October Journal

SaucyTessieOR

Photo by Chris Mothkovich

Wednesday,The day greeted by a blood moon, Oct. 8

At dawn, a string of geese, the pink light of an early sun, tipping their wings. A cedar waxwing knocked dead by our window, the yellow tips on her wings still bright. The moon bruised, a second blood moon, at dawn. I looked out the window and slid back to the covers.

The wind pummeling us as we rode the Oak Ridge loop. The wind hard rattling the corn. I was rattled and tired, not able to drop into calm, the ride more chore than delight, but if I waited until I felt rested I might wait a very long time, so I hauled Tessie to the park, saddled her and headed out.

TessieOR

Photo by Chris Mothkovich

Tessie was rattled, walking faster than normal, feeling tense enough to blow. I needed to keep my reins lose but when I gathered her reins because I know she wanted to run up a small hill behind the horse ahead, she bucked! A cute little crow hop in protest. I am loud when Tessie startles me under saddle. Maybe it’s her shot of adrenalin hitting my body or my fear that so often runs through me when I ride, bursting into my voice. “Don’t you do that. You,” I scolded her the same way I would if I were standing on the ground. Cheeky horse.

The world had tipped, weather was changing, the sunlight brittle, and the wind furious, wild, no longing to it, like the very old poem cries for their beloved to be home again. The fields are ready for harvest. Farmers have started their picking, though it seems late this year. I’ve been thinking about grief, loss, wondering if our time at the farm is coming to an end. I see Bruce’s eyes are tired from the work of this place. Our home feels like a humped up horse, tense, ready to throw us. There has been a spirit here that throws dust in my mind, has kept me without focus, kept me from my writing work. I have started singing hymns in the barn and when I walk the dogs because friends have said that singing cleans the land, and funny thing that sense of overwhelm has eased.

On good days I think we’re here to redeem our house, barns and land by tending them. But there’s so much that keeps going wrong, like twenty five pines that up and died in a drought and now Bruce is cutting them one by one; like the crack in the barn’s foundation, the air between two corner beams. And then there’s the roof that just happened to have crap shingles tacked on, that need replacing. And a friend who showed us some listings in Vermont and a window has opened. It’s spring air I smell.

IMG_0199Tessie is a jealous mare because we’ve mostly chosen Morgan and left Tessie crying for us in the paddock. When I ride out, she will grab for grass, hauling me to the side of the trail. Yes, I’ve spoiled her, but it’s a good sign when they can eat because they’ve not gone over threshold into fear that obliterates their mind.

With the wind rattling the prairie grasses, a person could think of the roar of the Spirit, Jesus’ comparison to wind blowing wherever the hell she wants. But I felt battered and as uneasy as Tessie about what might ride up behind us. For all the friendship we’ve worked out between us I wondered where the horse that runs from the bottom of the paddock to come to me, disappeared.  I know if you make friends with your horse, they will take care of you, that a mare’s loyalty is worth gold,but in that wild west wind, I felt a pony that could chuck it all and bolt back to the trailer, her body so stiff it would be hard to ride. My friend doesn’t see the danger I feel.

When I pulled her saddle I saw the hair brushed back the wrong way, how the saddle must have shifted forward pulling those hairs. One thing I know about Tessie is, she doesn’t like her winter coat pulled on. So maybe she did take care of me after all, containing herself, even though the girth was pulling her coat.

Friday, October 9

We drove Morgen when the shadows grew long. Like wind, evening time, can be an uneasy time for a horse. Predators begin to shift out of their dens. And maybe Morgen senses how the film between this world and the next thins. Once at this time of day, she bucked all eight acres of our field as I walked her back home.

When we passed our neighbor’s paddock, we sighed, because their little bull was nowhere to be seen. But there he was bolting towards us. “Easy. Easy,” I told Morgen before she saw him. Then she did. She sank low in the traces, ready to spring, but stayed still. She started a slow trot past and out beyond him, about by the neighbors’ mail box she blew a snort.

The whole time we drove I told Bruce and her what a good pony she was. But when we came up to the railroad tracks, Morgen stopped, ears pricked. I tried to get her to walk ahead and she yawed to one side, then then the other. Bruce stepped out and walked with her. There was a pool of shadow in the ditch by the signal arm, that put her on edge. She’s walked over those tracks many times with confidence but that deep darkness scared her like the dogs up the road. Who knows but that maybe a demon crouched there.

All the way I chattered about how I prefer driving to riding, how Klaus gave me the tools to come out here and put miles on Morgen, how it was just plain good to share the beauty of our neighborhood with Bruce, in quiet, except for the rattling of the corn.

But that pool of shadow morphed into a bull calf who came charging back at her and Morgen dug deep and bolted down the road. I’d left too much slack and shouted for Bruce to grab the reins. He did and yelled at Morgen to slow down. She listened and stopped. He got out and patted her and that minute I loved him. He thought we should go back right then, but I’d had enough. Of the bull, he said, “He’s just a young un. We’ll have to think about it and go back and try again. We’ll figure it out.” That’s another reason I love driving, Bruce lends me his confidence.IMG_0185

So we drove her again on Saturday in full sunlight, prepared for the little guy to come charging but he didn’t bust out of his shed. We walked her, turning right, then left and right again up a long quiet road. The dogs barked hard at her on the other side of the fence. On the way home she cranked up, shook her head, jogged, wanted me to let her run. Once past I asked for a slow trot, lost myself in listening for a slow rhythmic beat, asking for it gently, which she gave. As for the bull, he was lying out there, chewing his cud. Bruce steadied her, walked with her, and she didn’t leap away when he stood up. They tell me this is how you give a horse a good mind.

Wednesday, October 16

Number Seven, the chicken the others peck at, seems to have disappeared. Number Six roosted in the barn last night. I grabbed her and carried her to the chicken house, feeling her shake in my arms, feeling her warmth, and not a little sad, that we probably lost the little pecked on hen.

But no, Bruce opened the sliding door to the other room and there she was. “I asked if you saw her.” “I thought I saw her on Sunday night.” So no she and Number Six are roosting together on Tessie’s stall, Number Seven no longer alone.

My Birthday Weekend

We rode our horses into the cold, damp day, outlining the whole park to the tune of 8 miles and cold seeping through my Carhart jacket and vest, into my bones, but still we walked through the woods. Some trees glowed with yellows and golds and ambers but most were stripped.

With a new non slip saddle pad that kept the girth from chafing her, Tessie was her confident self, that same self I felt when I first stepped up and rode her, her confidence welling up. I felt my heart thaw, felt how much fun she was to ride.

 

 

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About Katie Andraski

I come to the ground, the ground comes to me. My novel The River Caught Sunlight was just published. Here's a description: "Sometimes a person has to leave home, even if that home is the most marvelous place she's ever lived, even if her mother will be diagnosed with terminal cancer, and her beloved farmer, a man she's loved for years asks her to marry him." I have taught composition at NIU for twenty years and have been writing ever since I was a little girl. My husband and I live on a farm with horses, dogs, chickens and one not so feral cat.
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2 Responses to October Journal

  1. Katie, this is just beautiful. I felt like I was there with you, riding with you. And Happy Birthday, if belated.

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