Simple Graces


It is an ordinary day

I wake up in the early light of Spring

and pull on my jodhpurs

drive the long hour to the paddock

where a piece of my heart lives

I wheel the barrow

and fill the nets with hay

and the bath with water

it is warm today

they will be thirsty

the sound of the buckets brings them trotting

up from the far end of the lower field

nickering and grunting for breakfast

I listen to them eat

watch as they tug at the nets

scattered in the grass

afterwards they sleep

and I pray

in their presence

to the sound of their breathing

a prayer for re-creation

for newness in the old

and I know I am heard

and I go home full

fringed with morning’s gold


Two weeks ago I was in Johannesburg, visiting my brother and his family. I try to get up there a couple of times a year to spend time with him and my sister-in-law and my little four year old niece. It is lovely to delight myself in the company of a little girl and to enjoy being in a household where I am not the only woman. (I love my men but it can be a challenge some days…) My niece is a feisty young lady who keeps me on my toes (or my knees, depending on whether I am a ballerina or a cat, or even a princess guarding my invisible treasure from stinky pirates). Danny Kaye once said: “Life is a great big canvas; throw all the paint you can at it”. That is what she does, every day, with her whole heart. I used to be like that. I remember waking up as a child. Morning was my favourite time of the day; I loved the way the air felt in the early light, before you could feel the real warmth of the day. Before the sun crept above the walls and rooftops. I couldn’t wait to be out of bed and dressed, moving into my day with excitement and purpose. I think of my older son who, as a toddler, liked to be up before six. One morning when my mother came to visit (they lived far away at the time) he went up to her, asleep in bed, and with his hands on his hips said: “I can’t believe this, Granny get up!”

Morning is not my favourite time of the day anymore. I wake up with a sense of dread and urgency, an awareness of all that must be done and all that I would like to do, and all that I think I should do. And it’s all so overwhelming and confusing. I have lost the wonder and joy that comes from considering each day as a gift, full of possibility. This morning as I sat with the horses, I prayed. The father of a good friend recently introduced me to a book of guided retreats for the soul, and today’s meditation was all about taking the old things, the things you may have given up on, and laying them down in faith and trust that they can be made new. There are dry and dusty things I carry around, not sure that they will change, but I am not yet ready to leave them behind. Some are heavy and weigh me down. Some are brittle; I hold them close, afraid they will break. Sitting there in the quiet company of sleeping horses, I imagined letting these burdens go. I breathed deep and allowed myself to trust that God can breathe new life into them, into me. I felt lighter afterwards, and a kind of stillness too.

My little niece does not yet know about these things. She carries only the weight of expectation that today will be as wonderful as the one before it. What a gift. But I want to remember what it is to feel that way, to wake up anticipating good things, to look for them. Because they are there, even on the most challenging days.


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