Upon a bright clear day between belts of rain I could do little but ride. So it was off to a parking spot in a secluded valley well known to both Brena and I. The mare loaded readily into the new trailer, as ever encouraged by food. It's spacious and she had plenty of room to balance herself as we travelled winding country roads. With my rear view mirror I could glimpse Brena through the large front window of the trailer. Most often than not hay hung from her mouth.
We rode the green ribbons weaving threadbare stubble. We trotted and cantered where the trail traversed newly harrowed soil. Some would say that this is the best time of year for riding. Certainly it is the most free, without crops to avoid trampling.
Freshly harrowed land lay dark and rich. In the drying wind it will lighten to a soft, almost luminous roan.
The dark soil reminded me of Russian paintings, the kind depicting the deep brown soil of the steppes. Dark soil as a metaphor for homeland. As token of fertility and hope for the necessities of life. As provider of comforting uniqueness: who else has such land? For drudgery too, the lot of the peasant, which the land imposes upon all who till her.
But this is a chalk land, light and hard. Rain may darken the thin soil, temporarily, only for the white bedrock to triumph. If I'm a peasant, it's of the bright dry uplands. There's no dim waterlogged northern winter for me, no gloomy forests to shroud the light. I tread neither sticky clay nor dank wood mast. However artists of the chalk downlands are few. No nationalistic school of painters extolled the goodness of these hills. And it has been a long time since goodly peasants were held up as the epitome of Englishness. Did the image of Piers Plowman finally lose currency in the Elizabethan era? So I fall back upon the land as metaphor, as those Russian painters did, wishing that I possessed the art to illustrate beauty with skill and fluency.
Brena chose to flop down on the dark soil, seeking to roll. She tries this at least once every autumn when the harrowed soil is so soft and fluffy. So, momentarily, she and I were united with the land. And when she rose the mark of soil was streaked across her sweaty flank.