• vslachman

More Dance Than Chance

Updated: May 17, 2019




Last winter was a brutal one . . . I remember the night five inches of snow fell. Then the sun came out, ducking in and out from behind great white clouds shunting across the sky. I headed out to the barn about 1:00 to check on Dorian.


It was Sunday, and German was off work. I got to the barn before his substitute arrived to find that Dorian had no hay, a scant amount of water in his bucket, snow piled in his stall, and snow in his feed bucket.


No surprise, he was quite the grump.


And he looked really downtrodden. I hate to see him unhappy and this verged on depression. He needed his friends, his sad eyes said. He’d been in a stall for a while, dealing with those horrid scratches.


So I hauled him out and into the wash rack, thinking to feed him, muck out his stall, and treat the scratches, then turn him back into his stall. But I just didn’t have the heart to do that, so after his meal, I turned him out in the frozen-in-places and knee-deep-mud-in-places, snow-filled paddock.


He immediately headed for his buddies and they all played like five-year-olds. That’s the way is should be, I thought, heading back to the stall only to find that Dorian had kicked the fresh shavings all over his stall. He’d effectively mucked it out himself; boredom has some uses, it seems!





I picked the stall clean, got him hay, water, and dumped the feed he hadn’t finished in the wash rack in his feed bucket, then took Lily out for her walk in the 24-degree, highly windy day.


As we passed Dorian’s paddock, he and his friends were still frolicking around. Dorian glanced over at me as we passed and stopped playing till we were past the gate; he was scared I was going to pull him out.


He had different ideas—much more playing to do!


Lily and I headed for the woods as we usually do. We walk the pastures and go down the creek to the walnut grove where we pause a bit and then head back.


Noted philosopher Martin Heidegger thought that the miracle of art is that it exists at all. I’ve always thought the implications of that are profound and it’s been a sort of touchstone for me through the years.

We're all part of one beautiful whole.

That day, I walked a bit farther on the upper path than I normally do—usually Lily and I take a shortcut through the pastures. It makes for a downhill trek, but the upper path has been a muddy, slippery mess for most of the winter, so it's been easier to avoid that.


But with all the snow, the path was passable, so Lily and I headed along the upper ridge and then cut over, making our walk longer than normal. As we made our way down, I turned my face up to the sun, which had just come out from behind clouds.


I stood there stunned. The sky was a vibrant, almost electric blue, the clouds traveling fast to the east were a brilliant white as the sun emerged from behind them. I watched the clouds change shape, losing a sense of myself standing there in the wintery cold.


The beauty was arresting, as if some vast intelligence was enjoying itself!




Lily keeps an eye on the herd.


And, like Heidegger, I thought how amazing it was that we are all capable of seeing such beauty. This has to mean something, I thought, and not for the first time. We’re all part of one graceful and beautiful whole—a creation that’s more dance than chance.


Lily and I walked on after the longest time; she’d sat patiently in the snow while I entered my reverie, respectful and quiet as always.


On the way back, I tried to retrace my steps, making the trip back as long as the one out. Normally I duck under the pasture fence to take the steepest route—it’s a lot shorter than the one I chose that day.


As I slipped through the fence, I noticed our path forward was a gentle rise, not the usual steep incline. Glancing to the right—the way we’d head once we were up top—I noticed the path undulated a bit. There was a rise we’d walk, then a small depression, then another rise, and we’d be at the big oak tree, ready to turn on the flat for the barn.


There was some breathing room, some moments to stop and rest if we wished.


The longer path was filled with harmony, grace, and inspiration

I make it so hard for myself, I thought. So unlike Dorian who, the minute he was turned out, expressed a (literally) unbridled joy at seeing his friend. How restorative that joy is . . .

And yes, the path Lily and I took that day was longer, but less difficult, and certainly much more pleasant. It had more “yield,” . . . more Yin—gentle and patient. And we got where we needed to go without any of the harsh pushing forward I normally feel at the end of our walk.


It was a longer path, yes, but one filled with harmony, grace, and inspiration.


Why do we all trudge ahead so relentlessly, often mindlessly, forward, missing what Dorian and his friends so naturally know?


The lesson for me that day was more than just the old adage "It's not the destination, but the journey." It's more that I need to trust in the ever-presence of grace and loveliness, which are always surrounding us. And that we're just as much a part of it as are Dorian and his joyous brothers.


A good lesson. One born of a day full of cold beauty.

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