As to the spiritual meaning of heaven I have absolutely no idea if it exists or not. All I know is that one late summer evening I was able to feel at one with my surroundings and an inner peace so I have to assume that was a type of heaven.
That rare confluence of emotions was imbued with a sense of living purely in the moment. For a while there was no past, no future but just the now. Hearing silence. Seeing light. Sensing air. All through my senses that had been woken up by being taken away from the trappings that seem to encumber us in our modern world. I did see other people briefly when this sensation came over me but I cannot vouch for what they were feeling. They were breathing the same air, seeing the same light but were they also having the same confluence of emotions?
Where was this place?
I could be an out and out tease and not tell anyone, locking it away as my forever secret. Then again, I could say where it was.
A few strides on from where I saw some people I felt my horse, Bryn, change his stride and become tense. His ears were pricked towards something in the distance slightly off to the right. There, about twenty yards ahead a deer had broken cover from the undergrowth and was looking directly towards us. The fields where Bryn grazes there are always deer passing through or stopping off to graze so he is used to them and I was confident that he would not exercise his flight from fear instinct. The deer continued on its chosen route into Setthorns Enclosure. Its progress through that wooded hinterland was given away by the occasional sound of long dead branches being snapped by its pin point tiny feet.
These cracks and snaps from the darkening woods made Bryn’s ears twitch towards their source. I rubbed his neck and told him that there were no lions, tigers or leopards in the enclosure about to leap at him with a lust for the blood and flesh of a horse. He relaxed, stretched his neck out and we continued on our ride.
I was told that the reason that riders attempt to encourage their horses forward by making a clicking sound with their mouths. It invariably works. The reason behind this is that the horse with its flight instinct thinks the oral click is the sound of a branch being snapped by an approaching predator.
Back through Setthorns Enclosure and along the well-worn tracks where we did a lot of walk, quite a bit of trot and some bursts of canter work. A deer appeared in a small clearing to our left. They all look the same but this one seemed to know us as it let us pass by quite closely without taking flight. It may well have been the one we saw less than ten minutes ago. Bryn seemed to know the deer as well as he wasn’t at all bothered by its presence. But an old log about three yards long and a yard in diameter looked like it was going to develop jaws with crocodile teeth and devour us in a death roll on the ground. Bryn jinked away from this threat and within three more strides had overcome his fear.
Further along the path we came across a gate in the fence line that marks the man made boundary to thee enclosure. Just beyond the gate is a water course that makes a natural boundary. There was no one there. It was all ours so we could stop and play. Bryn and I walked around a small island in twenty metre circles that are part of most dressage tests. Three turns on the left rein followed by three on the right. The water here is shallow and we were schooling in public without anyone watching.
Beyond this water course is another one that is wider, deeper and closer to home. We walked through it. Then instead of heading directly home I asked Bryn to turn on his quarters and go back. We did this twice more and I could sense that he was beginning to want to get home so finally when we crossed the water a third time we headed home.
No cars to worry about. Just a couple of considerate and sociable leisure cyclists enjoying the evening, the same air and the same light but maybe not the same confluence of feelings as I was experiencing. Who can tell?
We turned into the stables safe and sound. Bryn’s ears pricked again as he could hear his best friend, Benney, calling him from the field. We were home after our very first sole hack. A proper hack out through the water and the enclosure. We had done it. This must be similar to the feeling a trainee pilot has when finally his instructor allows him to go solo for a circuit of the airfield. We were ready to take on the world.
I put Bryn out in his field with Benney. They both forgot all about me and started their mutual grooming at the gate. A deer with two fawns bounded across the field like gazelles in the savanna grasses back into the woods of the railway embankment.
I do not know the story behind a deer with two fawns. Did she have twins earlier this year or were there two mums, one dies and the surviving one took on the orphaned deer? It is a mystery.
In the car on the way home I heard a report from Aleppo in Syria about the desperate plight of some two million people besieged in the city without electricity, running water, low food supplies and under continuing bombardment. It was the comment about ‘water’ that registered with me. Only a few minutes ago Bryn and I were playing in a free running stream. I had bottled water in the car. Yet in Aleppo there were no guaranteed supplies.
A couple of weeks ago there was a black and white picture in the media. It showed in the background row upon row of buildings devastated by bombing. In the foreground there was a father with two children in what was left of their apartment. No furniture, no windows, just the detritus of conflict but they all had smiles on their faces. Somehow the father had managed to fill a bathtub with water. The children were in the tub and all of them were playing with the water together. They had made their own ‘heaven’ in the midst of a living hell for however long it lasted.
Whenever there is the opportunity to create our own ‘heaven’ we must grab it with both hands and savour the moment. If it just a few seconds or for a few minutes, it does not matter. We must grab it and savour it knowing the greatest crime against ourselves is our failure to recognise these all too rare moments.