Of countryside horses, ponies and sheep shearing.
A day after visiting the big city of Amsterdam, back in the cozy and safe environs of Huizen, I announced to my hostess that I think I have had enough of the city. Will lie in today. Or perhaps, just walk around the village.
“My husband and I are going to the meadows to feed the horses. You may join us… if you’d like.”
Meadows. Horses. Sounded like a plan to me.
I kicked my lazy side into the bath and the next thing I know I am sitting on the front seat of the car with the hostess, her husband happily seated behind.
When the car stopped, I could not help but stay wide eyed at the beauty amidst which I found myself. And… the unexpected noise in these picket fenced meadows!
Turned out it was a horse cart marathon. My host was equally stumped, but delighted at the same time.
People from all over Holland arrive here for the marathon with their carts and ponies and horses, I was told as the host paced ahead of me, looking mighty pleased to see all the adrenalin rushing in the meadow today.
I followed him, as he followed the noise of the commentary and the horses whizzing past us, in well braided tails (yes, think french braids and fish braids on horse’s mane) proudly lifted, dragging behind them the much enthused rider and his associate.
If my host had his horse carriage, and horses right now all prepped up for this marathon, he’d be pulling and tugging the reigns on those horses alright. But for now, he did the next best thing. He narrated anecdotes about how he prepped for these marathons and how much practice and precision it took to get it right.
I was listening intently to him when a horse cart came swiftly in our direction.
The story went poof in the air, as he watched and I gaped.
What seemed to be an unbelievably smooth manoeuvre around a complicated circular track dotted with big barrels placed challengingly close together, was knocked down as flawed by my host.
Listening to the intricacies of a game you have never imagined yourself to be a spectator of can be very exciting when the weather is favourable.
The hosts wanted to cheer for a friend who was running the race, so we stayed on with all the beautiful horses and ponies showing off their prowess and precision. Around the barrels, around the sprawling fields, across the big and small water puddles.
The strut of the horses after they scored a big point was anything but modest or tame.
Then, after about an hour and a half, an ice candy in hand, me and my hosts, we went to meet their horses.
I was, by now, very keen to meet them.
At the meadow, there were three horses. The hosts hollered the name of their horse. And a little pony came running to them. “Is he the one?”, I asked all excited to meet their extended family.
“No, there she is, the big and healthy one. With her friend.”
I looked up and saw the brown horse, all beauty and grace, ambling towards us from the other end of the meadow. No rush. Taking her own sweet time, as the little one kept jumping around the host.
The ‘healthy’ brown horse had a handsome companion walking right next to her. Keeping pace with her.
“Are they in love?”, I asked.
“They’ve been together since since 5 or so years. You could say they are companions.”, came the answer.
The way they talked to each other without a word, the way they walked with each other in a silent bubble of their own… it made my heart melt.
As the hosts fed their ‘daughter’, her companion stood patiently, almost regally watching her. And I stood quietly living their sweet love story in my head.
Once the feeding ritual was over we said our goodbyes to the horses and moved on to the next meadow to meet their other horse, the ‘son’. He had developed some kind of a skin rash so had to be taken to another meadow.
The next meadow was an even bigger one. There he was, a dot in the sprawling greens. The hosts kept hollering for him, but he was busy grazing, enjoying his solitude. They whistled. But the horse, all covered in blankets and grazing on the fresh green grass, chose to look up and go right back to his grass.
Well, if the horse doesn’t come to his daily dose of minerals, then the minerals must go to him.
As I stood next to the car watching the hostess go over the wooden fence, cajoling him to eat, I thought of the beautiful words the host had said to me while we watched the races.
He said, he did not believe in any god or any religion. He was just a human being doing his best to follow his own religion with his own principles of right and wrong. “If it’s human, it’s right. If it’s inhuman it’s wrong.” There are no ifs nor buts nor any room for conjecture. Just clarity on what one must do everyday to justify being here on earth.
To me he was the most religious guy I ever met. And I am sure his god was no different than mine.
His daughter has been on road biking across the world since two years. “We spend our live building a house, keeping a job, collecting things. But she just follows her heart and needs nothing to tie her down. Now that is what we all should be doing.”, said he over breakfast to me.
I thanked the universe for sending across such wonderful teachers on this journey.
Having fed the horses, we were driving back home, I thought. But surprise, surprise! We had arrived at a sheep shearing festival.
As we walked in a bunch of kids rushed out, all excited, with sticks topped with freshly sheared wool shaped into disfigured sheep.
For a moment, I got apprehensive about having to witness some kind of animal cruelty. But I stepped forward was relieved to see 3–4 sheep running out of a marquee seeming quite happy to be free of all that warm wool hair.
I stood and watched people holding one sheep each, gently, lovingly moving the electric razor to shear the wool off the sheep.
Contrary to what I was expecting, the sheep were lying like a trusting lamb, patient and calm, enjoying the feel of the razor taking all that warm wool off of them.
That is the only feeling I took back from the beautiful man-sheep relationship on display.
A beautiful experience.
An unexpectedly exciting day, that ended at a small Surinamese restaurant in Huizen, after the hosts dropped me at the village market.
I lost my way back home, found my way back home, and laundered some clothes before turning off the lights and letting go of some rather limited beliefs and ideas about life as I knew it.