I’ve thought about this before, began writing it, stopped, started again, deleted it. And at the moment, it’s fresh in my mind again.
I don’t actually live anywhere – most people know that. No house, no rent, no furniture, no ties. Which I think is perfect.
“Where do you live?”
“Well, now, this week, I live in Gili Trawangan, but last week I lived in Bali, the week before that, I lived in Singapore.”
“Where did you come from?”
“Well, do you mean which airport? Or last week? Or last long-haul flight? Or???”
And, what’s really blown me away this past week, is the number of messages that I’ve had, saying, are you OK? Please come home, your bed (and Cat) are waiting for you… So many people saying that their home is my home, and that if I need somewhere to hold up, their house is open. Which, I find incredibly humbling… Someone asked me a while ago if I consider myself wealthy. My reply was, if I look at my bank account, no. But yes, I am incredibly wealthy, as this week has proved.
Another friend said, please get to England as fast as possible – you need to be with family and friends. That’s a challenge, with my mom in South Africa and brothers in UK and Kenya, as well as cousins in every corner of the globe – family is not place, anymore than home is. When people have been forced from their native country due to politics, and have scattered worldwide, “home” is no longer there, so, where is the new home?
And so, my reply to her – well, I am home. I have ponies, and I have the sea. In every country, wherever you go, you walk into a stable yard, and you could be anywhere. Any yard, has the same routine – you count the number of pony legs and divide by four… Is everyone alive and healthy, does everyone look happy and anticipating breakfast? Is the grumpy mare putting her ears back, is the greedy one nickering for his feed? Top up empty water buckets. Take around the hay. Mix breakfast feeds. Open paddocks, unlock tack rooms, muck out stables, scrub out water buckets, empty wheelbarrows, put horses out… In any yard, I can just get on and help with yard work, because horses are horses, no matter where they are. And yards are yards, mucking out, sweeping, scrubbing feed bins, it’s all the same. Same same but different, as they say in Asia.
Horses speak the same language, no matter what dialect the words come from. They need the same things, they offer the same things. You can move them backwards or forwards with a gesture or a glance, they co-operate with the human, the human co-operates with the pony.
In big yards, grooms are bantering, yelling light-hearted abuse. In racing yards, the appies touch their stick to their cap – “mornin’ m’am”. The sun comes up slowly, horses start moving out, hooves on concrete, horses calling, bits being crunched. In competition yards, the first strings go to the horse walker, or out hacking with the grooms, the trainers head to arenas. In riding schools, lessons begin, the words of the instructors always follow a familiar cadence, no matter the language. Which country are you in? It doesn’t matter, welcome home, welcome to the familiar, the feel of routine and peace.
If you think you’re lost, or far from home, the horses will welcome you and remind you that they create home, it’s not a place, it’s a feeling. It’s the sounds, sights, smells of the yard waking up, ready for another day.
In normal time, my usual life before social distancing and lockdown, I’m generally at home, even though my passport will show that I’m in a far-off country.
In a couple of yards where I go often, I’ll be standing talking to a human, or watching a horse work, or teaching, and I’ll hear a whicker, or feel a bump in the small of my back, as one of my four legged friends sees that I’ve arrived and hauls their human over so they can say hi, or nickers until they call me over. They replace being able to pop to a familiar coffee shop or visiting a childhood friend. They hold the space, and always offer a “welcome home”.