Having long been disenchanted with the idea of working in the food industry, I opted out of city life to spend last summer at my mom’s country house in western North Carolina. Don’t let the name fool you–this was no sprawling cottage with bi-weekly landscaping and a multi-million dollar property. In fact, the place is more like a spruced up parsonage with more than a few leaks and stains in the ceilings. Luckily, most of my time was spent away from home as it was. My summer job was to act as an assistant trainer and exercise rider at a local barn training Tennessee Walkers. Simple enough, I thought.
Two weeks and a near heat stroke later, I came to appreciate the shade of the surrounding forest. After most of my work was done, I’d take the opportunity to ride through the woods just when the cool air began to arrive. I cannot imagine a more peaceful place than the solace a lone ride offers. The birds remain quiet, and the only sounds are the steady steps of the horse underneath me as we trudge through wild, uncut grass. The occasional snake slithers away from under our feet into the nearby bushes, but neither I nor my horse seem to notice. Instead, we are concentrated on the road ahead, on the surrounding greenery (for different reasons, I assume), and of the overall feeling of complete and utter freedom. There is no traffic, no cries of sirens as they blaze past the intersection on King street. Only the steady rhythm of my favorite horse’s head as she nods a pattern to her pace.
It is here and now that I am most content. I feel small, like a fraction of what I must be–but it is all I need. I have company. I have time. And I have peace. Later on, I will cross a small river, overcrowded with stones smoothed by the current. My horse will not hesitate, but plunge into the cool waters and drink deeply. Meanwhile I will let my hair down and close my eyes to better feel the breeze that whips between the surrounding pines. The woods smell like smoke–but always the good kind, like a summer bonfire. And I will stay just long enough to think of nothing else until I am here again.
Cherished were the days when I could take this quiet walk. They consumed me and filled me entirely with a peace and satisfaction that seemed to be missing in all other aspects of life. The summer passed all too quickly, and the sounds of sirens are back outside my window. But when I’m feeling stressed or overwhelmed, all I have to do is close my eyes and think back to those summer afternoons when I felt entirely whole. And when I do, the rest of the world often seems to slip away like the wind over the weeds on those green, wooded trails.