re(tern) to happiness

The Groucho Terns are back!

This morning, on my regular ocean amble, what did my wondering ears apprehend? The familiar chatter of a flock of terns! And not just any terns, no! My terns!

Well, they are probably Elegants, instead of my old Hermosa friends, the Royals. I couldn’t get close enough to see. But the Groucho Marx walk was back, along with the cigar-like beak and black bushy “eyebrows.”

Oh! the joy!

I don’t know why certain things bring me happiness, and others do not. It seems to be highly specific. Horses, for example, are a guaranteed joy-generator.

Two weeks after I began hands-on learning about horses, the lessons abruptly stopped. My teacher became ill and moved away, suddenly. Day after day, at six o’clock, I got dressed in my Levi’s and horse hoodie, only to be told that, “Barbara’s still under the weather. She won’t be here tonight.”

I was furious.
Just as I suspected, happiness can’t be trusted. What an idiot I am to expect it to last!

Yes, I was sorry she was ill. It happens. I understand that.
What doesn’t happen very often for me is joy. I had been so happy with Sunny that I couldn’t sleep. Nothing bothered me. Work was a breeze. My family’s bizarre behavior no longer mattered, at least not as much.

I was happy. An unfamiliar feeling.

A week goes by. Still no Barbara. So I didn’t visit Sunny. He wasn’t “mine.” I didn’t know if his “owner” would like a newbie hanging around. And I was scared to ask the stable owner.

I continue to work and eat and go to the ocean. I pretend (to myself) that I am fine. But I am easily irritated. And every time I do the laundry, the machine stops during the spin cycle. It is unbalanced. Each time, I open the lid and rearrange the clothes, evenly. Last night it stopped twice. “What the–?”

I was unbalanced. I had let happiness slide away. I live right next to a stable full of horses. Surely I could visit them?

I put on my Levi’s and an already dirty sweater (dusty creatures, horses). I cut up an apple, and went out to ask if I could feed them.

“Who?” said the stable owner, P.

“All of them,” I said.

“Not Magic,” she said, “no sweets for Magic. And you’ll have to ask about Jake.” She nodded down to where Devon was feeding Jake in his corral. Then she called down to Susan, who’d brought old Cisco out of his paddock. “Can Cisco have apples? small ones?”

Susan said yes. “He doesn’t really chew,” she said, “not enough teeth.”

And then!

P said she didn’t know when or if Barbara would be back, but I could brush and walk Sunny, “if you feel comfortable with that?”

“Yes!” I said, “thank you!”

Happiness floated me down through the stable, dispensing apple bits to Shadow and Kady. I grabbed the pink rope halter on the way, and stopped to talk to Devon and meet Jake.

“You can give him anything,” she said, “apples, carrots, he loves ’em.”

I had not even known how sad I was until I had permission to visit Sunny again. Fear had kept me away from a stable full of friends.

Pulling out the ice-aka-storage chest from under the mounting block, I retrieved two brushes, dumped most of the apple bits in a helmet, closed the lid, and slid through the fence into Sunny’s corral.

It had not been a fluke or a dream. He still listened to me, even without Barbara, and stood while I brushed him. He waited as I put the halter on him, and opened the gate. Then we both walked into the arena, just like old times. Around and around we went, looking at Magic and Jetson and Jake and Shadow. Bunnies and vultures, ground squirrels and barn swallows. Around and around and around, as the sun went down.



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