Some very beautiful things happened this morning and I stored them up in my head whilst I went and did my work. I wanted to give them all to you, and there was almost a sense of panic that I would forget them or they would fade or I wouldn’t quite capture them.
Something happens to the brain when one goes into practical working mode. The dreaming, creative side gets switched off. Recollection in tranquility is all very well, but that visceral, immediate quality is lost when one is forced to leave the wild, liminal spaces of the imagination.
And I realise that is quite strange, because I’m writing about reality, about things that happened. Yet, to draw those vividly and accurately, I still need my imagination. I need to take myself back to a moment in time and dream it anew.
I’ve finally got a free half hour, and I can make my visit.
Luckily, I did write down an aide-memoire. It is here, on the page. It says:
‘Do the thing about the dance move and the flowers and the horses lying down and the happiness.’
And I’m so glad I did make that note. Because I’d forgotten already about the dance move and that was the glorious spark that lit this morning’s fire. (This is why I say to my writers: take your notebook with you everywhere.)
The dance move was the most enchanting piece of serendipity.
I think I’ve mentioned that I run courses on the emotional and psychological side of horsemanship. I’ve just opened a new group for applications, so people are sending me messages asking for information. One lady did that this morning and I went to look at her profile and sent her a friend request so we could communicate and I saw that she’d posted the most wonderful video on her feed. It was a merry, friendly gentleman going up to complete strangers in the street and asking them to show him their favourite dance moves.
The people were from all around the world. They showed him traditional dances from Iran and India and Kurdistan. The oldies did jive and rock and roll. One impossibly elegant woman danced the most beautiful samba I’ve ever seen. Some did street dance - hip hop and modern moves. Some did random things they’d made up themselves. One young woman said something like, ‘I live with my mother and we dance in the kitchen all the time.’ I don’t know why I loved that so very much, but I did.
What was particularly touching was that the merry, smiling man did not just film them dancing. He got them to teach him the steps and he danced the dance with them. This brought a tear to my eye. I’m so accustomed to think that we humans have never been more divided, withdrawing into our own tribes, shouting at otherness. (There are complicated sociological reasons for this, and it’s been given a rocket boost by the dark side of social media.) But there was this enchanting connection - across cultures, across ages, across language barriers, across the great spaces of the green planet. Dance, and the kindness and openness of this lovely man, brought them all together.
I think we all need to come together. And if it is dance that does it, then I’m all in.
I was so galvanised that I imagined what I would do if the merry gentleman approached me, on my Scottish street. I’ve been dancing like a dervish all my life, but I suddenly realised I did not have a favourite dance move. I tend to just hurl myself about like a wild thing.
I wanted a favourite dance move, I realised. How could I have gone fifty-five years on this earth without having one?
So I stood in the bathroom (I was still getting up at this stage) and invented one. All the merry man’s dances had names, so I gave it a name. It is called The Push. I do a double step to the side and twirl my arm and end up pushing out my hand as if I am stopping traffic. I sometimes do a quicker, single step. When I took it down to the field to show the red mare, I incorporated a little step-ball-change. I was so pleased with myself I almost fell over.
Who knew? A favourite dance move! I think it may be life-changing. I’m going to do it every single day.
This set me up for one of the finest mornings I have ever known.
I was supposed to be riding with the great-niece, but she was over-tired and she had banged her head in the shower and she was feeling fragile. So I went to see her mum instead, and found my dear friend arranging flowers. She has guests coming and she loves to make her house look beautiful.
‘Oh,’ I said. ‘Can I help? You know I was once trained as a florist.’
She said yes and I felt as if someone had given me a present. I adore doing flowers. I learnt from a funny, eccentric man called Michael Pickworth, and I worked with him on ludicrously grand weddings when I was in my twenties, garlanding church pews in Kensington and marbled hotel ballrooms in Mayfair. He taught me everything and he would squint at me through the smoke of the cigarette that was always dangling from the side of his mouth and say, waving his hands about, ‘They must look as if we’ve just run out into the garden and picked them.’
The spirit of Michael was with us, in my friend’s delightful boot room, as we covered the table in blooms from her own garden, which she created from scratch, and chose the exact right ones for each arrangement.
We gossiped and chatted and laughed and laughed. And then we bore the great vases of delightfulness up to her high rooms and placed them on her charming tables and stood back and admired our handiwork. I can’t remember the last time I felt so pleased with myself.
‘I’m so glad you said yes,’ I said.
And we smiled some more.
The great-niece might not be in the mood for riding, but I still had an hour before my next client and I thought I’d hop on the red mare. I’m going to be working until ten tonight with one of my groups, so I thought it was permissible to play hooky on this sunny morning.
I marched down to the field, doing my dance move, filled with purpose. (I originally typed that as ‘porpoise’. I was obviously filled with porpoise too.)
But the mares had other ideas. Florence was lying flat out on the ground, dreaming, gently kicking her legs in her sleep and making little muttering noises of excitement under her breath. The red mare was standing guard over her, deep in her Place of Peace.
I could not interrupt that, so all thoughts of riding flew out of the window. I lay down on the ground instead, and entered their world, leaving my own, rushing human world far behind.
Flo blinked her eyes and woke up and lifted her head and did a yoga stretch. I lay on my belly, as children do in summer days, and gazed at her velvet nose and breathed in time with her. I sighed when she sighed, and made the same little rattly blow through the nostrils as she did.
The entire universe opened up in front of me, in that magic field. Flo had gone onto another plane, somewhere far away, in Andromeda or the Virgo Stellar Stream. I followed her, as I felt the green grass of Scotland under my body. A pure happiness built in me like a wave or a cloud or a great, gleaming bubble of delight.
For a moment, I resisted it. Huge happiness can sometimes feel oddly alarming, and the voices in the head say you are not allowed it, when the world is so oppressed. Or it will end in tears. Or something sad and mad. I let the voices fly by. I allowed the happiness, slowly and consciously. I stepped into it and accepted it and welcomed it.
The red mare’s lower lip wibbled. She needs no permission to be completely happy. Florence murmured and sighed and nodded her dear head.
Remember this always, I told myself. This might be the best moment of your whole life. Write it down, write it down. When you are old, I said, you can come back and dig it up and remember, like Sebastian Flyte with his crock of gold under the spreading oak tree. ‘I should like to bury something precious, in every place I’ve been happy.’
I was happy, and I’ve buried something precious.