Taking a Horse to Water, and Forgiveness
It's cold out there! Well, it is here. As I write this, the forecast is for the temperature to drop to -21C tonight. So, the water will be solid if we don't do something about it!
It's been cold in the daytime as well, and I believe that horses need water all the time, preferably not icy water. I can't imagine drinking freezing cold water or eating snow in frigid temperatures.
And horses need to drink at least 5 gallons of water a day. So, they couldn't eat enough snow in any case.
Our horses are lucky - we have a large trough that they have access to during the day, and it's heated.
We use that water for their buckets at night, and supplement with hot water from the house. This winter I've also tied two buckets together (one inside the other) to add a little insulation against the cold.
The story that follows is called Forgiveness.
I'd been thinking about forgiveness. For me, it depends on the person and the circumstances whether I can forgive or not. Some people are a lot more generous with their forgiveness that I am.
And sometimes, to forgive ourselves is the hardest thing.
Also, we'd walked north up our road and around a curious housing development that's in the middle of the country. I saw a man working on the roof and I wondered what his story was.
This was written for an Uxbridge Writers' Circle meeting, and the words I had to include are in italics.
PS Update on Book 5 in the Meg Sheppard Mystery Series: I'm working on more character development as the story unfolds. I find it fascinating how my subconscious comes up with twists and turns that I hadn't anticipated!
Love is the absence of judgment: Dalai Lama.
His breath hung in the air like smoky mist, but he wasn’t cold. He was where he preferred to be, on a roof, laying shingles, fixing them in place with a nail gun. It was hard on his knees and back, but he could listen to audio books and ignore everyone else on the construction site. The rest of the crew had learned to leave him alone. He could be relied upon to do a flawless job and was notorious for his tidiness and attention to detail – not common traits among other men on the site.
Being left alone was critical for Mervin’s survival.
People always asked questions, wanted to know where he lived, about his family, his previous jobs. They always guessed he had a good education - then how come he had such a menial job? How come he never talked to anyone? How come he didn’t want to go to the pub for a drink? They wanted to know his secrets.
He pulled at his beard and adjusted his position, ready to lay more shingles. He found all the gear he was compelled to wear sometimes inhibited his movement. The hardhat was okay, except in the summer heat. He’d pointed out that there wasn’t much chance of anything falling on his head while he was on the roof, other than rain, but he didn’t fight it. He wore the safety harness without making a fuss like some of the other guys, and he even wore the cumbersome construction boots that had taken his feet a long time to get used to.
He was now more conscious of the need for safety equipment and safety procedures.
The book he was listening to was a great murder mystery set in Toronto. The author obviously knew the city and the criminal justice system well. But there was another voice trying to break through. At first, he thought the recording was faulty, but then realized he was being called. Someone was shouting at him from below.
His boss beckoned him, so he lumbered down the ladder. The movement felt good.
“Someone here to see you. Keep it brief,” his boss said. He wasn’t a bad man, but they were always working to a tight schedule. When supplies arrived, he didn’t want them hanging around to be stolen or spoiled in the weather, and there were project deadlines that had to be met.
“Hi,” said a teenaged boy. He was dressed in smart denim jeans and a designer down jacket. But the long, white scar that ran down from his left eye to his chin looked incongruous.
“Hi,” said Mervin. “Do I know you?” Just as he finished asking, he took a staggery step backwards.
“It’s okay,” the boy said. “It really is okay.”
“Please, we need to talk. Please.” The boy’s dark eyes widened and he stepped towards Mervin, almost touching.
Mervin’s boss let him take his half-hour lunch break one hour early, so Mervin found himself sitting in a warm BMW next to the boy despite his protestations that his boots and clothes would mess it up.
“Dad, please listen to me.”
“How did you get here?” Mervin’s voice trembled. He had a strong urge to run, to hide, to get back up on the roof, anything but this.
“Mom drove me. She said you loved this car, and perhaps it would help for you to see how we’ve taken care of it.”
“Where’s your mother then?” Mervin turns his head to check the back of the car.
“She walked ahead. She’ll be back. It was my idea to see you and talk to you.” He stared without blinking at Mervin, who looked down at his huge boots. They were out of place in a BMW. “I don’t mean she didn’t want to. She really really did.”
“What’s this about?”
“I can’t stop thinking about you all the time. Mom and I’ve been doing that meditation stuff to try to help. But there are those zen sayings, and they make it worse.”
“You shouldn’t think of me.”
“If you’re depressed, you’re living in the past; if you’re anxious, you’re living in the future; if you’re at peace, you’re living in the present. You’re living in the past and taking us down with you.”
“Well, that’s what happened isn’t it?”
“I didn’t mean it like that. Dad, stop it. It was two years ago and it was my fault, not yours.”
“I was the adult. It was my fault that it happened.”
“You hate yourself, that’s the problem. You have to be able to love yourself if you’re going to be able to love someone else, like your family, us. It’s like you’re determined not to. You can’t pretend you’re not a dad any more. You’re my Dad and I need you. And Mom needs you. You’re brave enough to get on a roof and do shingling in all weathers, but you’re not brave enough to come back to us.”
“I shouldn’t have taken that boat out onto the lake. I shouldn’t have let you take the helm. I should have insisted that we wear life-jackets, not just have them lying in the bottom of the boat, useless. I shouldn’t have taken risks with such a high-speed, high-powered boat in waters I wasn’t familiar with. I should have been able to find you in the water faster.”
“But they said you were unconscious. And I was the one that kept on and on about taking the helm. You know I did.”
“But I’m the adult. I shouldn’t have let you. It was too powerful and there were rocks nearer the surface than usual because of the low lake level.”
“It’s not your fault that the water level was lower.”
Mervin turned towards the boy. “How are you now?”
“All my physical injuries have healed, but I’m sad inside.”
“What about your mother?”
“She was angry with you and blamed you, but she told me to tell you she forgives you and loves you and wants you back.”
“Dad, I’m not here to make you feel bad. You’ve apologized so many times and in so many different ways. You wouldn’t feel this bad if you didn’t love us, but if you love us you should be with us, because we want you.” He burst into sobs, rocking his body backwards and forwards on the leather seat.
Mervin’s boss approached, but turned away. His half-hour must be up.
Mervin inhaled a shuddery breath.
“I’d like to learn about meditation,” Mervin said, in a whisper. It took so much effort to say that – more than nailing a row of shingles onto a roof.
The boy’s sobbing grew louder, but he flung his arms around his father’s neck and wouldn’t let go.
Mervin’s eyes were red, and the BMW was steamed up, by the time he got out. His wife was a hundred feet away and his heart felt as if it would burst. He packed up his things and turned his back on the construction site, never to return.