
Together we ascended on foot, hands crammed full of treats, the man explaining he thought we could try to get him into the outdoor arena. I slipped off to close one of the gates on the aforementioned space and then joined him up in the paddock. Slipping through the fence we approached the horse who stood staring at us, mainly me, which led me to wonder if he was a nervous sort and me being a new face could cause further alarm. Adding to this worry was the man standing some ways away from the horse, calling his name, and gently tossing a treat towards him, but making no approach.
So far I had ascertained that the horse belonged to his granddaughter, the horse had come from two houses up, and the horse’s name was Duke. I worried about overstepping my bounds with someone else’s horse, or plain just being in the way, but having seen his granddaughter when Duke was living across the street and knowing that she was younger, I decided to rely on an assumption (not usually a recommended method) that the horse was unlikely to be a wild steed and with my experience and comfort around horses, I would approach.
Duke may have been wild about treats, but no fits of rearing or head tossing were to occur and after a couple from both of our supplies he seemed inclined to follow the man he knew down the muddy hill of the paddock. That was until the last second before Duke was about to descend and he veered off and back into the woods.
To my relief I then discovered that the paddock had an odd outcropping into the woods and what may have held particular fascination was the animal sanctuary next door, with its intriguing cacophony of exotic animal orchestra. Be that as it may, neither of the humans were there for a concert and it was time to move on. It was time for The Scarf.
It has always amazed me, in both a sad and grateful way, that the large and majestic horse will follow the puny human on the end of a bit of rope. It is, of course, down to training (for better or for worse), but being given the gift of trust from such a powerful and gorgeous creature is something that should be cherished.
Having attracted Duke’s attention with another circle of crunchy goodness, I proffered my scarf for his inspection.
“Are you okay with this scarf?” I asked him letting him sniff and lip it before moving it against his sweaty neck. “And here?” I inquired further. Seeing as he was paying it no mind, but would rather I had him inspect another treat from my hand, I gently laid the scarf over his neck and held both ends beneath it.
Again the miracle occurred. With only the loosest definition of a “lead” Duke walked with me immediately. Down the muddy hill we went, us three previously unacquainted neighbours, and into the paddock Duke did trot. The man and I managed the gate and then stepped outside to assess our much less pressing situation. He called his son to explain where Duke had chosen to reside, and with him on the way we finally got around to introducing ourselves.
Names and histories flowed. Joyfully I learned that he thought the neighbourhood to be a most pleasant one (it’s always good to know that the place you’re stuck for the foreseeable future is a good one) and had lived here for some time before giving the house two places up from us to his son and his wife. Fascinated I listened to tidbits of knowledge about my house and its past. Somewhere in the midst of this the neighbour, who’s land we were on, appeared looking quite puzzled. Out of the paddock we climbed and back down the driveway we went to explain the sudden appearance of a horse and two strangers.
In the midst of explanations the son arrived with a much more practical halter and lead rope in hand. More introductions, explanations, and horse retrieval later the party went two separate ways. Father and son to ensconce Duke once again in his home, and make sure he stayed ensconced, while my other neighbour had offered to show me his new goat. Who can refuse meeting a goat?
Being friendly with neighbours is always something I hope for, but in the past have only had mixed success due to differences. Though we managed to remain mostly amiable, it always made me sad that we couldn’t have a stronger neighbour relationship. Perhaps meeting one’s neighbours in the midst of a mild crisis is the best way. Besides an excellent shared story we’ve begun to know each other by working together.
Here’s to hoping for a bright neighbourly future!
Day of Silence conclusion: Though my day ended up not being entirely silent I have still experienced much. Being that it is my first attempt at such a day I was unsure what my criteria would be, but you have to start somewhere. Today’s goal was to keep entirely silent myself, that I wouldn’t turn anything on to make noise (music, films, etc.), a kind request that no one else turned on any of those things before noon, and that I spend at least a little time in meditation.
Even with the sound interruption the fact that it was surrounded by silence made the experience all the more vibrant. Who knows if I would have even noticed anything happening if I had been playing music or the like. Otherwise I found myself more productive and certainly more thoughtful. My hopes to work towards restoring my emotional self after a long period of stress feels like it has moved forward. This is something I am hoping to do again and will be fascinated to see what happens.