An Empty BarnPosted: April 1, 2015
Our barn has stood empty for the last 10 years. Anyone who knows me well or has read my memoir, Motherhood: Lost and Found, knows that the years before that were filled with the grief of multiple miscarriages and the slow loss of my mother due to Alzheimer’s.
I used to teach riding lessons and, at one time, kept five horses and enjoyed a sweet community of riding friends and students. But I came to a point where the grief and exhaustion of caring for my mother took over my days and I had little energy for anything else. I had to send the horses away. Then my daughter was born and I became completely absorbed in both her care and in the miraculous blessing of her presence. Through toddlerhood and the wonderful, demanding years of homeschooling, I had little time and even less energy to contemplate the possibility of horses.
In 2013, when my daughter was 11 and turned 12, I first began to consider bringing horses back to the farm. But at the end of that year, in December, I had the first symptoms of a mysterious, debilitating illness that would last throughout much of the next year. Thankfully, my good health is returning.
Now it is early spring and the grass is greening. The sun rose at 7:10 a.m. On my walk, I took photos of the barn in the dawn and gradually the glow in the eastern sky brightened until it took over the morning. Birdsong surrounds me, red buds are blossoming in the woods, new life is all around. Tomorrow is Maundy Thursday and on Sunday we will celebrate Easter.
This week my daughter and I will go look at a sweet Quarter Horse mare. She seems to have all the characteristics of a good schooling horse, one on which I can teach my daughter the basics of riding and horse care. But time will tell. They will meet, and there will be a spark that flashes between them, a spark capable of igniting a heart – or not.
I have learned to be wary, to hesitate before celebrating. But these early spring days are calling me out, asking me to risk, dangling joy in front of me. It’s hard to imagine that I could have this second chance with horses, a return to my old life. But even as I write these words I know that nothing stays the same. Even old memories become layered with new experiences. What we think is set in our mind’s eye shifts and is recreated daily. I am fearful of being pulled back into recollections of days where barn chores were a heavy burden because of the emotional weight I carried as I grieved over my empty womb and cared for my declining mother. Am I willing to risk facing those griefs as I form a new layer of reminiscence with my daughter as we feed horses, clean stalls, scrub buckets and all the rest that comes with looking after and loving horses?
I don’t know what tomorrow’s sunrise will bring. But I am ready to move forward into a new day.