There is a price to horseback riding. More than the price of their stabling, more than the price of their feed, their maintenance and their upkeep. More than all the gold in the world.
It’s a small price at first. A wish here, a dream there. The need to touch a horse. Then, without warning, like an aggressive, malignant cancer it spreads and consumes you. Your soul, your being, your life suddenly belongs to them. To their rhythm, to their touch and their strange, quiet love which they give you in return for your heart.
I saw a piece of my friend die today. Her stallion, the golden stallion, died from a terrible disease called African Horse Sickness. It is a virus that kills horses here in Africa. You can vaccinate and pray but, inevitably, it will strike and you will be left to the mercy of fate. Your horse will die or your horse will live.
If he lives, you know you’re safe for another year but if he dies, you die and the world ends. For second, for a minute and in a sense for the lifetime that you were with him.
I lost my first horse years ago, and carry that sorrow with me to this day, like parcel of pain, wrapped up to try and conceal the impact of it. I was aware of it tonight, as I listened to my friend sob in a way nobody else could understand. It’s what it sounds like when someone has lost a part of themselves which they will never get back. A heart beat, a spark of love, a piece of soul – forever gone.
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Macbeth Act 5, scene 5, 19–28
My partner’s father died last night and somehow, I have found myself thinking of this poem that I had last read in its totality when I was still in High school. It speaks of Macbeth’s indifference towards his wife’s death – someone whom he was so close to in the beginning of Shakespeare’s play. Although it does not reflect on my partner, who feels the death very acutely, it reflects on death, and how brief life is in the grand scheme of things. How, like a candle, death can come quickly, blowing out a candle before it’s time, or run the full course of life, burning the candle to the ground. My heart aches for my other half, swept away now in a torrent of pain and personal loss. The death of this man not only reminded me of my own mortality, but more viscerally, the mortality of my own parents. I had almost lost my mother in 2008, when she was struck down (in the literary sense) by a disease called Guillian-Barre Syndrome, and I had then found myself trying to imagine what life would be without her. The place where I went to in my mind was a bleak world, with no security or comfort.
It hurts me to think that my partner is one step closer to that desolate loss, standing at the edge of it and looking out at a world that none of us had seen coming.
That our parents die before us is inevitable, a cruel fact of nature because our physical bodies are not immortal.
Yet, it is bitter and terrible.