I am isolating at a friend’s farm for a few days, and storms rolled in over her back pasture for the past two nights.
The night before last, the thunder gurgled before sunrise. Lightning flickered through the window, illuminating the room in white, a stark contrast to the occasional golden headlights of cars passing on the state highway. Overhead, rain splattered against the roof, relaxing me in the way only a good rain can.
After more than 50 days of shelter in place, watching as horse events fall like depressing dominos and teaching worn-out college students on Zoom, I have been looking for glimmers of hope. Those small bright wonders to remind us that the sun still rises, the seasons always change, the planet continues to spin.
Last winter, stuck at home during a polar vortex that brought the temperatures down to negative 22, I read Ross Gay’s Book of Delights. It is a collection of short essays, each written about something that delighted the author. While I do not have Gay’s dedication, I’ve been collecting a few of my own joyful trinkets.
It started a week ago when I saw a video of a chubby barn cat patrolling the hallowed and luxurious grounds of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. The tabby sauntered through my Instagram feed as stable hands behind him fork hay into the stallions’ stalls. In that quiet, lonely evening, the video filled me with sheer delight.
Spring babies have been another source of joy. On Facebook, a donkey foal zooms around his pasture in his version of the Preakness. There are pictures of a friend’s newborn piebald colt when I scroll up. His presence and thick bone clear even at birth.
Kittens to have been added to this list of delights. Down in the barn below where I sleep, a fresh litter is tucked away. Now at two weeks old, their eyes are open, and they totter on tiny legs. A phone call to an old friend from high school is punctuated by swear words as his new kitten, Tevye, plunders the work-from-home space he has set up on the table.
One of the best joys though has been the invites that ding on my phone from the horse community I have built up over the years.
“When this is over,” they say, “come take a lesson.”
“Come sleep in my horse trailer!”
“We can ride and groom and goof off.”
I polished my abandoned paddock boots in anticipation.
Delights are a great balm for the time of COVID-19, but I am not one to believe that positivity is a panacea. It is ok—no, healthy—to feel grief, fear, and apprehension right now. Many are suffering, and much is uncertain. Feeling overwhelmed is simple truth of this unprecedented time.
Nevertheless, the sun came through the clouds today, dappling the dandelions out in the field. Later, we will go out and hand graze my friend’s Appaloosas, and we will talk about tack and dressage and her chickens brooding in their box.
And I’ll remember that even dark moments have bright spots.