Brown trout jumped out of the water to my left and I took a mental note, maybe in the morning I’d come back with my fly rod? Maybe. I smiled, knowing that in the morning all I would do is run, stretch, and then see to the animals. By the time the piglets were fed, goats milked, sheep watered and horse hayed I wouldn’t want to go fishing. I’d want this: the river. And not to fish for brownies, but to do absolutely nothing in. The calm current swept me downstream, under the dappled light of Sycamores and songs of cedar waxwings. My salad didn’t need trout in it tomorrow night.
I floated around a bend, and the river picked up her pace. I know this 1/4 stretch so well, every rock and deep pool. So I didn’t think twice about letting it scoop me away and push me out into a swimming hole near a gravel beach. This was a very crowded swimming spot on the weekends, but those of us luck enough to dip in on the weekdays, it was empty. Or nearly so. Because as I was swimming towards the beach (to walk back to my book and towel up river), the most beautiful thing started down the path. Two girls were on the back of their horses, an Appaloosa and a Chestnut mare. They had on tank tops and shorts and their companions (two teenage boys) rode alongside them on their mountain bikes. The boys ditched their bikes and hung around the beach, but the girls lead their horses right into the river - to the shallow areas that dipped into pools so the horses could swim and splash.
I felt lucky as hell. Here I was floating and splashing, my companions teenagers on summer break. I loved their pluck. I loved the bravado of the boys and the fearlessness of the girls - who of course had no helmets and simple tack. They just wanted to ride their horses to the river, because everyone was hot and they could.
I walked out of the water dripping wet and grinning like an idiot. How the hell did I end up here? How did I collect the loose change of luck and scraps of fate to end up in a corner of the world where children ride horses into sunset rivers? A place where I had tended a farm, cantered a draft horse up a mountainside, and ate better than the fanciest restaurant fare in New York City. I mean, when you milk your own goats the cheese is really fresh. When you grow your own bacon and tomatoes - no amount of Michelin stars can beat those BLTS on homemade bread. And to savor that with river-soaked rain, on a piece of land you somehow managed to keep? It’s witchcraft.
Things are far from safe here.
Things are perfect here.