There is a stillness underneath the stillness that until today I’d not fully recognised. Life seems to operates on levels of things – in my experience anyway. I’ll reach a point of understanding with something and amazing things will happen. I’ll say to myself that it couldn’t get any better and that I’ve reached a peak level of wonder that will stay where it is. But no….. life has another plan. These levels seem to hit what feels like a highpoint, and then they go back to a beginning again. It isn’t the beginning you first started with, but it’s a new chapter all the same.
All week I’ve had a kind of agitated feeling inside me, one that wouldn’t go away. Every time I sat in nature whilst about my daily tasks, I found myself wanting – more. But what was the more I was wanting? I wanted to feel what was deeper in, below that first level of stillness which for me has a feeling of almost ‘trying’ about it. When I’m trying to be still, or reach a calm place, or stop my mental chatter, it simply doesn’t work. For someone who is super-blessed with a lot of time where I’m connected with nature, I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was I was wanting. Also I questioned if I was just being a little greedy with my need for such things. But still my heart and soul would not shut up. All I knew was this – my whole being wanted to stop. I didn’t want the pressure of anything on my shoulders. I wanted to know that I could sit by the river all day and do – nothing. Walk out onto the moorland without a care and not feel a need to do a thing. How many of us ever get the chance to do this? I have snippets of it, much longer than most I’ll grant you that. However, to really reach the place I wanted to get to in myself, I knew that there had to be space around it too, time for it to bed in, time for things to settle. This is what I’d been missing. I’d have to wait.
This morning I woke early. The birds were gorgeously singing away. I got up and went outside to feed them, taking in the Sunday morning air. It was a glorious day, full sunshine even at that time and the stillness was present across the breeze. This would be a good day to go out. I hadn’t planned to, but suddenly I felt the nudge to go. I was feeling in a quiet place in myself, one which I can only describe as where it’s my soul dictating what’s to be done. I’ve learnt to listen to her.
Arriving onto Dartmoor’s high moorland, I headed towards a favourite spot. I had in mind to seek out a particular group of ponies, but before that I saw a large herd wandering across the land. I wanted to stop. As I got out of the car, a few of the ponies remained where they were, but the others, including the white stallion I hadn’t seen for a long time walked off into the distance. I watched a couple of young foals, colts, playing with each other and absorbed the scene. A particular pony, a yearling male, wanted to come in very close. So gently I let him and gave his head a stroke. He was really open to this so we spent quite a while with me scratching his neck and under his chin, then even his main body. He was very open to me being there. Now I know that a lot of foals here are pretty friendly, but not all are. Some are very shy, some have mothers that see you off, stallions see you off, some foals come right in and then be seen off. So I’m not surprised if such interactions suddenly stop. Besides, these are semi-wild ponies and for me a huge part of their charm is that they are – changeable. This means that by spending time with them I, personally have found myself much more able to be in the moment.
Today was different. It was like every agenda I had was gone, my thoughts had disappeared and there I was with this perky yearling who was by this time trying to scratch every itch on my car and wing mirrors. This was not ok! I’ve seen wing mirrors knocked off completely in their itching frenzy. So I approached him again saying that I wasn’t alright with him doing this and would be quite happy to give him some more scratches if that was what he wanted. So I scratched his neck, then gestured to go forwards. Scratched again, suggesting to follow me. I waited. He began to just that. I let him know that it was up to him if he followed, keeping on encouraging him it was safe to do so. Just talking like you or I would to each other. And he followed…. that alone made my heart leap. What happened next, silenced me.
Looking into this chap’s eyes, I could see that he was tired. He was fighting back the sleep standing there. As most of you will already know, ponies and horses can and do, easily sleep standing up. Only a small part of their lives do they sleep lying down and it’s very vulnerable for them to do so. I looked at this foal again, saying to him that he looked really tired and didn’t he want to lie down and have a sleep? I said that I too felt quite tired, and that I was going to have a rest. He looked at me and I sat down on the grass, relaxing myself completely. He stayed still. Then he began walking towards me, as if to walk towards the mare and foal a few feet away. He stopped, very, very close to me and flopped down onto the ground. Lying his whole body across the moorland scrub, that pony put down his head and went to sleep. I have absolutely no way to describe how utterly magical this was. I’ve never experienced this in such close body-space with any pony here. It was incredibly special to be there with him whilst he slept – an honour.
It’s taken years of spending time amongst these herds, years getting to know them little-by-little, never pushing for anything although I so much want connection with these precious beings. I’ve had many ponies flop down for a sleep close by, but this was so close that I could have just reached my hand a little and touched him. His feet were almost next to mine. It lasted a minute or two. At the same time as he went to sleep, in the distance I could see a group of ponies making their way back towards us, the majestic white stallion included. I knew that the time for this moment was limited and revelled in the beauty of it all. Pure, utter, magic.
In the morning I’d picked up a book “Think Harmony With Horses” by the wonderful Ray Hunt and read a little of the beginning. I hadn’t read his work for a long time but found myself drawn to the book again. For those opening pages he was talking about letting the horse/pony/donkey feel that it is their idea and their choice to do things with you. He talks in depth about it. How nothing should be forced, and trust should be developed with all friends, animals and humans alike. When I was with the ponies this morning, it was like my being was infused with those words, that way of harmony. I’ve had incredible, incredible times with these ponies, but today – today it felt like a whole new level. And the stillness I felt, was exactly that which I’d been seeking all week. In reality, I was just next to a car park off the main road over the moors. Stillness was reached in an unlikely place, and an absolutely unexpected experience. Life astounds me.
I furthered my walk just a few hundred metres along the moor, leaving the ponies over the hill. Finally, I sat myself down amongst the granite and the wild grasses and found more of the deeper stillness I’d been longing for. My whole being sunk into the earth. When I returned, there they all were by my car. I stopped to greet them, and one by one the ponies turned and walked out onto the open moorland. It felt absolutely perfect that they left in that very moment, gently merging with the land once more. My soul was left, full.
With gratitude and love to these amazing beings, and to the colt who brought and shared with me the purest stillness I’ve ever known,
All images are my own and therefore respectfully © Fi Takács
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