Still as the harnesses and bridles in Atley’s barn. When have I been that still?
When I could hear the click of my mechanical heart valve, sometimes an extra click, sometimes a pause, but imperfectly the pacer keeps me alive. When I am that still I hear the imperfect, off balance tick of my grandmother’s clock. Inside the door it reads “cleaned in 1946” the year of my birth.
I stood in Atley’s barn, caught by the unmoving harnesses and bridles, and heard the breathing of two retired trotters, brought home, here, from the auction in Mt. Hope. The owners could no longer make money from their speed. But yesterday they pulled a buggy of parents and kids to and fro the auction in Mt. Hope. Today they rest.
Many tasks I do because I have the skills and health and nothing to stand on, if I said “no.” And then I too need a day to rest in the shadows and breathe and nap.
Today when Atley stood in the open barn door he quietly called and two Belgians came and stood opposite the harnesses and bridles. In their stillness Atley, relaxed, pulled the straps and buckles just enough,
the calm and gentle voice of a settled man of some age
who loves his horses, the Belgians and the elderly pacers.
He looks forward to the irregular rhythm of hooves on gravel,
the clink and creak that come from somewhere, the swaying back and forth as they pull the plow.
As the trotters rest I hope they remember how their new family cherishes their service. Here was a new life. I hope they remember raising their eyes with Atley to the horizon, that distant stillness above their irregular trotting.
Such a rich paradox of stillness within and beyond,
and the horses’ imperfect rhythm as they pull everyone to auction, as the Belgians pull the cutter..
Stillness and movement.
We live both, somehow, back and forth.
Maybe because we have practiced stillness,
we can hear the cicadas rubbing, moving rapidly their legs in the summer evening,
creating such a joyful chorus, with swells and whispers, many climactic bursts of loud music, then dropping down until one ascends and the others follow.
Perhaps with too little stillness, we realize we do not hear many voices in the night summer air.
I’m caught when my dog sleeping in my lap abruptly lifts her head and peers toward the screen door into the darkness to hear that voice which I could not. Stillness and movement.
Now, in this new day Atley is a servant to his two Belgians preparing them to plow,
And they, standing still, knowing the work before them, soon return the gift.
Together, they will raise their eyes and gaze at the field’s horizon
trusting the unknowns coming toward them, sent from the Mystery on the far side of that first light.
Stillness and movement. In this moment which do I need to balance my imperfect life?
©John Holliger 2014