Saturday, March 7, 2020

Beagles, The Band, And More Than Just Being

When I was a young teenager I ran with hounds after school several days a week. I do not mean that I rode to the hounds. I mean that I ran with my pack of beagles as they worked rabbits through brush, brambles and thick briers. It was likely the best physical condition that I have ever been in. Beagles bark when they smell a rabbit trail, providing a constant warning to the rabbit as to their location. As a result, it is the rarest of occasions that the dogs ever catch a rabbit. Instead they spend hours in pursuit of rabbits that mix hard sprints with leisurely bounces through thickets.

The dogs hunt by instinct and experience pure joy. I do not know of any animal that is happier than are beagles when running a rabbit.  When this picture was taken, this puppy and her sisters lived in a pen to protect them for coyotes. Now they are free of the pen and spend many hours each day running rabbits and the occasional deer. They come back to be fed, sleep for a while and then head back out into the woods.

And when I hear them running I feel a little bit of their joy, their zeal, and their fierce love of their "jobs."

I always felt that there were few things more undignified than movement while playing music on stage. I always looked to Maybelle Carter, whose body stood still and dignified while her hands coaxed beauty from the notes that were hiding in her guitar and her autoharp. I considered any movement that would not be properly exhibited at a funeral to be outrageous histrionics.

And then I started looking a films of The Band. At first I was repulsed by Rick Danko's movement and Robbie Robertson was even worse. Then I gradually came to understand how, just like a pack of beagles running hot on a rabbit, they were moving from the joy of the music. They were not moving to call attention to themselves. They were moving because the music moved them.

They were not just "being". They were "being" music.

Few things move me out of just "being"--but I am going to work hard to spend more time doing those things. I find sheer joy working with my Scottish Highland bull, Seven Leagues, though I find little time to do so. I find sheer joy simply looking at the variety of heritage breed livestock living happily at the horse lot. I find joy in pulling up to the tack shed to be greeted by ducks, turkeys, and chickens. Perhaps my greatest joy is riding with brilliant young people who pepper me with questions and offer up their own insights. And I find sheer joy in teaching little kids to ride. They way that our littlest riders learn is a slow process, but I am convinced that it is the best way to learn for little ones. First we learn to not be afraid. Then we learn to love being in the saddle. Then, gradually through a few hundred hours in the saddle we learn how to become riders who understand the horse's mind and body.

And it is spring. No time of the year is better suited for optimism than spring.

No time of the year is better suited for more than just being.

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